5/27/2016 11:04:24 AM
Discernment in the Post Modern Church
Have you considered the spiritual health of your church in these days of tolerance and compromise? Is the leadership earnestly contending for the faith against the current wave of ecumenism? A. W. Tozer used the illustration of circulating blood to describe the health of a church. "The red corpuscles are like faith - they carry the life giving oxygen to every part of the body. The white cells are like discernment - they pounce upon dead and toxic matter and carry it out to the drain. In a healthy heart there must be provision for keeping dead and poisonous matter out of the life stream."
Using Tozer's analogy, churches that are dead or dying are the churches that no longer have the ability or the desire to discern truth from error. If they cannot identify toxic doctrinal error, the poison can never be removed from the body. And if it is not removed it will continue to circulate, bringing confusion to believers and false hope to "seekers."
Emerging But Not Discerning
Irving Bible Church, located between Dallas and Ft. Worth has emerged into a church without discernment. The pastor, Andy McQuitty, called the differences between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation "theological pettiness." He said, "it is just plain silly to write each other off as far as true Christianity is concerned. We'll have plenty of time in Heaven to figure out who was right about Purgatory and Mary." McQuitty can't see why both faiths can't cooperate "in building the Kingdom of our common Lord Jesus Christ."
Some will say that I am being judgmental and that I have no right to do so. But how can Christians contend earnestly for the faith unless they make judgments on what "the faith" is? How can Christians defend and proclaim the Gospel without discerning what "the Gospel" is? We see a biblical example of one brother judging another when Paul publicly corrected Peter who was not being "straightforward about the truth of the Gospel" (Gal. 2:11-14). A. W. Tozer said: "Among the gifts of the Spirit, scarcely is one of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit."
Christians Are Exhorted To Judge
Many Christians are unaware of their responsibility to judge and test all things. Paul exhorted: "I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9-10). Christians need to take discernment and judgment seriously in this life because of the great responsibility that awaits us in the future. Paul reminds us: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?" (I Cor. 6:2-3). Paul even commended the Bereans for rightfully judging his teaching. "They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). The apostle John warned and exhorted Christians: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Clearly, all Christians are called to judge righteously by using the Word of God as the plumb line for discerning truth from error.
Discernment Is A Discipline
New babes in Christ must discipline themselves to go beyond the "milk" of the Gospel and begin chewing on "solid food" by studying the whole counsel of God. "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5:13-14). Spiritual discernment is a discipline and a privilege that only Christians can exercise. Paul wrote: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things." (1 Cor. 2:14-16).
How Are We To Judge?
John wrote: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Jesus said: "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Mat. 7:1-5). The instruction Jesus gives for judging others is to make sure you are not guilty of the same error or sin! Paul echoed these words when he wrote: "Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?" (Rom. 2:3). When we judge, we must judge righteously and with pure hearts!
The Goal of Discernment
As we practice the gift of discernment let us question our motives. Is our objective to be obedient to God's word for the purpose of helping, healing, correcting, warning and sharing in the spirit of love? Does our discernment lead people towards truth and righteous living? Are we concerned for the purity of the body of Christ? Have we come to acknowledge that when the gift of discernment is not exercised, the church cannot be purged of error and sin and the name of Jesus Christ cannot be fully glorified and honored as the Holy Head of His Body, the Church.
The critical issue in the Church today is the purity of the Gospel. That alone is the rudder that must guide the Church through stormy waters that have been stirred up by every wind of doctrine. Take away the ability to discern objective truth and churches turn into cafeterias serving whatever junk food people want instead of the disciplined diet they need for spiritual life and health. Without a steady diet of the whole counsel of God, churches become entertainment centers for goats instead of sanctuaries for the Shepherd's sheep (Mat. 25:32). Unregenerate people, who are never exhorted to examine their faith, will continue attending church to enjoy the music, entertainment and "feel good" messages. Unless these people are confronted with their sin, their need for a Savior and the eternal consequences of a spurious faith, they are destined to hear these terrifying words from Jesus: "'I never knew you; depart from Me" (Mat. 7:23).
May God help us all to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.