Discernment vs. Judgment–Part 3

Thoroughly Discerning Judgment—

Discerning Degrees of Purity

             Years ago as a bi-vocational pastor, I sold jewelry for J.C. Penney and learned a lot about the degrees of purity of gold and diamonds. I also learned a similar scale for determining the purity and value of diamonds and other gemstones. I discovered that some of the Old and New Testament terms for discernment were used in the Bible for the process of assaying gold. The assaying of gold involves the process of determining whether the gold is real gold or fool’s gold as well as the degree of purity of the gold—10 karat, 14 karat, 18 karat, 24 karat gold, etc.
            Thoroughly Discerning Judgment not only distinguishes right from wrong, truth from error, but also degrees of purity. Thoroughly Discerning Judgment is expressed by the Greek terms diakrino (verb) and diakrisis (noun), meaning “to judge through” or “judge thoroughly,” as well as by dokimazo, “to assay or test for purity.” In the Bible these terms are used of assaying gold—determining not only if something is real gold, but the degree of the purity of the gold (Job 23:10). The Apostle Paul makes a clear parallel connection between dokimazo and diakrino (1 Cor 11:28-32). God exercises diakrino, assaying for refined gold (Job 23:10) and dokimazo, examining our hearts (1 Thess 2:4), as well as assaying or refining us like gold (Prov 17:3; 27:21; Ps 12:6).
            We are exhorted to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove (dokimazo) what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect” (Rom 12:2). Some commentators like Origen and A.B. Simpson see a progression of stages here, as with assaying the purity of gold, distinguishing between that which is good, that which is acceptable, and that which is perfect. Simpson explains the nuances: “There are some who only aim to reach the good will of God. There are others who press on to the pleasing will of God, to a life which pleases God and has the testimony constantly of his acceptance. But there is a perfect will of God into which we may enter and realize all for which he has called us save us.”
            God’s will is good, acceptable (well-pleasing), and perfect. However, not everything that is good or even well-pleasing is God’s perfect will. God’s permissive will is not His perfect will, but it is good nonetheless. Only that which is good, well-pleasing AND perfect is God’s complete or perfect will. So we need to discern whether the good and the pleasing are God’s perfect will. The perfect will of God goes beyond what God requires to what God desires. Doing what God requires is good and is acceptable, but just doing only what God requires is not the perfect will of God. Oswald Chambers avowed, “The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.”
            Thorough discerning judgment is the provenance of the church. According to Paul, the Church, not secular courts of law, should discern thoroughly (diakrino) between believers (1 Cor 6:4-5). Such discernment is also to be used in the exercise of spiritual gifts: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment [diakrino]” (1 Cor 14:29).
            This level of discernment is manifested in two ways: 1) through practice and maturity (Heb 5:13-14); 2) through supernatural gifting (1 Cor 12:10).
Who Then Can Exercise This Level of Judgment?
Scripture itself gives us three key qualifications for Thorough Discerning Judgment:
  • Only those who have first thoroughly discerned themselves. Paul uses these terms to stress the importance of discerning ourselves, assaying ourselves for the degree of purity in our lives and discernment: “But a man must examine [dokimazo] himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern [diakrino] the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we discerned [diakrino] ourselves rightly, we would not be judged (1 Cor 11:28-31).
Paul shows us that to examine (dokimazo) ourselves is to thoroughly discern (diakrino) ourselves, assaying the purity of gold in our lives. How do we do that? First, we acknowledge that God examines our hearts for the degree of purity (1 Thess 2:4). Then we 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 we respond in contrition to what He reveals to us.
  1. Those who are endowed with the gift of discerning (diakrisis) of spirits (1 Cor 12:10). This is a supernatural gift not based on merit, but on the grace-gifting of God. For some, this may be a major gifting from God that characterizes their lives on a more frequent repeated basis. However, anyone may be endowed for the moment with this gifting as the Holy Spirit deems fit.
  2. Those who are experienced and mature. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern [diakrino] good and evil” (Heb 5:14). Paul explains that this kind of judgment is for those who are wise: “Is it so that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide [diakrino] between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? (1 Cor 6:5-6). Paul is indicating that “wise” people gifted in diakrisis should decide disputes.
            Regardless of gifting or maturity, Scriptures recognize that all believers should strive for this thoroughly discerning level of judgment. Let us pray to be able to discern between good, better, and best. Let us receive discernment through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and maturity to identify the degree of purity in what we experience and encounter.
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Types of Judgment Off-Limits to Believers

In my earlier blogs, I shared from Scripture the difference between discernment and judgment and the types of discerning judgment we can exercise. Now we look at the types of judgment God’s Word tells us are off-limits to us.

