Sunday, June 16, 2013

Resting on Our Discernment Laurels


I am considered on some level a discerner since I point out error in the church and I sometimes name false teachers. I do not breathe fire and use all kinds of vicious invectives as do some bloggers, and I certainly do not roast lost sinners on a verbal rotisserie. But there are some who cannot understand what is wrong with Joel Osteen or Rob Bell or Rick Warren. And so my blog is considered a discernment blog with some uniqueness’s on certain issues.

But I am often, and I mean very often, convicted on a personal level about how easy it is to shoot false teachers in a barrel and walk away from my own mirror. What I mean is that we have so much spiritual ground yet to take in our own lives that we must never feel any sense of having arrived. And just because we are “orthodox” in our theology we cannot see that as a badge of honor. In fact, it is only by the grace of God and the ministry of the Spirit and the Word of God that we have come to our beliefs. In fact many of us use to embrace things that were false and many of us use to be much meaner than we are now. We should rejoice in God’s grace and not in our own devices.

But the feeling that I get is not just a feeling. It is the gentle yet strong convicting power of the Holy Spirit. You see God is on no one’s “side”. He calls all men to come to Him. And even though the Scriptures direct us to discern the spirits, we cannot make that our exclusive journey. No, our journey is to allow the Spirit to conform us into the image of Christ Jesus, and that, my friends, is a monumental and miraculous task.

This is the journey set before us. These are the steps of a true disciple. They walk as He walked; they speak as He spoke; they think as He thought. These steps do not follow the easy and broad way. They lead against the grain of this world. They depart from the path of politics or national allegiance or moral debates. These steps demand a denial of self. They demand all kinds of sacrifices. They are filled with glory as well as filled with the fellowship of His sufferings. They lead to both death and life. Your death and His life.

The speaking out about obvious heretics is necessary, but that is such low hanging fruit. And men like the ones I mentioned provide a continuing stream of ammunition which the evil one can use to distract us from our own pursuit of Christ. Pursuing Christ and walking in His steps requires much more than pursuing a pristine doctrinal statement. Believers can sometimes take an orthodox statement of faith and theology and present it as evidence that they are following Jesus when in fact that is insufficient and many times spurious. Exercising saving faith in Christ Jesus is profound and yet very simple. It is so simple a child can be saved. However surrendering all your hopes and dreams and thoughts and desires and allowing your entire being to be completely controlled by His Spirit is a labor of glory, but a labor nonetheless.

The flesh is ready and willing and able to spring into action at the first sign of spiritual lethargy. In fact, the flesh masquerades as pursuing good and having good intentions when all the while it has deceived us and led us astray from the things of Christ. The flesh has succeeded in deceiving the church in many ways including those churches which are considered “orthodox”. You can stand solidly for the virgin birth and yet exhibit nothing of Jesus. You can stand and boldly proclaim  the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, the substitionary death of Christ, the bodily resurrection, and other truths and yet exhibit none of Jesus.

Doctrine is important, however without a personal manifestation of Jesus it is little more than an organized collection of truth that could be compared to a Biblical form of the Dewey Decimal System. The Spirit desires to guide us into all truth doctrinally but also as it pertains to our lives. The Psalmist said “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. He didn’t say that God’s Word is a source for us to compile a systematic theology term paper at Bible school. There have been hundreds of thousands of books written about the Bible and about theology and about doctrine, and yet our lives are supposed to be the observable epistles that make the pages of Scripture come alive! We are supposed to be Jesus in this world in thought, word, and deed.

The world is not interested, nor can they understand, our discernment concerning false teachers. They need us to be salt and light in this world. It is so easy to preach to the choir and applaud each other because we can identify the same heretics, but far more demanding is to live so that Christ radiates through us. What does it even mean to be crucified with Christ anymore? The church teaches all kinds of clever and relevant stories designed to help us navigate successfully through this present world, but where are the teachings that call for complete surrender and even a personal crucifixion? Like politics, the current ecclesiastical construct takes sincere men of God and places them in an environment that immediately compromises them and ultimately they become marionettes of the culture rather than crucified servants of the Most High God. And those that are taught by them are molded into good citizens rather than sacrificial disciples of Jesus.

The path that follows Christ has long since been covered over by nationalism, politics, greed, and a variety of avenues which lead to self. And in its place we have laid down asphalt paths of doctrinal orthodoxy and discernment of error. And yet we fail to see the error in our own hearts and lives although we have no energy to search for that. And this is what haunts and convicts me. It is no great feat to see the error in Rob Bell or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Like I said, low hanging fruit. But God desires to do something significant in us, but if we continue to have an unspoken attitude which assumes we have arrived and the path ahead of us is guided primarily by what we see in others than we will remain blind.

But let me take it somewhat further.

I Cor.13: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Paul goes on to tell us that between faith hope and love that love is the greatest. Now with love being the greatest among all the elements of faith why isn’t love the major test of orthodoxy? And when you ask someone what should distinguish a follower of Jesus why isn’t love at the top of the list? Why isn’t love on the list of the fundamentals of the faith? And why isn’t the church obsessed with exploring how God’s love works itself practically through a believer and into the world?

