...so that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine...
- Ephesians 4.14
Therefore we must pray God continually that He would bestow the light of true discretion to illumine this way, surrounded on every side by the world’s thick darkness, so that His true worshippers may be able to cross this darkness without error to Himself. So discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete.
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule, Irish, 7th century
Paul’s reference to our being “no longer children” surely points to the exercise of discernment in matters of truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil.
They who are growing in the Lord Jesus and the knowledge of His way will find that, as they increase in discernment, they are not vulnerable to being “blown off course” by whatever new doctrine or teaching happens to well up within the Church or from the world. Nor will they hang on to old, worldly ways, just because it’s convenient or pleasurable to do so.
The practice of discernment is a daily duty and requires a firm foundation of truth if we are to succeed. “True discretion”, as Columbanus called it, must be based in truth from God, derived from the study of His Word and close, consistent fellowship with Him.
Today the buzz-word in many churches is not discernment, but tolerance. Discernment scrutinizes in order to edify. Tolerance turns a blind eye in order not to offend. These days we are encouraged to be open to and tolerant of people, not to judge them, so that they’ll feel comfortable in our midst and we can travel our journey of faith together in love.
But if people insist on dragging the baggage of sin, error, deceit, and lies with them into the Church, their journey in the Lord is going to be sluggish, if it goes anywhere at all. They’ll slow down the rest of us as well. We are remiss if we fail to confront and correct those who refuse to practice discernment.
It’s a lot easier, I’ll grant you, just to allow everyone to believe whatever he or she wants, or to practice the faith of Christ in whatever way suits them. It’s easier, but Jesus never promised us an easy road. The darkness of sin encroaches on the way of light at all times, inviting travelers to detour from truth into half-truths, “good ideas,” and interesting but devastating side paths. The exercise of discernment can keep us from these traps.
Discernment is the ability to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, good from evil, and to make wise judgments. Discernment brings us closer to Christ, for He is the Wisdom of God. Neglect discernment, and though you may journey in Jesus’ Name, you will not journey with Him.
Seek the Lord in prayer and in His Word, so that His discernment might be with you, and help you to stay on the path of light.
Psalm 142.4-6 (Dix: “For the Beauty of the Earth”)
Lord, look to my right and see: None takes notice of my plight.
Is there refuge left for me? Is my soul out of Your sight?
Lord, You are my Refuge strong! O receive my plaintive song!
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah! Lead me only in Your path of light and Truth.
Our Board meets Wednesday night, so please be in prayer for them as they begin bringing together the pieces of a long-range plan for the development of our ministry. Your prayers and support of our ministry are crucial for our ongoing outreach.
This week our In the Gates column ponders the question of what makes for a good, quiet, peaceable society, one where everyone can grow in dignity and the Gospel can flourish. You'll want to know what your role is in the pursuit of a good society.
An important key to a good society is men - men - who will pray for it. Why do men seem to have such a hard time with prayer? What could happen if more men began to be more serious about and consistent in prayer? Let me challenge you to order 10 copies of my little book, If Men Will Pray, give one to each of ten men, then follow-up and ask them if they've read it and if they are committed to praying as Paul urges. Can you do this? You can. Will you?
T. M. Moore, Principal