Monday, December 10, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 9

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 9: Developing Discernment
- [This was the shortest chapter, and I'm three days late in writing about it!]

- I liked that he pointed out that discernment is tied to other Christian disciplines.  In other words, one cannot develop discernment by itself- it comes as we practice other disciplines.

- He gave the commitments that will allow us to have and display discernment.  They are pretty straightforward, so I'll just list them without comment.
1. Pursue Discernment
2. Desire Discernment
3. Pray for Discernment
4. Seek Discernment

- He used Asaph's Psalm 73 as an example of the role of discernment in the church.  This isn't the worst illustration I have read, but I wish he would have differentiated between the temple and the church (and then possibly extended the application).

- He shared Mark Dever's five reasons for Christians to join a church.  I wasn't wowed, but they were good thoughts.  Since they were fairly simple, I'll again just list them (with one comment):
1. For assurance
2. To evangelize the world
3. To expose false gospels
*I  liked this thought: "The more we see of genuine Christianity, the more the counterfeits will be exposed."  (Page 157)
4. To edify the church
5. To glorify God

- Although the author of the following quote is one I don't often cite, I did think his statement was accurate and thought-provoking: he said Christians "are drunk with the false opinion of our own insight and are thus extremely reluctant to admit that it is utterly blind and stupid in divine matters." (Page 159)

- The author stated that we need help from others in order to grow in discernment.  Is assistance of others absolutely necessary?  I would not say it is, because to me that would minimize the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  That being said, I would also not advocate for someone ignoring the potential assistance of those around him.

- I thought it was he made a good point that the confirmation of one's discernment is not found in what they say, but in what they do.  Obedience to God's Word is confirmation of discernment.

- "We become discerning Christians not by focusing on discernment as an end in itself, but by focusing on the person of God and the character of God."  (Page 161) This is good!  And how do we focus on God's person and character?  The Bible!  Again, we this theme is reemphasized to us.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 8
Discussion on Chapter 10


  1. Here are my comments on Chapter 9:

    * "We must also exhibit humility before God, knowing that without divine wisdom we are hopeless and helpless." What a good reminder this was of Isaiah 55:8-9 that clearly lays out the fact that God's thoughts and ways are so far superior to our own. Yet, though there is a great distance between man's thinking and God's thinking, what a blessing it is as Christians to have the Holy Spirit living within us as well as the Word of God to lead and guide us in line with what God thinks!

    * "The local church is the best, most natural, most biblical context for spiritual discernment." While I understand the point that the author is making in this statement, I also think it ironic that many times it is in the local church that one finds the place where spiritual discernment is most needful to in order to be able to guard against false teachers who may desire to creep in unawares.

    * "Those who can be counted as discerning Christians are those who are obedient to the truth revealed." This is a good point to show that we need to act upon the light that we have been given before we can expect God to reveal more light to us.

    * "What we find is that if we are to pursue discernment, we must pursue God. We become discerning Christians not by focusing on discernment as an end in itself, but by focusing on the person of God and the character of God. As we pursue God, seeking to know him as he has revealed himself in the Bible, we necessarily grow both in wisdom and discernment." Not a whole lot I can add to this...I appreciate the author pointing it back to discernment really being a byproduct of a healthy spiritual walk with God.

    Looking forward to Chapter 10...

  2. There were several key points that stood out to me in reading chapter 9.

    For one, the author points out that, "the pursuit of spiritual discernment is not an isolated pursuit. Discernment is not something that is available or that can be attained apart from disciplines of the Christian life" (pg. 154). We often times want to pick and choose what areas in life we want to follow Christ and yet still want all the blessings. The Christian life is not a buffet in which we may simply choose what we want and enjoy it.

    Also, I appreciated the author's section on the context for discernment and stress on the local church. As Jacob mentioned, I was a little baffled over the author's statement that "Asaph... provides an example of the role of the church in discernment in Psalm 73." I would have preferred to see a qualifying statement that put a distinction between the OT tabernacle/temple and NT assembly. The points that follow are very good, though. The Bible does say that the church is to be the pillar and ground of truth. Thad is right in that churches can also be the breeding ground of error, too. I see this occurring more when one person (the pastor) is seen as having all discernment and the entire congregation depend upon him for their understanding of truth. When the church as a whole exercises discernment and studies the Scripture, I believe that the church can truly be a pillar that holds up the truth of Scripture. The list he included from Mark Dever was good.

    "The confirmation of discernment, the proof that a person is discerning, is found in obedience to the Bible" (pg.161). A claim to discernment is not without evidence nor a qualifier. The author brought out this point well here. I can claim to be discerning all I want, but my choices, actions, and life will either affirm the claim or renounce it. His section here also solidifies his earlier chapters that explain discernment is not simply a head-knowledge but "the skill of understanding AND APPLYING God's Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong" (pg.61).

    It's hard to believe that chapter ten is the last chapter.

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  4. His mention of Proverbs 2:1-5 stressed the extreme importance the Bible places on pursuing wisdom. "If you seek her as for silver..." People really base their entire lives around getting money. We ought to base our lives around knowing truth (discernment). That's an extreme committment.

    I've not heard the local church referred to as a means of grace (in recent history). It is an interesting thought. I guess as long as it is A means, rather than THE means I can accept it.

    In contrast to Jacob's opinion, I think others are a vital part of growing in discernment. Eph. 4 shows that God has given people (evangelists/pastors/etc.) to help all believers grow into maturity. It seems one cannot fully grow in discernment without these people. I agree that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are primary means of growth though. Perhaps he was thinking of the man in the desert without a church. Sometimes there are exceptions to the norm.

    I'm thankful that he mentioned that we cannot pursue discernment without pursuing God (and vice versa). There are some very smart people who do very foolish things, and it is their lack of pursuing God that causes their stupidity.

    Last chapter here we come. (What is our next book?!?!)

    1. Didn't you get the notice that you aren't allowed to contrast the original poster's position? :) My thinking was that he made it sound like we had to have others. I was trying to say that if a person was in a situation without others, God and the Bible would be enough.

      If a person does have the opportuity for the help of others, by all means he should take it!

      There, I have defended myself.