Discernment - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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Bible Study 2022
Open up to 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” This is a call to discernment. There is a famous Greek story about conquering of the city of Troy. Greeks laid siege to the city of Troy for over ten years. In exasperation, a man named Ulysses decided to have a large wooden horse built.

This horse was left outside the city walls as a gift to the unconquerable Trojans. And then the Greeks sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious Trojans felt confident enough to drag the horse inside. That night, Greek soldiers crept out of the horse, opened the city gates from within and let the rest of the Greek forces into Troy. The Greeks massacred the people of Troy, looted and burned the city.

Throughout history, since that time, the Trojan horse has been the symbol of infiltration and deception. And throughout its 2,000 year history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses, enemies disguised as gifts. The Romans were polytheists. They had a god for hunting, for buying, for selling etc. They had all these gods. And at some time later Christianity was affirmed as their religion.

But rather than take a strong stand against idolatry and such superstition, the church assigned those responsibilities that once belonged to Roman deities to dead saints. For example, instead of a god to protect you on journeys, St. Christopher took over that responsibility. So you had the merging of Roman pagan superstitious idolatry consisting of dead saints with Christianity.

In violation of Scripture, people then began not to pray to a Roman god but to pray to a dead saint, depending on the kind of request that was being made. It infiltrated and destroyed the Christian faith. During the time of rationalism in the 18th century, which is also known as the Enlightenment, man believed that he could solve all problems with his own mind. He began to worship his mind.

God, it was believed, didn’t interfere in the affairs of men when men were so intelligent. And now it was up to man. And so they decided that since the mind of man was ultimate, anything that the mind of man could not conceive or understand wasn’t true. And so they went to the Bible and anything that didn’t seem rational or logical was eliminated, and thus all the miracles in the Bible were denied.

And they began to deny the supernatural spiritual truths about God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, and theological liberalism was the product. What happened, the church opened the doors and pulled in the Trojan horse of rationalism, intellectualism, and the Enlightenment. And the church lost its faith totally and European Protestantism became liberal and dead.

Today the church is still opening the gates and pulling in more Trojan horses filled with deceitful and devastating enemies. And the world is coming into the church in myriads of ways. Think about the erosion of moral values, the acceptance of the breakup of the family and divorce as normal, the selfish pursuit of money and status even now has a gospel identified with it, the prosperity gospel.

We could mention psychology. We could mention mysticism, intuitive pursuits of truth. The church has pulled in a myriad of false teachers, and they are letting armies of enemies in to create havoc in the church. This is a Satan’s ploy. He’s going to come like a gift, and he’s going to be something subtle. He will market his lies and his deceptions luring people away from the truth of God.

Satan will mix in a little truth in the mouth of a false teacher who claims to speak for Jesus Christ. He will attach some Bible verses to it. He will make it appeal to men’s selfishness, pride and flesh in the name of spiritual blessing. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:1, “In the later times, some will depart from the faith giving heed to deceitful spirits, and doctrines of demons spoken by hypocritical liars.”

In 2 Peter it says the same thing. False prophets, false teachers will introduce secretly destructive heresies. People will follow their sensuality. They are greedy, they are sensual, they exploit through deception. Now, our only defense is to be sound and strong in the knowledge of the truth. Our defense is to be discerning and discriminating, when to be discriminating and discerning is not popular.

The climate in the church today is actually intolerant toward discernment. It wants to elevate love, and unity, and non-divisive attitudes. Instead of interpreting the Bible on the basis of a historical, grammatical, contextual understanding of the text, we are developing a tolerance for every view in the name of love and unity and a non-divisive spirit. That is deadly poison to truth.

Many churches today are filled with error and confusion. And that is why it is so essential for us to be discerning, while at the same time it might not be popular. We will obey what it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. We’ll examine everything carefully. Whatever we find to be good, we’re going to hold onto. And whatever we find to be evil in any form, we’re going to reject it.

Why is there a lack of discernment? Number one. A weakening of doctrinal clarity and conviction. Doctrine is not considered loving and doctrine is not considered relevant. Secondly, a failure to be antithetical, to be willing to be black and white, to be absolute. Relevant Christianity now is relative. It is subjective. It is experiential. Any discerning Christian can see this.

Thirdly, another cause is a preoccupation with image and influence as the key to evangelization. We talked about the idea that there are those today who say we need to soften our message, remove all the offense out of the gospel, make services comfortable and enjoyable for unbelieving sinners, remove what might judge them, and seek unity with the unconverted people. That is not the gospel.

Fourthly, a failure to interpret Scripture. You have some who are too lazy to work diligently to apply those skills to rightly divide the word of truth, and you have some that believe the truth just rises from within subjectively. And so, you have really lowered the premium on the interpretation process of Scripture, and the church is weak in its ability to interpret the Bible properly.

