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Coming to Grips with Discernment

We live in the midst of competing claims to spiritual authority. New philosophies of ministries, charismatic phenomena, and institutions like the Mormons and Catholic Church confuse people with conflicting voices.

Is it worth the effort to sort it out? Why can’t we say “all paths lead to God” and call a cease-fire on theological disputes?

Whatever the superficial appeal of that attitude, it is not an option for Bible-believing Christians. We must “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). We must be people of discernment.

The Battle Is Not New

Our situation today is nothing new. False teachers have always opposed men of God. The Egyptian magicians challenged Moses. The prophets of Baal challenged Elijah. The Pharisees challenged Jesus.

Indeed, Jesus’ ministry baffled His contemporaries. Some thought He was John the Baptist; others thought Elijah; still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matthew 16:14).

In the midst of that confusion, Jesus called His disciples to discernment with the penetrating question, “But who do you say that I am?” (16:15). Peter exemplified God-given discernment when he said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16).

If the competing claims of spiritual leaders discourage you, take heart. You can separate truth from error as you lean on the Scriptures. They enable us to know the truth in our day and age (2 Timothy 3:16-17; cf. Psalm 19:7-9).

The Command to Discern

Discernment is not an academic exercise for theologians. God commands us all to be discerning. Jesus said “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

The apostle John also commanded discernment: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

As a Christian, it is your responsibility to judge whether someone truly speaks for God. It is part of the biblical life of a true disciple.

Take heart. Our next few articles will help you in the task.