What is a Christian to Think? Developing a Biblical Worldview, Part 6, The Need for Discernment, by Dr. Bruce Logan

“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-3 NKJV).

What on Earth is going on? Do you know? Is it even possible for you to know? When we look at our nation and our world, along with all of the many rapid changes occurring at the same time, how can we interpret these events? How can we determine what is really happening?  And how are all of these simultaneous events impacting in our lives, our marriages, our families, our relationships, our communities, our churches, and our nation?  Are we just simply going through a “phase in human evolution?”  Or, could there be some other nefarious plot occurring in the unseen world?

In this sixth and final lesson in this series emphasizing what should be the biblical worldview or ideological perspective of believers in the midst of the polarizing and emotionally charged culture wars that America is currently in.  As believers, there are a multitude of issues, as well as, cultural transformative movements, that we need to have a biblical worldview in order to understand and to navigate.  And what makes it even more imperative that believers develop a biblical worldview in this evil age, is the fact that this demonic cultural shifting is being advocated by all of the mainstream media outlets, our public schools, Academia, the entertainment industry, pop culture, not to mention, being legislated in the highest offices of our Government.  All of which makes it all that much more critical that, EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO VOTING, believers develop discernment and a biblical worldview perspective on all of the issues.

The fact is that, we have seen a lot of “firsts” since January 2020.  We have NEVER for example, been told to stay home, quit work and rely on the Government because of a WORLDWIDE Covid-19 Pandemic.  Furthermore, America have also not seen a Presidential election cycle with this much emotionally charged volatility, arguably since the election of Abraham Lincoln.  And at the same time, several American cities are a flamed with rioting as a result of a number of very high profile and media sensationalized shootings of African Americans by white police officers.

Controversial and emotionally charged cultural issues such as, abortion, the rapidly increasing political power and cultural influence of the LGBT movement, racial issues, the attacks on traditional biblical principles regarding what makes a healthy family, the overall secularization of the public school system, the growing fascination with socialism among a growing number of young Americans, the alarming rate of fatherlessness in minority communities, the alarming homicide rate in many of America’s inner city communities, the blatant far left desensitizing of an entire generation to the things that God has called abomination, and the complete secularized slant of America’s main stream media outlets, are all occurrences that should be causing every believer in America, regardless of race, gender, or religious denominational traditions, to stand up and take notice.

This year of 2020, with all that has occurred and is yet occurring, has caused me more than ever before, to reflect on the critical importance and the desperate need for the development of biblical discernment among believers.  But even more so, I’ve been very concerned about the the serious lack of biblical and spiritual discernment among the people of God, and especially many of our leaders.  In other words, many believers often do not see issues clearly and are subsequently easily misled because they do not think biblically, which is all the more important reason why it is so imperative that leaders or expositors of God’s word have clear biblical discernment, so that they are able to “disciple” those who do not.

But regrettably, to put it bluntly, what we are learning as we watch our culture implode all around us, is that the WIDESPREAD lack of discernment in the Church has become a “SYSTEMIC” problem.  This is sadly, evidenced in the fact of the the large numbers of Christians, especially Christian leaders and Pastors, who have unwittingly become apologist for the secularization of America by supporting a political party and its candidates who advocate for “doctrines of devils,” while doing so without ever discerning the nature of the open attacks and hostilities towards biblical values.  In other words, many believers, particularly man in Christian leadership, have blindly become apologist for a party platform and it’s candidates that openly campaign on ideas that God has called evil, such as abortion, and male on male, and female on female relationships.  And that is not even to mention, the lack of discerning the nature of the movement towards establishing a “ONE WORLD/SOCIALIST ECONOMIC SYSTEM” and its subsequent consequences.

