The Disappearance of Spiritual Discernment

 March 9, 2017

 Good Afternoon Church,

As your pastor you need to know that my heart’s desire and greatest calling is to faithfully feed you God’s Word[1] so that your life might be rooted and grounded in the Truth[2] in order to protect you from personally swerving from,[3] or being deceptively drawn away from,[4] the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures![5] While missed by many and minimized by most, it is an undeniable fact that we live in an age of deception where theological error masquerades as biblical truth.[6]  Doctrinal truth is also commonly sacrificed on the altar of compromise in the name of “Christian” tolerance, love, and unity.[7] Therefore, I regularly pray for you in the words of Paul, “…that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…”[8] There are many biblical priorities that motivate my personal ministry as your under shepherd including the passionate declaration, delineation, and defense of Scriptural Truth in order to help you further establish spiritual discernment. The disappearance of spiritual discernment is a clear characteristic of contemporary Christianity as substantiated by the propagation of the so called “modern apostolic movement”,[9] by the overwhelming embrace of experiential theology in books like “Jesus Calling”,[10] and in the evangelical enjoyment of entertainment or art that positively promotes heresy through books and movies like “The Shack.”[11] Any objective observer of contemporary Christianity, as compared to historic Christianity, would have to agree that this modern movement is marked by many things including the disappearance of spiritual discernment.

 The Disappearance of Spiritual Discernment

 

Discernment can be defined simply as the ability to differentiate between truth and error, or right and wrong.[12] Discernment is often a process where you evaluate claims, conduct, and even arguments to ascertain their validity as compared to Truth. Spiritual discernment would be synonymous with thinking biblically or living with a biblical world view. Spiritual discernment is critical to the Christian walk in this world, as lucidly declared throughout the Scriptures.[13] Moreover, spiritual discernment, or more specifically critically evaluating the claims and conduct of others to protect them and further preserve the purity of Truth, is a high calling of the Church.[14] Yet, how is it that spiritual discernment has all but disappeared from the lives of so many contemporary Christians and subsequent Churches?[15] Well, there are many reasons for this reality, but let’s consider a few of the most critical issues at hand in order to provoke our minds to action and protect our lives from inadvertently swerving away from the Truth.

Let me start by exclaiming the uncomfortable truth that has helped promote this problem in that the Church is a mixed multitude comprising of both true and false believers.[16] Our politically correct culture argues against this kind of negative criticism, but Jesus and His Word empathically declared this truth, and we must never forget it. Many people wear the label of Christianity but have not humbly embraced the Lord of Christianity, and thus they totally lack spiritual discernment because they ultimately lack spiritual life.[17] Another huge reason flows from the massive disappearance of biblical church leadership.[18] Establishing spiritual discernment by personally teaching people the Word, by passionately defending the Word, and by humbly and uncompromisingly confronting those who contradict the Word is a primary calling for all Church elders.[19] It is undeniable that this type of leader is extremely hard to find in the confusing culture of American Christianity. Sadly, most people do not even know what this kind of leadership looks like, and when they see it they will often react negatively to it by declaring it to be harsh, overly critical, and unloving.[20] Yet, that kind of thinking does not match up with God’s Word or the confrontational life, ministry, and message of either Jesus, Paul, or the calling of the Church.[21] Jesus was constantly evaluating and rightfully criticizing those so called followers who had claims that did not match their conduct and those so called religious leaders who had titles that did not match their teaching.[22]

Next, spiritual discernment is also being eviscerated through the ever increasing disappearance of mature Christianity which has been replaced with a juvenile Church.[23] This can be substantiated in how biblical worship[24] has often been replaced with a so called “Christian concert” and how gospel driven evangelism[25] has been replaced with evangelical pragmatism. Thus, the church seeks to be like the world in order to attract the world and ultimately impact the world primarily through social transformation instead of Gospel proclamation. Furthermore, this immaturity of contemporary Christianity is also seen in the lack of a sustained pursuit of personal godliness through a disciplined study and love for God’s Word.[26] Knowing God through passionately pursuing His Son in the objective Truth revealed in His Word[27] has been replaced with a subjective, personal, whimsical, emotional, and untheological experience. While I am confident that many of these pursuits were undertaken with the purest motives, the results are starkly undeniable as we are left with a vast majority of leaders and churches marked by disorder as compared to biblical unity,[28] dysfunction as compared to the biblical purpose,[29] distracted as compared to the biblical mission,[30] disqualified as compared to biblical ministry,[31] and diluted as compared to the biblical message![32]

