I debated with myself whether to write another installment in my Autobiography With Purpose series or continue writing about the intricacies of discernment ministries this afternoon. The Lord answered that question a bit unexpectedly when John and I did our morning devotions together today. We’ve just started reading Philippians, so John read Paul’s introductory remarks, which include this sentence:
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)
As I heard these words, it struck me that discernment truly is a desirable commodity for a Christian. Indeed, we do well to pray for the Holy Spirit to develop discernment in our fellow believers, as well as for ourselves. In my private devotions, in fact, I ask Him to use my study of His Word to sharpen my discernment. Blogs, sermons and commentaries can assist in the process, to be sure, but I want Scripture to serve as my ultimate measuring rod for determining truth.
What fascinated me about the passage John and I read this morning, however, wasn’t that the apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians to grow in knowledge and discernment. Rather I found it captivating that he considered discernment as merely a means to an end. He saw it as an instrument in their sanctification process, which in turn would glorify and praise God.
Many discernment blogs have helped me evaluate well-known evangelical teachers over the past 17 years, and the Lord has graciously used several of them (in addition to the prayers and influence of my wonderful husband John) to draw me into Reformed Theology.But lately I’ve noticed that a few of them read a bit like supermarket tabloids. At times they “critique” legitimate ministries over minor points of doctrine, or worse, on the basis of sensational websites that don’t properly document their claims.
When these blogs deteriorate into mere gossip rags, they dishonor the very Lord Jesus Christ they purport to defend. Admittedly, the fine line between calling out false teachers and slandering ones because an obscure (and usually poorly constructed) website makes some unsubstantiated allegations sometimes blurs a bit. Precisely for that reason, we must take responsibility to verify what we read before sharing it on Facebook or blogging about it.
I admit that blog posts about well-known people, especially if their titles offer indication of derogatory information, attract readers and boost stats. Why? To put it bluntly, folks, our sinful natures relish a nice juicy morsel of gossip (see Proverbs 18:8). Also, it strokes our egos to supply our readers with “exclusive information.” We forget the many Scriptures that condemn both listening to and spreading gossip. So we repeat the allegations, patting ourselves on the back for our faithfulness in executing our discernment ministries.
Dear sisters in Christ, please don’t misunderstand me. There’s definitely a need, and even an urgent one, for exposing the plethora of false teachers that permeate evangelical circles. But for the sake of God’s glory, we must ensure that we don’t pervert any gift of discernment the Holy Spirit may have given us. Discernment should lead both us and our listeners into increasing holiness that brings honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.