Friday, January 24, 2014

4 Areas of Discernment

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Saturday, January 25:  Matthew 16:13-17:9

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.  Matthew 16:1-3 (NKJV)

Four Areas of Discernment

There are four dimensions of DISCERNMENT  that are vital.  They are incredibly important for anyone who seeks to walk a biblical, God-centered walk in this world.  These four dimensions are outlined in the 16th chapter of Matthew.

DISCERNMENT 1:  Knowing the times  (Matthew 16:1-4)

DISCERNMENT 2:  Avoiding bad teaching (Matthew 16:5-12)

DISCERNMENT 2:  Seeing Jesus (Matthew 16:13-20)

DISCERNMENT 3:  Recognizing Satanic activity.  (Matthew 16:2-23)

Discerning the Times

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for being out of touch with current culture.  He said that they could forecast the weather, but they couldn't see the "handwriting on the wall" about their own culture.  They had lost effectiveness because they had no clue what was going on around them.

I do not think Jesus said they should sell out and become culturally acclimated.  No way.  But, He was saying that they needed to break out of their closed system.  They needed to get in touch with the world around them and become "salt and light" (Matt. 5:13-14). 

The Pharisees and Sadducees were busy building their own fiefdoms while the entire nation was going down the tubes.  This is a clarion call to the church of our day.  We MUST wise up and speak up.  The world at its worst need the church at its best.

Discerning Bad Teaching

Jesus warned His disciples against "the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:12).  This is a notable moment.  These two segments of Judaism (Pharisees and Sadducees) were normally at war against one another.  Now they were united.  The Pharisees represent the conservative element.  The Sadducees are liberal.  Conservatives (fundamentalists) and liberals were UNITED against Jesus.  That's worth pondering for a moment.

I am not one to throw stones at bad teachers -- even though they abound in our day.  There is a cottage industry today of picking apart the heretics of the church.  Don't get me wrong.  I believe sincerely that sound teaching is essential to the health of the church.  But, the basic problem is not bad teachers (they will always be there).  It is the gullibility and shallowness of the Body of Christ.

I realize that I am not being specific here, but time does not allow the full discussion now of the crazy streams lose in the church today.  I am not saying that I am pristine pure.  I am only saying that sanity is rare and we need to lay hold of truth -- true truth (as Francis Schaeffer would say). 

Discerning the Lord

Nothing takes the place of a one-on-one relationship with Jesus.  Perhaps the highest moment of New Testament revelation is the moment when Peter declared, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). 

As the passage makes clear, this is not an intellectual accomplishment.  It is not the result of rational deliberation.  The recognition of the Person of Jesus is a matter of divine revelation.  It must be spiritually discerned (I Co. 2:14).   

This is an initial (born again) acknowledgement of Jesus, but it is also more.  We initially accept Jesus because we SEE Him.  But then, we begin a walk in which we strive to stay always in touch -- in sight of His power and presence.   

Have you ever been in a time in which you could not "see" the Lord?  At such times, it is easy to resort to rule-keeping.  Just play the game.  But, we need daily contact and interaction with Jesus.  This is vital.  We need to discern the Lord.

Discerning the Voice of Satan

The last area of discernment is with respect to the devil.  Peter had just uttered the consummate revelation of the New Testament.  He had declared the deity of Christ.  Yet, in short order, we find Peter speaking devilish opinions. "Far be it from You, Lord; this (the Cross) shall not happen to You!" (Matt. 16:22)  Appropriately, Jesus rebuked him soundly.

Satan uses common sense and public opinion to negate the wisdom of God.  He always seems so logical, but he is WRONG.  How many times have we faced circumstances that seemed to defy the Word of God, yet we are called to continue to believe?

Satan stock-in-trade is lies and deception.  It is imperative that we operate in divine discernment.

Open Our Eyes -- Soften Our Hearts

These four areas are essential.  I am so thankful that God takes care of us despite our weakness and frailty.  He will cover us even though tough times surround us.  He is good to us and makes a way through a host of challenges. 

But, each of us needs to pray for increased ability to SEE.  That's really what discernment is in the first place.  It's like the control panel on an airplane.  We need God's guidance system.  It's called discernment. 

In addition, may God keep our hearts soft despite all that we see.  It can be tough to see the way things really are and still stay pliable.  We tend to recoil and react.  But, we are called to be like Jesus.  And He always remains faithful.  He is full of faith for the path ahead.

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