     Accusing Critical Judgment. I mentioned in an earlier blog that both Oswald Chambers and Corrie Ten Boom caution that God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize or find fault, but that we may intercede. This is a crucial principle of distinguishing between discernment and judgment.

         In Scripture, usually the Greek terms for judgment (krino, krisis) are used in a negative sense, as faultfinding, blaming, accusatory, or critical judgment. Jesus asserts that such critical judgment not discernment, but is of the flesh: “You judge after the flesh; I judge no man” (John 8:15). He defers to the Father for judgment. He warns disciples not to exercise this kind of judgment, especially without exercising critical judgment towards one’s self:

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt 7:1-5).

Failing to judge ourselves critically makes us hypocrites, for when we critically judge ourselves we will not critically judge others. Scripture gives several additional admonitions not to exercise critical judgment (Rom 14:13; Col 2:16; John 7:24; 1 Cor 4:5). Scripture has a lot to say about critical judgment:

  • We Are Not to Judge Critically the Liberty of Another Person’s Conscience, nor should someone critically judge the liberty of our conscience (1 Cor 10:29).
  • Judging Others Can Bring Condemnation on Ourselves (Rom 2:1-3).
  • Only the Holy Spirit Can Critically Judge Appropriately (John 16:8; 1 John 3:19-21).
  • Pride Makes Us Vulnerable to Critical Judgment by Satan (1 Tim 3:6). Pride results in accusatory judgment condemnation from the devil. Francis Frangipane wisely counsels, “We will never possess mature, ongoing discernment until we crucify our instincts to judge.”

         Partiality is Prejudicial Judgment (1 Tim 5:21). The word Paul uses for partiality means to pre-judge, to judge before the appropriate time. It is to judge without discernment—without analytical judgment (anakrino) and thoroughly discerning judgment (diakrino). It is to jump to conclusions, looking at appearances rather than the heart.

Worse Than Critical Judgment Is Condemning Judgment—that pronounces a person guilty (Luke 6:37). If we condemn, we are guilty of judgment God does not permit us to exercise, and we are ourselves condemned (Matt 12:36-37).

To Judge or Not to Judge? That Is the Question.

To review, only God is the Righteous Judge. Only Jesus exercises righteous judgment. Only the Holy Spirit can make comparative judgments. Only the Word of God is the Gold Standard criterion for judgment.

We can only exercise righteous judgment when we see as Jesus sees—in the heart. As believers, we can exercise discerning judgment in three ways: 1) the gift of discerning spirits; 2) discerning analysis through the Holy Spirit; 3) thoroughly discerning judgment that distinguishes degrees of purity through maturity in the Spirit.

Above All, Love

All true discernment is done in a loving spirit, not a critical spirit. Paul prayed, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (aesthesis), so that you may approve (dokimazo) the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10). Discernment and love walk hand-in-hand, examining ourselves first.

Believers are not to judge critically, unless clear and severe sin is involved, and even then very carefully in an attitude of love for the purpose of restoration. No one should exercise such critical judgment cavalierly, but only for the severest most blatant sins, and even then, it is not for the purpose of damning someone, but for restoring the person to repentance and reconciliation.

While at times, like with our children, we need to exercise tough love, a critical spirit does not manifest the love of Jesus. “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), Paul emphasized. Discernment and love work in tandem with each other to handle truth appropriately in a Christ-like manner. Even when our discernment calls for rebuke or correction, we must always remember, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).

Excerpted and adapted from my new book Is It of God? A Biblical Guidebook for Spiritual Discernment. Available for purchase through my website http://www.paulkingministries.com 



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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.

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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

 

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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:

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HEART

  • 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).

THE BAD NEWS: THE RESIDUE OF THE OLD UNRENEWED HEART CAN STILL AFFECT US:

  • 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)

THEREFORE, BOTH GOOD AND BAD NEWS FOR OUR HEART:

  • 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)

FOLLOWING YOUR HEART IS UNPREDICTABLE, IT IS THEREBY NOT TRUSTWORTHY. Therefore we are admonished:

  • 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)

HOW TO DEAL WITH OUR HEART: THE ULTIMATE GOOD NEWS!

