By Mike Burnard
This week I looked at the virtue of DISCERNMENT. I found it quite tricky because, to be quite honest, we all feel we already possess this virtue. The conspiracy theorist thinks he has a discerning spirit by recognising evil forces at play. The analyst thinks he has a discerning spirit because he sees the deceit of the conspiracies at play. We need the virtue of discernment to discern if we have a spirit of discernment – especially now in the season of uncertainty. A classic CATCH-22 situation
The good news is that the Bible provides a formula:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thess 5:21-22
If ever you needed a Biblical definition of discernment, this is it. This is the perfect description:
We are firstly encouraged not just to examine ALL things carefully, but to PROVE ALL things. BUT… and this is a very important BUT. Proving something right or wrong is not the only component of a discerning spirit.
Discernment also requires holding fast to that which is good. Once you have examined a topic, then seek the good, intentionally and purposefully, and hold on to that.
But don’t stop there. Paul uses a very smart word-play in making his point. The original word he uses to abstain from evil is apekh’omahee – which literally means to hold oneself off. So Paul is playing with the words to hold fast (to what is good) and to hold off (to what is evil).
YouTube recently studied the most popular searches about COVID-19 and found 67 videos that contained deliberate misinformation – including fake news about Bill Gates, 5G, Chinese scientists, laboratories in Wuhan, the WHO, and how masks and vaccines are tools to establish a New World Order. These videos had been viewed more than 250 million times on social media. Most, if not all of them, were indiscriminately passed on to friends and family with the assurance that the information is well examined and proved to be correct.
The challenge now, after examining ALL facts, is to exercise discernment based on good or evil. In other words, to obtain the virtue of discernment we need to recalibrate and realign our belief system to the non-negotiables of God.
So often we use Sola scriptura (by scripture alone) as our only guideline for applying discernment. This is the theological doctrine that declares that the Bible is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. The word of God alone – nothing more and nothing less.
Now make no mistake, the Bible is without a doubt our main source of calibration and our mandatory spiritual alignment. BUT… But when Jesus taught His disciples the art of discernment, He added another dimension, not contrary to the law, but fulfilling the law. Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.
Matthew 5 is the chapter on discernment. We need to read it, study it and realign ourselves with the principles and attitudes. When Jesus taught His disciples, He encouraged them to exceed their knowledge of scripture with acts of righteousness. They needed to add attitudes to their principles of truth: love for adversaries, forgiveness for enemies, inclusivity for those who are different, etc. “You have heard that it was said” Jesus said “…but I tell you…” He added to the law.
Discernment is therefore not only gathering facts and quoting scripture but assessing if the attitude endorsed is consistent with the character of Christ. Does it promote the non-negotiables that Christ taught – hope, reconciliation, faith, love? Does it add the love of God to the law of God?
It is easy to boast that we have a spirit of discernment when we judge those that live and think differently than us. Think about all the Facebook posts that speak judgment and condemnation to all who do not share our convictions. That’s not discernment, that’s judgment. Discernment convicts, it doesn’t condemn.
The attitude of Christ Jesus was never to push people away by condemning them, it was always to draw them closer by allowing them to discover their own need for a Saviour. The only people who found this spiritually offensive were those who examined all, but forgot to hold on to that which was good and abstain from evil.
Do you discern by holding fast to the good?
to Rachelle Bakker on being licenced as a Layminister. Please pray for Rachelle as she starts this new ministry.
We say farewell to our groundsman and verger, Charles Mutero who is relocating to Johannesburg. He will be missed! We pray for Charles and his family as they start a new chapter.
Praise God for the generous donation of a bakkie for our Centre of Concern.
If you are able to donate any baby clothes and/or nappies, please bring to the office.
Knitting friends of Centre of Concern, winter will be here very soon. Please remember to knit jerseys & beanies etc for those in need this year.
Centre of Concern is also collecting 1L yoghurt tubs for the soup kitchen.
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