Most decisions, as one could imagine, require a great deal of discernment. In some cases discernment seems to have become another cliche Christianese term, but lets think about what it actually requires to be a discerning individual. I think we might be surprised to find what is packed into this one little word.
Today with Facebook, twitter, instagram, Google +, snapchat and the rest of social media, we can tailor and project the self we wish we were. This might not seem harmful, but its a subtle way of being deceitful. We only paint ourselves in a certain light because we want people to think of us in that particular way. The reason this is a problem is because it is intentionally dishonest, we then expect people to interact with us according to our new playdough avatar. If people tell us something we do not want to hear it can be the most devastating things to happen. We spend all our time trying to convince people how great we are, why wouldn’t we be crushed by a friend’s criticism or confrontation?
What does this have to do with discernment? If we have trained our minds to deceive people about who we are, odds are we do not know how to honestly evaluate others as well. This is a problem if we have distorted the ability to think critically and honestly while evaluating other peoples beliefs or counsel people in the midst of suffering. If we are honest with ourselves, we will be honest with others and how we think of others. Honesty is not segregated to one area of life, but it is a holistic endeavor to be a discerning individual. The scriptures tell us that bearing false witness or to slander someone else is a sin ( Exodus 20:16; 23:1, Deuteronomy 5:20; Matthew 15:19, Mark 10:19.) In trying to be discerning we must learn how to be honest with ourselves as well as others.
The ability to be discerning is almost always thought of in conjunction with wisdom. Why do we think this way? Is it possibly because the Bible often associates these two things? When we talk about discernment it sounds more about a deductive process rather than bearing wisdom in making decisions. Discernment is far more than just making choices, it is exercising the grace that God has given to you in your thinking. Wisdom is a gift that ought to be treasured. When we encounter a tough decision, the first thing we need is wisdom that has been steeped in the Gospel in order to be discerning.
We are all familiar with this verse, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10.) How does the fear of the Lord play into being discerning? If our objective is truly to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” then the reverent fear of God in our lives will always provoke us to only make decisions that will enable us to glorify God and enjoy him.
We tend to over complicate things — it is built into our thinking. “It can’t be that simple”, “I didn’t work hard enough”, etc. Fortunately the formula for making a godly, honest, wise and discerning choice is by seeking to glorify God. The difficulty in this process is not the formula but the application thereof. We are sinners, we will make mistakes and make ungodly, pagan, and evil decisions. We can’t be afraid to make mistakes. The way in which most wisdom is gained is by making mistakes. If God did not want to give you the utmost amount of grace and compassion he wouldn’t have saved you in the first place. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and seek wisdom for the Lord. The Apostle James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
Being discerning is a skill that can be worked on; critical thinking can be developed. Grace on the other hand is not often something that can be taught or a skill that is practiced. It is a mindset, a state of realization that I am not the center or the universe, so my thoughts and opinions hold no more value than the next person. How then do we extend honest grace to others while we discern what they say or how they act? We must know first and foremost that God has given us the greatest grace imaginable. When we realize what Christ sacrificed on the cross for all of our judgement, cynicism and skepticism, they become gracious criticisms. We do not tear down because the opportunity is there, we try to tear down gently for the purpose of rebuilding.
Our standing before and after we are saved contextualizes every situation of life and we quickly realize the world is not about our opinions. Instead, it is about building a kingdom centered on the glorious majesty of God. We live to glorify Him, not our theology or our conceptions. If we live to criticise people and find out why they are wrong we have done theology in the most vein manner. Live to be a gracious critic and discerner.
Making decisions and evaluating other worldviews, live situations or even family disputes is hard work and often takes a large emotional toll. It all requires a great deal of diligence and thought, which can be exhausting. The good news is that Christ has not left us to discern these things on our own but instead given us all the wisdom we need which is readily accessible in His holy word. The Bible is not a GPS for your life, or the love letter written to you from God. It is God’s holy word and when properly understood we will become honest, wise, and gracious people.