  • 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

 

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Freedom from Independence!

With Independence Day approaching, we celebrate both our freedom as Americans and, more importantly, our Freedom in Christ—which is the Higher Christian Life. While meditating on independence, I have realized that to be independent has both good and bad connotations. Independence from oppression is a good thing. Independent living—to be capable to live on your own—is a good thing.

But independence can also be a bad thing. Independence is bad when we don’t reach out for help because we just want to do it on our own— when we think “I got this; I don’t need someone else’s help or counsel.” We try to be the self-made man or woman. One definition of independence is “not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct” vs. Scripture that says, “There is safety in a multitude of counselors.”

Independence is bad when it alienates us from others or when it becomes prideful. Independence is bad when it says, “I got to be me,” and becomes an excuse for “I don’t want to change.” We find ourselves opposed to Scripture that commands us: “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

Many of us croon with Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.” Having it your way is fine for Burger King (I love my Whoppers without onions!), but not for our spiritual life or the church. God says His ways are higher than our ways. Independence is bad when it is all about ourselves. I looked up synonyms for the word “Independent”: “self-dependent,  self-reliantself-subsistent, self-subsistingself-sufficient, self-supportedself-supporting, self-sustained, self-sustaining.” Notice that it is all about self.

Independence is bad when we don’t want to submit to others. Another definition of independence is: “free from outside control, not depending on another’s authority, not subject to control by others.” I remember James Robison, a Baptist TV evangelist, once saying tongue-in-cheek, “If you say ‘Independent Baptist,’ you have said “independent” twice!” An independent attitude opposes several Scriptures. Here are just two:

  • “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
  • “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

So then, the answer is not codependency, which is unhealthy dependence on the needs of or control by another. In other words, people need each other, so they use each other.

Biblically, we are not to be independent, dependent or codependent, but we are to be interdependent. This is the Higher Life in Christ. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are harmoniously interdependent. The King James Version of Galatians 6, verse 2 and 5 read as follows:

2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

5 “For every man shall bear his own burden.”

These two verses appear to contradict each other. However, verse 2 and 5 have different Greek words translated the same as “burden.” The KJV mistranslates verse 5. “Burden” in verse 5 means the soldier’s backpack. “Burden” in verse 2 means an oppressive heavy burden. The NASB translates accurately verse 5: “For each one will bear his own load.” We each have our own load for which we are responsible, but we need to reach out to others when we overburdened.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down,  one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

We need each other. That is a good thing. None of us can stand completely on our own. We need each other’s friendship, we need each other’s encouragement, we need each other’s prayers. And yes, we need each other’s admonishment and we need to submit to one another. That is real freedom in Christ.

I realized many years ago that I had an unhealthy independent spirit. I had left 3 denominations and became pastor of a non-denominational independent church. I had become anti-denominational and proud of my badge as an independent pastor. But after trying to pastor 3 independent churches, I found them more problematic than a denomination, fostering an unhealthy spirit of pride, bitterness, separateness, and rebellion, not only in the churches but also in myself.

My Dad tried to encourage me to come back to my original denomination, but I fought against it until I realized I was fighting the Lord. Someone gave me a right-on prophetic word, saying that I was like a can with a generic label, but that God was putting a name brand label on me, yet the contents would still be the same. I am now back in the denomination of my childhood, and though it is not perfect, I have never been happier.

I celebrate my independence as an American, and I am proud to be an American. But I never want to be independent as a Christian. I never want again to be independent as a pastor. I want always to be biblically interdependent with the family of God. I pray we all set our sights on the Higher Life in Christ and become free from an independent spirit.

 

 

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Is It of God? Biblical Principles for Spiritual Discernment

After a hiatus of a few years because of an incredibly busy schedule, I am starting to blog again, introducing my newest book Is It of God? A Biblical Guidebook for Spiritual Discernment. Here is a summary of 8 principles from Chapter 2: 

Spiritual discernment is a bit like driving a car. We need to learn when to press down the accelerator, apply the brakes, or continue to move forward with alertness and caution. The illustration of approaching a traffic light while driving helps to picture the process of discernment: Green Light means Go. Red Light means Stop; go no farther. A yellow light means slow down and get ready to stop. A blinking yellow light means proceed with caution, looking in all directions.

