The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
- Thursday, March 27, 2008
Conversely, in Matthew 13 the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke so often in parables. Jesus explained his rationale and commended the disciples for their ability to understand the parables that are so often hidden from others: "But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (vv. 16-17). In this case he commended his disciples for exhibiting a level of spiritual maturity. Jesus declared the disciples blessed for their ability to see and perceive. He declared them blessed for their ability to discern. Their spiritual growth was marked by an increase in discernment. Their ability to discern was an unequivocal testament to their spiritual growth.
DISCERNMENT IS PROOF OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY
Finally, just as a lack of discernment is a mark of spiritual immaturity, the presence of discernment is a sure mark of maturity. Again, the author of Hebrews warns, "Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Heb. 5:14). Christians who are mature are those who have exercised discernment and have learned how to distinguish good from evil. Spiritual maturity is closely tied to discernment. You cannot have one without the other. There are no Christians who are mature but undiscerning
(see figure 1).
Figure 1: Discernment Equals Maturity
LACK OF DISCERNMENT DISCERNMENT
Spiritual immaturity Spiritual maturity
Backsliding Spiritual growth
Spiritually dead Spiritually alive
The Bible makes it clear: God expects and demands that we pursue and exhibit spiritual discernment. Healthy Christians—those who are alive, growing, and mature—are necessarily those who seek to honor God by discerning between what is good and what is evil.
One of my favorite television programs is Antiques Roadshow. The program affords people the opportunity to present their antique possessions—whether furniture, paintings, toys, or anything else— and to have them appraised by some of the world's foremost experts in antiquities. For every episode the producers single out ten or fifteen items and show an expert providing a detailed description and valuation of the item. Each section closes with the expert telling the owner just what the item is worth. It is always amusing to see eyes pop out or to see people jump up and down with excitement as they realize that they have in their possession an item worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. During every episode the viewer has opportunity to see "junk" transformed to treasure.
There is one segment from a particular episode that stands out in my mind, because it featured the most valuable item they had appraised to that point. An elderly gentleman from Tucson, Arizona, brought in an old blanket he had inherited several years before. He knew it was old and believed it had a little bit of value, perhaps a few hundred or even a couple of thousand dollars. After inheriting this blanket he had thrown it over the back of a rocking chair in his bedroom and had not often thought about it until presented with an opportunity to take it to the Roadshow.
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