Discernment is a critical component of a balanced Christian life. We want to know how to respond to a given situation. God says that we must help the needy, yet he also says that a sluggard shall beg for his bread. The bible says that God hates a lying tongue, yet the harlot Rahab was counted faithful for the lie she spoke on behalf of Joshua the son of Nun. God gave us over six hundred written laws, then slipped grace through the front door. How do we bring it all together in a balanced package?
Christians can discern when and who to help. We can know when to speak in tongues and when to seal our lips, when to submit to authority and when to stand on the truth, when to dance and when to weep, when to expound and when to remain quiet. Yea, we can know how to pray for our hurting brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can know when to speak reproof, and when to speak comfort.
Here are five steps that will guild a Christian into a discerning walk.
Discernment requires three key elements: 1) Knowledge, 2) Wisdom, and 3) Understanding. Without accurate information, our judgments are always lacking justice. Without wisdom, we do not know how to apply knowledge. Without understanding, we do not allow for human failure, thus we act without grace.
In the book of Proverbs, we are told to cry out for knowledge, and to lift our voice with a plea for understanding. Remember how the author of Proverbs, King Solomon, began his reign by asking God to grant him wisdom. He wanted to discernment so that he might rightly judge the people.
Step also into the New Testament for moment. See the Lord’s half-brother, James, write words that tell us that those who lack wisdom should ask of God for he will grant it. Discernment comes about through prayer and seeking.
If you wish to judge matters with discernment, then desire prayer, for God responds to your seeking.
Learn From The Gifted
The bible speaks of the gifts of the Spirit. Notice that discerning of spirits is among those gifts. See it here as it is written:
“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues,” (1 Corinthians 12:10).
To learn how to teach, you follow those who are gifted teachers. To learn discernment, find someone who has that gift, and then follow his methods. Even if you are not called into the full gift of discernment, you can gain a measure of skill. Scripture says that we should desire the gifts of the Spirit. It is expected of us that we should discern between the right and wrong, good and evil, spirits of truth and spirits of error. The beloved disciple John, in the first epistle that bears his name, teaches us to try the spirits so that we know from whom they come.
To grow in discernment, one must learn to follow gifted Christian leaders.
In first Peter, we are told to desire the milk that we might grow. This leads into a later statement that says those who believe in Jesus shall not be confounded. Confusion is evidence that discernment is lacking. Look also at Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 5 which, when taken one behind the other, will teach us to put away the ways of sin that we may walk with humbleness. A strong Christian walk that is coupled with grace and mercy leads to great discernment.
If you wish to live a discerning Christian life, you must travel a path that leads to consistent spiritual growth.
Study The Ways of a Disciple
In 2 Timothy 2:15-16 the bible tells us to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
See how that study brings about a discerning of those things that must be avoided. In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul prays for the people. His words seek that they should be blessed in an abundance of love coupled with knowledge, and the judgment that is necessary to approve all things. The implied truth is simple: Paul is praying that these people will study and follow the course that he has set. Disciples are those who seek out the truth in all matters. Disciples know the word of God.
To acquire true spiritual discernment, a Christian must engage in a deep level of bible study that is accompanied by the wisdom of mature leaders.
Depend Upon the Holy Spirit
Some Christians believe that they only need the Holy Spirit. This is a false conclusion. The Holy Spirit works through the scriptures, and teachers, and prayer, and the individual efforts of each person. We can and must depend upon Him to teach us and lead us. Jesus said it this way:
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come,” (John 16:13).
Yet the discerning Christian will take these words in balance with all of scripture. We understand that we have, according to 1-Cor., within us the mind of Christ. For this reason, the words of scripture and the teachings of good leaders are not foolishness to us. Thus we identify, through the Spirit of God, those who can guide us in wisdom, truth, and discernment.
If you would experience spiritual discernment, put your trust in the Holy Spirit as your guide; yet forsake not these other things.
I have written to Christians, people who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, people who were once completely blind and without any sense of spiritual discernment at all. Now, we walk a new way, growing and maturing, still struggling, but always gaining.
Perhaps you have need for spiritual discernment, but you realize that you do not know Jesus as your Redeemer. Speak now the words that are in your heart. I know the emptiness that you feel. I too was once there. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ and you too shall be saved.