Psalm 119:125 “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.”
Discernment is defined as perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding. I like the way ‘compelling truth’ put it: “Discernment is what enables us to have proper understanding and make wise judgements. Think of it as a heightened level of critical thinking. Discernment is similar to wisdom, but offers a more specific focus. The primary difference between the two lies in the distinction of discernment being able to help us to decipher right from wrong, truth from falsehood. The Bible makes it clear that discernment is something that we should all desire and that it is necessary to help us to grow in our faith and keep us from being deceived”
Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
According to O. Chambers, “simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly”. In other words, there are many spiritually confusing topics, the longer you read the Bible, the more you realize you don’t understand many parts of the Bible. You cannot just reason your way through spiritual confusion, spiritual understanding comes through the process of Obedience.
Even small matters of spiritual confusion can be misdirected if we use intellect to navigate our way through a spiritual dilemma. We are constantly bombarded with worldly wisdom. There is advice given at every juncture of life and many times the wisdom of the world is just feel good advice that leaves the one receiving the advice just as empty and confused as when they arrived. Phrases such as “follow your heart”, are commonly offered as a solution for needing direction in life. The very idea of following ones heart is often times muddled with past emotional trauma or current emotional pulls. Emotions can be affected by hormones, fatigue, past hurts, or personality. Whether the influence is from lust or the push comes from fear, we release hormones that make us think there is a measure of truth in what we feel. The endless cycles of relationships we see in our society are often times from misunderstanding a hormonal response due to attraction or some conditioned response. We may completely overlook someone’s character as to whether we should pursue a relationship with them because we lack the discernment of what godliness looks like.
Psalm 111:110 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”
The lack of discernment has lead many into destructive relationships, down paths of falsehood, into decisions that have been dead ends, and into futures that at times seem hopeless.
Since discernment is gained through obedience, the question is: What are we to be obedient to?
Job 28:28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”
We may not think we are evil, matter of fact we may have a pretty high opinion about ourselves. If I open the car door for my wife, does that make me a good person? We use simple common gestures of kindness as a means to justify ourselves; this is worldly wisdom. Common courtesy was an expectation 100 years ago. As a man living in that society, it was looked on as gentlemanly to escort a woman, let woman go first through a door, show kindness to strangers, or simply showing conduct that showed principle and integrity. Simply put, we can never justify ourselves before God, our justification can only come from him. The sad reality is, we are inherently evil people. Left to our own vices, we will always act contrary to God’s perfect will. Because of our nature of self-destruction, the Lord gave us a guide as to how we might live.
Psalm 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”
Now, if we try to justify ourselves only by following God’s moral law, we will see how impossible this task is, many have tried, all but Jesus have failed. Our starting point of wisdom and discernment is with Jesus. The necessity of trusting Jesus with our lives is the foundation for growth and maturity. Those who do not know Christ, do not have the capacity for discernment.
1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The growth that begins to occur in the hearts and minds of those ‘born again’, is a result of the Spirit of God that dwells in the hearts of His people.
Isaiah 11:2 “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”
The short list of all the Spirit of God does is contained in this simple verse in Isaiah. Everything we need for godliness, for wisdom, for understanding, discernment, strength, and knowledge originates from the Spirit of God. Jesus made the way for us to come before God as evil, reprobate, sinners. Without the blood of the Lamb, we are left helpless and powerless to come before God. Because of the grace Jesus has shown us, we are made acceptable to God and His Spirit is then given to us as a seal. The Spirit of the Lord begins to work in us and transform our lives into His image as we submit in humility to His law.
The perfection of God’s moral law becomes the guide by which we obey. When the members of our bodies are brought into submission to His will, the way we see life begins to change.
How is discernment applied in this new life that we live?
*The ability to apply God’s moral law into the circumstances of our lives is a reflection of the discernment we receive from the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 119:33-37 “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding that I may obey Your law, and follow it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of Your commandments, for there I find delight. Turn my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetous gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things;revive me with Your word.”
As we practice discernment, we begin to see the reward of our efforts—Delight.
Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
You know all those prosperity gospel preachers that keep preaching the message that “God just wants to bless you….you only have to ask for it!!!” Well, they left out some important facets of what brings reward:
- How we ask for God’s blessing. When we pray according to God’s purpose in our lives, we should be praying according to the pathway God desires for us. Obedience is the mechanism of walking with God, which leads us to the next point.
- What is expected of us. If we ask for blessing and yet live according to our own ambitions and rules, we really shouldn’t expect anything from God, He isn’t going to bless us. As David declared, delight comes in the path of His commandments. Knowing what that path looks like and how to stay on it is another process of discernment.
- Whatever we do, we do it with all our heart. The pathway of obedience is a commitment that is all in. If we plan on only following part of God’s plan for us, we take the truth of God and divide it, we are in essence saying, part of what you say is good and part of what you say is not. We make God out to be a liar. When we think we know better, we are positioning ourselves as authoritative over God’s authority.
Does this begin to paint a picture for you?
We break almost everyone of God’s moral laws by simply saying or acting like we will not obey. The patience of God is shown to us every day, His mercy is demonstrated to us with each act of disobedience.
For those who continue to walk in this pattern of disobedience, what you have may be taken away.
Job 12:20 “He deprives the trusted ones of speech,
And takes away the discernment of the elders.”
Job 17:4 “You have closed their minds to understanding; therefore You will not exalt them.”
Job 12:24 “He deprives the earth’s leaders of reason, and makes them wander a trackless wasteland.”
Does the Lord remove such things as speaking with authority, discernment, understanding, or reason because he is cruel?
The measure of God’s nature is defined by Love. What may seem cruel is actually the tremendous measure of His love shown in ways we may not like but are necessary. The Lord continually acts in ways that are consistent with His nature.
Nothing that God acts on is bad, it is always good.
If we will remember these principles of God’s character when we are dealing with adversity, trial, or some form of chastisement, we will be more patient in allowing the Lord to work in our lives for good, rather than complaining about our circumstances.
Discernement is worth striving for, it is worth praying for, just remember that as the Lord imparts this gift…what the gift is for.