Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lesson 15: Developing Discernment - Part 1 of 2

Brief 4-to-5 Minute Teaching Lesson

Why? and What is the Purpose? in My Life SERIES

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Lesson 15 of the Discipleship Making process.

I left you last time with this question, “What criteria do you use to discern between good and evil?”

In the previous lesson, the topic of judging other people was discussed. Although Jesus does not want His disciples to judge other people, he does expect them to discern spiritual truths and make decisions between good and evil (ex. Luke 7:41-43). The three words: judge, discern and decision are very similar. In fact the word judge is used many times in place of discern and decision throughout Scripture and it is only by its use in the context that it’s true meaning can be arrived at.

The meanings of the word discern are: to perceive or recognize or to make out clearly. It is a discovery of the truth about something or someone in which a personal opinion can be formed. Once the truth is known, an individual may take action regarding the matter; however, the action does not have to be the judgment of another, which requires issuing a decree or passing a sentence upon them. Jesus summarizes the concept in a statement He makes to His disciples at a later time. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents (discerning), and innocent as doves (without passing judgment) Matthew 10:16.

Throughout Scripture disciples are encouraged to be discerning. In fact, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the discerning of spirits, which is to assist the Church in determining what is good and what is evil. Discerning good and evil according to the writer of the book of Hebrews requires training the senses (Hebrews 5:14). Through training and practice, maturity in discernment comes. In trials, two or more witnesses were required before a judgment could be rendered. To accurately discern between good and evil, three factors need to be considered before an opinion is formed. All three are to be in agreement. They are:
1. The individual’s actions.

2. The individual’s words.

3. The Word of God.

As the saying goes, “You cannot judge a book by its cover” neither can you discern good and evil by outward appearance alone. An individual’s actions or a situation’s outward appearance is important in discerning but cannot be the exclusive test. For example, if we saw someone pointing a gun at someone else, we don’t have enough information to discern whether it is good or evil; we need more information.

Words are an important indicator of what is in the heart: the spirit behind the motive (Matthew 12:34, Proverbs 21:2). Motives matter to God.

The Word of God, as revealed through Scripture or the Holy Spirit, is the final factor in discerning good and evil. Do actions and words or appearances and motives line up with the Word of God? For those who use the Scriptures in discerning, it is important to do so correctly and calls for more than just a cursory knowledge of them (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15).

In part 2 of this lesson, we will conclude Jesus’ teaching on the criteria that we, His disciples, are to use to discern between good and evil.

With that, allow me to leave you with this question to consider:

How did Jesus make His judgments?

Until next time . . . Godspeed!

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