Today’s blog post is about something I’m very passionate about, and something that is so important in our lives as Christians. We’re diving into biblical discernment – what it is, and why this skill is so crucial for us to develop.
We are living in a unique time where we have constant access to countless resources, perspectives, and stories. We can access churches across the globe at our fingertips. We can follow along with the daily lives of “Christian influencers.” We could probably discover a new worship song everyday for the rest of our lives. There are thousands of Christian podcasts, radio stations, book and websites. And while these can be beneficial to our learning, they can also breed complacency. We have no need to study the Bible for ourselves because thousands of other “more qualified” people have already done it for us. To study the Bible properly is hard work, but to have someone else teach it to us is so much easier.
I will never forget the night that the Spirit convicted me to start digging into the Word myself. I will never forget when I began comparing Scripture to what some of the pastors, churches, and worship groups that I was entrusting my spiritual nourishment to were teaching. I will never forget the way it felt when I realized that the Jesus they were proclaiming was not the Jesus of the Bible, and that their gospel was not the true gospel. I was hurt, confused, and felt deceived. But I was so grateful for the loving kindness of my Heavenly Father in revealing His truth to me. Since then, I have been on a journey to know God’s Word for myself. Human authors have much room for error, and just because something is labelled as Christian does not make it biblical. On the other hand, the Bible is authoritative, infallible, inerrant, and all sufficient. It contains everything we need to know the truth. (2 Tim 3:16-17) As we grow in knowledge of the Word of God, we are better able to discern true teachings from false teachings.
The late preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Quite often, we can easily see when something is clearly false. But what is harder to discern is when there are bits of truth mixed into the message. We must develop the skill of thinking biblically, so that we can weed through all of the voices in our world and properly decide what is good and not. It is crucial. It is the part of our faith that begins to involve our mind. (Matt. 22:37)
In his epistles, Paul speaks over and over again about being watchful for those who try to deceive and corrupt the gospel. The gospel is infinitely valuable – and like a piece of artwork in the Louvre that attracts cheap counterfeits, Satan is always in the business of distorting the precious gospel message. We live in a world with many other forms of the gospel – the prosperity gospel, the faith plus works gospel, the mystical miracle gospel, or gospels from other man-made religions. All of these are distortions that use the same terms but miss the truth! For the Christian who does not know the Bible themselves, these distortions can be of great harm. We need to be familiar with the truth. We need to understand and appreciate it’s value in a world that tries to diminish its worth. This is a skill that takes time and it takes practice, and most of all takes guidance from the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 17, we meet a group of people called the Bereans. It says that the Bereans “… were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (v. 11) They didn’t only hear Paul teach the gospel, they eagerly seeked the Scriptures themselves to affirm what he had told them. They wanted to know firsthand this good news! We should all desire to be like them – to know the Bible personally, to search it with eagerness.
1 John 4:1 challenges us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” In Jude we are told to ” contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (v. 3) We should be diligent in protecting the purity of the gospel message, and to defend our faith we must know what it is that we believe.
This is something that we must learn for ourselves.
This is not something we should place in the hands of other human beings.
When we turn to sermons, podcasts, books, etc. before we turn to the Bible, we are trusting other flawed human beings to accurately interpret Scripture for us. Do you realize the weight of that? Your eternity depends on it. If what they are teaching you is not the truth – the gospel message of repentance that is truly able to save your soul – you could be in great danger. While God does use other people to teach and to guide us, we must know His Word firsthand, and in doing so we get to know HIM firsthand.
I pray that God would fill you with a desire to know Him deeper, and give you a discerning spirit as you venture through each day. He is faithful and good, and when we seek Him above all else we will always find Him.