Sunday, September 28, 2008

Discernment of the Spirit - not of man!

Spiritual discernment is not by subjective and easily mistaken gut feelings. Spiritual discernment is from careful study of God's word and applying it to every sphere of life. We discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by matching it against the Bible's teaching. The Apostle John explains that God's people listen to the Apostolic teaching, and therefore, all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus also taught this, that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27), and all of the Bible is Jesus' voice. 1 John 4:5-6 says this:

"They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

So for a Christian who is humble before the Scriptures, this issue of spiritual discerment is a simple one although it requires diligence and attention. God has given us the Scriptures so that we can discern what is correct and what is not. It is not by airy fairy gut feelings and "super-spiritual" emotionalism that we discern correctly.

The next question for us is, what should we question as Christians? What should be tested?

1 Thessalonians 5:19-24
“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

The Apostle tells us not to quench the Spirit and then explains how to not do this: by not despising “prophesyings” and proving all things (not just some things) and holding fast to what is good and abstaining from evil. Prophesyings refers to any form of teaching purporting to being from God. Therefore, teaching should not be disregarded off-hand, but proven. If proven it must be held fast to. If it cannot be proven or if it is disproven, then it must be rejected (Proverbs 30:6). We must test everything. Notice who this command is for! It is not simply for certain “special” people or only pastors, but for all of us! And we are to help each other (Proverbs 27:17). The noble Bereans are a good example to us of how to test, as they tested even the Apostolic teaching against the Old Testament, because God's word cannot contradict itself according to human reasoning:

Acts 17:10-11
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were of more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

They knew the principle given in Isaiah 8:20 and used this principle and were commended for doing so:

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Tell me then, how we may fulfill this biblical command:

1 John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

The verse makes it absolutely undeniable that anyone who is telling you not to question them or to question their teaching is telling you to ignore this biblical command. I have heard people threaten curses upon people who would question them. If we ask why they would do this in the light of these verses, it is clear that they do not want questioned because they cannot stand under the test of Scripture. Even the Apostles' teaching was to be tested against Scripture. Any who refuse to be questioned are both claiming to be greater than the Apostles and superceding the Word of God.

Paul's life after he became a Christian was one full of challenges and hardships everywhere he went. He suffered and was treated shamefully, but he said this:

Philippians 3:1-21
(1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
(2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
(3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
(4) Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
(5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
(6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
(7) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
(8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
(9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
(10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
(11) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
(12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
(13) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
(14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(15) Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
(16) Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
(17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
(18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
(19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
(20) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
(21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Paul, in other places felt compelled to name some of these enemies of the cross by name, as a warning so that there would be no mistakes made:

2Ti 1:12-15
(12) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
(13) Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
(14) That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
(15) This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

And also:

1Ti 1:18-20
(18) This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
(19) Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
(20) Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Note that these false teachers were in the church (!!) – they claimed to be Christians and even looked and acted like Christians for the most part. Jesus Himself warned us of this:

Matthew 7:15
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

As did the Apostle Paul and Jude:

Acts 20:29-30
“For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

Jude 3-4
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All faithful pastors and believers are called to this same responsibility: To warn against false teachers by name. May God raise up more pastors with the spine to actually do this.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

No comments: