“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.” Discernment Gene Becoming Recessive? I engage in many conversations with my fellow Christians about various issues, not the least of which is the current predicament in the church. I’m speaking about the proliferating doctrines, practices, and beliefs that are rampant among Christians that follow popular pastors, televangelists, and authors and other leaders that are not biblically sound. By James Fire guest columnist. For more great articles see banner and links provided.
What Does The Bible Say About Discernment?
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11
By James Fire
Too often I get a frown of disapproval, especially if I happen to be ‘picking on’ a favorite teacher of theirs, and invariably I get the somber warning: “Touch not God’s anointed”! This begs the question of, Who is God’s anointed?
1 Chronicles 16:16-22 indicates that God’s anointed are connotatively, the collective nation of Israel, and denotatively, the prophets of Israel.
Strictly speaking then, you can’t apply that to any New Testament pastor or teacher; this is not to say that such aren’t anointed of God, but that particular admonition is allocated to Israel and her prophets, not the church.
On the contrary, we are admonished to receive [any] word (teaching, etc) with a ready mind, and then to search the scriptures to see if these are so (Acts 17:11).
However, it seems that in today’s church what matters most is the popularity of the message (and the messenger) rather than the biblical accuracy of the message, or conduct of the messenger as being an “approved workman of the Word”.
This makes me wonder, Where is the discernment in the church today? Why aren’t Christians perceiving the leaven, that is, false doctrines that are promulgated in the ‘cutting edge’ (often mega-)churches?
UPDATE: 5 – 08- 12 From The BEREAN CALL, two excellent articles that deal precisely with these issues:
A Generation Adrift – Part Two
~~ end of UPDATE.
The LORD Jesus rendered a scathing rebuke to the religious leaders (who were asking Him for a sign) of His day in regards to their apparent lack of discernment regarding the signs of the times:
“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. (2) And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
The particular “signs of the times” of that day, were those prophetic scriptures that spoke of the coming of the Messiah, which were being fulfilled directly before their very eyes.
Sadly prophecies regarding the Second Coming of the Messiah are likewise being fulfilled before our eyes, and too many Christians are likewise not discerning the coming of the LORD and His arriving Kingdom; believing rather that its up to us to bring the kingdom of God to Earth by making this planet a paradise for the people of the world!
The Greek word for “discern” is diakrino, and it means, “to separate thoroughly, to withdraw, oppose, to discriminate, judge, be partial.”
Interesting that ‘to discern’ in one aspect, is to judge, while often we are told by others when we attempt to point out doctrinal error, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”
Yet even in that passage we are told to judge good fruit from bad (Matt. 7:1-20).
In the above passage, the LORD rebukes the religious leaders for not judging accurately the signs of their times, namely, being ignorant of the time in which they were to expect the Messiah of Israel.
In Luke 12:56 it states
“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
Here the word for “discern” is dokimazo in the Greek, and it means: “to approve, to test, examine, to prove” One gets the impression of taking samples into the lab and conducting experiments to elicit data and information to either prove or disprove a working theory. Or in the biblical arena, a working dogma or belief.
This has the same idea to it as the scripture that admonishes us to “try the spirits” in 1 John 4:1. “Try” is likewise dokimazo.
We know that biblical discernment is something far beyond the abilities of the natural man to perform as it states in 1 Cor. 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.”
Such a power ‘to discern’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit, granted to the church, the body of Christ, believers and followers of Christ who received Him, and thus granted the power (authority) to become the children of God (see 1 Cor. 12:10 and John 1:12).
This gift of discernment is associated with the Word of God, for it in itself has the ability to discern between “the spirit and soul, the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” as stated in Heb. 4:12.
In vs. 13 we see that this WORD is Christ Himself – “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
This thought is confirmed in the next chapter of Hebrews: 5:13-14 –
“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.“
So we can conclude that those who are not babes in understanding, but spiritually mature and accustomed to digesting ‘strong meat’ or the deep, spiritual things of God will be able to discern, their senses being exercised to distinguish between that which is good, and that which is evil.
