This week I saw on Face Book, an item which said " The giant in front of you is never greater than the GOD inside you!! And that's a great truth, but I began to reflect, that the giants aren't always in front of us, often the giants we fight are inside ourselves, and the struggle we end up engaged in is with ourselves.
It is my opinion that when Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord in that famous account where he said, "I will not let you go until you bless me"...the real conflict was within himself, regarding God's plan for his life and his alignment with that plan.
Paul tells his young disciple Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:25 “In meekness
give instruction to those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. v26 That they may
recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive
by him at his will”.
An elderly woman stood on a very busy street corner in rush hour traffic. She was fearful, confused, and therefore hesitant to cross by herself. Finally, a gentleman came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Grateful and very relieved, she took his arm and stepped into the busy intersection. As they proceeded, she grew progressively alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally, after reaching their destination, she turned to the gentleman and complained, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross the street with you."
The man who she thought was a steady arm and sufficient guide, was actually desperate for guidance himself. He didn't have a clue! I remember Jesus speaking of "blind guides." When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in trouble out in the middle of the intersection in heavy traffic!
And believe me the traffic on the information highway is heavy with things that are opposed to your values! We are being bombarded with a lot of knowledge that is slanted with the intent of keeping us off balance and confusing us with issues that are not aligned with our Kingdom principles and values. As a result we incorperate things that cause us to oppose ourselves!
We live in a fast paced, fast changing culture. Living in a constantly changing America, we are constantly blitzed by powerful influences such as the media, peer pressure, social trends, moral relativism, culture driven religion and cults, each of which can lead us astray, if we don’t have discernment that only comes from a solid foundation in the word.
Just think about the various ideas and voices that are drifting through our culture. Everyday we hear things like: "There are no moral absolutes". "All religions lead to the same god". "You are one with nature". "If it feels good, it must right". "No one has the right to tell you how to live your life"! "You can be anything you want to be". Y"ou can do anything you want to do". "If what I am doing doesn't hurt anyone, it's okay". "Women should have a choice to abort their babies, it's their bodies" "Animals are people too". Ideas, voices, and choices like these, can place us on a course of toxic thinking....
You and you alone, are responsible for how you feel about yourself.
No matter what others might do to you, or say about you, or tell you how you aught to act or how you need to be,......you are ultimately in charge of how you allow yourself to feel and what you do about it.
At least faith it until you make it!..... You feel terrible, but you confess that "all things are working for good".... You are worn out, but you confess that "I am strong in the Lord and the power of His might"... Someone will tell you that you're faking it.... Just tell them that You're faithing it until you make it!!!!
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is refusing to allow anyone in Australia to get two scoops of the same kind of ice cream until the country of Australia sanctions same sex marriage. Oh….now that will bring the country to it’s knees….(do they actually think that they are the only ice cream shops)
What is even more disturbing and dangerous, is the reality that there is a growing lack of discernment among Christians these days. This lack of discernment results in a failure to see the issues clearly, to think things through, to see the implications of actions, choices and decisions.
If we are to stop opposing ourselves we need discernment!
What is discernment? It is the combination of two main Greek words (anakrino), meaning “to examine or judge closely.. and (diakrino), to investigate before action is taken”. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the moral implications of situations and the best courses of action for that situation.
Discernment involves distinguishing the right from the wrong, the primary from the secondary, what is essential from what is trivial, the good, the better, and the best. The apostle Paul talks about discernment when it comes to questionable things in I Corinthians 10:23. He says, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient (necessary): all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify (do not build up)."
The simplest definition for discernment is the ability to decide between truth and error, between right and wrong. It involves making careful distinctions between shades of gray. Someone defined discernment as, "thinking the thoughts which God thinks” Christian discernment therefore is seeing things as God sees them.
One particular pastor really lacked discernment….He visited an elderly woman from his congregation and as he was seated on the couch he noticed a large bowl of peanuts on the coffee table. "Mind if I have a few?" he asks "Oh, No, not at all!" the woman replied. They chat for an hour and as the preacher stands to leave, he realizes that instead of eating just a few peanuts, he emptied most of the bowl. "I'm terribly sorry for eating all your peanuts, I really just meant to eat only a few." "Oh, that's all right," the woman said. "Ever since I lost my teeth all I can do is suck the chocolate off of them anyway."
Jesus urges us to exercise discernment when it comes to spiritual things. (to the spiritual all things are spiritual) He says, In Matthew 7:6"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, and do not give your pearls to the swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and then turn again and attack you." These words are allegorical. The "dogs" and "swine" speak of those individuals who do not appreciate or care about what is wholesome, or of value and worth. The "pearls" are those things which God places great value on. These are God's pearls! We must use discernment when it comes to what God values and gives priority to.
