Good Judgment & Knowledge
In this week's lesson, Cody said that he believed the main point, or the key takeaway from this portion of scripture was ultimately about discernment. We often talk about the need for us as believers to be discerning, but what do we really mean by that? Sinclair Ferguson, in his book In Christ Alone, defines it this way:
"True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best. Thus, discernment is like the physical senses; to some it is given in unusual measure as a special grace gift (1 Corinthians 12:10), but some measure of it is essential for us all and must be constantly nourished. The Christian must take care to develop his 'sixth sense' of spiritual discernment. This is why the psalmist prays, 'Teach me good judgment and knowledge' (Psalm 119:66)."
Discernment is the filter through which everything in life must pass. It removes the imperfections and purifies things. Everyone, regardless of who you are and what you believe, is ultimately on the pursuit of truth. In our increasingly relativized culture, truth is now in the eye of the beholder. There is no absolute truth, but rather we define our own truth autonomously. However, Christians must reject any worldview that emphasizes the subjective nature of personal experience over and above the objective reality of God and the truthfulness of his word.
In other words, we need not merely be discerning, but our discernment must be empowered by and rooted in scripture. Without the Bible, we are left with no point of reference. It is like trying to build a house with no blueprints. Inevitably, you'll end up with a fireplace in your garage and a toilet in your kitchen! True, it may still be something that could be loosely defined as a "house," but it surely isn't a very functional one.
A life that isn't built upon scripture and lived out in obedience to God's commands is a life that never reaches its full potential. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." One of the most common criticisms of living in obedience to Christ is that it is too confining. People who reject the Gospel and cling to worldliness do so because they believe the lie that there is more to be found on Earth than in Heaven. They don't want to miss out on all that life has to offer. Yet, Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). Jesus' promise wasn't simply one of a future blessing, but also of a thriving life in the here and now.
Living life abundantly in a broken and fallen world, where everything is actively trying to steal your joy and lead you astray (including your own sinful heart and desires), requires a great deal of discernment. When you can't even trust yourself, it's hard to know where to turn. I know I find myself often wrestling with knowing where I end and where the Holy Spirit begins when it comes to discerning the stirrings of my heart and what I should do. I often ask the question, is this from me, or is it from God? How can I know? Again, it's in these moments where we need to be reminded of our deep need to be grounded in scripture.
Don't get me wrong, scripture isn't a redeemed version of the "Magic 8 Ball." I can't simply look for yes or no answers to all of life's questions in there. For example, when I was seeking a wife, the Bible never once told me to marry Traci. But it did talk extensively about the qualities of a Godly woman and the roles of a husband and wife in marriage. With those qualifications in mind, I was armed with everything I needed to make a wise choice. Now, going on 14 years with her as my wife, and experiencing all of the ways she has blessed me and brought joy into my life, I know that I chose well, and as a result I get to experience what Jesus meant when he was talking about abundant life!
Not every at bat is a home run though. Sometimes things don't work out as well. Maybe I even strike out. But with each experience, I grow in grace and become more discerning. Discernment, like most things in the Christian life, doesn't come overnight, but develops in us as we mature and grow through the process of sanctification. It is one of the many fruits we see from the transformational power of the Gospel working in our lives. If you want to be more discerning (and I know I do), pursue wisdom found only in scripture and apply it generously in your life. It's only through grace that you will find what you are looking for.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 25 - Discerning Kingdom Expansion
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. How can it be distracting to worship with someone who isn't like you?
2. Why are the converted Jews demanding an explanation from Peter?
3. What does it mean that God "granted" repentance?
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