Discernment

Preparation Is Not Panic and Confusion is Not Chaos

"...there have been some moments of poor behavior as people have realized they may not be able to easily purchase some of life’s necessities. Hence, 'Panic As Shoppers Fight Over Toilet Paper!' There’s no doubt there have been moments of confusion as airport lineups have swelled in response to stricter policies—'Chaos at America’s Airports!' But it seems to me—and I have been following the news very closely—that such moments are relatively few and far between." - Challies

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“Is it too much to ask Christians to be honest in their political activity?”

"I really can’t support Christian friends passing on lies and half-truths in support of Trump or any other candidate. So many of the 'internet memes' tell less than half the story, it would be better for us to not say anything at all, rather than passing on lies because we like to 'stick it' to our opponents." - Don Johnson

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Can We Be Discerning Without Being Judgmental?

Good judgment is a function of wisdom, and exercising it—in the form of discernment—is a Christian duty. The Psalmist prays for discernment (Psalm 19:12), Proverbs exalts it (Prov. 14:8), and Paul prays that believers will abound in it (Phil. 1:9).

Tim Challies’ definition of discernment is as good as any I’ve seen (I have not yet read the book):

Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.

But sometimes when we think we’re exercising discernment, we’re really just being judgmental. We’ve taken a noble and nurturing love for truth and turned it into something ugly, harmful, and infectious. Those who are most zealous for truth and discernment may well be the quickest to stumble into judgmentalism.

So how do we tell the difference? How do we actively practice discernment (Heb. 5:14) without becoming one of those frowning, finger-pointing, spirit-crushing, accusers of the brethren?

Five Features of Judgmentalism

I believe five distinguishing features of judgmentalism can help us identify and avoid it.

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The Sickness in Discernment Ministries

Reposted with permission from Randy White Ministries.

In the past few years, a new form of ministry has emerged called discernment ministry. Make no mistake, it has become a big business, providing the livelihood for many men and women who are making their living as the world’s theological police.

Discernment is sorely needed.

We are in an era in the church in which discernment is utterly lacking. The church has a generation or two of Christians who have had a steady diet of felt need sermons filled with life-application. These Christians have little to no understanding of the content of Scripture itself. Their “Bible studies” are really book studies, and their sermons are self-help pop-psychology that is not fundamentally different from what you find in the self-help section of any secular bookstore.

I can only think of a few things that the church needs more today than discernment. But I am completely convinced that discernment ministry is not the way the church is going to gain this discernment.

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Are Christians Supposed to Judge Others?

Jesus says in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, that you may not be judged.” From this statement one might conclude that judging is prohibited, but in the next verse the context helps us understand that the passage is not a prohibition. Rather it is a warning: “For in the way that you measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

Luke 6:36-37 records a similar statement by Jesus: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged, and do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Set free and you will be set free.”

The starting point here is following the Father’s example of mercy, and a sound standard of judgment. A few verses later, Jesus reminds His listeners to beware of the log that is in their own eye rather than trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.

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Discernment and Revelation, Part 1: Five Views

(From Think on These Things. Used by permission.)

Discernment, one would think, is an extremely positive quality. In a world with incalculable numbers of voices calling us to travel many different directions, discernment is invaluable. However, when used by those involved in spiritual formation, discernment is defined as the discipline that enables one to know when a person has supposedly heard the voice of God.

Spiritual formation leaders do not question that God speaks to us today apart from Scripture, but they do believe that since God is speaking there has to be a means whereby we can discern the voice of God from our own thoughts.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, “Discernment opens us up to listen to and recognize the voice and patterns of God’s direction in our lives.”1 Ruth Barton further explains,

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Discernment Ministry - A Biblical Defense, Part 3

(Read the series.)

Objections to Discernment

Despite the clear mandate given throughout the Scriptures concerning the necessity for biblical discernment and critique, most continue to be critical of the whole concept. Ironically, those who preach most tenaciously the need for tolerance are themselves intolerant of those who seek to faithfully follow God’s directives in this matter. Let’s briefly identify and analyze some of the most common objections often heard protesting the need for discernment.

1. What right do we have to judge others?

Some claim that the best known verse of Scripture in America is Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Most who recite this command do so without the advantage of having ever read it in context. If they were to do so they would see that the Lord is not calling a moratorium on examining the lives and teachings of others; He simply wants us to do it in the correct way. The Lord tells us to first judge ourselves. When that has been done properly we are in a position to help others with their sins and false beliefs (Matt 7:1-5).

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