And while I recognize that on the surface, this concern may appear by many to be a sheer partisan perspective; yet what I am arguing is coming from a strict and specific biblical worldview perspective.  Furthermore, the argument that I am making, has nothing to do with whether you’re a conservative or liberal, a Republican or Democrat, black or white, male or female, evangelical or charismatic. It’s about developing  the discernment to recognize what’s true according to God’s word.
In other words, it’s about learning what aligns with God’s definition of truth, not what a politician or your Facebook friends or your hairdresser insist are true.  It means that as believers, we must take personal responsibility for developing discernment and learn how to take away the emotion, tradition and partisanship, and learning to “think biblically” in order to become discerning and critically thinking Christian.
To be more specific, one of the most troublesome components of the enemy’s attack on Christianity, is the complete lack of spiritual discernment or the  ability to be able to distinguish the spiritual warfare or prophetic relationship between the prophetic word and current events, including today’s political climate, and the signs of the times.  Interestingly, this is a problem that is not unique to today’s culture.  In fact, this amazing lack of discernment was also systemic among the Jewish Religious leaders of Christ’s day.  Note for example, the famous encounter in which Jesus gave a stinging rebuke to some Pharisees and Sadducees who were members of two of the leading religious sects of the day, and who came to Him attempting to trick Him by asking Him for a “sign.”
Mathew describes this encounter when he writes, “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times (Mathew 16:1-3 NKJV).  In His response, Jesus soundly criticized these religious leaders for their inability to discern God’s actions and timing in their generation.  They failed to recognize and discern the purposes of God because their hearts were far from God. They embraced a form of religion and pronounced it with their lips, but their hearts and focus were in the wrong place.

In today’s Christianity, signs of a spiritual famine are evident.  In other words, the fact that secularist worldviews has supplanted Christianity to become the prevailing and dominant worldview in the culture, is the primary evidence that spiritual discernment is lacking in the Christian community.  Though there are faithful pastors and Christians who take the word of God seriously, there is an increasing number of Christians who are abandoning the clarity and commands of Scripture and substituting political correctness, feelings, emotions, self help and tolerance for biblical truth and its sometimes, very difficult revelations.

We seem to have forgotten the idea that it was Satan in the Garden of Eden who first challenged the word of God when he asked Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1).  With this question, doubt about the word of God (which is really doubt about the integrity of God) led to a lack of spiritual discernment by Eve and then by Adam.  The result was The Fall, and the path to all subsequent heresies and apostasies was laid.

It is because of these and many other reasons, why the acquiring of biblical discernment by believers in Christ is so critical in today’s culture.  Why? Because discernment intersects the Christian life at every point.  And God’s Word is the ULTIMATE source for providing us with the needed tools in order to have discernment about every issue of life.  And especially considering the times that we are living in, and all that we have been experiencing in 2020, the need for more discernment among God’s people is more critically needed that ever.  And YES! That even includes how we vote as believers.  Because when we become discerning voters, we are able to TAKE AWAY THE EMOTION and think biblically and more critically, and take more into consideration WHAT we are voting for, as opposed to WHO we are voting for and WHY.
Interestingly, according to Peter, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).   You see, it is through the “true knowledge of Him,” that we have been given everything we need to live a Christian life in this fallen world. And how else do we have true knowledge of God but through the pages of His Word, the Bible? In fact, Peter goes on to say that such knowledge comes through God’s granting “to us His precious and magnificent promises” (2 Peter 1:4).  
What is biblical discernment and why is it important?

There are many issues in our culture today that can be argued or explained with emotional reasoning, but our emotions more often than not, don’t lead us in a Biblical direction.  It is therefore, critical that we know how to discern right and wrong through a Biblical lens.  That is why, when talking about discernment, the question that believers need to have the answer to is, what does it mean to have discernment and how do we learn to filter everything around us through the filter of the word of God?

