Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Lost Art of Discernment

By my nature, I am a very cynical person.  I am not cynical towards God.  I know God is true, I know Jesus is Lord and Savior, and I know that my eternal destination is secure through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I am, however, very cynical of man.  While I am admittedly too cynical at times, I think that we should all have a healthy level of cynicism when it comes to man, especially in terms of our faith.  Many seem to have either lost or willfully ignore any kind of discernment when it comes to spiritual matters.  We have replaced measuring things to Scripture to how things make us feel or just taking someone's word that something is Scriptural.  It is lazy and it is dangerous. It is also not the example we have in Scripture.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily [to find out] whether these things were so.  Acts 17:10-11 NKJV
We should listen to what others have the say, but we should also be like the Bereans and check everything we hear against Scripture.  I was blessed in that my first pastor challenged us to test what he taught us against Scripture.  I continue that tradition even in this blog where if anyone should see Scriptural error on what I write to point it out to me.  Any teacher that takes issue with testing what he says against Scripture or takes issue when you respectfully and privately bring it to him is not a teacher you should be sitting under.  The Bible tells us to test what we hear against Scripture.  There is good reason for this. Even from the beginning, false teachers have tried to infiltrate the church with false doctrine by twisting Scripture to suit their needs.  They take one verse here and one verse there and tweak the translation just so and come up with a novel idea.  If we take their word for it because they used Scripture, we become part of their error.  If we take that novel idea and test it against the whole counsel of God or even take the verses they used and put them in their proper context, the error will reveal itself. 

It is not only Scriptural maters where we have lost our discernment, but it is also with people.  How many parents thought that Miley Cyrus was a good example because she claimed to be a Christian.  She may very well be a Christian, but she certainly has not acted like one.  Parents who let their children follow her as some kind of a role model are probably regretting that decision based on her well-known public behavior.  Unfortunately, many of those parents are now making that same mistake with Justin Bieber.  I am not say that Mr. Bieber is going to get into the same public escapades as others, but you run that risk if you let your child idolize any person unless that Person is Jesus Christ.  Even as adults, we fall all over ourselves for a politician who claims to be a Christian.  May I remind you all of Jimmy Carter who even to this day is trying to get Israel to give up land?  May I remind you all of George W Bush who prayed to other gods, hosted religious ceremonies to false religions at the White House, and even said that Jesus was not the only way.  Some may say that based on his position as president he had to do those things, but God offers no such allowances.  There are also many bands who claim to be Christian, but if you ever listened to their lyrics you would wonder why. 

We have lost discernment in other areas as well.  We believe that if we put the word "Christian" in front of it, then whatever else follows is just fine.  We have some really fringe ideas that can not be marketed in the real world so they are marketed to Christians.  This is usually done to sell a book, a program, or to pad the pocket of some speaker.  They usually have some secret to achieving some scriptural ideal that apparently in nearly two thousand years since God spoke those words we were hopelessly without the knowledge on how to obey those words.  I heard of one "Christian" psychologist who took her fringe ideas to the church and repackaged them as a way to break "psychological strongholds" or something to that effect.  Apparently Christians have been wandering around aimlessly for years with no idea how to take each thought captive for Jesus Christ until this lady came along.  She also has bizarre ideas on increasing the space of the brain that you use negating the idea that God chooses the foolish to confound the wise.  Another common area are the never-ending stream of Christian diets each promising to use God's weight loss principles.  Then there are the Christian self-help programs, which I have written on before.  Beyond that, we have Christian everything whether or not they actually behave like Christians.  We somehow feel that putting the world "Christian" in front of it makes it OK.  The fact is that we must test the spirits in all of these things, we must inspect their fruit, and we must test them against Scripture.  Anything less is negligence on our part and the damage if reaps in our own spiritual lives is of our own doing. 

So how is it that we fall into these errors?  We make the mistake of following our emotions over the truth of God's word.  Purveyors of this poison know how to package it in such a way that tickles all the right places.  They use the same lie as Satan in questioning whether or not God has really said something.  They begin with twisting the plain meaning of Scripture with the goal of stripping the lordship of Jesus Christ.  They create ideas that play on our weaknesses making us feel that they can make us stronger.  They play on our selfish desires inflating our egos but at the same time making our identity dependent upon continuing in whatever program or doctrine they are selling.  They also play on their egos by selling what they have as some kind of a "secret" that the church has either forgotten or could never figure until until God chose them to enlighten the rest of us.  All in all, they play on the flesh and our feelings and confuse our emotions to where we follow how we feel over what we know to be true.  I have debated one person one time on the error of egalitarianism.  I shared how every Scripture used to create that false doctrine was taken way out of context and refuted each and every one of their points.  My argument was iron-clad, rock-solid, and irrefutable.  The response shocked me.  That person said that they did not care what I shared in the Bible, they "felt" it was right and so it was right.  May we never become so utterly stubbornly blind to the truth of Scripture.  We can not trust our feelings.  We can not trust the world of man.  We can not trust the word "Christian" in front of it. We can not trust a salesman who tells you that his book has the secret to your happiness, but you have to purchase it.  The joy of the Lord is free for all those in Christ.  Sure many of them tell you that they make no money on their book sales, but what they do not tell you is that their ministries pay for their large homes, luxury cars, expensive clothing, private jets, and just about everything else.  It is a lie.  We must test everything against Scripture.  We need to get out of the habit of promoting teachers just because they say they are Christian, promoting bands just because they are on a Christian label, buying books just because they have a Christian writer, using quotes just because they may sound somewhat Christian, and getting involved in programs just because they put the word "Christian" in front of them.  We must test everything against Scripture.  If we fail to take that precaution, we will be devoured by the wolves that walk among us. 
They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the [son] of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling [words] of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 2 Peter 2:15-19 NKJV

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