Discernment vs. Judgment, Part 2

In my last blog, I noted that in Scripture we are called by God to discern, not to judge, because only Christ ultimately exercises righteous judgment because only He knows the heart. Many times we think we are discerning when we are really just judging without discernment. We judge by what we see externally, not in the heart. We judge by our perceptions, but often our perceptions are askew. We judge by our minds, our knowledge, our experience. So we think we know. We trust our “judgment.”

But there is so much that we don’t know, so much that is out of our frame of reference, outside of our experience, so that we cannot really know. Without Christ, the Word of God, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we cannot know—therefore cannot judge. So the Scripture calls us to discern, not to judge. Scripture uses two particular Greek terms for discernment that is to be exercised by believers:

  • Analytical Judgment—Discerning Analysis: anakrinoanakrisis
  • Thoroughly Discerning judgment—Discerning Degrees of Purity: diakrino; diakrisisdokimazo.

In this blog, we will look at the first of these: Analytical Judgment—Discerning Analysis. Analytical judgment is represented by the Greek terms anakrino (verb) and anakrisis (noun). This corresponds to the Old Testament terms biyn and bina, usually translated as “perception” or “understanding.” These terms have the meaning of “distinguish, examine, investigate, discern, appraise.” Literally, it means “to judge again,” i.e., to ponder, sift, weigh back and forth, assess, balance. An appraisal is an investigation of the value of something—a house, a piece of gold, a diamond, etc. We are to be appraisers, not judges.

Looking at the pros and cons, positives and negatives, and maintaining balance or moderation is the intent of this kind of judgment, which aligns with the biblical discernment foundation of Equilibrium (see Chapter 2 of my book Is It of God?).

Discerning Analytical Judgment is the provenance of the Church—those who are of the Spirit, those who are believers. This term is used of the noble-minded Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness, examining [anakrino] the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). All believers are to exercise this type of judgment, and only through the Holy Spirit:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [anakrino]. But he who is spiritual appraises [anakrino] all things, yet he himself is appraised [anakrino] by no one (1 Cor 2:14-15).

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account [anakrino] by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you (1 Cor 14:24-25).

This type of judgment is the authority and responsibility of the church. It is not criticism or condemnation, but rather “critiquing,” that is, weighing and balancing both positives and negatives through discerning analysis. Merriam-Webster defines the noun critique as “a careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something (such as a piece of writing or a work of art).”

When I ask my seminary students to do a book critique, I expect them to note both positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses. This is what believers are called to do—to evaluate the good and the bad in a balanced way—not to condemn, on one hand, nor to ignore shortcomings, on the other hand. However, this should not be done by our opinion, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us be praying daily:  “Lord, help me not to be judgmental, but to exercise discernment. Help me to become a noble-minded Berean who receives the Word of God with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so.” By your Holy Spirit, give me divine perception. Holy Spirit, You are my Teacher, my Counselor, called alongside me to help.

Teach me to be a divine appraiser who does not give my opinions or judgments, but who gives a divine appraisal. Teach me how to ponder, how to sift, how to weigh back and forth, how to assess and balance. Teach me Your ways, O Lord. Teach me Your thoughts, O Lord. For Your ways and thoughts are so much higher and better than mine. Your discernment is so much better than mine. Impart to me the mind of Christ, I pray. In Jesus name. Amen.


To Judge or Not to Judge: Discernment vs. Judgment

“Judge not that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1).

“Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

            The two commands from Jesus above appear to be contradictory—and yet they are not. Unfortunately, our English language is limited and often fails to distinguish the nuances in judgment and discernment. This is where being a Berean—examining the Scriptures closely (Acts 17:22)—comes into play.

A few years ago I had the experience of being judged harshly for not judging harshly certain other people and ministries who had some questionable beliefs and practices. I was falsely accused of siding with those people and ministries because I did not condemn them completely outright and I was told I was totally undiscerning. That experience sent me on a heart-searching study of Scripture regarding discernment, judgment, and condemnation. It was enlightening as well as freeing from the condemnation I received.

To be truly discerning it is vital to understand that discernment is not judgment and judgment is not discernment, Discernment is implied in the making of a judgment, but it does not guarantee in human cases that the judgment is wise and right. I found that Scripture has a continuum of judgment, or various levels and degrees of appropriate and inappropriate judgment.

 God is the only source of righteous judgment. Only God is a righteous judge (2 Tim 4:8; Rom 2:5; 2 Thess 1:5). In fact, God is The Righteous Judge, The Ultimate Judge, par excellence. As The Righteous Judge, He and He alone judges totally impartially, totally fairly. He justly rewards those who have met His impartial standard. He looks not on the outside appearance, but looks on the heart (John 7:24). Only God knows the inner heart.

Jesus exhorts us that righteous judgment is not based on observation. It does not judge by appearance, what is external or what appears on the surface. Jesus Himself is our human model of perfect, righteous judgment (Isa 11:2a, 3, 4a). Jesus does not judge by what He sees or hears, but exercises righteous judgment from the Holy Spirit.

We are commanded to follow Jesus and exercise righteous judgment by not looking on the outside—what we see or hear—but on the inside, in the heart (John 7:24), which only God knows. Looking at the heart first involves seeing as God sees, then our part involves discerning analysis and thorough, in-depth discernment through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Righteous judgment is God’s judgment—not human judgment. It is totally impartial, fair, just—like God. It discerns the heart—the heart of the matter and the heart of the person. It is not critical of people. In other words, we critique the teaching, not criticize the teacher. We critique the practice or manifestation, not criticize the person. When we criticize the person, not knowing the heart as God does, we exercise unrighteous judgment in the flesh. We apply righteous judgment when we exercise discerning analytical appraisal and thorough in-depth discernment, consulting the expert judgment of the Word of God, and thus seeing through to the heart.