We need discernment, because everyday our lives are full of choices. Two frogs lived in the same pool. When the pool dried up under the summer's heat, they left it and set out together for another home. As they went along they chanced to pass a deep well, with a good supply of water. When they saw it, one of the frogs said to the other, "Let's jump in and make this well our new home,.. it will furnish us with shelter and food." The other frog was not so eager. "But suppose the water should fail us. How can we get out again from so great a depth?" One frog obviously was more discerning than the other! Discernment causes us to weigh the possible consequences of our actions. How many have jumped into situations they were not able to get out of....
Many choices and decisions we have to make, come at us and hit us very quickly and give us no time to investigate before we make up our minds. Everyday, Christians are challenged to stay on top of the biblical view. Living in this present world, the line between right and wrong can get fuzzy. Sometimes, the line disappears altogether. There are many things in life that you have to have your mind made up before it hits you, or it can knock you off balance.
1Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear
We need discernment, because evil doesn't always present itself as evil. Satan, the enemy of our souls, is cunning and subtle. Paul writes to a church that was gifted, but extremely gullible in II Corinthians 11:13 "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. v14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. v15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
Right and wrong is not always that obvious to the undiscerning! Without discernment, we will not be able to recognize the truth about a person or situation. Christian discernment protects us, guards us, from being deceived and keeps us free from the consequences and bondage of sin. Using discernment, we are less likely to become ensnared in Satan's traps.
The quickest way to discern where someone is coming from is to ask yourself… Where do they put Jesus. What place does He have in their value system. Do they diminish Him, Do they make him an angel, an equal with other great teachers, or equal with the Devil. If He is not recognized as the second person of the Godhead, the only savior, and the Way, the Truth and the Life, then they want to take you somewhere you don’t want to go! THAT MY FRIEND IS DISCERNMENT!
The consequences suffered from an individual with a lack of discernment is illustrated in a particular story from the life of Elisha, recorded in II Kings 4:38-41. In a time of famine, Elisha sent his servant to prepare a pot of soup or stew for his school of the prophets. The servant went out in the field, gathered a lap full of wild but poisonous herbs and gourds, and added them to the recipe. The servant did not intend to harm anyone, he simply did not take the time to do the research, and assumed the ingredients were harmless. When the stew was fully prepared, it was served and immediately made them sick.
The sons of the prophets cried out, "There is death in the pot." Elisha instructed that meal or flour be put into the pot, which miraculously acted as an antidote to the negate the affects of the tainted stew. Spiritual insight, and discernment, cancelled out the effects of what they had done without discernment.
These poisonous herbs represent false doctrine, foolish actions, foolish, self-serving individuals, that can come into our lives, our homes, our churches, under the guise of being "harmless." The servant who gathered up the lapful of herbs and gourds reminds us of those believers who lack spiritual discernment and gather up false doctrine, worldly influences, and innocently, perhaps enthusiastically, introduces it into the assembly of God's people, mixing it with what is good and endangering their welfare. Godly discernment is the meal or flour added by Elisha to the pot! Jesus said I am the bread of life…..Oh how we need discernment in our lives!
We need discernment, because it is synonymous with spiritual growth and maturity. Hebrews 5:13-14 says, "For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. v14 But strong meat belong to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
This passage makes a distinction between the mental, emotional, physical development of childhood and the qualities of adulthood, and then on to spiritual growth and maturity. Have you ever asked yourself, "I thought he or she would know better than that?" We expect babies to act like babies, children to act like children, but when we witness adults acting like babies and children, we are troubled, and rightfully so! Folks get older without ever growing up!
1Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
The goal of the believer is to always continue on to full maturity. Every Christian has the responsibility to grow and learn to use discernment that comes out of the Word of God.
Isaiah says this in 28:9 “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine (God's revelation of His plan to man)? v10 For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little, and there a little”
When the Bible talks about discernment, it is speaking about giving proper value and importance to spiritual things. It is speaking about an accurate assessment based on solid, scriptural evidence.
More and more I see Christians who take their values from their hearts, how they feel, rather than God’s eternal truth. Matters of the heart should not be made without plenty of input. (believe me I have counselled hundreds who have been there and lived to regret it)
Never trust your heart alone. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? v10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, that I may give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." The first enemy of discernment is trusting only in your own heart. Why? We are fully capable of deceiving ourselves.
So many Christians are not sure what they believe and where they stand, concerning the key issues of society…. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, good from the best, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and spiritual principles from religious dogma, and what is self-defeating from what is profitable.
Jude 4 indicates that a lack of discernment becomes a lack of self restraint. He tells us that some actually turn God's grace into "lasciviousness," which is a lack of restraint, indecency, and ego-centered, hedonisim! Grace has become a doctrine of "If it feels good, do it!"
