Tuesday, March 3, 2015

THE PRACTICE OF DISCERNMENT

Putting discernment to a practical use presents some major problems, especially in today’s society where “do not judge” is the rallying cry for anyone who feels guilty about something.

Discernment based on the black and white aspects of “you can” or “you can’t” is simple.
Discernment based on the “I don’t agree with your teaching” is simple.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: I have installed a program that allows you to hover on a scripture address, and the verse will pop up on your screen so that you can read it. This means that I no longer have to print out the verse in context as before. You can also click on that verse in the popup, and it will take you to Blue Letter Bible to see the verse in its contextual entirety. Try it here--Heb. 5:14)

Neither of those, however, is the true exercise of discernment, but rather the methods of the judgmentalist.

In my experience, I have come to realize that many critical people actually have the gift of discernment, but they’ve never been taught how to use it properly. What shows up is simply a manifestation of the fallen nature, rather than a manifestation of the spiritual life.

A critical person could well be trained in discernment if they could just let go of the criteria they use and the methods they employ.

Maybe that is you.

If so, ask the Lord if this is true. Ask Him how you should go about bringing grace and mercy to your gift, rather than condemnation.

Spiritual discernment, that which is not based in the cut-and-dried world of black and white, takes time to develop and is usually attacked by others when exercised.

Let’s return yet again to the verse which is the premise for this book—Hebrews 5:14
But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
You will recall that the evil mentioned here is actually that which is “not so good.”

Let’s look for a moment at the idea of “senses.”

We all know of the five senses of the body—touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.
But what about the senses of the soul and of the spirit?
The senses of the soul are will, knowledge, emotion, reasoning, and affection.
The senses of the spirit are worship, love, faith, praise, fear.
(I also believe that we have a 16th sense called the homing instinct—the ability to find where we came from.)

The 15 senses that are a part of our entire being are to be exercised, ie, trained, to discern between that which is good and that which is not so good.

The word for exercise or train is the Greek word from which we get our word gymnasium. A gym is for training. Training is time consuming, not only with each visit to the gym, but the fact that it takes many trips to the gym before the training begins to have any effect.

So, what does training the senses in discernment look like?

The beginning stages are probably clumsy and painful.

When you were little, your parents told you not to touch the stove, because it was hot. You probably didn't know what “hot” meant, or maybe you just didn't think you had to obey your parents. So, you touched the stove.

Ouch!

You cried, got a lecture, got some loving, and went on your merry way.

Now, however, you have your own personal experience with a hot stove.

You probably haven’t learned to tell the difference between a hot stove and one that is not, but you don’t care. You’re not going to touch that thing ever again.

But, you become older and wiser.

Now you can simply put your hand near the stove and you can discern whether it is hot.

Senses trained.

Other things may not be as plain and simple in the experience of training.

I worked around power tools for many years.
didn't wear earplugs.
Why should I? I could still hear. Now I can’t.
Taking heed to the warnings about the effects of loud noise on one’s hearing could have prevented me from being in the condition I am now.

The point is, training in discernment takes time, understanding, and wisdom.
It’s not going to just show up overnight.

The first place to begin is with the Scriptures.

Learn what the Word says about not being deceived.

And then put it into practice. Find out if God knew what He was talking about.

Don’t laugh at that suggestion.

Many Christians in my experience have failed to put what they hear into practice (James 1:22) They do not know from experience if the things stated clearly in the Bible actually work or not in the modern world.

For instance, there are five verses in the Bible where we are specifically warned about  particular deception.

  • Dt. 11:16—that we don’t turn from following the Lord to serve other gods
  • Lk. 21:8—that we not get deceived by those who may claim the name of Christ
  • 1 Cor. 6:9—that we understand who cannot inherit the kingdom
  • 1 Cor. 15:33—that our friendships can cost us
  • Gal. 6:7—that you can’t trick God
There are also the words “beguile”, “beware” and “deceive”, along with their derivatives, that should be considered.

Remember, though, that deception is just that—deception.

You may go through those verses, agree with the concept, and not even realize you may have already been duped.

This requires getting serious with the Lord about your life.

Then, when something is “discerned,” that recognition may require some sort of action.

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