Building Biblical Discernment

As I write this blog on the subject of discernment, I find myself considering Jesus’ admonition from John 7:24 where He says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” It leaves me in a bit of conundrum: should I make a judgement, or am I really called to discern?

There is a difference.

Our English word for judge generally connotes a legal sentence. A judge is one who makes and passes judgement, based on law. But discernment is different: It is about peering into and differentiating the essentials from the non-essentials, with the intention of deriving the true value of something. Discernment considers deeply, evaluating the valuable from the worthless, or better, truth from falsehood.

We live in a broken world and as followers of Christ we are constantly facing the need for right discernment. So how are we to discern? We discern with theology – the study of God.

Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote a book called, Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sproul’s assertion is that everyone, regardless of his or her religious point of view, has a distinct view of God. The question for Christians is not are you a theologian but are you a good theologian? Our discernment, the outcome of how we think, separating truth from error, has a direct correlation to our theology. I imagine most of you would agree with that statement, as it relates to biblical matters, but I want us to recognize that discernment goes beyond the walls of the church proper and includes our interactions at home, work and play. Our theology drives how we live and act, not just how we worship.

Pastor Mark has just concluded a three part series on the “Hearing Church.” God is speaking to His people. Are we listening? Pastor Mark’s first sermon was on expository preaching – the simple, clear and straight-forward exposition of God’s Word, which alone, discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Next, he taught us about Biblical Theology and the “Whole Story of God.” Lastly, the important role of Systematic Theology.

Why do our pastors and the elders earnestly desire for you to know multi-facets of theology? So that as our Heavenly Father speaks to us through His Word we will be able to hear Him rightly.

What is the benefit? The answer is good discernment.

We are constantly evaluating the world we live and hopefully we are becoming ever more skillful to discern the correct thoughts, appropriate actions and glory-filled worship that please Him.

  • Selby Brannon
Advertisements

The Day Sanctification Became Possible

I have been working through the book of Romans slowly, reading it and using John MacArthur’s teaching alongside my reading. Recently in chapter 6 MacArthur said something that was shocking but profound. He was talking about how before we come to faith in Christ we are slaves to sin, that we really can’t help but do anything that wasn’t sinful. He contrasted this with how now that we have come to faith in Christ, we have been made into a new creation (II Cor 5:17), have gone from dead to alive (Eph 2:1-5) we have a new heart (Ez 11:19-20), we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us (Rom 5:1-5) and we are no longer subject to Satan but have been transferred into Jesus’ Kingdom (Rom 6). What he said next shocked me, he said, “It is not unreasonable to think of the change that you went through when you surrendered your life to Christ as greater than the change you will go through when you are translated to heaven.”

I know we could debate that statement to death but what I found myself realizing was I had greatly undervalued that depth of change that happened the day I gave my life to Christ. Dead is the old Steve whose every inclination was to do nothing but to sin and God has done a new work in me that frees me from the dominion of Satan and the power of sin over my life. Do I still stumble at times and sin, battle with the sinful nature, fall to temptation …..yes (Rom 7), but in Christ I have been made new with the Spirit in me giving me the ability to not live as a slave to sin but freed as a slave to righteousness (Rom 6).

The day I gave my life to Christ I was not only sanctified in Christ, but further sanctification through the work of the Spirit became possible for the first time in my life. (Heb 2: 10-11). I pray God will encourage you as you walk in this truth.

  • Steve Selle

Gifted

If you’re like me you’ve often felt inadequate without the resources and information needed for the day’s challenges. Sometimes we continue the search when we really need to just take a good long look at the data that’s already there and use it. You might be suffering from analysis paralysis. You already know what you need to know.

“He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Paul is telling us that the Father’s grace is operating to give each and every one of His elect everything they need. “All things”. What are the things included in the “all things” package? Let’s start with your election from before the foundations of the earth and His effective calling of you to Himself. No you didn’t see that coming, but nevertheless His gracious love planned it. Secondly, our justification purchased by the Father who “did not spare his own Son”. Then because the Son in perfect and complete loving obedience to the Father, bore our sin at the cross we have been adopted as sons of the Father Who is working all the events of your life in a gracious process of progressive sanctification bringing you into the likeness of His Son until finally we will stand complete before Him in glorification.

Still feel inadequate? Still searching for the courage to walk in this world? Still wondering if there’s a place to stand in full confidence? Rest in this. “He (the Eternal Father) did not spare” (not one thing was withheld in His judgement) but gave “his own Son” for you so that you can rest in the fact that He’s graciously giving “all things” to you that is everything and anything necessary the Father says is needed to bring you home. Take that as a guarantee of grace. Slow down and return to the argument Paul is laying down here in Romans 8:32. Don’t jump ahead. Stop trying to build a case with more data but start where it all begins. With the greatest gift given from which all others are given. The Son given for us and to us. If the Father has already given that much how can we not be confident that we are already in possession of the grace to face anything?

  • David Ortiz

Repentance & Sanctification

With all this talk of Good Grief and Genuine Repentance I thought it would be helpful to add a few additional thoughts from the last two weeks of sermons on 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 …

Repentance Is Always a Posture of Humility

 Whether it be the heart of an unbeliever awakened to the Gospel to turn from slavery to sin to the beauty of Jesus or a child of God aware of his failure in the flesh, a bowed head before the Lord is a good and right posture. It takes Spirit-produced humility to see and savor Christ over the pleasure of sin for a season. For this reason, repentance is both the response of a regenerated heart and the fruit of a believer’s sanctification.