Eight biblical principles of discernment help us to know whether to press on the gas, press on the brakes or proceed forward with caution. These are based on the acronym DISCERNS:

DISCOVER BIBLICAL PRECEDENT. Is the teaching, practice, or manifestation found in Scripture? (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Do any biblical commands, principles, or examples clearly question or condemn this teaching, practice, or manifestation? This is an automatic red light. Do any biblical commands, principles, or examples permit or sanction this teaching, practice, or manifestation? This may be a green light, but it also may be a blinking yellow light that requires looking in all directions for further confirmation of two or more Scriptures or other witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1). If we do not have a green light from clear scriptural precedent, then we need to proceed with a blinking yellow light caution by exercising the other discernment principles that follow.

INVESTIGATE FOR SCRIPTURAL HARMONY—If no biblical precedent can be found, we need to be a Berean (Acts 17:22), examining closely and asking: is this teaching, practice or manifestation in harmony with Scripture? Proceed with a blinking yellow light, looking in all directions and prepared to stop (Red light!), if found to be not in harmony with Scripture; green light, if found to be in harmony with Scripture.

It is important to discern between “un-biblical” and “not biblical.” “Unbiblical” is a teaching, practice, or manifestation that contradicts or compromises, takes away from, or adds to (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6), or goes outside the bounds of Scripture(1 Cor. 4:6), making Scripture insufficient for salvation and truth—Red light“Not-biblical” means not found in the Bible (Blinking Yellow Light). Just because it does not appear in the Bible does not automatically mean it is wrong (such as Sunday school, youth groups, terms like Trinity and rapture, etc.)Much that is genuinely of God is not found in Scripture (John 20:30-31; 21:25). We must be careful not to condemn what Scripture does not condemn (Luke 9:49-50). We proceed with caution, looking in all directions.

On the other hand, just because it does appear in the Bible does not mean it is automatically always OK.

We need to be careful not to confuse normal with normative. Some things in the Bible are unique and not precedent-setting. Some things could be repeated, but are rare in the Bible (stilling the storm, protection from poisonous food or snake bites, being caught up to the third heaven, use of prayer cloths for healing, resurrections from the dead, walking on water, turning water into wine, etc.)

SCRUTINIZE FOR SOUND DOCTRINE. Is this teaching, practice, or manifestation consistent with sound biblical theology, interpretation, and/or practice? Is it accurate use of Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15)? Is it sound teaching in agreement with what Christ taught (1 Tim. 6:3)? Is it in accord with teachings handed down from the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15: 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2)? (Green light)Does it compromise the deity or humanity of Christ? the virgin birth of Christ?  the atoning blood of Christ? the resurrection of Christ?  the authority of Scripture?  The reality of heaven and hell? the Trinity? Salvation by grace through faith? (Red light!)

CONFIRM WITH EXPERIENCE. Is this teaching, practice, or manifestation confirmed from real life experience (Mark 16:20; Heb. 5:14)? Doctrine is not merely theoretical; it is confirmed by examples from life. If the experience is in harmony with Scripture—green light; maybe—blinking yellow light; no—red light.

EXAMINE THE FRUIT. Does teaching, practice, or manifestation bear good fruit(Matt. 7:16-18)? Is Jesus Christ lifted up and glorified? Does it edify spiritually? Are people saved and/or lives transformed? Does it bring people closer to Jesus? Does it build godly character? Does it edify? Yes—green light; maybe—blinking yellow light; no—red light.

RECEIVE SUPERNATURAL DISCERNMENT. Pray for the gift of discerning of spirits to shed light (1 Cor. 12:8, 10; Col. 3:15). The Holy Spirit often gives a witness or a check where Scripture says nothing. You know intuitively in your spirit—a sense a peace (green light) or lack of peace (yellow light or red light).

NOTE EXAMPLES AND LESSONS FROM THE PAST.  Can we find similar precedent in teaching, practice, or manifestation in church history(Heb. 11; 12:1; Jer. 6:16; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). Yes, if in harmony with Scripture—green light; maybe—blinking yellow light; no—red light.

SIFT AND WEIGH FOR EQUILIBRIUM. Does this teaching, practice, or manifestation represent a biblical balance? Green light, if the answer is “Yes”; Red right if the answer is “No”; Yellow light, if one-sided, there are continuing questions, or the answers are mixed.

My newest book Is It of God? A Biblical Guidebook for Spiritual Discernment is available for purchase at http://www.paulkingministries.com

 

 

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