Friday, October 12, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 2
In chapter 2, the author brought out reasons "why discernment is a particularly difficult skill to exercise in our day and our culture."  Here are thoughts that stood out to me:

- He said many Christians wish they could live in a "bubble" that would protect them from false teaching.  I think he is right- we want something easy that will take the difficulty, the WORK out of things.  It is easier to just follow someone else's rules rather than digging into the Bible and seeing what God says on an issue. 

- If discernment were just an intellectual exercise, it would be easier.  However, he brought out that division naturally follows discernment.  Often that division will put us at odds with other people.  I was reminded that working to be discerning means that not everyone will agree with/be pleased with my decisions.

- When an author mentions The Lord of the Rings series, he gets points in my book.  When an author mentions The Chronicles of Narnia series, he gets points in my book.  When an author references both in the same chapter, I am definitely on his bandwagon!!

- He used the Jehovah's Witnesses translation of John 1:1 to talk about how Satan can use little things to deceive.  He said, "It is the difference between beautiful truth and gross error."  In my mind, beautiful truth is at one end of the spectrum and gross error is on the other end.  His statement made me rethink and I realized that just a slight deviation from the truth can be gross error.  By it being "close" to truth, it seems harmless.  By being something other than truth, it is very dangerous!

-He gave four cultural hinderances to discernment: secular worldview, low view of Scripture, low view of Theology, and low view of God.  To me, they tie into each other so much.  For example: if a person has a high view of Scripture, it will change his worldview, his view of theology, and his view of God!

- He said that the worldview around us "refuses to delineate an antithesis between good and evil."  I am willing to go a step farther.  The secular worldview in many instances call good evil and evil good. 

- In thinking about the section on worldview, I thought again about how easy it is just to go with the flow.  Unless we are consciously seeking God, we will naturally adapt the thinking of the people around us.  May God help us to see where we have assimilated the world's thinking and to think Biblically!  (I guess I'm saying, may God give us discernment!)

- In regards to people's view of Scripture, it seems he was describing a type of dichotomy that exists.  We reverence the Bible in regards to theological concepts, but we essentially deny its sufficiency for practical lives.  We don't allow God's Word to affect us where the rubber meets the road.

- "Theology is increasingly portrayed as the realm of fundamentalists- dangerous adherents to Christianity whose fanaticism makes others suspicious and distrustful."  This is completely off his point, but stay with me.  I don't know if you guys would classify yourselves as fundamentalists, but I think most evangelicals would put us in that category (whether we want to be or not).  It is sad to me how we are viewed, but I realize there have been enough problems in our type of groups that the individuals (us) are judged by the perception of the group.  We can't change the whole perception of a group, but may we do our part!

- One thing I disagreed with how it was stated: "We cannot have right theology if we are not systematic."  I agree that studying theology systematically helps us to thoroughly examine each topic and the relationships between topics.  However, I think a person can have a correct theology without necessarily studying it "systematically."

- "God's holiness lies at the very heart of the need for discernment."  If my view of God is low, I see less of a difference between Him and me, and therefore less of a problem with the wrong in my life.  I appreciated his connecting discernment and God's holiness.    

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 1
Discussion on Chapter 3


  1. Thoughts from Chapter 2:

    - "While [discernment] is a discipline that requires practice, discernment is a skill that does not tend to make us popular, for, as we will soon see, it requires us to make clear and unwavering distinctions between what is good and what is evil." This is a valid point for those who are willing to act in accordance with what they have discerned. Many times today, though, we find that Christians are more content to go with the flow than to take a stand with God and His Word.

    - "If we are to be a people of discernment, we need to begin our pursuit by crying out to the Spirit and asking him to help and to guide us as we seek after discernment." What a blessed promise in John 16:13 that the blessed Spirit of God has been given to GUIDE us into all truth. To me that says that the Spirit of God is willing to guide us, but we must be willing to follow His guidance. What a key thought in this matter of discernment...the Holy Spirit has been given to help guide us in this area of our lives!

    - "Many churches no longer look to the Bible as being the key to evangelism. Instead they put their trust in music, drama, outreach programs, and less imposing but more attractive church buildings." Is there anything wrong in and of themselves with this things the author listed? No, not necessarily, but Satan many times can use these THINGS to distract and get Christian off course of what is our PRIMARY purpose and that is to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May God help us to get our focus back on Him and His calling in our lives and off of the methods of mankind.

    Two chapters down...looking forward to Chapter 3 this coming week! :-)

  2. Alot of good thoughts from both Jacob and Thad. As to the Lord of the Rings, he lost me a bit...because I've never seen/read it. I do know Narnia however.

    -"Discernment is a skill that must be sharpened with long years of practice." This made me think of the current trend of some to "throw away" the advice and experience of the older generation. They've had more time to learn discernment, and their opinions ought to be weighed carefully. (but not without discernment!)

    -"discernment is a skill that does not tend to make us popular" The reason for some lack of discernment is lack of education. For others, it is lack of will power. "It will divide not only believer from unbeliever, but it may even divide a discerning believer from one who is undiscerning." Division is often uncomfortable!

    -The issues of a low view of God, theology, and the Bible are all interconnected. As Rolland McCune said in Promise Unfulfilled, "The kind of Bible one believes in reflects the God he believes in."

