Many years ago, I taught seventh and eighth grade girls’ Sunday school, an interesting experience to say the least (for both teacher and student, I’m sure). One week I taught a lesson on choosing right from wrong. After my brilliant exposition of the Scriptures (!), we discussed a few case studies in which the girls were to choose the right response from among the wrong, applying the lesson they had just heard. Let me be clear: these were no gray areas. In each instance, the right choice was glaringly obvious, particularly in light of the scriptures we had just studied.
The girls couldn’t do it. They had just learned what kinds of decisions were not only Scriptural but God honoring and they could not say that, for instance, allowing their friend to copy their test answers was wrong.
Truly discernment, that ability to separate truth from error as taught in God’s Word, is a necessary discipline in our current culture. As we sift through various worldviews and so-called Christian trends, how can we know which is right and which is wrong? What is required is The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment., and to that end Tim Challies has written his book of the same title.
As I read, I dog-eared pages containing quotes I thought would provide insight to this important and critical book. Turns out nearly every third page was turned down! For our purposes here, I’ve managed to choose only a few excerpts. Here, Tim makes the case for the necessity of discernment:
Christians with a truly Christian worldview will know that all of life is to be lived in accordance with biblical principles. Everything we do—whether it is choosing a church, reading a book, watching television, engaging in evangelism, forming friendships, studying the Bible—everything requires discernment. Because there is no area in which we have perfect understanding, there is no area of life that is beyond our need or ability to be discerning.
Challies defines discernment as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.” Thus discernment is both theological and moral:
The first category where we need to exercise discernment is that of truth and error in relation to what we believe about God. The second category is that of right and wrong in relation to how we act. The first category relates to truth and discernment and the second to God’s will and discernment…[Discernment] is the practice that allows us first to know the truth of God and then to know and do the will of God.
Throughout the book, Challies emphasizes the importance of knowing and studying the Word of God in the pursuit of discernment. Truth and error are determined not by what works nor the latest trend, but on the unchanging Truth of God’s Word:
Spiritual discernment equips us to believe in God in a way that is consistent with his revelation of himself. It equip us to know him rightly so that we might serve him rightly. It allows us to examine any doctrine or any teaching and to separate what is truth from what is error. We use the Word of God, the Bible, to guide us in this process. The discerning Christian will be the one who compares everything to Scripture, always seeking to know what is true about God.
I want to be a discerning Christian and Challies’ book has proved a helpful tool in the process. An avid reader of his blog (along with the few thousand other readers who log in regularly), I found this, his first book, to be encouraging and instructive, and I would recommend it to anyone else eager to practice The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.
Read an excerpt here.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….