Let us pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24). Then let us respond in contrition to what He reveals to us.

This is adapted from Chapter 7 of my newest book Is It of God? You can purchase it at my website http://www.paulkingministries.com



Should You Follow Your Heart?

In Christian circles we often talk about “sharing our heart,” by which we usually mean sharing our passion, that which is especially meaningful to us & drives us, or being open & transparent. These are good & biblical.

A popular saying in TV shows & movies in contemporary society is “Follow your heart.” It might be good for romance stories, but is it wise biblical counsel for life? Should we trust & follow our heart? I studied “the heart” throughout Scripture & came up with nearly 10 pages of notes. Here is the Reader’s Digest condensed version:


  • We reason in our heart: Mark 2:8
  • We decide in our heart: 2 Cor. 9:7
  • Our heart has purposes: 1 Cor. 4:5
  • Heart & spirit often overlap & seem to be synonymous, but the Word of God alone can distinguish between heart & spirit: Heb. 4:12.

THE BAD NEWS: OUR PRE-CONVERSION HEART WAS DECEITFUL: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)

THE GOOD NEWS: GOD HAS GIVEN US A NEW HEART: “I will give you a new heart, & a new spirit I will put within you. & I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh & give you a heart of flesh. & I will put my Spirit within you, & cause you to walk in my statutes & be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezek 36:26-27).


  • Our hearts can be double-minded: “Purify your hearts, you double-minded (lit., (double-souled”)” (James 4:8). A double-souled person has doubts, not faith, is unstable, & cannot receive wisdom from the Lord (James 1:5-8)
  • The natural inclinations of our unrenewed hearts are evil: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt 15:19)
  • The heart can negatively affect the spirit: (Prov 15:13, 17)


  • Our heart can be glad or sad (Prov 15:13)
  • Our heart is with what we treasure, for good or bad: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)
  • The heart can be joyful or crushed & dried up: ‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov 17:22)
  • We can be pure or impure in our heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8)
  • We can have a wise heart or a foolish heart.“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl 7:4)
  • The heart can be corrupted: “Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, & a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Eccl. 7:7)
  • You can walk in the ways of your heart, but they may bring judgment. “Walk in the ways of your heart & the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” (Eccl 11:9)
  • The plans of the heart belong to man, not God: “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from theLord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, & your plans will be established.” (Prov. 16:1)
  • Our heart can fail us: “My flesh & my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26)
  • Our heart can condemn us: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, & He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; & whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments & do what pleases Him.”(1 John 3:20-23)
  • Our heart can be troubled & a troubled heart is a fearful heart: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled [agitated, stirred up], neither let them be afraid.”(John 14:27). If our heart is troubled, the source of our lack of peace is not from the Lord, but from fear.
  • Our heart can be self-righteous: “Do not say in your heart, after theLord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ . . . Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land.” (Deut 9:4-6)
  • Our heart can be arrogant: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the lord” (Prov 16:15)
  • Our heart can rage & can rebel against the Lord: “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the” (Prov 19:3)
  • Our heart can be crooked: “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, & one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” (Prov 17:20)
  • The devil can put things in our heart: “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” (John 13:2)
  • We can lose heart: “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
  • Our heart can be faint or sick: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isa 1:5)
  • Our hearts can be weighed down/burdened with the cares of life & feel trapped: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation & drunkenness & cares of this life, & that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)
  • Our heart can be hasty: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven & you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Eccl. 5:2)
  • When our hearts are not pure, we don’t have vision to see God clearly: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8)
  • Our heart can turn away from the Lord: “Thus says theLord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man & makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jer 17:5)


  • Don’t follow your own heart, but follow God’s commandments: “Remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart & your own eyes.” (Num 15:39)
  • Direct our heart, not be directed by your heart: “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” (Prov 13:12; also Jer 10:23)
  • Don’t trust in your heart: “Whoever trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Prov 28:26)
  • Trust in the Lord with your heart, not trust your heart: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Prov 3:5-7)
  • Keep your heart with diligence: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4:23)
  • Be a person after God’s heart, not your heart: “. . . a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22)
  • Seek the Word of God to discern the thoughts & intents of our heart (Heb 4:12)
  • Direct your heart, not be directed by your heart: “Hear, my son, & be wise, & direct your heart in the way.” (Prov 23:19)
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30)
  • “Meditate in your heart and be still” (Psalm 4:4; 77:6)
  • “Remove vexation from your heart”(Eccl 11:10)
  • Store God’s Word in your heart as a preventative from sin.“ I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:11)


  • Recognize that God is greater than our heart: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”(1 John 3:20)
  • Ask for a wise & discerning heart: “Behold, I have given you a wise &discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:12)
  • Seek God with all our heart, & we will find Him: “You will seek me & find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)
  • Declare that God can strengthen our heart: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
  • Let our heart hold fast to words of wisdom: “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, & live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, & do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” (Prov 4:4)
  • Train your heart to keep God’s commandments: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days & years of life & peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love & faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor & good success in the sight of God & man.” ( 3:1-4)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5)
  • Believe: A believing heart is not a troubled heart: “Let not your hearts be troubled [agitated, stirred]. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1).If our heart is troubled, agitated, stirred up, we are not believing, not walking in a state of faith.
  • Let the peace of God guard your heart: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)
  • Purify your heart: “And purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)

There is much more, but this should give us enough to meditate on, chew on & digest throughout this week! Let our prayer this week be:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

See also John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-follow-your-heart