Every day we need to further develop our sense of discernment. Before we can do that though, we need to understand what it means.

“Which way do I go?” I asked myself. I was in a pickle. I, with some fellow Marines, had decided to drive around the Memphis, TN area. We didn’t know where we were or where we were going. It was all fine until the fog rolled in. And then we found ourselves on a street with no name. We didn’t have a map anyway and this was long before smart phones and GPS. We came to a “T” in the road. It was spooky. Imagine this: fog rolling over an unfamiliar piece of road around 11 pm. Four Marines in a Mercury Capri with a case of beer. Not the best circumstance in the world!

“So, Alvarez, which way do I turn?” I inquired.

“I dunno” he answered.

So without a clue I turned left. The fog got worse and our paranoia grew. Complicating matters was the Ozzy Osbourne blaring over my cassette deck. These were my pre-Christian days, just in case you were wondering. We began down this road and stopped just a few hundred yards down. At this point Alvarez chimed in with this wonderful question :”What would you do if a vampire appeared in the road in front of us?”

“I’d run over him” I answered.

Sandoval, another Marine in my car, then asked “What if he got up after that?”

Dead. Silence.

Sometimes I think we try to figure out which way we should go in our path of life the same way I did all those many years ago on a back road in Memphis. Just guess and hope there aren’t any vampires coming around. But we don’t have to settle for guessing about what we should do next or the path we should trod. We have the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit in us. Add to that the fact that we can approach the Creator of the Universe with our questions and have confidence that He will answer them and, well, we don’t have to worry about vampires or foggy roads, or even that Ozzy Osbourne spooky music!

Every day we need to further develop our sense of discernment. Before we can do that though, we need to understand what it means.

John MacArthur defines discernment as “…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.”

So discernment is basically making good decisions that honor God and glorify Him. But how do we, as fallen, imperfect, men (and women) achieve that goal. Hmm, that is a good question. Let’s cogitate on that for a few moments.

We begin to discern when we begin to examine everything carefully. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 we are told to examine everything and hold onto what is good. In the context  the specific thing that Paul is referring to is prophetic utterances. In Paul’s day (not unlike ours) there were folks claiming to be prophets of God everywhere. Paul is saying that when these utterances occur, don’t just take them at face value but look closely at them. Comparre them to the word of God to see if they are consistent with it.

O how we need that today! And this doesn’t just apply to prophecy. Have you ever heard something novel and new from a charismaic person? Before you jump at a “new” interpretation of any part of the Bible, examine it carefully. There isn’t a lot of field to plow theologically. Oh there are areas where folks disagree. But there isn’t much new. If you hear somehting you’ve never heard before about a particular verse or passage of Scripture be very careful. Investigate it further. Check out who said it. Does he/she have any training to make a statement like that? Be critical of the statement. If it is true, ir will stand the test. If not, it will fail to all except those who are blind to the truth. Put this effort in, after all, you need to be careful about your decision regarding this “new” way of thinking.

To discern what is right or wrong in doctrinal issues means you must know the Bible. This doesn’t mean you have to memorize it. But you must know it. Many men who can quote a verse here and there rarely really know the Bible. To know the Bible mens to study it each day like you’ve never studied it before. To know the Bible means to listen to what the word says to you. To study it means you decide that it is your teacher and Master…you’re not the master of it. To study the Bible means you place yourself under it rather than on top of it. You decide to change where the Bible and you disagree. This is absolutely necessary but is very difficult to do.

We all have biases. I have them just as much as anyone else. What I have learned to do is to try to set those biases aside and come to the Bible fresh each time I read it’s pages. This take practice and someone whom you trust to check you out, but is a worthwhile thing to do. A person who is a law and interpreter to himself, really doesn’t care what God says anyway. Don’t listen to such a man.

The result of this testing of everything, including our biases, is that we can be firmly entrenched in the essential doctrines of the faith and not tossed about as an unanchored ship in the stormy seas (Ephesians 4:14-16).

So, are you ready to work on your discernment? Are you ready to try to get better at making decisions. Practice looking closely at doctrines. Look at the WHOLE Bible not just a verse here or there. Make some decisions and then check yourself out with a person you trust…one who has been trained by others to properly interpret the Word of God. Read books and commentaries on whatever subject you are investigating. And by all means, pray for understanding. Pray that God wold give you a hearing heart. And then make some good decisions about what is right and what is wrong. About what is good and bad. About what is righteous and what is evil.

When you do this, you’ll be discerning correctly and not just guessing which way to go, or which way to think.

 

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