In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.  In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.  First Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  

This idea of the importance of biblical discernment for believers, was succinctly and yet wonderfully made by, Robert Norris of Ligonier Ministries in an article in Table Talk Magazine titled, “The Lost Art of Discernment,” when he noted the following: “We have lost sight of what the first Christians seemed to know so well, that it is important for believers to exercise discernment. Indeed, it is of such importance that the apostle Paul understood “spiritual discernment” as a spiritual gift in itself (1 Corinthians 12:10).  Discernment is a Bible mandate that cannot be ignored by Christians claiming to walk in the light of the faith.” [1]

Norris went on to point out that, “In the New Testament, the word that is translated “discernment” is derived from the decision of a judge adjudicating between conflicting claims. It is seen as necessary to be able to distinguish between what is good and bad, true and false, and between evil spirits and good spirits. Christian discernment is the careful process of sorting through truth claims to arrive at the clearest possible decision concerning their trustworthiness and value as it relates to Christian orthodoxy. Such discernment reveals, clarifies, and proclaims truth and exposes, examines, and rejects error. This involves the Christian fully, as it is a personal commitment to the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 as a necessary part of Christian growth in grace (or as verse 23 points out, sanctification).

The word “discern” appears in Matthew 16:3Hebrews 5:14, and in Ezekiel 44:23. The clear sense of the term is that discernment necessarily involves making value judgments between differing claims as needed so as to reveal by examination what is right or wrong, or somewhere in the middle. To make such judgments involves the process of examining the claims by an objective standard, and for the orthodox Christian, such a standard exists only in the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16).” [1]

In essence, discernment involves each one of us in thinking in a specifically Christian way about each issue. It requires of us, that we employ our minds by informing ourselves through the study of the truth revealed in God’s Word. To be grounded in the revealed truth is the surest way to prepare to be able to recognize error. Yet, while information is a critical component, information alone does not provide us with full discernment.  At the same time as we are acquiring knowledge, our hearts have to be engaged in devotion to Christ.  In other words, we have to not only believe with our MINDS,” but we have to also believe with our “HEART” (Romans 10:9; Mark 12:30).  Then and only then will we find ourselves in tune with the mind of God and be able to make judgments and appraisals that accord with that mind, because to the believer it is promised the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the ministry of Word and Spirit in the life of the Christian as in the Christian community that produces the certainty of faith and the obedience of faith.

 

Moreover, discernment involves each one of us in thinking in a specifically biblical way, or through the lens of a biblical worldview about each and EVERY issue.  It requires of us, that we employ our minds by informing ourselves through the study of the truth revealed in God’s Word. To be grounded in the revealed truth is the surest way to prepare to be able to recognize error.  In other words, discernment is seen in Scripture as an essential component for spiritual growth. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews expresses the importance of spiritually mature believers regularly and routinely making their decisions by distinguishing between the principles of good and evil: “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). In the Old Testament the prophet Ezekiel makes clear that spiritually mature leaders will teach others how to recognize accurately the difference between the holy and the unholy (Ezekiel 44:23).

Furthermore, discernment according to Scripture, is a critical part of Christian life.  It was also seen as essential in making wise decisions, as James makes clear when he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).  If we are to be faithful, wise Christians in the pluralistic setting where we live, among people who do not share our convictions and values, then we must not only see the need for discernment, but we must also develop the skills necessary to become discerning believers.  Because assessing and judging truth from error through the lens of a biblical worldview, enables us not only to believe the truth but to be able to judge, assess, live and yes, vote appropriately through a biblical worldview.  For it is clear, that if you believe the wrong things, you will most certainly end up with a distorted piety and an impaired Christian witness.

The apostle John issues a similar warning when he says, “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” (1 John 4:1).  According to the New Testament, discernment is not optional for the believer, it is required.  Because the key to living an uncompromising life, lies in one’s ability to exercise discernment in every area of his or her life.  For example, failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves the Christian subject to all manner of false teaching. False teaching then leads to an unbiblical mindset, which results in unfruitful and disobedient living, which is a certain recipe for compromise.

