This past Sunday I asked people on Facebook and Twitter what they believe the purpose of discernment is. Happily, several people responded, and all of them had excellent answers.
Most respondents emphasized that discernment enables us to distinguish between truth and error. Several elaborated that discernment protects the Church from false teaching. I wholeheartedly agree, and I praise God for giving us such a wonderful shield against deception. So many theological aberrations compete for our attention that discernment cannot be optional.
Two friends delighted me by going a bit deeper. One noted that discernment was, at the bottom line, for God’s glory. Her answer got to the very heart of what I wanted to say in this essay. If we consider discernment as having its purpose apart from glorifying Him, we make the disastrous mistake of once again placing ourselves in the center of God’s purposes.
The other friend expanded on the first friend’s answer by citing Scripture:
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)
He added that discernment helps us serve and love God better. My heart definitely did a happy dance when I read his comment because he so closely resembled my daily prayer concerning discernment.
As I come to my time in God’s Word each day, I ask the Lord to increase my discernment through its doctrines. But immediately I sense impure motives for that prayer request. I feel a strong temptation to make the request so that I can excel as a discernment blogger. Confessing that horridly self-serving motive, I discipline myself to instead ask for discernment in order that I might worship Him in spirit and in truth.
It appears to me that people frequently label themselves as discernment bloggers so that they can establish their authority. Not all commit this sin, I realize, but I’d hazard a guess that even those who don’t commit it experience the temptation, at least occasionally. If we pretend not to feel that pull, we put ourselves in tremendous danger.
Discernment is necessary in navigating the Christian life, especially with so much false teaching creeping into even the best churches. By all means, pray to be discerning! But please make sure you ultimately seek this attribute for God’s glory rather than your own purposes.