Discernment

By Michael Hoch

God’s Word is clear: do not love the world (1 Jn 2:15), do not be conformed to the world (Rom 12:2), abstain from every form of evil (1 Th 5:22), depart from evil (Ps 34:14), impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you (Eph 5:3). On the contrary, we destroy opinions contrary to the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5), we boast only in the cross (Gal 6:14), we make it our aim to know Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2), we set our mind on Him (Col 3:1-4), and we strive for holiness (Heb 12:14). We do these things while living in a world that opposes Christ and is at enmity with God (Jn; 15:18-19; Jan 4:4). Jesus, therefore, prayed that even as we remain in the world, the Father would keep us from the evil one and sanctify us in the truth of His Word (Jn 17:16-17).

The everyday significance of these truths reminds us of our need for street level discernment. Spiritual discernment is the ability to think biblically about all areas of life so that you can distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong; it is keen perception and acute understanding that distinguishes, discriminates, and differentiates. Biblical discernment is godly wisdom applied in specific circumstances. It is the ability to choose holiness while living in a sinful world.

When our powers of discernment are trained by constant practice and we are able to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14), it dramatically affects our spiritual life. Biblical discernment guards us from being deceived and protects us from careless or harmful choices. It informs our Christian freedom so that we can distinguish between what is helpful and what is unnecessary, and so we recognize that the exercise of freedom is not essential for the enjoyment of it. Biblical discernment also promotes spiritual maturity.  It encourages sound judgment, sober-mindedness, and wisdom.

The psalmist understood the value of discernment when he prayed, Teach me good judgment and knowledge (Ps 119:66). The word translated “judgment” can mean “taste”. In other words, we want to distinguish between the different “flavors” of the world and choose only those things that nourish a healthy spiritual life.

One practical application is using discernment with media choices. There is a lot of irreverent material to sort through when accessing the Internet, watching films, or listening to music. A recent example is the extremely popular novel and movie The Shack. Biblical discernment warrants careful consideration of the dangers involved with popular movies. The elders recommend the following two articles:

In a confused and sin-cursed world, let's each pray, “I am your servant; give me discernment” (Ps. 119:125, NIV).