Cry for Discernment! -- God's Forgotten Promise
|Copyright © 2002 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
In recent years the church universal has witnessed false messiahs lead groups of people into the jungle and into urban communes to commit mass suicide, the banning of prayer in public school, mass public marriages of strangers to each other by self-appointed earthbound-gods, the word "hedonism" change from an evil philosophy of worldly living to supposedly being the key to salvation, the rise of the "unity over doctrine" movement, the advancement of the "partially mistaken New Testament prophets" theory in fundamentalist circles, and laughter replacing Bible teaching in many churches. In all this, where has the discernment of the righteous ones gone?
An e-mail that has made the rounds through uncounted church prayer chains, sent from one concerned Christian to another, bears the subject line: "HIGH IMPORTANCE". And what is this highly important e-mail about that has driven Christians to their knees all over the land? A commercial television show about angels is in danger of going off the air. If you will permit a somewhat cynical inquiry with regard to this possibly doomed tv show, "Who cares?" (Note: this very real e-mail was likely always just a hoax used by a mass marketer to acquire e-mail lists to sell to spam-mailers.) Where has the discernment of the righteous ones gone?
Cry for Discernment--Godís Challenge
Discernment is the ability to judge good from evil using your knowledge of scripture and wisdom. The church seems to have lost its desire, will, and ability to discern in recent years. A bad doctrine arises, but everyone is afraid to criticize it, so it gains wide-spread acceptance in the church. A false messiah arises, unity (even with the unsaved) is more desired than a discerning warning to the church. We have become so accustomed to not criticizing, so well trained at not being discerning, we cannot even tell when an e-mail so trivial and spurious as that mentioned above should become part of our prayer chains. Do we not have more important issues, and real live people, for which to pray?
My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.
Discernment is not automatic, it does not come free. It comes with the cost of having to ask, to search, to cry out with your soul to God for discernment.
Oh, but discernment costs much, much, much more than that. Obtaining discernment costs us our "freedom" to sin. To get discernment means to leave behind the practice of evil. Consider the next few verses and the cost at which discernment comes.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding, He stores up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.
Once the way of discernment is chosen, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding come. And so too come a shield, integrity, justice, and every good course. To pursue discernment is to choose to leave the crooked paths in the dust as you set a straight course. One should not attempt to fool oneself, sin is hard to forsake for it is self-pleasing sensuality, but it is also contradictory to discernment.
The True Cost of Acquiring Discernment
There is an even larger cost to acquiring discernment. And this is the cost so very many dear saints of this modern age will not dare to incur, casting off their discernment like an unwanted paper tissue so as not to be required to make the payment.
For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their waysÖ
So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
Once you have cried out for discernment and then walked in the paths of righteousness, taken hold of Godís Word (which you now find pleasant) and sought out His knowledge and understanding, THEN you will live in the land of the righteous while the wicked are "cut off" from it and are uprooted. In other words, the cost of discernment is enduring the division of the good from the evil.
Discernment is divisive. It is divisive by Godís design. Discernment means to correctly judge right from wrong, good from bad, righteous from wicked. Whenever you make that judgement you must also make a decision, "what will I do about this judgement I have made?" The moment you call attention to that which is evil, you have caused a division among men.
Before one has discernment, he gets along just fine in the world. The undiscerning has no reason to call attention to the errors of the saints or to the sins of the wicked because he cannot see them. Without discernment, every kind of unsound doctrine or fable is acceptable and uncontroversial because no one can judge it to be in violation of Godís Word.
With discernment, comes a new vision. Now it is possible to see "the man who speaks perverse things". It becomes obvious which ones are those "who are devious in their ways". This is due to the ability to judge good from bad, right from wrong, using the wise criteria of Godís Word by which to make that sound judgement.
Once we can recognize right from wrong, after we have learned how to apply Godís Word to the real world actions and teachings we encounter every day, it is then we are called by God to act righteously, with discernment. Do we hide our light under a stainless steel mixing bowl so that it cannot be seen and so that it does not expose the deeds done in darkness, or do we put it up on the clearing at the top of the hill, shouting to all who will listen, "Here is the truth! Come and see! Save yourself from this perverse generation!"? For the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is sin, and that is the burden carried by the discerning. Which is more important: to expose the sin and risk unpleasant confrontation, or to hide discernment and allow sin to go unchecked in order to preserve a false sense of peace?
Jesus Is the Great Divider
As Jesus points out in Matthew 10:32-39 He brings a sword to human relationships, dividing children from parents and parents-in-law from children-in-law. You will lose aspects of your earthly life from which you must be divided for the cause of Christ. Some of those divisions will be the separation from people who will not follow Christ and will condemn you for your stand. If the world divided itself against its Creator, Christ, why would you assume it will not divide itself from you, His follower?
Solomon: the Discerning King
Solomon, when he took the throne at about age 20, was asked by God, "Ask what you wish Me to give you". Solomon considered and responded, "Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1Kings 3:9)
Godís response was that He was pleased with Solomonís unselfish request. God told Solomon, "Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long lifeÖrichesÖor the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justiceÖbehold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart." (1Kings 3:11-13) 2Chronicles 1:10 refers to this discernment as "knowledge and wisdom". Knowledge of Godís Word, and wisdom to apply it.
Now consider: if discernment was so critical, so essential, for a king to rule the domain, then why would discernment be any less critical to the child of God or to the church of God in this anti-God culture in which we live? Are we not Godís representatives on Earth, His kingdom of priests? And what good are a kingdom full of priests if they are unable or unwilling to apply discernment?
When we apply discernment and stand against abortion, will the world hate us? Yes. When we apply discernment and stand against false doctrine, will the followers of the false doctrine hate us? Yes. When we apply discernment and stand against new age "gods", will the disciples of these false gods hate us? Yes. And when we apply discernment and gently and lovingly point out sin and doctrinal error embraced by our brothers and sisters in Christ, what reaction will we get? Sadly, in some cases, it will be division. Happily, in other situations, the response is repentance, a turning to God, a "coming to their senses" (2 Timothy 2:26).
Crying out for discernment is a costly enterprise. It costs us energy. It costs us hard work and study. It costs us our fleshly desires. And often, it leads to divisions in our relationships, and even, on occasion, with some members of the church body.
On the other hand, as Psalm 37:3-6 explains, when we trust in the Lord, do good, cultivate faithfulness, delight in God, commit our ways to Him, and trust in the Lord, He will grant us our heartís desire which is the very discernment we seek. And it is this discernment, when exercised, that will keep us from fearing the evil in our modern world (Psalm 37:7).
While discernment is a costly instrument of God, it is also our tool to avoid fearing the evil around us and to prevent the church from falling into sin.
"But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." Hebrews 5:14