The entire goal as outlined in the book of Hebrews is obtaining spiritual maturity in the life of the believer, as stated in chapter 6:1-2
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
“let us go on unto perfection” refers to becoming “complete” or to “consummate developmentally”. It’s not a state of sinlessness, but of spiritual maturity which is obtainable by each and every Christian with the empowerment of God’s Spirit.
It is the Truth of God’s Word and from the Truth Himself, the LORD Jesus Christ (John 14:6) that we possess this ability of spiritual discernment.
The word “perceive” in scripture is likewise interesting. In Matt. 16:8 we read:
“Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?”
The word used for “perceived” in this passage is ginosko, which means “to understand, to know, to feel, be aware of, to be sure” This same word is used in Matt. 22:18; Mark 2:8; and Luke 8:46. In each case, it would seem that outward observation would not explicate such knowledge, that the ‘knowing’ would rather be implicit and apart from knowing by normal, corporeal means. So likewise is this ability to perceive found in 1 John 3:16 –
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Yet if this is the spiritual birthright of the church, why is it that there is so little discernment? Why is it that so many believers are being swept up into these winds of false doctrines?
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
In part I believe it’s because of the anemic, watered-down versions, translations and paraphrases that are being foisted on the church, often by ungodly men who don’t believe in the scriptures, and don’t maintain integrity ‘in the faith’ as stated in the previous verse in Ephesians, chapter 4 . . .
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:” Ephesians 4:13
We have already gone over the sources of modern translations as compared to the source for the King James Version in “How Near-Eastern Religion Invaded The West” and these and related articles are provided for the consideration of those who’ve not yet read them.
There is something else that is derivative of the Truth besides discernment, and that is sanctification. When the LORD Jesus, God the Son was praying to God the Father, He said (regarding his disciples) in John 17:17:
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
Thus we are assured that the Word of God has a sanctifying (purifying) effect on us which separates us from the influences of the world, the flesh and Satan and enables God to influence us by His Spirit (for information about sanctification and its doctrinal implications and spiritual uses, please read the articles entitled “The Sanctifier Is The Saint’s Fire”).
Other Scriptures on Sanctification
“With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:10-11
“That He might sanctify and cleanse it (the body of Christ, i.e., the church) with the washing of the water by the Word.” Ephesians 5:26
“If a man thereore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” 2 Tim. 2:21 (see also Heb. 10:10)
“Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” Heb. 13:12
“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” 1 Peter 1:2
Scriptures On Discernment
“The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Psalm 19:8
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Ps. 119:130
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” Proverbs 6:23
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” 2 Peter 1:19
Take note that all of the above references concerning discernment have to do with light, or lamps which are vessels of light. Scripture also states:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
“Walking” in this, and many other passages has to do with one’s day to day living – – living in the light of God’s Word, in the light of His Spirit, in the light of God’s love . . . we are in the position to readily receive daily the cleansing (that word used here is in the perfect present tense, that is, “cleanses continually”) influence of God’s blood. In this one passage, we have both the discerning qualities of God’s Light, and the sanctifying influence of the atonement in daily living.
Both of these things seem absent to a large extent in the body of Christ. Please understand, I don’t stand apart and look down on the church in judgment, I stand with the church and recognize in myself ways that are not pleasing to the LORD. I recognize that I too am in need of greater sanctification.
The question I propose is this, however: are you as a follower of Jesus Christ endeavoring to walk pleasing to Him, and to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)? Are you seeking His avail in ridding yourself of worldliness and tendencies towards sin, and increasing in practical holiness?
Each of us positionally in Christ possesses holiness already because of Christ’s atonement, so that we won’t be judged for our sins when we behold God face to face. However practical holiness, this is something we should be attaining to moment by moment and thus conform to Christ daily. We should become Christ-like bit by bit daily in our character and practical living: all of this out of love and devotion to our precious LORD who loved us enough to die for our sins, and provide us with everlasting life!