Applying this to today, it can be argued that this lack of any semblance of real spiritual discernment among believers, is possibly the single most devastating byproduct of the serious crises of biblical illiteracy in the Church.  In other words, because of the fact that experience and emotion, have been elevated above the divine revelation that comes from in-depth expository preaching and teaching from the pulpits, and the deemphasizing and the devaluation of serious and consistent bible study, many who call themselves Christians have no biblical substance or foundation in which to grow as a Christian.

Unfortunately, discernment is an area where most Christians stumble. They exhibit little ability to measure the things they are taught against the infallible standard of God’s Word, and they unwittingly engage in all kinds of unbiblical decision-making and behavior.  In short, they are not armed to take a decidedly biblical stand against the onslaught of unbiblical thinking and attitudes that face them throughout their day.

 

The Nature of Discernment

Discernment, or the ability to think biblically about all areas of life, is indispensable to an uncompromising life. It is incumbent upon every Christian to seize upon the discernment that God has provided for in His precious word.  Without it, Christians are at risk of being “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). The word used in Psalm 119:66  means “taste.” It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. Thus, while warning us against judgmentalism, Jesus urges us to be discerning and discriminating, “lest we cast our pearls before pigs” (Matthew 7:1,6).  Biblical discernment means that we must use our minds to discern between truth and lies good and evil.

Spiritual discernment stated more simply, is the skill of separating divine truth from error.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, we are to “examine everything carefully.” That speaks of testing something to reveal its genuineness.  What this means for believers is that we as believers are to evaluate everything we come in contact with to distinguish what is true and false, good and bad, or right and wrong. That can be a difficult task. Why? First, we are constantly fighting the sinful desires of our fallen flesh. Second, we face satanic deception. The devil is doing everything he can to confound and confuse us. Third, we are inundated with worldly influences that seek to overpower us.

Opposing the world, the flesh, and the devil requires us to “hold fast to that which is good” (v. 21).  We are to embrace wholeheartedly what is inherently genuine and true. We are also to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians  5:22). That means we are to separate ourselves from every form of perversion as though we were avoiding a deadly plague or poison. One pastor correctly wrote, “The worst forms of wickedness consist of perversions of the truth, of spiritual lies, although today many look upon these forms with indifference and regard them rather harmless” Many in today’s church are indifferent about separating divine truth from error because they lack spiritual discernment.

Why Is There Such a Lack of Biblical and Spiritual Discernment?

As I have been attempting to argue in this series of lessons, one of the most disconcerting trends that I have observed among many believers is just how often believers, in particular pastors and leaders have demonstrated a lack of a clear biblical worldview, and have subsequently become apologist for the same narrative as the world and the mainstream media, without so much as even stopping to consider any biblical worldview perspective.

Now, it is completely understandable why non-believers are carrying the media narrative and not making the spiritual connection for example, with the devaluation of traditional family model and the proliferation of crime, drug abuse, illegitimacy, illiteracy and all of our other social ills.  In fact, the apostle Paul actually acknowledged this reality when he wrote to the Christians in first century Corinth where he observed: 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” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV).

In essence, Paul was pointing out to those early Christians who lived in pagan Corinth, that non-believers were not controlled by the Spirit of God but rather their natural physical and material values.  People like that cannot understand spiritual things because they are controlled by their feelings, their emotions, their moods, urges, fleshly desires and by human philosophies and reasoning.  Such people Paul explained, cannot accept the things of God because they are “foolishness to him.”  Or in other words, the things of God went against their natural or fleshly philosophies and inclinations, which subsequently cause biblical values to be viewed as foolishness.

On the other hand, Paul gives a contrasting perspective that should be embraced by the believers when he adds in verse 15: But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.”  Paul concludes in other words, that the mature believer has a receiver, or spiritual radio waves, which should be tuned in to God’s will.  He can therefore discern, appreciate and understand the essence of spiritual truth with wisdom and spiritual understanding.  That means that we really can exercise moral judgment, because we have thoroughly studied the mind of the Lord as it is revealed in His word.  We have prayed about difficult issues and have examined them from every side and we have put them through the filter of biblical absolutes.

