I want to continue looking at the relationship between discernment and wisdom by examining Scriptures about wisdom. Naturally, my mind immediately goes to two familiar verses in Proverbs:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~~Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)
To many people — including evangelicals, I’m sorry to say — the fear of the Lord seems terribly outdated. To make verses like Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10 easier to swallow, we assure young Christians that the fear referred to here means nothing more than feeling reverence for God. He’s still your Buddy, your Boyfriend and/or your Vending Machine, as long as you remember to feel all religious about Him once in a while, according to contemporary evangelical thought. Certainly, we should never be afraid of Him!
Well, in some respects, I agree that Christ allows us to come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). But neither the writer of Hebrews nor the apostle John ever denied that we should hold a certain fear in our hearts towards God.
The writer of Hebrews wrote:
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. ~~Hebrews 12:25-29 (ESV)
And remember John’s response when the Lord appeared to him on Patmos:
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.~~Revelation 1:17-18 (ESV)
Although Christians can rest in the assurance of God’s love, we must avoid coming to Him with a cavalier attitude, forgetting His holiness and power. Christ paid the penalty for our sin, sparing those of us who believe in Him from eternity in hell, but we will still have to account for how we represented Him when we stand before Him.
I don’t know about you, but that accountability makes me tremble a bit.
My trembling, in turn, increases my desire to please and honor the Lord. Therefore, I study His Word daily in order to learn what pleases Him and how I can best reflect His character. I come to Scripture praying for discernment, not so I can bill myself as a premiere discernment blogger, but so that my discernment might enable me to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Far from being an antiquated notion, the fear of the Lord is the first step in developing wisdom and discernment. Rather than defining discernment as the ability to warn against false teachers, let’s go back to fearing God in our own lives. All our wisdom and discernment will follow from there.