In an election year, there are dozens of radio ads and television commercials that air to provide information for the voting public. The commercials are a blend of opposing views that run early and often on a daily basis up until Election Day. The intent of these advertisements is to do one thing and one thing only…to persuade the listener or viewer to choose the side representing their position. These ads are never vague or unclear as to what side is represented because the information tips the scales in the favor of the group who is sponsoring the commercial.
In the midst of these commercials are elements of truth and areas where the truth is stretched in varying degrees. Remember, the sponsor of the commercial is trying to get your vote or even affirm your vote for their side, and there is often a creative license that is taken in order to make their position more appealing or to convince you to despise the opposing view, which inevitably brings you back to their view.
What the advertisers count on with these ads is that the casual observer will not go through the trouble or the burden to educate oneself and do research to see if the information has merit. They know very well that their ads are effective in their impact with the public because many people will either rely upon the information as being true or a close match with their ideology, and that many will not go through the fact-checking process. The civic-minded voter, however, readily assumes the responsibility to take the time to review any available information about the candidates and issues at hand. He or she desires information and education as to what is at stake in the election. After all of the information is gathered and disseminated, exercising discernment that leads to the final decision in the voting booth. Discernment is the key word…it is the ability to judge well.
Discernment is more than simply possessing good judgment or referring to your conscience. It, for our purposes today, also means to have the ability to review something and determine its truthfulness or its viability. It is something that each of us should possess within our evaluation process, but you may know someone who has the uncanny ability to “see through” and make conclusions about situations with what seems to be the least amount of information. It is not something that should be seen as “mystical” or as being something that someone would have in a special sense when it comes to ability. All of us can discern and make judgments. Let’s instead focus on the importance of discernment when it comes to recognizing truth and error in the presentation of God’s Word. Are you able to discern what is being presented? In the same way that political ads work well, especially with their repetitive nature, many people are ill-prepared to deal with false doctrine or false presentations of the gospel because they don’t take the time to review the information properly. It’s like taking a test in school without studying for it…it often doesn’t go well in the end results.
If you lack the appropriate information, you are unlikely to be able to make the appropriate conclusions in your discernment efforts. This leaves one wide open to deception and someone telling you anything that can lead you astray, which is very, very dangerous.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
A discerning mind seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
OK…so discernment is important and some of us seem to have a better time of it than others. These are the people that can readily provide us with godly advice when it seems to matter most. You may be asking yourself…”What if I am lacking in my ability to discern? What can I do about it?” The answers lie in understanding some truths about discernment. Discernment is a godly attribute, and it requires God’s participation within the process.
- Discernment requires godly knowledge…knowing the Bible.
9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
- Discernment requires prayer and actively seeking God
The more that you are seeking God and being prayerful for wisdom and insight, the more that God will make plain to you those things that seemed to be elusive to you in the past. You can develop your ability to discern, but it requires completeness in your trust that God is giving you exactly what you need when you need it.
Some have made the argument that discernment is a spiritual gift, and by reviewing Scripture, we can make a case that it is not a “special” gift in itself, and we also can find in Scripture that some persons have a special ability to discern, or judge, about certain spirits:
First, the example that people who possess the Holy Spirit already have discernment capabilities:
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For
who has known the Lord’s mind,
that he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.
Second, here is a passage that shows how God can enable some of His saints to possess a gift of discernment:
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
8 to one is given a message of wisdom
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
9 to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.
11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.
To have discernment of distinguish about spirits is necessary in the growth and maturity of a believer in Jesus Christ. Here is a how-to guide as to what all of us should be able to do if we are paying attention to the Holy Spirit that speaks from within:
1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. 3 But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.
4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
We are counseled throughout Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, to test the spirits (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). We need to test them because they certainly test every believer. They come in all forms from the opposition, and it is nothing to joke around with or play with.
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
Therefore, we are to be smart about our encounters with the opposition—not in a way that diminishes your testimony for Christ; instead, using the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work while you speak.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
- Discernment also comes from the counsel of others when seeking advice.
20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction
so that you may be wise later in life.
21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail.
It’s wise and just plain smart to get advice from people who are knowledgeable, especially in subjects where you don’t have it. The Spirit even guides you in this area. It’s also wise to seek the counsel and take the other person’s sound advice. It’s silly to ask opinions over and over again and never take the advice. As you obtain knowledge, you should be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion as you discern what the appropriate outcome or ending should be. When God provides you with wise counsel, take it.
Discernment is the essence of wisdom and understanding in Jesus Christ. Here are some important takeaways:
- It is provided through the power of the Holy Spirit for every believer
- It requires a healthy understanding of the Bible
- It requires prayerful consideration and appeals to godly wisdom in the process
- It relies upon the testimony of wise counsel
All of this leads back to a proverb that is well-known and recognized…the Spirit provides the guidance that all of us need, and we choose to follow His leading rather than let our way of thinking keep us from using the proper discernment.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.