Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)
TITLE: To Discern in These Days
By Barbara Less
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Several times throughout the old and new testament, the phrase “discern between good and evil” appears. What does it mean to be able to discern?
As with many English words, when the word discern is mentioned in various parts of the Bible, it can take on slightly different or more specific meanings. Based on Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance1, the word discern in some places means “to separate” or “thoroughly sift,” “to differentiate between” or “interpret.” In other places it means, “to judge,” “to hear intelligently” or even “look intently.”
In these days, it is clear that throughout the mainstream media, e.g.: news, television programs and film, that much of the general public is lacking discernment. What true followers of Christ and Biblical teaching consider good, the general public considers wrong, and what believers consider evil, the mainstream considers good. However, even worse, is the growing number of church-going, Bible-believing, faith-confessing believers, who are being deceived and lacking discernment. How many Christians know other Christians who are either focused on riches, possessions and power, rather than the Lord? There are also people, who profess to know Christ, who are in illicit relationships, including adultery, fornication (living together), and homosexuality. Some wrong-doing, or sin, should be obvious to most believers, but there are also subtle, deceptive voices in this world. One example of a deceptive voice is the voice that says, “Every Christian should be rich [monetarily].” It isn’t wrong to have money and possessions if that is what is necessary for a specific calling, but it should never take precedence over loving God first and your neighbor as yourself. Material wealth and gain should never become an idol to the point of stepping on others to obtain it. On the other hand, sometimes there is so much talk against the love of money and greed, that some believers fail to take steps toward financial freedom and independence and remain poor, impoverished, in debt and dependent on others, as a result. Still other voices are even more subtle. People, or Christians, who may have seemingly good motives or intentions, who want to make an impact or a difference in the world. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that, or is there? It depends. This is where discern means “hear or listen intelligently or with wisdom” or “look intently or examine closely.” Watch out for hints of compromise, selfish ambition, using others for personal gain, or even personal gain to accomplish a “godly” goal or objective, to name a few. As an example, someone may bring another individual to church who expresses an interest in church. They even mention that they like the message, the worship and the people. However, as time goes on (months, years), there doesn’t seem to be any change in their behavior or lifestyle. Is there an alterior motive? Could the individual be using some aspect of the church or using the person who is taking them to church for some purpose? Sooner or later the truth will be exposed. Another example is a potential business or partnership. The business sounds good, even has charitable motives, but financial backing is lacking and it requires a lot of loans or compromise of godly principles to obtain the necessary means.
Finally, how can a person discern between good and evil and so many voices in these last days? First and foremost, true discernment must come from maintaining a close intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Second prayer and more prayer! Third, study and meditate on God’s word. Fourth, ask a pastor or close friends of longstanding, that can be trusted for advice. Fifth, watch for warning signs mentioned in the previous paragraph. Paul said in Philippians 1:9-10, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best [italics added by author] and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
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