Fifthly, another cause of this lack of discernment, is a failure to discipline in the church. If you don’t discipline in the church, the world comes into the church. You can’t tell one from the other. And then you can’t act church discipline out, because who are you going to discipline? That reluctance to deal firmly, strongly, and publicly with sin leads to a lack of discernment in the church.

And sixthly, spiritual immaturity. Immature Christians can’t discern. They do not have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. They’re like children tossed and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Second question, what is spiritual discernment? Our responsibility is to discern truth from God and its application in spiritual life. We are to be trained in the matter of discernment.

Discernment is the skill in separating divine truth from error and half-truth. 1 Timothy 4:6-7 says, “Be nourished in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you’ve been following. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.” Which was kind of an epithet describing contemporary philosophy. You have to be able to distinguish between worldly stuff and the truth of God.

Anybody in the ministry has to be able to separate something from another because there is a difference. Discernment is the skill in reaching understanding and knowledge of God’s truth by a process of separation. Everything I read and hear, I have to put through the filter and separate truth from falsehood. So, spiritual discernment is the ability to separate God’s will and truth from everything else.

Now, that leads us to the most important question. So how can I become a discerning person? Step one, desire. It starts there. If your only desire is to be happy, healthy, wealthy, satisfied and comfortable, if your only desire is to propagate what you believe, feel and think, if your only desire is to make sure that your view is heard on everything, you’ll never be a discerning person.

Discernment comes out of desire born out of humility. A humility that says, “I don’t know and I don’t trust my own judgment. I must become discerning.” A desire that comes from believing in the Word of God and the truth of God. And understanding the attacks of Satan and his desire to bring in heresy. I know I can be deceived. I know I can’t trust my own feelings.

Proverbs 2:3-5 says, “If you cry for discernment, if you lift your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will discern.” Then you’ll get it and you’ll be able to discern what is truly the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God. When you want it, when you desire it, when you hunger for it, God will provide. This drives the whole thing.

I shall have that knowledge directly implanted in my life and it affects how I live, and it is directly implanted in the lives of everybody who believes me. And it affects how they live. I have a high view of scripture which means that I have a duty to divide it rightly. And so I have a desire to discern. I don’t have all the answers in me, but I know God wants me to know his truth.

Step two, prayer. Here’s the dependence on the Lord for the process. You can have all the desire, but you still have to depend on Him. Example in 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon prayed to God, “Please give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people to discern between good and evil.” Verse 10 says, “It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.”

And God said to him, “Because you have asked for discernment, and you haven’t asked for yourself.” Some people really aren’t interested in discerning, they’re only interested in getting for themselves what they need. God says, “You had an opportunity to ask for long life. You could have gotten into the prosperity religion, and you could have asked for vengeance. But you didn’t.

Thirdly, learn from the gifted. You’re going to find in your life and in the church that there are people who have capability to discern. Look in 1 Corinthians 12:10, it mentions the gift or the ability of the distinguishing of spirits. 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they’re of God.” God actually gave people insight to know that this was a demon spirit.

In Acts 16 a woman came down to where Paul and Silas were, and said, “These men are the servants of the Most High God who show us the way of salvation.” But Paul knew it was coming from a demon spirit that was living in that girl. And after listening to it for a while, he cast the demon out to heal her. Paul knew that people would embrace this girl. But then she would speak lies to them.

There are some people in the church that God just gives the ability to discern. Learn from them, read their books, or know them personally. They’re in the church today perhaps to identify demonism, perhaps to identify carnality, certainly to identify error in doctrine. They’re the watchmen for the church. Learn from them because false prophets are everywhere today.

Fourthly, follow the pattern of the mature. Mature Christians can discern. They have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, it says in Hebrews 5. Ephesians 4:14 says, “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the craftiness of deceitful plotting.” To be discerning is a process.

Fifthly, depend on the Holy Spirit. You must be filled with the Spirit, because the Spirit is the true discerner. Jesus said in John 16:13, He will lead you in to all truth. 1 Corinthians 2:16, “The only one who knows the mind of God is the Spirit of God.” You have the Spirit of God, therefore you have the mind of Christ. 1 John 2:20, “You have an anointing from God, that anointing is the Holy Spirit.”

Lastly, study Scripture. You will not become discerning unless you diligently study the Word of God. There you will learn the principles for discernment. Because it is there you learn the truth. Acts 17:11 says, “the Bereans searched the Scriptures diligently to see these things, whether they were so.” Discernment flourishes only in an environment of intense faithful Bible study.

Let me close with Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Let us pray.

© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

2401 Alcott St.
Denver, CO 80211

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