Christian Discernment: A Practical Definition
By Paula Marolewski
What is really involved in Christian discernment? Is it something
mystical? An inner sense? Or is it more practical than that?
Hebrews 5:14 notes that discernment is the ability to recognize
good and evil: “Solid food is for the mature, who because
of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” But
you might say that recognizing good and evil is the end product of discernment. What about the actual process of discernment: how
do we get to the point of recognizing good from evil? How do we
gain that ability? What is involved in discernment? If we know
the process, we will get the product.
The process begins with establishing a solid definition. The American
Heritage Dictionary defines discernment as: “To detect or
perceive with the eye or the mind; to perceive the distinctions
of [which can be considered “to define”]; to discriminate.”
To detect. To define. To discriminate. Three “D’s” that
To detect. The first aspect of discernment is detection. Put simply:
open your eyes! Be observant. Pay attention. Scripture commands
us to “be sober” (I Thess. 5:8), and to be “on
the alert” (I Peter 5:8).
Remember what the Bible says about Satan and sin and evil: that
people fall prey to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eyes, and the boastful pride of life” (I John 2:16). That “each
one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James
1:13). That there are people who “hold fast to themselves
for an evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly; they
... devise injustices ... for the inward thought and the heart
of a man are deep” (Psalm 64:5-6).
The implication is that evil is often disguised, camouflaged,
or hidden. You have to be watching out for it. Satan doesn’t
walk around with a sign around his neck that says, “Satan:
Watch Out!” In fact, the Bible teaches that he often appears
as an “angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14). He is a deceiver – “a
liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). You have to keep
your eyes open, or you will lose the battle before you ever knew
there was a fight.
To define. The second aspect of discernment is to define what
you see. First, you have to see what’s around you. Then,
you have to think about what defines it. What are the characteristics
of this thing, this thought, this situation? Why do I want this
thing, this goal? How is this the same or different from other
good or evil things I am familiar with?
To discriminate. First, you detect something. Then, you define
it. Finally, you have to decide about it. “I’ve thought
about this thing, this thought, this situation, this decision in
my mind. These are its characteristics. Now, what does the Bible
say about this? What does my reason tell me about this? What do
trustworthy Christians think about this? What is God’s Spirit
telling me about this?”
This is where you are deciding if something is good or evil. After
that, it is up to you to obey God, or to disobey him. Remember,
the spiritual discipline of discernment – like all spiritual
disciplines – is meant to bring us closer to God. Discernment
helps us to recognize good and evil, and therefore, if we choose
the good, to live a holy life. In doing so, it strengthens and
deepens our relationship to God.
Detecting, defining, and discriminating: three very practial “D’s” that
define the art of Christian discernment.
© 2008 Paula Marolewski
Article Source: http://www.sinkyourroots.com
About the Author:
Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible
studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School
classes at Sink Your Roots. The above
article is an excerpt from Good
vs. Evil: The Discipline of Discernment.