However, while I am articulating the reasons for the disappearance of spiritual discernment as a multifaceted problem, I believe the greatest instigator of this issue has been the slow and subtle marginalization of the primacy, power, and sufficiency of God’s Word.[33] When you no longer look to the objective standard of divine Truth by which all spiritual propositions, claims, and conduct must be evaluated for veracity,[34] you lose all ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Therefore, when God’s Word is replaced with anything else, all hope of spiritual discernment is lost![35] This has and continues to happen on many levels in the church today, but the most critical level that has yielded the most destruction has been the replacement of biblical preaching with a motivational discussion.[36] I believe this to be the most damning display of contemporary Christianity and the primary reason we have seen the disappearance of spiritual discernment. Far too many Churches are filled with sheep that are spiritually lethargic and malnourished, in large part because they are no longer being systematically fed the life giving food of God’s Word.[37] Interestingly, what I am explaining is not foreign to Scripture, as this sad reality was displayed in the Old Testament and declared in the New.[38]

May this pastoral evaluation of our times be an encouragement to all of us to not grow weary in well doing as we strive to grow in the grace, knowledge, and truth of Christ while living in age of deception. What reverential fear marks my ministry as God has called me to study His Word in order to rightfully divide it and honestly deliver it to us every week.[39] May the Lord use the faithful preaching of Christ and His Word to grow us spiritually in knowledge and discernment. I also pray that you will personally consider and persevere in rightfully listening to and meditating on the Word as it is preached in order that you might not simply hear the Word and so deceive yourself.[40] How thankful I am that many of you regularly demonstrate a desire for the meat of God’s Word, and what a blessing to know that we will once again have the awesome opportunity to feast together this Sunday. I greatly anticipate our time worshipping and growing together this Lord’s day as we dive deeper into the letter of Titus. Here are a few questions to wrestle with as you prepare your heart for Sunday. What was the ultimate purpose of Paul’s apostolic ministry? What was his goal for going to the Gentiles including the Island of Crete? How does sovereign election and personal faith correlate with Paul’s calling and the Church’s mission? What is the critical link between God’s Truth, personal faith, and proactive godliness? How does all of this shape, direct, and protect a Christian’s life as well as the life and ministry of the true Church?         

Joyfully Bound in the Master’s Service,

Pastor Matt

[1] Acts 20:17-35; Eph 4:11-16; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Pet 5:1-4

[2] Col 1:9-14; 1:24-29; 2:6-7

[3] 1 Tim 4:1-2; 2 Tim 2:18; 2:4:1-5

[4] Titus 1:10-16; Jude 3-4

[5] 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4; Acts 20:28-32

[6] Gen 3:1-6; Mt 4:1-11; 2 Cor 10:12-15

[7] 1 Cor 13:6

[8] Phil 1:8-11

[9] http://thecripplegate.com/are-there-still-apostles-today/  (Written by one of my Seminary Professors)

[10] http://www.challies.com/articles/10-serious-problems-with-jesus-calling

[11] http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/03/06/shack-missing-art-evangelical-discernment/

[12] Heb 5:14

[13] Ps 19:12; 119:66; 119:104; Prov 2:3; 4:1; 8:5; 10:23; 11:12; 17:24; Rom 12:3; Eph 5:10; Phil 1:8-11; 1 Thess 5:21-22; Heb 5:14; 1 Jn 4:1; See also Lam 3:40; Prov 16:21; 2 Cor 10:4-6; 13:5; Gal 6:4; Rom 12:1-2; 14:5

[14] Mt 18:15-20; Acts 20:28-32; 1 Cor 5:6-12; Gal 6:1-4; 1 Thess 5:12-22; 2 Thess 3:6-15; 1 Tim 3:14-16; Titus 1:9-16; Jude 3-4; 1 Jn 2:19-27; 3:7-10

[15] I highly recommend you read The Truth War by John Macarthur to further understand the evangelical crisis of compromising Biblical Truth. The results of this reality has been the disappearance of spiritual discernment from many so called evangelical circles.

