If you’re reading this on the internet, then it must be true. Right? I mean, would I be writing this article if it wasn’t true?
The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2016 was ‘post-truth’, which is an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
It’s getting harder and harder to know what is really going on in our world. In particular, the political realm is more divided and confusing than ever before. Social media is popular, but hardly a great source of truth. In a society like this, we, as Christians, need discernment.
When I talk about spiritual discernment, I am not referring to the gift of ‘discerning of spirits’ found in 1 Corinthians 12. Rather, I mean the ability to see and understand what is really going on; to separate what is true from what is false. I believe that spiritual discernment is an ability that all Christians are able to develop and grow in. It is part of the work that the Holy Spirit does in our lives when we trust Christ. There are people that seem particularly gifted in this area, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are left helpless. Developing discernment is a major part of spiritual maturity.
Practicing discernment requires that we tune out a lot of the noise that surrounds us and spend time listening to God’s word and how it directs us. Here are some ways to grow in this area:
1. Pray for it – When God asked Solomon what he wanted, this was the reply: “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9) I believe that God wants to help us discern between good and evil. We should desire it and ask for it.
2. Study the Bible – When Paul went to preach in Berea, the people eagerly received the message, but then examined the Bible “to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Bible illiteracy is a danger in every generation. We must dedicate ourselves to reading and understanding the scope and teaching of Scripture.
3. Learn from others – In every church, there are individuals who practice this well. There are mature believers around us who we can learn from. Proverbs 1:5 says, “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Why not take time to find out how they became so wise?
4. Depend on the Holy Spirit – Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, he would “guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) With the Holy Spirit living within us, we have a helper who knows how to discern good from evil and right from wrong. Pause long enough to hear what he has to say.
Spiritual discernment isn’t going to just happen randomly in our lives. It needs to be cultivated and grown over time. We have a great need for mature Christians with deep spiritual discernment. Are you willing to be one?