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Discernment Defined

Discernment: Thinking Biblically  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: As teenagers the days of adulthood are quickly approaching. Inevitably, one day, you will all become adults. It would actually be weird if you didn’t. However, there are some adults (legal adults anyway) who never seemed to get the memo and they are stuck in a state of perpetual dependence on others. We call this the Peter Pan Syndrome. Peter Pan Syndrome refers to the condition of an adult who simply does not want to grow up. One of the symptoms of Peter Pan Syndrome is the fear of making responsible decisions.
Are decisions something that we should be afraid of? I certainly hope not. Columbia University estimates that the average adult makes around 35,000 decisions every single day. Imagine the pressure of life if decisions were something to be feared. I mean, think about it. When your alarm goes off in the morning you are faced with a decision: should I get out of bed? When you get out of bed (hopefully) you are faced with another series of decisions: what should I wear, should I eat breakfast, what should I eat for breakfast, should I shower, should I brush my teeth, which should I do first? As your day goes on you make decision after decision after decision, and you reach these decision points throughout your day around 35,000 times.
Since decisions are such a huge part of our lives we must ask this question: does the Bible teach us how to make wise decisions? We must ask this question because decisions are often personal. There are some decisions that you will face in life that no one can make for you and it is up to you to cultivate the skill necessary in order to make those decisions. For this study we are going to call the skill of decision-making discernment.

The Definition of Discernment

As we consider discernment we will first need to define what we mean when we say discernment. As with anything the definition of discernment that the world gives is vastly different from the definition that the Bible gives, and as Christians we are not really concerned with the worldview of men since we know that the wisdom of man is foolishness.
1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Isaiah 55:9 NKJV
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Since we want to be Biblically discerning, let us consider
1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 NKJV
Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
In its simplest definition discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating good from evil and right from wrong. The ability to living a life of integrity is dependent on one’s ability to be discerning in every area of life. John says that a Christians failure to be discerning leaves him open to all kinds of false teaching.
1 John 4:1 NKJV
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Unfortunately, discernment is an area where many Christians stumble. Because many are unable to make decisions based on the unfailing wisdom of God’s Word, they unknowingly make unbiblical decisions. Fortunately God has given us everything we need to live a discerning and successful Christian life.
2 Peter 1:3 NKJV
as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
So, since we desire to live a life of integrity we must develop the skill of discernment.

The Source of Discernment

Discernment is a gift from God.
Example: Solomon
1 Kings 3:9 NKJV
Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
As a result of asking for discernment, God gave Solomon both wisdom and discernment. Solomon went on to write many proverbs, the purpose of which he wrote is
Proverbs 1:2–4 NKJV
To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion—
Solomon knew that God was the source of all good gifts and so he asked Gd for what he knew he needed.
God is still willing, ready, and able to give us this good gift today
Matthew 7:9 NKJV
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
James 1:5 NKJV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
This good gift is then available for Christians
1 Corinthians 2:14–15 NKJV
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

The Power for Discernment

Discernment is not only a gift from God but it is also continually empowered by God. God gives us His Spirit who leads us as we live our lives and encounter truth and error.
Solomon writes:
Proverbs 2:6–8 NKJV
For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints.
Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 2:11–14 NKJV
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
True spiritual discernment is only available to those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Process of Obtaining Discernment

While the source of discernment is God and the power for discernment is the Holy Spirit, obtaining discernment is still a process. Sometimes when faced with a decision point, the answer will be immediately obvious while at other times we will need to carefully think about what decision we should make. The Bible tells us that God gifts us discernment by giving us the Holy Spirit who guides us in truth.
John 16:13 NKJV
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
So part of the process for obtaining discernment is giving ourselves over to the careful study of God’s Word so that the Spirit can guide us in the truths of Scripture.
Psalm 119:66 NKJV
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, For I believe Your commandments.
Proverbs 15:14 NKJV
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
Proverbs 18:15 NKJV
The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Proverbs 19:25 NKJV
Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.
Philippians 1:9 NKJV
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,

The End of Discernment

For now discernment is necessary because we live in a fallen world where we are constantly faced with decisions between right and wrong. Because Adam and Eve failed to exercise good discernment in the garden we now must be watchful and discerning. When Christ returns discernment will no longer be needed because there will be no more wrong and no more error for us to separate from. So, discernment begins as a gift from God and ends with the hope of seeing God. For today, as we long for the hope of living with God in eternity forever we must be discerning so that we can walk with Him today.
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