Other bloggers and social media mavens are currently (and finally) pointing out the problems of “discernment ministries” being hyper-vigilant in calling out orthodox Christians with whom they disagree on secondary matters. As tempting as it is to throw my hat into that ring, however, I believe it’s more edifying to continue my series on how discernment applies in everyday Christian life.
I know — I’d attract more readers by blogging about the first topic. Too bad! Sometimes writing about the things that reflect God’s priorities takes precedence over building my readership. On the other hand, if everyone else is sounding the alarm, I don’t need to add my voice, now do I?
You’ll remember that back in December I began writing about using discernment according to Biblical prescriptions. Certainly, discernment includes distinguishing truth from error and occasionally calling out false teachers (I want to be clear that I support such uses of discernment when appropriate), but I believe we should recognize that discernment encompasses so much more!
Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians offers some interesting insights into how to use discernment.
7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~~Ephesians 5:7-10 (ESV)
In context, Paul has been admonishing the Ephesian Christians against behaving similarly to their pagan counterparts. The Lord would not be glorified through their worldly attitudes and actions. And Paul’s admonition extends to all Christians. None of us ought to assimilate into the unbelieving world. Rather, we should live as representatives of God’s light.
Representing God’s light necessarily entails discerning how to please Him. Not surprisingly, we cultivate that discernment by reading, studying and applying the Word of God in our day-to-day lives.
By way of illustration, go back to Ephesians 5. Shortly after telling his readers to discern what pleases the Lord, Paul writes:
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~~Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)
So we learn, right there, that discerning God’s will is immediately connected with how we conduct ourselves. Paul strengthens the idea that Christians require wisdom (discernment) in order to live in a manner that honors Christ. We shouldn’t overlook the role of discernment in the everyday aspects of Christian living.
Notice then, Paul’s progression to family relationships in Ephesians 5:22-6:4. Ah, now Scripture gives specific guidance for discerning God’s will. Are you in conflict with your husband? (What wife isn’t, at least periodically?) God’s will is that you submit to that man you married. Yes, I know that husbands can make really bad decisions, and I certainly believe we should offer counsel to help them avoid mistakes. But when all is said and done, the Lord commands us to submit.
You may not equate obedience to Scripture’s commands with discernment, but the context of Paul’s writing definitely makes the connection. As we grow in our understanding of the Bible, we find multiple instances of principles to apply in our efforts to please the Lord. Discernment enables us to make these applications.
Don’t limit discernment to merely identifying false teachers and doctrinal error. True Biblical discernment goes far beyond those things to help us. please the Lord. And isn’t that what we really want?