And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ… Philippians 1:9-10
Today, we are exposed to media at every turn: whether it is in choosing books to read, listening to messages, or scrolling through social media. Discernment, therefore, is especially important in our culture today.
In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. It is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. As John MacArthur says, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.
Discernment is the ability to think critically, determining whether or not something aligns with your beliefs, especially based on Scripture. I love Charles Spurgeon’s definition most of all: “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”
So, from deciding what show to watch on Netflix, to deciding where we get our news, or who we listen to as we form our beliefs, we are faced with important decisions on a regular basis. We must take the time to train ourselves in Biblical discernment now so that we are able to tell “right from almost right” — especially when the messages we’re hearing sound good.
We must take the time to train ourselves in Biblical discernment now so that we are able to tell “right from almost right”
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 tell us that we must “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil”. Hold fast to good, and abstain from every form of evil. But in order to do that, we need to know what is good and what is evil.
Biblical discernment begins with the Bible. We have to know Scripture if we are going to view the world through its lens.
So how do we determine what resources or messages are Scripture-based, and which ones aren’t? It is wise to use three questions for this when considering this question:
1. How do they view the Bible?
As Christians, the Bible should be our uncompromising standard. We view it as the inerrant, unchanging Word of God. There truly is “nothing new under the sun”, so if someone has a “new take” on a historic view of Scripture, that’s a red flag.
Another red flag? If the Bible is not treated as God’s Word, but instead as a ‘good message’ or ‘outdated book’. The Bible warns strongly against taking anything away from God’s Word or adding to it. We must take God at His Word and trust that He understands what we do not.
2. Who is the ‘Saviour’ in their message?
Lots of authors these days — even some Christian ones — paint you as the hero of your own story, instead of the God who saves us. Nothing could be further from the truth! If your favourite author or preacher is telling you things you want to hear, and pumping you up to be your own saviour, that message is contrary to the gospel. If their message centres on Christ as our one and only Saviour, you’re on the right track!
We must take God at His Word and trust that He understands what we do not
3. Who has endorsed the book or author?
Paying close attention to who has endorsed a book or author can be a useful indicator in discernment. Endorsements can usually be found on the back cover, on the very first page of a book, or in the section dedicated to it.
If a book is endorsed by other authors and teachers you know hold a low view of Scripture, you can expect the book will likely hold similar views. Look for trustworthy teachers of God’s Word as endorsements on a book. Chances are much higher that if a sound teacher has given their stamp of approval on a book, you’ll learn solid truth from it.
It is critical to learn how to discern not only what we’re reading and hearing, but what we’re believing. In an age where the noise of conflicting messages is all but deafening, we must know the truth of His Word and be able to stand firm in it.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You, for You are the only wise God. We humbly ask that You would help us to discern what is pleasing to You. We are surrounded by so many conflicting messages and ask that You would help us to know the truth of Your holy Word. May we be rooted and grounded in it alone. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.
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