[16] Mt 7:21-27; 13:24-30; Lk 22:3-6; Jn 6:60-71; 8:30-59; 12:36-43Acts 8:9-24; 15:1; 20:28-30; 1 Cor 11:19; 2 Cor 11:13, 26; Gal 1:7, 2:4; 1 Tim 1:3-11, 4:1-2, 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:14-26, 3:12-13; 4:1-5; Titus 1:16, 3:9-11; 2 Pet 2:1-3; Js 2:14-26; 1 Jn 2:19-20, 3:4-10; 4:1-6; John 3:9-10; Jude 3-4, 12-13, 17-20; Rev 3:1-6; 3:14-22

[17] 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19; Rom 3:11-18

[18] 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[19] Acts 20:28-32; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:24-26; Titus 1:9-16; Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Pet 5:1-5

[20] Mt 10:34-39; 18:15-20; 23:1-39; Lk 11:14-23; 11:29-32; 11:37-12:3; 1 Cor 1:11; 3:1-4; 5:11-13; 6:1-11; 2 Cor 7:8-13; 11:12-15; Gal 1:6-10; 2 Thess 3:6; 1 Tim 6:20-21; Heb 5:11-6:1; 2 Pet 2:1-22

[21] Eph 4:11-16; Thess 5:12-22; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 1:9-16; 3:9-11; Jude 3-23

[22] Mt 7:15-27; 23:1-39; Mk 8:34-38; Jn 8:39-47

[23] 1 Cor 3:1-4; Heb 5:11-6:1; Gal 1:6-10

[24] Jn 4:24; Eph 4:18-21; Col 3:16

[25] Mt 28:18-20; Acts 17:22-31; Eph 2:1-10

[26] Ps 1:1-6; 119:97-104; 1 Tim 4:6-8; Titus 1:1; 2:11-14; Col 3:12-17; Heb 12:14; 1 Pet 1:16-18

[27] 2 Cor 3:18-4:6; Phil 2:1-11; 3:7-16; Rom 8:28-30; Col 3:1-4, 10

[28] Jn 17:6-8, 14,17, 21; Eph 4:1-6,13; Phil 2:2; Rom 15:4-7

[29] 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17

[30] Mt 28:18-20; Eph 4:11-16; Col 1:28-29

[31] 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Cor 9:24-27

[32] 2 Tim 4:1-5; 1 Cor 1:18-2:5; 1Pet 1:22-25

[33] Ps 19:7-11; 119:50; 89, 128, 137-38, 142, 160;  2Tim 3:16-17; 2Pet 1:3-4; 1:16-21

[34] Dt 13:1-5; 18:20-22; Jerm 23:16; Ezek 22:28; Mt 7:15-20; 1 Jn 4:1; 1 Thess 5:21; 2 Thess 3:6;  Acts 17:10-11; 1 Cor 4:6; 2 Cor 4:2; 13:5-10; Gal 1:8-9; 1 Tim 1:10; Gal 5:14-24; Rom 16:17; Titus 1:9-16; 1 Tim 6:3-5; 2 Tim 4:1-5

[35] Josh 1:7-8; Ps 19:7-12; 119:66, 97-104; Prov 1:7; 2:1-22; 3:5-7; 4:20-27; 9:10 1 Tim 6:2-10; 2 Tim 3:16-17

[36] 2 Tim 4:1-5; Acts 20:17-32; 1 Cor 1:18-2:5; 9:16; Eph 4:11-16; 1 Thess 2:4-13; Titus 2:1

[37]  1 Pet 5:1-5; Heb 4:12-13

[38] 1 Sam 3:1; 2 Chron 15:3; Ezek 7:26; Amos 8:11; Mic 8:4-8; 2 Tim 3:1-4:5

[39] Isa 66:2; 2 Cor 2:16-17

[40] Js 1:22-25

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