    -He nailed it perfectly when he said, "they forsake biblical reason in favor of feelings, voices, visions, or others subjective means of supposedly knowing God." So many people I meet claim to know a God I've never heard of. He is the God of their hearts, their dreams, their wishes. Point them to Scripture and its like water off a ducks back. They are already ok with what they feel.

    Yay! I'm not last! woohoo

    1. I don't know if you'll see this, but you should read The Lord of the Rings!

  3. Jacob, I must admit that I’m one of those longing for the “bubble.” I hate confusion and doubt and subjectivity. While having someone tell me what to believe and what is truth would be easier, it cannot be a source of truth because it is man-based. Cults come from this. This book is making me think that there is a bubble that God intended for us to find. The bubble of protection is discernment by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. While there is work involved, the work part didn’t scare me as much as the other part that is needed…. Faith. Even those who dig into the Bible to find answers come up with different conclusions. This was (and sometimes is) a big frustration and sense of insecurity. I liked what Thad stated in regards to the promise of the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth. This is where we must trust God to do this very thing.

    "Satan is fully committed to our downfall and is committed to keeping us confused." - pg.42 Confusion is brother to doubt and uncertainty. Today's Christians are, well, confused, but God is not the author of confusion. I get asked on a regular basis here in Moldova, "Why are there so many relgions? There's only one God and one Bible." People are confused. Knowing the Word of God and having discernment, gives us the ability to "give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." I have encountered here in Moldova that people readily "forsake biblical reason in favor of feelings, voices, visions, or other subjective means of supposedly knowing God." -pg.47 John, I know what you mean in regards to you comment on the above statement.

    "This secular worldview is prevalent within the church. This unbiblical worldview encourages a secular mindset that in turn rejects discernment as unnecessarily divisive and discerning Christians as those who cause schisms within the body of Christ.”- pg. 45 People’s understanding on what is the body of Christ (those holding to a universal church belief) will naturally pull people to ecumenicalism and lack of discernment.

    “Many churches no longer look to the Bible as being the key to evangelism. Instead they put their trust in music, drama, outreach programs, and less imposing but more attractive church buildings.” – pg.47 I believe the author was pointing out the salesman tactics and marketing that churches use to attract, draw, and keep people in their assemblies. The Word of God and Spirit of God are not seen as sufficient in bringing about converts. Kent Brandenburg has an excellent series on his blog Entitled “Lure Them In”. Part 1 of his series starts here:
    The Gospel was never intended by God to be sugar-coated. I’m not saying that we are supposed to be offensive or contentious. I believe that many, in practice, believe that there is not power in the Gospel of Christ any more. Paul didn’t have carnivals, skate parks, rock concerts, etc. in his practice. We can be creative in how we share the Gospel, but I believe we’ve gone too far in many cases. A church that would have the absence of popular music, expensive buildings, and fun kids programs would be criticized by many today as ineffective and having a lack of love for the lost. Going out and proclaiming the Gospel, letting the Bible be sufficiently powerful, is becoming a rare find.

    “"Theology bores today's Christians, which is another way of saying we are bored with God himself."pg. 48 This is actually a quote from Richard Phillips’ book that Challes used, but it was too good to not pass up. On the next page, Challes states that Christians are ignorant of theology. Could this unfamiliarity with theology among Christians be partly due to its lack of presence from the pulpit?

    “God’s holiness lies at the very heart of the need for discernment.”-pg. 50 Y’all also seemed to find this to be a powerful statement.

    1. "People’s understanding on what is the body of Christ (those holding to a universal church belief) will naturally pull people to ecumenicalism and lack of discernment." I am curious if this is your personal observation (regarding ecumenism from wrong belief of the body) or something others have told you. I am doing study in this area myself.

    2. John, the issues I stated in regards to the Universal Church teaching are personal observations and somewhat of an ongoing study of mine. Back in 2010, I wrote a short post on this at my website: Over on the right, click on the article "Universal Church: a Universal Problem." I still have questions of my own regarding UC + LC verses LC only, but I have been won over enough in my studies of Scripture to be considered LC (local church) only. I think it is great that you are studying this issue. I would be interested in hearing of your findings, too.

      Having gone to PCC and grad school there, I was taught UC + LC. Given the practices at the college with the Campus Church and all, it is no wonder that they are week on biblical LC. The collage is also not a Baptist College, thus not holding to traditional Baptist beliefs on LC. Even outside of PCC, I believe many of us have been taught that the body of Christ is the UC rather than the LC. The church at which I interned was very LC focused and started me down the trail of looking more into the study of this.

      I was apprehensive at first since my findings were not agreeing with what I had been taught, but I soon found out that I was not alone in today's world nor in history with refusing the UC teaching. In essence, this is a journey I am still on but have traveled some distance already, thus I am by no means an expert on this.

    3. If one believes that the body of Christ is the UC, rather than the LC, then one will approach ecumenism and separation differently. The term body already implies a working together. This plus the teaching of not having a schism in the body can only lead one to strive for cooperation for "the sake of Christ." As long as one is in the "universal church" (saved), then we must work together and not be divisive or separate. I see no other logical conclusion. The problem with this is the host of Scripture that require separation from false teaching/teachers. On a universal level, these two commands are impossible to carry out. On a local church level, they are able to be followed.