Let us be painfully honest here. It is light years easier to confront the heretics than it is to love the brethren and lost sinners the way God does and the way John 3:16 tells us how He acted on that love. God gave His only begotten Son for His enemies because He loved them. So against the backdrop of that unfathomable truth, how should we manifest our love toward our enemies? These are the issues which keep me from ever feeling smug about myself and my doctrinal positions.

And if we just took the issue of love we could spend a lifetime searching out ways to work out the love of Jesus in our lives. In fact, that is exactly the path to which we are called. Resting on our discernment laurels keeps us from being what God desires for us.


Annette said...

Thank-You for this timely post.

Yes, it is indeed timely to my present circumstances.

Blessed be the Name of Jesus.

Lorena said...

Thank you Rick.

God is love. 1 John4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. And, we are to love our neighbours. Our neighbours are everyone else. Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

It is much easier to lean on discernment, and doctrines than live as Jesus lived.

I am certainly not anywhere near perfect in this. But we should always strive to be like our Lord, Jesus.

Steve said...

Thank you, brother, for this important reminder of what is ALWAYS our first priority: following Jesus in every word, thought, and deed.

In Jesus, Steve

maureen said...

Excellent word, spoke right to me.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rick, thank you for this reminder. With all the apostasy going on around us today, it is easy to loose focus on sharing the Gospel of God's grace and love. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Spiritual discernment is a wonderful gift of the LORD that Christians ought to continually thank Him for!

How grateful we ought to be for a Christian is blessed with spiritual discernment that is denied to the unregenerate!

Let's remind ourselves of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom.

9 Give your servant therefore 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 0 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.

13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.

14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

In Psalm 119:18 we see David praying: Open Thou mine eyes, that I might behold wondrous things out of Thy law.

Reine Gnade

Anonymous said...

If there was ever a time to be discerning, it's now, and I'm so thankful for this site. Everyday. I know how hard it is to draw a fine line, not overstepping the bounds of being judgmental and critical.

But doesn't the bible teach men of God to exhort the church? We have to be corrected as much as possible.

I have absolutely no guile towards any of these mega-pastors and only wish they would see the light. I know that those in the Body of Christ who are called to 'call out' people from apostasy aren't popular. But those mega-pastors are not using moderation in all things, but focusing only on positive things. There are negative things that we, as believers, have to endure and we rarely hear about it.

Not that I want to invite negativity into my christian life, but we need to exercise more spiritual training than we have. If we compare ourselves to the early church, those people didn't spend too much time pampering themselves and devoted themselves to preaching Christ, walking, wandering and roughing it from place to place.

We just cannot relate to any of the early church. Another thing that this post on "Resting on Our Discernment Laurels" brought to my mind, was how we in the West, are saturated with secular thinking. We now have mental illnesses and names for each one. We follow the world in how it treats psychiatric problems. Chronic depression, bi-polar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenias, stress-induced illnesses, PTSD's, and all of it, in the early church, were called "spirits" or "demon possession".

In Mark 9: 14 to 29 - A boy, who was overseized with foaming at the mouth and being thrown down, and who gnashed his teeth, and became rigid, was told Jesus by his disciples that he had a mute spirit. They couldn't cast him out and Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" After I read this, I realize that this child may have had epilepsy. And we know that in those times, physicians didn't have names or even knew causes of these things. Yet, Jesus called in a 'spirit'.

And Jesus told his disciples that this kind could only come out by nothing but prayer and fasting. But today, we are told, that we have psychiatric solutions and innovations and medications and whatever, and the church never would dare speak about 'spirits of this or that' because they know they'd be run out of town and never enjoy the huge thousands of members in their churches.

So, those in the church, who hate on homosexuals and others, would never re-read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with Jesus' words right there in print, who did acknowledge 'spirits' when he prayed for sick or oppressed people.

I can imagine most pastors today would never approach the subject. They know they'd be persecuted by unbelievers, and mocked and scoffed at. Yet, they sometimes feel they can get away with saying the craziest other things because their "followers" enjoy condemning systems and governments and blaming a sinless society on things that are visible. They obviously don't care to follow scripture when it deals with 'spirits'. Is there a reason why the church ignores 'spirits'? They say, Oh, we in the West aren't like those in the Middle East and other places of the world, where there were lots of spiritual lifestyles and sin that promotes demonic spirits. Really?

I can't see how other continental sins can warrant 'spirits' and our continent doesn't. I don't like the subject myself and would prefer not to even go there, but if we say we follow Christ and ALL his teaching, we have to admit that this is out there. We depend too much on worldly solutions and refuse to believe we are in the midst of spiritual warfare for our minds and bodies.


Anonymous said...

Jesus Said "It is Finished"

Our praise is for the unique LORD of the holy Bible for, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

It's so important to understand and acknowledge that Jesus was without sin and blemish. Not only was He sinless but on the cross bore our sins.

Friends, let's remember, with gratitude in our heart, a pivotal and central event in the history of man.

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19: 30)

Let's praise God for Jesus died for all of our sins. Let's praise Him for everyone He graciously chooses to save He remembers their sins no more (See Hebrews 8: 10-12).

Truly believers in Lord Jesus Christ's atoning death and His resurrection are blessed beyond measure.

Dear readers, be very encouraged, for the faith of a true believer is not in vain. They are no longer in their sins!

Christians, let's rejoice for "...they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." ( See Galatians 5: 24)

Galatians 5

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Hebrews 8:10-12

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Reine Gnade