Your Fool-Proof Tool for Following God

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

Christians have to be discerning. We have to be willing and able in any given situation to judge properly between right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral, spiritual and carnal, eternal and temporal, truth and lies — and then to act accordingly. We may still not get it right all of the time, but God honors the effort. Here's why:

Lack of discernment equals naiveté and vulnerability. Without discernment, you won't mature in the things of God. You won't effectively stand against the wiles and the fiery darts of the devil. You won't be able to recognize the lures, distractions and traps that await you along the Christian walk.

Without discernment, the distinct line between the things of God and the things of the world, starts looking blurred. You can't tell who's really leading you straight and who's really leading you astray, who's really loving you and who's really using you, who's truly God-sent and who's really hell-bent.

What is discernment? It's what King Solomon used when he judged which of two prostitutes was telling the truth in 1 Kings 3:16-28 about which one was the mother of a surviving baby. He was able to correctly resolve a very difficult case, a case between two people of equally questionable credibility and no other eyewitnesses to weigh in the balance. This is because God had granted him the discernment he had asked for earlier in Chapter 3: an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad (v. 1 Kings 3:9, 11,12).

The Bible gives at least four different Hebrew words and three different Greek words for "discern" and its forms. It's worth looking at each of them, because doing so will contribute to gaining wisdom and practicing discernment to God's pleasing.

The four Hebrew words for "discern" are biyn, shama, yada and raah. Biyn (1 Kings 3:9) means to separate mentally, distinguish, understand. Shama (1 Kings 3:11; 2 Samuel 14:17) means to hear intelligently and often implies attention, obedience. The other two Hebrew words are yada (Ecclesiastes 8:5), which means to know, acknowledge, be aware, comprehend, discover, be sure; and raah (Malachi 3:18), which means to see, view, perceive, behold, regard, have experience with, take heed.

The three Greek words for "discern" and its forms are anakrino, diakrisis and kritikos. Anakrino (1 Corinthians 2:14) means to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, examine, search, question. Diakrisis (Hebrews 5:14) means judicial estimation, with its root in a word that means to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, to discriminate or decide. Kritikos (Hebrews 4:12) lends us all English forms of "critic" and connotes being discriminative.

All these different words for "discern" express the same basic principle for every Christian: The ability (and practice) to intelligently or insightfully perceive, distinguish and deal prudently between what is of God and what is not of God, and to conduct ourselves accordingly. That ability comes from grow[ing] in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18); that is, from reading, studying and applying the Bible.

The Word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The root of kritikos used here is where we get "criterion," or "a rule for judging."

Remember, the Bereans were "more noble" for using the Holy Scriptures to test the legitimacy of the Apostle Paul's teachings (Acts 17:10-12). That's what the Bible should be to every Christian: your ruler; your measuring stick; your standard for properly discerning the Spirit of God versus the "spirit" of the flesh, biblical truth versus false doctrine, God's will versus man's will, right versus wrong, and love versus lure.

Image Credit: schaeffler; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life

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Published on 5-27-15