As Charles Spurgeon put it so well, “the Christian is daily active in two endeavors: mortification – the putting to death of carnality, and sinful ways in our lives; and vivification – the obtaining of new life by God’s Spirit and achieving Christ-likeness.”
A little exposition from Matthew 16
vs. 1-The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
vs. 2-He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
vs. 3-And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
vs. 4-A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah. And he left them, and departed.
vs. 5-And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
vs. 6-Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
vs. 7-And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
vs. 8-Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
vs. 9-Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
vs. 10-Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
vs. 11-How is it that ye do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
vs. 12-Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
vs. 1 The Pharisees seek a sign of the miraculous kind from the LORD Jesus, something blatant, something spectacular. Yet we know that the Spirit of the LORD speaks and leads softly, and gently.
vs. 2-3 Jesus states that those in His audience can discern the signs of the skies accurately, for they possess both adequate senses and knowledge for such purposes of weather forecasting.
He also rebukes them for their inability to discern the signs of the times, even though here as well, they possess adequate knowledge (the Holy Scriptures), and could obtain the adequate senses if they yielded, sought after, desired the Truth (via the Holy Spirit).
They should have been attending to all the counsels of God in the scriptures and not just their favorite passages – they were looking for a warrior Messiah who could conquer their oppressive enemies and the Gentile powers that were “treading down” the nation of Israel.
They failed to acknowledge that the Messiah would also be a suffering servant and sacrifice, the Lamb of God. Had they been conversant with these latter passages as they were the former, and had they been watching for the signs indicating His coming, they would have recognized their Messiah, and not had Him crucified!
Today the church is either passively looking for Him (when He comes, He comes . . . they’re not interested in prophecy or signs of His coming; their view is just be ready for ‘wheneverer’ He arrives) or they’re not looking at all! This inevitably leads to spiritual apathy (Matt. 24:42-51) and to a soul not prepared to meet the LORD their Savior (Matt. 25:24-30) or the LORD their Judge (1 Thess. 5:1-9)!
vs. 4- The only sign given to this “wicked and adulterous generation” is that which had previously been promised to them – the Messiah’s resurrection as comparable to Jonah and the whale (see Matt. 12:40).
It’s interesting to note that when Jonah rose up out of the whale, He came with a message of Judgment; likewise Christ Jesus has risen from the dead, and when He returns from where He ascended into heaven (the Mt. of Olives) He likewise will come with Judgment according to righteousness and holiness.
vs. 5-6- The LORD warns about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and in
vs. 7-12- He explains further until the disciples realize that He is speaking not of bread but of th false doctrine of these religious leaders.
The root source of Truth, the holy scriptures were so heavy laden with interpretational commentaries (Talmud?) which in themselves were heeded more than God’s Word itself (!), but also obscured with man-made traditions and customs added to the Truth (and if you add to the Truth, you’ve just subtracted from it!). The Word in that day was riddled with leaven!
Its the same today- its no wonder that the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” has once again infested the Word of God, only today its the leaven of the Gnostics, Modernists, Liberal Theologians and Emergent Church leaders!
Moreover, Christians today are generally speaking, not students of the Word. They let the ‘professionals’ do all the work. They have their pastors, teachers, CD messages, podcasts and mp3’s (and mp4’s) who will do all the studying for them, and trust them to deliver God’s Word to them.
We need our pastors and teachers, for they are indeed God’s gifts for the church according to 1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11-13, but we also must always maintain diligence of personal study for our own spiritual benefit and edification, as well as for the means of discerning the good from the bad teachings and messages.
See Psalm 1:1-2; Acts 17:11; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 1:13 and 2:15.
Also consider the commendation from the LORD to the church (not only to the pastor, but to the entire body of believers there) at Ephesus (which had other major problems to be sure) for their discernment and intolerance:
“I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou can’t bear (tolerate?) them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” Revelation 2:2
That word “bear” in the Greek is bastazo and it means “to lift, to endure, declare, sustain, receive”. This is something the Ephesians would NOT do– they would NOT endure or receive those who were evil and claimed apostleship falsely, finding them liars (how politically incorrect can one GET??).
