Discernment is the ability to make good judgments, to accurately analyze situations to know right from wrong and to know truth from falsehood. It is an important skill for spiritual leaders and for all followers of Jesus. In a world that is getting more and more confusing, your ability to be discerning will give you clear thinking and will guide your words and actions.
Three keys to discernment are found in 1 John 4:1-6. Read the passage below and then consider the three keys.
1 John 4:1-6
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
Key #1: Don’t believe everything you hear (v1). Marketing experts claim that the typical American sees 4000 ads per day. Television, radio, magazines, websites, apps and even grocery store aisles are filled with messages that scream, “Buy this! It will make you happy!” Those are empty, subjective marketing claims. I mean, can every toothpaste give you the whitest teeth and the freshest breath?? They all claim that they will do that for you!
Spiritually and morally speaking, you hear mixed messages and lies all of the time. For example, Planned Parenthood tells expecting mothers that the baby in their womb is not a person so abortion is not murder or a sin, but that is not true. God’s Word tells us that babies in the womb are alive and science backs that up! Don’t believe everything you hear. False prophets and fake news can be found everywhere.
Key #2: Test everything by the Word of God (vv1-3). With so many mixed messages in the world, God’s Word is the standard by which we discern truth from lies. Test everything that everyone says by the Word of God. Be skeptical even of your own thoughts and feelings, because the Bible tells us that our own heart can deceive us. Think about how many times your feelings have changed on a matter. God’s Word never changes. When faced with a situation that needs discernment (and we all face these every day!) always look to God’s Word and stand on the truth.
Key #3: Draw strength from the Spirit of God living inside you (vv4-6). When you are standing against the barrage of anti-Christian messages in our world, you will become weary if you stand in your own strength. Stand, therefore, in the strength and power of the Lord, allowing him to work in your heart and mind. His Spirit living inside you will give you strength, discernment and wisdom. Pray, pray, pray. Abide in Christ. Follow Jesus. Stop and pray often. Pray with your eyes closed or eyes open, even short prayers to God, asking him to strengthen you and give you discernment. He will!
As you grow in discernment, you will see that God sends people to you seeking wisdom, insight and truth. Share with them the things you have learned from God’s Word and how that applies to the situation they are facing. As followers of Jesus, we need godly discernment at all times.