Friday, November 2, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 5

(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 5: Truth and Discernment
- The author said, "In this chapter we will examine the existence of truth and show that discernment can only exist where truth is affirmed."  (Page 92)  I thought it was a good summary.  Here are my thoughts:
- He pointed out that for a counterfeit to exist there must be something real that exists.  A few years back I heard a preacher point out that people will use hypocritical Christians as a reason they don't live for God.  He noted that the presence of hypocrites means that there is the real thing.  This has stuck with me and helped me.
- I had not thought much about the relationship between absolute truth and discernment.  He pointed out that the practice of discernment is founded on the notion that there is absolute truth and that there is error.  Before a person can discern, he must acknowledge that those two exist.  To me, it seems that many people cannot bring themselves to say that something is wrong because they do not believe there is a standard- there is absolute truth.  Thanks to the author, I now see that relationship.
- I think his "while God is truth, truth does not equal God" (Page 94) is important for our day.  I'm sure other words could be substituted, but I think many need to see the word "love" in this equation.  People put too much of an emphasis on "love," then equate love with God, and in the end I think they distort the character of God, because it is based on their derived view of Him based on their understanding of love.
- As preachers, we must echo his bold proclamation that "we know the Bible is true because it is the revelation of God, who is true and who is unable to lie." (Page 95)  I appreciate his confidence in the Word of God!
- He mentioned the book The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.  It is a powerful book- one that I plan to read once a year for the rest of my days.  If you have not read it, I would encourage you to do so!  (It is only $2.99 on Amazon.  If you want, that can be my Christmas present to you!)
- I think he mentioned it in earlier chapters, but he brought out the fact that the first area in which we need to exercise discernment is our thoughts of God.  We cannot conduct our lives properly if we do not believe properly.
- He equated worldliness (worldly thinking) as the direct opposite of correct thinking about God.  I had not thought of them in that way before, but I think it is accurate.  He showed that thinking rightly about God will lead us to Jesus Christ and thinking wrongly about God will always lead us to ourselves.  I would say it leads us to ourselves or to the words of another man- still, we are either looking to God's Word or man's.
- We probably all have heard the statement that we best know what is wrong by first knowing what is right.  He later said, "The relationship of truth to error is such that we can best know error by knowing truth.  The opposite is not true."  (Page 101)  Again, he is right on- studying error may turn up some truth here and there, but it will not establish what is truth and what is error.  However, studying truth will establish what it is, and, by extension, what error is.
- The better we know the truth, the more easily we will recognize error.
- "Error may be subtle, but it is always deadly."  (Page 103)  I know that in my mind, I see some errors as dangerous and others as not so bad.  This sentence helped me remember that all is, as he said, deadly!
- The Hensel twins are easy to find on the internet if you are interested in reading more.
- He said that areas are gray because of the Fall.  I am reminded of what my brother-in-law Paul J. says (probably not original with him, but I'll give him the credit for it), "Sin always complicates things."  When a person follows God's design, it is easier to make a decision in a situation.  The more entrapped in sin one becomes, the more difficult it is to see how to extricate from those situations.
- I think he is correct in saying that we often start from the obscure and work back to what is clear instead of the other way around.  However, after a little bit of thinking, I could not think of a good example when we do this.  Can you guys?
- I appreciated his emphasis on the conscience while showing its subservience to and dependence on Scripture.
- Again in this chapter, he mentioned that discernment is making "binary distinctions."  I don't know much about computers, but I know they are based on the processing of a series of 1s and 0s.  He is pointing out that discernment is seeing there are two options- one is right and one is wrong.  He very much narrows things down, but I very much appreciate it.
- Congratulations!  We are halfway through the book!!
- Sorry about the limit for comments that messed a couple of you up last week.  I'll see if I can change that.
I've had my say, what say you?


  1. Thoughts from Chapter 5....

    Jacob has already stolen the thunder on a good amount of the things that stood out to me, so I'm going to try to get my entry in quickly before any more of mine get taken and I am left with nothing to say. :-)

    - "A discerning Christian will be one who returns constantly to the Word of God, the source of all truth." This statement was just too good to not mention. I appreciate the author's emphasis on the final authority of Scripture in the life of the Christian. May God help the Christians of our day to enact upon this in a way that affects our lives.

    - "Truth is not meant to divide but to unify. Discernment will allow s to understand what is true and thus bring unity to the church and glory to God. Sound doctrine, doctrine that is consistent with the Bible, is absolutely foundational to healthy Christians." While I understand the authors point, truth by its very nature will divide itself from all error. The key focus is not found in the elements of unity and division themselves, but rather in where we stand as compared to the truth. A group of Christians who find themselves properly aligned with truth will find themselves in unity as well. Division often is a result of the pride of man (Pr. 13:10) as well as an improper alignment towards truth.

    - I thought Joshua Harris' illustration of "...half a poison pill..." was very powerful. Many times I have heard people say that they could "control" the sin they were involved in and it never works. You may get away with it for a little while, but as the author stated, "Repeated exposure to error can lead us to unwittingly swallow a lethal dose. Error may be subtle, but it is always deadly."

    - "The discerning Christian will be the one who compares everything to Scripture, always seeking to know what is true about God." This was a very helpful summary statement to me.

    I, too, have read Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy" book and would HIGHLY recommend it to those who have not read it! Looking forward to next week and seeing how the author discusses discernment in light of understanding and obeying God's will for our lives.

  2. I appreciate books that can take obvious truths that we often times overlook and bring it to our attention. This book has done that and has helped expound upon things already known.

    It has been commented above regarding his statement on page 92 that "it is impossible to counterfeit something that is not real." Never thought of this before. Jacob, thanks for sharing what you heard one preacher say in regards to hypocritical Christians... that this demands the existence of ones who are not. In society, many people are accustomed to accepting that which is imitation. We have imitation cheese, imitation honey, imitation iPhones, etc. People like the imitation because they feel they can enjoy the real thing without sacrificing for the price. Some settle with false teaching because they can feel like they are religious, without having to sacrifice the sins they enjoy nor the time to see what God really says in His Word. If you like homosexuality, there's a church for that. If you like worldliness, there's a church for that. I am challenged to be sure to make sure I get the "real thing."

    Going along with the previous paragraph, he says on page 95, "In opposition to the dominant mindset of our day, something is not evil simply because it is not in accord with what we feel or desire, and neither is something else good because we like it or enjoy it. Rather, things are objectively good or evil regardless of how or what we may feel about them."

    His statement on truth meant to unify rather than divide was interesting. It does both, but I think we focus much on the dividing part and forget the positive part. While truth is meant to unify, a result will be division from those who reject that truth.

    "A discerning Christian will be one who returns constantly to the Word of God, the source of all truth." (pg. 96) We are once again pounded with the need for us to depend upon the Bible. One cannot read through this book without being convinced that we need the Word of God in our hearts and minds through study and meditation of it. I see that you guys also have appreciated his focus on this.

    Jacob, I had two years of vocational training in "Computer Technology and Electronics." We had to learn the "languages." We learned binary, hexadecimal and even had to translate between the two. I appreciated his illustration of this. As we learned binary, I was amazed how every process on our computer is just a series of "0's" and "1's". If one of those in the series is off or wrong, the end result is quite different. Discernment is very important in every aspect of our lives because the results will be different, depending on what we choose.

    I'll spare you all of repeating the other great points in the book that you mentioned.

    I have not yet read Tozer's book, but will be doing so now.

    1. P.S. I purchased the Kindle version of Tozer's book from Amazon for $0.99. They must have just dropped the price.