As a result, we can therefore have the courage to take a position on moral values and political issues that the natural world or the “carnal man” is completely confused about.  We then have the courage to speak out on the wrongness of divisive issues such as: abortion, the destructiveness of the homosexual lifestyle, the sins of materialism, racial issues, socialism vs capitalism, and the oppression of the poor and needy.  In addition to that, we are able to boldly advocate for God’s divine order for the family which involves one man and one woman raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  And we can also comprehend the destructive impact of violating or undermining the biblical model of family can have on a society at large, and the impact that the attacks on the traditional, biblical family is having on the culture at large.

Unfortunately, far too many people in America over the past fifty years, including many sincere Christian believers, have increasingly had their ideologies or worldviews shaped by the media driven narratives, regarding sociological issues and not by God’s word.  In other words, far too many believers, completely and often innocently in many cases, are allowing their minds to be subtly influenced by the dictates of society as opposed to allowing God’s word to be preeminent in influencing and shaping how they discern the great issues of the day.  This becomes increasingly alarming when you consider the fact that it is Christ’s church, His body that has “set apart” and given the charge of being the “salt, and the light of the world.”  That light that shining in a dark world and pointing the way to the only true light in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So finally, while there is infinitely more information on this topic of worldview and biblical discernment that I could examine, I would just like to close this series of lessons, by highlighting without going into any more detail, a list of six reasons why, even with the fact that we are living in the “age of information,” there is such a serious issue of the lack of biblical discernment among God’s people:

1. The lack of emphasis on the Church’s actual purpose.

2. Division in the body based on doctrine and race.

3. Man-made religious tradition.

4. A proliferation of false teachings and teachers.

5. Ignorance and apathy.

6. A lack of discernment of the signs of the times that we are living.

In closing, I would like to summarize the above list by pointing out just two key areas that have contributed to the above list of issues:

Weak Doctrine

The diluting of biblical doctrine has conditioned today’s church to desire only what will make it feel comfortable and satisfied. Because experience and emotion have been elevated above divine revelation, many who call themselves Christians have no biblical basis for doing so. In other words, the primary emphasis in modern preaching has been placed upon religion as a power which can do things for us and which can make us happy as oppose to making us mature disciples.  Moreover, this emotional and feeling based religion has been over-emphasized at the expense of the intellectual, mind renewing component of the gospel that leads to the development of mature and discerning believers.

Because so many in today’s church, have only a shallow knowledge of God’s Word, they have filled that void with things like; trust in personal experiences and their personal feelings as actual truth.  And even more detrimentally, it has become in-vogue for believers to chase personal comfort and success as a way of life as opposed to Kingdom righteousness.  Subsequently, we have turned out to be a body that has become so preoccupied with ourselves, our moods, our feelings, our inward states and our earthly prosperity, that when we are confronted by external issues and problems that have a profound effect on our lives individually and the body collectively, such as the issues we face politically for example, we lack the ability to discern or “critically think” through the problem from a biblical perspective.

Inaccurate Interpretation

Today’s church has also failed to interpret Scripture accurately. That’s because, for the most part, it is indifferent toward God’s Word. Some teachers in the church are not trained to study God’s Word and end up with a wrong theology.  Some on the other hand, may be more trained trained but opt to tell stories or mix man-made ideas with biblical truth.  Still others arrive at what they believe to be the truth by some mystical intuition, experience, or emotion.

Finally, we must never loose sight of the fact that, interpreting God’s Word is an exacting science that requires skill and precision, that only comes through years of systematic study.  And unless the believer has sat under good teaching, is well-read him or herself, or has learned to interpret Scripture from someone who knows how, it’s unlikely he or she will be able to interpret Scripture accurately.

  1. The Lost Art of Discernment, by , First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier Ministries, May 1, 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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