No wonder the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:5 "They that live after the flesh focus only on the things of the flesh; but they that live after the Spirit focus on the things of the Spirit. v6 For to be carnally minded (to live for the fleshly appitites) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. v7 Because the carnal mind is the antiganist of God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. v8 So then they that live for the appitites of the flesh cannot please God".
We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, the best from the better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.
Discernment, which is an agent of God's grace, intersects the Christian life at every point, helping us to walk on the side of caution, rather than corruption.
We need to be like the sons of Issachar mentioned in I Chronicles 12:32. It says, "And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the number of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment." The Hebrew word for "understanding" has a root which means discernment, wisdom, perception and knowledge. I find it interesting that Issachar means (King maker)
One proof that we need much more discernment, is found on some whacky warning labels.....on sun shields for your car, the caution says, "Be sure to remove before driving”. Or the caution found on an iron: which says….”Do not iron clothes on body” Or how about the warning on a chainsaw:, which says “Do not attempt to stop chain with your hand”. Then there is the label on a superman costume..."Warning: This costume does not enable flight or super strength". If you don't know those things, you really need discernment.
The next principle to Remember in Developing Spiritual Discernment
Watch out for the Sucker Punch! It may look like a hand shake or even a hug, but give folks a chance to reveal themselves. We all have areas where we are subject to the SUCKER PUNCH. Jesus loved folks, but he allowed them to show themselves for who they were before He showed them who they could be. Refuse to be naive or accept things at face value. Too often there's an unwanted prize in that box of Cracker Jacks! Love takes risks, for sure, but ....
I Thessalonians 5:21. tells us, "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good." The word "prove" means to discern, inspect, and to scrutinize. We are instructed to test, prove, and examine everything! Everything includes movies, music, video games, trends, fashions, ideas as well as individuals. Whatever comes your way, it doesn't matter who it comes from..... Put it to the test! Don't become a hawk, but in love, put it to the test! Don't be like the guy who only has one friend he can trust and he's wondering about him! I have a friend who has discovered a way to handle those pesky marketers who call.....He hands the phone to his 2 year old.....Oh Yeah!
There's a reason SNOPES is so popular! (And now Snopes in under suspicion) OH NO, NOW WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO RELY ON GOD!
When we make major decisions based on other folks, we find out quickly that they will change and they will be gone when it counts the most. When you seek Godly counsel and when you allow God the chance to confirm His will to you, before listening to everyone whose standing in line and taking numbers to counsel you (even though their own lives are a mess) Your decisions and choices will be solid and you won't have to live with regret when you make them.
The next Principle ......Avoid people, places, and things that even have the appearance of evil. For years, we went down to Fantasy Fest, but it was to share the gospel, not to be part of the spectical.
I Thessalonians 5:22. puts it this way..."Abstain from (keep away from) all appearance of evil." The word "appearance" in the Greek has basically two meanings. One speaks of the outward or external shape or form, and the other speaks of it's nature or motivation. This is clearly understood as all "forms" or "kinds" of evil. Either way, discernment is required of the believer, and when the person or thing is revealed to be evil, we should respond accordingly! Love them, but don't compromise your faith !
I know one young lady, who was approached on the street, by a fortune teller and at the top of her lungs she began to scream out, "Help me Jesus, Help me Jesus", and the guy ran off! The evil one likes to operate in the shadows.... Like One little boy said, when the devil knocks on the door, I send Jesus to answer it!
The next Principle....No one is unimployed, they have a job, and that job is to find work....On the same basis, if you're alive, you're main job is to find out what God has to say about everything you can!
Make it your main business and priority to read, study, and know God's Word. The Bible provides the criteria, the standard against which all things must be tested. Paul affirms this in II Timothy 3:16-17. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: v17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
Unless each Christian makes a committed effort to carefully study the Scriptures, he or she could easily be on the road to destruction without even knowing it.
We see this in the Old Testament with Israel. Hosea 4:6 laments, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected My ways, I will also reject you (leave you to your own devices)." It is by exercising and applying our knowledge of God's Word by constant use, that we grow stronger and more sensitive in our abilities to perceive truth and falsehood.
The next principle......Ask God for discernment. Ask Him for it! We who are saved have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have a relationship with God who can reveal things to us that are beyond our understanding! All we have to do is ask. God gives you his word on it!
James 1:5 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men freely and abundantly, and will never withold from them. Let them ask and it shall be given unto them."
Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
What move should you make, what home should you buy, what neighborhood should you live in, what job should you apply for, where you should invest, what is God's timing on certain decisions, who is God wanting you to minister to, who should you seperate yourself from in order to continue to grow as a Christian. All these things need discernment....
The need for spiritual discernment among God's people is greater today than it ever has been! Sad to say, discernment is long in supply and short in demand. The Word of God commands us as believers to cultivate spiritual discernment.... So let's ask that we may receive....