However today if you speak a word against the likes of Benny Hinn, Earl Paulk, Robert Tilton, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller or even Brian McClaren, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, etc. for their unbiblical teachings and statements, you’re labeled as “divisive, having no love, full of strife and contention, causing disunity” etc.
On the contrary, we already possess unity in the Spirit, we are only called to keep or maintain that unity- and this is maintained in as much as we adhere to
“. . . one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism . . .” Eph. 4: 4-5
“The faith” is in reference to the scriptures, the body of doctrines contained within the inspired written scriptures of the Bible (Jude 1:3). Any who would contradict or deny scripture, THESE ARE THE ONES CREATING DISUNITY by denying the Truth of “the faith”!!
And: “To the law and to the testimony (the Word of God): if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20
Compare what these pastors and teachers have to say in these youtube links below with the Word of God; don’t be offended that I would call such people into question, because that is our biblical mandate: if it can be proven that what these teach are in agreement with scripture, I would willingly concede and repent of such name-calling.
“Prove (TEST) all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thess. 5:21
False Prophet Benny Hinn
A Call for Discernment – Justin Peters Pt2
A Call for Discermnet – Justin Peters Pt3
Joel Osteen on the Gospel
Larry King: Hey Joel Just Call It Sin! (Gay Marriage)
Todd Friel Holds Joel Osteen to the Bible (1of2)
Robert Schuller and Billy Graham Speaking Wide Acceptance
Here is a composite of names of false teachers and heretics today-
False Teachers! “Agony of Deceit” [Prosperity G…
When it should be a matter of simply comparing what these say in their teachings with the Word of God and receive that which is good, and reject that which is bad, Christians today are joining in with what’s current and popular, and support such so-called ministers because “pastor says its ok” or “everybody’s into it” or “its the latest move of the Spirit”. If any are challenged with the doctrine of the Word of Truth, they disparage such believers who “hold fast the form of sound words” and get quite emotional and offended.
I recall on old Chinese proverb that holds quite true:
“The undiscerning root of a tree will absorb anything– even the very poison that would kill the tree.”
Since scripture warns profusely that false teachers would proliferate in these last days, and seducing spirits and doctrines of demons would be promoted by a church grown so large that even the fowls of the air (pictures of satanic power) could lodge in its branches, then it stands to reason that biblical discernment is needed now more than ever!
Yet what we see is a deplorable lack thereof as the church sinks deeper and deeper into apostasy.
What can remedy this situation? How can we get this ‘recessive gene’ to become dominant once again in the body of Christ, and functioning as it should?
As with any recessive gene, the introduction of like genetic material is necessary in order to create a dominance over other genes that would otherwise manifest outwardly.
If any Christian is truly a Christian, they will have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them (Rom. 8:9) but if they have led a life of carnality and not been attentive to the Word in study as well as obedience, if they have made a practice of not yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, if their heart therefore has become hardened, they must go before the LORD and ask Him to break up the fallow ground of their heart –
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
They must once again seek the LORD in His Word (which is the like ‘genetic material’ as in Luke 8:5, 11 and 2 Cor. 9:10), and re-establish a daily feasting of such, enter into prayer and ‘re-connect’ as it were in a relationship with the LORD, walking in the Light, in the Spirit, yielding their members to righteousness and not to sin. In this manner the Spirit of God which indwells them will be able to function in and through such a believer and sanctification and discernment will bloom and flourish, working together as the LORD intended! Glory to God!
For this reason, and this reason alone we saints should be mourning and fasting for the church here in America while maintaining a faithful diligence in studying, applying and loving God’s Word and its Author.
I pray that the LORD instills in us a diligence to be transformed in Christ by the renewing of our minds, and not be conformed to this fallen world, in JESUS NAME,
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