Repentance Knows Where the Power is Found

 Whether it be the delighting in sin pursued, or the weight of guilt over sin forsaken, a believer can never let sin have the power. The power of sin has been defeated at the cross. Satan aims to thwart our sanctification as the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), keeping our eyes on the sin and not the Savior. In repentance, we disarm the stronghold of sin by looking to the cross where Jesus paid it all and we put our confidence in the power of the Spirit to sanctify us completely. For this reason, repentance is both the response of a regenerated heart and the fruit of a believer’s sanctification.

Repentance Delights in Being Brought Low so that Christ is Lifted High

 Whether it be in our failure to turn from sin or the successful resisting of temptation, the child of God loves to be brought low so that Christ is exalted. Far from this being an attitude of poor self-esteem, it is an attitude of honor to God. He is the Conqueror over sin, not us. He is the Ruler of our souls, not us. He is the One to be praised, not our best efforts. To see yourself in the right place before the God of glory (remember Isaiah and Peter) is actually the place of great joy. Because in that place your life rightly lifts Jesus high … and don’t we all want to do that?!

May our repentance glory in the cross where sin met is match, so that our sanctification focuses on the glory and beauty of Jesus over the wretchedness of sin.

  • Mark Spansel

Transformed to Discern God’s Will

I remember how my thoughts about God’s Word changed when I was saved at 19. The Bible went from boring and irrelevant to alive and life changing. In Roman 12:2 Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In order to be able to discern God’s will I first need to be transformed. This happens when I surrender my life to Christ and am saved and then daily as I walk with Him. The word transformed does not indicate a minor change but a radical change. I am not simply adding Jesus to complete my life which was already pretty good, there are deep profound changes that Jesus takes me through in salvation and while I walk with Him.

The verse goes on to say by testing we may discern God’s will. In my work we use lots of different established standards to test parts against to determine if they are good or bad. In the same way our standard is God’s Word which when properly applied causes us to discern what is good and from God. With all the distractions, partial truths and outright lies that are in the world today I desperately need to stay humble before God, seeking His Spirit to reveal His truth to me through the Word so I can discern rightly God’s heart in what I face. My prayers are with you that transformed by the work of the Spirit in your life, God’s Word would saturate your soul blessing you with Godly discernment in all you face.

  • Steve Selle

Using Our Gifts to Edify

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I Peter 4:10.

As believers, we are to live with Christ’s imminent return in full view. We are called to be vigilant, watchful, and always ready for the Lord when He comes. For us, Jesus should not return as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), but our lamps should be ready, filled with oil, matches in hand, and prepared to join the parade of our Bridegroom (Matthew 25:6, 7). While we await His return, the Apostle Peter admonishes us to be serious and watchful in prayers with a goal of using our gifts to edify our Christian brothers and sisters (1 Peter 4:8-11).

Every Christian should have a fervent love for Christ. Then, that love continues its flow from the Throne of Grace through us and onto our brethren with ample supply to cover a multitude of sins.  The Bible addresses the need for church discipline concerning reprehensible sins in a Christian’s life. However, that thing we see in a brother or sister’s life, which is minor or petty, the apostle encourages us to let our love for one another cover the trivial matter (v 8).

His edification does not stop with love alone. We are encouraged to be hospitable, a great virtue. Peter presses in, instructing us to be hospitable and to demonstrate hospitality without grumbling. My dad often said, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.” Dad had many clever sayings but contextually he would be in error. We are called to open our hearts to those who are in need, regardless of the duration. Even if we are seemingly exploited, we are not to grumble as we care for them (v 9).

Equipped with love, purveying hospitality, we should steward the gifts given us by God, for the edification of Church. No Christian is exempt. We are all called to the ministry of our gifts, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We normally think of stewardship in the context of finances. Finances have their rightful place in stewardship, but in this text, Pastor Peter has a grander view. He instructs believers to actively steward God’s abundant grace for the building-up of the church (v 10).

The author closes this paragraph on edifying gifts by reminding us that one of our greatest gifts is God’s Word, which informs our minds and sets our hearts ablaze. In the same way let us be zealous to use our gifts to God’s Glory, as He supplies the strength (v 11).

  • Selby Brannon

Gospel Unity

Paul writes to his friends in Philippi “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Any community will hold up unity as a pleasant idea but mostly in a superficial and sentimental way. How do you see that expressed in our culture? Paul isn’t satisfied with that type of unity. Where’s the enemy of unity? Is it outside the church? Is the enemy somewhere outside of us or perhaps it’s much closer? Paul’s words from Philippians seems to say it’s actually found within our hearts.

What differentiates Gospel unity from the general kind that always seems to be outside society’s reach? The “encouragement” Paul finds in Gospel unity is grounded in our relationship to the Trinity. Our unity is not found in who we are or what we do but in who He is and what He has done. It is found in sinners made righteouse as they are found in Christ. As each of us becomes more and more aware of how much we have been forgiven and the greatness of the grace by which we have been accepted as sons we come into deeper relationship within the family of God. Just after Paul’s words quoted above he goes on to say of Christ, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Our unity, Gospel unity is found at the foot of the cross. I’ve not died for unity but Christ has and He didn’t do that so anyone would bow to me but only to the one that “God has highly exalted…. so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth.” Our heart level sin of selfish ambition, conceit and pride, the sins that kill unity were crucified with Christ on the cross and now by grace are being replaced with humility, and an ability to count others as more significant. Gospel unity says I now have nothing to defend, nothing to do but show my friends in Christ the same grace I have been shown and lift up Christ and his work in our salvation.

  • David Ortiz