Knowledge & Discernment
In our last post we understood that knowledge and discernment are expressions of love. We saw that knowledge and discernment also means having the ability to discriminate rightly. But we have to look at the “why”—what’s the end game with discernment? The Apostle Paul wrote:
“…so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;”
This piece is crucial. We are to grow in all knowledge and discernment so that we can discriminate, not just between right and wrong, but also between what is right and what is almost right. We’re to grow in this love so that we can discern what is best as the NIV says.
Faith vs. Wishful Thinking
This discernment enables us to be sincere in our faith. Why? Because faith isn’t wishful thinking. Faith has substance and evidence. When we weigh a thing rightly we can have assurance. This will lead to walking blamelessly until the day of Christ. How do we walk church? By faith—a sound, sure, confident faith!
Lastly, Paul said this:
“having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
There are two ways of looking at this line. The first is that everything we do is to the glory of God and that’s a true calling. But I’m not sure that’s what Paul meant.
The second way of reading this says that we are to abound in love, by way of knowledge and discernment, so that we can discriminate well and therefore walk by true faith, which is the result of being filled with the fruit of righteousness that came through King Jesus. This sacrificial act of our Lord is what Paul appears to be saying brings glory and praise to God the Father.
The reason I believe this interpretation is correct is because in all ways the glory goes to God because He is the one who alone made us righteous. We simply trust Him.
Standard for Discernment
Now we turn to Hosea where we discover the standard for Godly discernment. The word of God says:
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.” – Hosea 14:9
So what is the wise and discerning supposed to know according to this passage?
First, that the ways of the Lord are right. I’m not sure how long it takes for each of us to come to this conclusion—or even that in this life we can arrive at this in all things—but it’s true nonetheless, God’s ways are right! Sometimes it takes being taught by someone we trust to believe this. Sometimes it takes learning from our mistakes. Sometimes it simply requires time. Whatever brings us to this truth, the truly wise and discerning will always begin with a belief that God’s ways are right.
Second, this leads to the fact that the righteous will walk in them. Please understand this is not an automatic thing. Hosea isn’t saying God’s people don’t mess up. Instead, he’s communicating that if you believe God’s ways are right you will go after those ways. Of course there are times when we do wrong because, well, we want to, but if we are wise and discerning, if we are abounding in this kind of love, we’ll remember what is right and follow that path.
Proverbs 10:29 says:
“The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity.”
How many of you would choose a stronghold over ruin? Every. Single. One!
So God’s ways are right, the righteous walk in them and finally, Hosea said, transgressors will stumble in the ways of the Lord. Notice it doesn’t say they won’t try, or that they can’t attempt, simply that they will stumble in their journey. The point of saying something like this is not about cause and effect so much as it is about identity. Think walking by faith over sight, or the spirit over the flesh. Here it is simply the righteous in contrast to the transgressor—a word that Isaiah used as a synonym for sinner.
The point is that those who love, those who abound in knowledge and discernment, those who can discriminate between right and almost right believe that God’s ways are right and choose them.
The Link between Maturity, Discernment & Effort
Our final passage is Hebrews 5:11-14 and in this we find an integral link between maturity, discernment, and effort. The writer of Hebrews said:
“Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” – Hebrews 5:11-14 NASB
The Church today needs an honest assessment concerning it’s knowledge. Where we are lacking we need to study more. If our excuse is that this knowledge is the work of the professional Christian and not our own we need to repent. We are all to study to show ourselves approved.
The people receiving this letter had also become dull of hearing. Which implies that they had returned to the way of an unbeliever. (Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27). The reason I bring this up is because like a muscle if you do not continually listen to God’s word your ears will atrophy. Please don’t fall for the lie that once you accept Jesus it’s just smooth sailing into some great by-and-by.
The standard is that we all ought to be teachers. Becoming a teacher is a lot of work and it’s work that never ends. But let me be clear the writer is not saying that all are or even should be teachers. Instead, the point is that we should know better. James, the brother of Jesus, was clear when he said, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) Again the point is not being literal teachers; it’s about being mature or fit for service.
So church, are we fit for service or have we become dull of hearing? Do we acknowledge that God’s ways are right? Based on the choices the Church (at large) is making the answer is a resounding no!
So what do we do to change this? That answer is practice. Practice what? Practice love proper. Practice discerning good and evil—or right and almost right.
Jesus was clear that we are to love one another (John 13:34-35). This love is displayed by using proper discernment—the choices we make for and toward each other. This is a love that extends well beyond the walls of the church. We’re commanded to love even our enemies. In doing this we must understand and discriminate in such a way as to point all people to Christ. This is our job. To be a light that shines in the darkness. To light the path of repentance rather than condemnation.
How have you displayed love by using proper discernment or in what ways would you like to grow in this area? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.