Growing in Discernment, Part 1
Topic: Discernment Scripture: Philippians 1:9-11
church, discernment, people, truth, discerning, God, verse, hearing, emotions, Christians, pastors, Christ, Word, worship, knowledge, understand, Paul, ads, led, doctrine
Table of Contents
- Because of a Deficiency of Bible Teaching. - 3 -
- Because of Dullness of Hearing. - 4 -
- Because of a Discomfort of Seeming Divisive. - 6 -
- Because of a Disengaged Mind. - 8 -
- Because People are Driven by Emotions Rather than the Mind. - 9 -
- Because of a Defective View of the Church.. - 10 -
- Because of a Devotion to Self. - 12 -
This morning we are in Philippians chapter 1 as we've been studying through the book of Philippians. And we've now gone through the opening prayer that the apostle Paul gives, as he prays for the Philippian believers. This morning we're going to do more of a topical sermon, a topical, expository sermon, as we exposit God's Word, but we're going to talk about a topic here this morning of discernment, the topic of discernment. And so I would encourage you to open your Bibles to Philippians chapter 1. Philippians chapter 1.
Having four children, I can remember the days when they were infants, and everything that they got their hands on, went right to the mouth. As a parent, you get really good at the finger swipe. Because you have to fetch whatever is in there, out of that little mouth, you've got to swipe it, and get it out of there. You grab those little cheeks, you open up that mouth, you stick your finger down in that mouth, and you swipe, and you pull out that penny or that toy, or whatever it is that they've gotten into their mouth. And then you have to train them and teach them and continue to teach them -- don't put things in your mouth.
In the church at large today, we have a bunch of Christians sitting in pews, who are like those infants. They hear something preached, they listen to something on the radio, they read something in a book, and they take whatever it is that they have just heard, and they stick it right in their mind. And there's so many times that I want to say to people, "Don't put that in your mind! Don't put it there!"
The author of Hebrews says this in Hebrews 5:13. "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Heb 5:13)
People who take anything someone says and put it in their mind are showing that they are not mature people. But they're infants. Immature. Just like an infant puts everything in their mouth, the immature person takes everything and puts it in their mind. But God calls us to be discerning people. He tells us not to take everything and put it in our in our minds, but to test it first, to examine it, study it, look at it to see if it's true. We looked at this last week as we saw Paul's prayer for the Philippians. That's what we're going to look at here this morning. This topic of discernment -- as Paul prayed for discernment for the Philippian believers. Specifically, we're going to be looking at verses 9 and 10. And so follow along as I read in Philippians chapter 1 beginning in verse 9.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; (Phil 1:9-10)
As I said last week, that word "approved" there in the Greek is dokimazo, and it means to "put to the test" or "to examine", to put to the test or to examine. And this is what we're going to focus on here this morning as we talk about discernment. We must be people who test and examine all things. In fact, Paul said to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "But examine" (dokimazo- it's the same Greek word that he uses there.) "But examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good." Examine everything, everything and examine it carefully.
To be a discerning person means to be one who examines what you hear. To examine the information that is given to you. And if it's found to be good, or excellent, which means if it is found to be lining up with the truth of God's Word, then hold on to it. Hold it fast. But if it's not -- get rid of it. Don't put it in your mind. Keep it out of your mind.
Let me ask you a question. How do we become discerning people? How do we then become discerning people? If God wants us to be people who practice discernment, how do we become discerning people? Well, I want to help you with that. But before I do, I want to go back to a statement that I made last week, which is this.
One of the biggest problems with the church today is a lack of discernment, a lack of discernment. There's a great lack of discernment in the church today. And people wonder why the church is in the state that it's in today. The SBC had its annual convention two weeks ago. And one of the things that they are now arguing over in the SBC is the word pastor, and what the word pastor actually means.
Why are they arguing over this? I'll tell you why. Because Rick Warren, who by the way, is someone you should stay away from. Be discerning, stay away from him. Rick Warren ordained three women as pastors last year. And so he now wants to redefine pastor. But the Bible clearly states in 1 Timothy 3, that "an elder or an overseer in the church is to be the husband of one wife." It's clear, husband of one wife, which means it can only be a man. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:11, "but I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet." It's very clear in Scripture, God is very clear about this. But now these people want to argue over the word pastor, and many people stood behind Rick Warren, as he said this to the entire SBC, all of these churches, 1000s of churches that were represented there, and they cheered him. It's a lot of people who lack discernment.
The church today has a tremendous lack of discernment. Why? Let me give you a few reasons why.
Number one first, because of a deficiency of Bible teaching. Because of a deficiency of Bible teaching. Many pastors get up on Sunday mornings and they give messages and the majority of the time all they do is tell stories about themselves. Then they throw in a Bible verse, give you some encouraging note or some nice cliche for you to live your life by for that week...and completely miss out on teaching the Bible. And the sad thing is, is that there are some Christians who are there in these churches who should be growing. And you should be growing through a pastor who stands up and teaches them the Word of God. But these pastors don't teach the Bible.
I'm sure you've heard the popular phrase, doctrine divides. That is a true statement. Doctrine divides. But sadly, many Christians have nothing to divide over with anyone because they don't know doctrine. They aren't taught the Word of God; they aren't being taught theology. They aren't being taught the meaning of the Bible. They aren't gaining real knowledge as Paul prayed for, for the Philippian believers, right? To grow in love through real knowledge, through doctrine, through theology, through the truth.
So, these people just go on living their lives as spiritual infants, who are devouring anything and everything that someone throws at them. But true discernment goes hand in hand with knowledge. Remember, we talked about that two weeks ago, in verse nine of Philippians 1 -- Paul talks about "real knowledge and all discernment." (Phil 1:9) Real knowledge and all discernment. We talked about knowledge -- that knowledge is theology. Knowledge is theology, and discernment is the application then of that theology. But you can't practice discernment if you don't have the knowledge. If you don't have the theology, you cannot practice discernment.
Many Christians don't have the theology because pastors aren't teaching it to them. They tell cute stories and talk about psychology and feelings rather than about the truth of God's Word. And those pastors will be held accountable before God for their lack of teaching God's people. In fact, that's why James 3:1 says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such, we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) God says that those who don't handle His Word correctly, God will be ashamed of them. God will be ashamed of them. Listen to 2 Timothy 2:15. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15)
I heard a podcast this week of two pastors talking about ministry in their church. One of them was talking about how he used to love to study theology, loved it, loved going to a church where the Bible was taught deeply -- grasping the truths of God's Word. But now he's happy that he's at a church where it's all about "life change." And these pastors were talking. And as they were talking, they were essentially mocking Christians who say that they want to go deeper. So, I got on Google, or DuckDuckGo...that's what I use. And I looked this church up. (I think that's what Christians are to use, right? DuckDuckGo :-) ). I looked this church up. And the current series that this so-called pastor is doing right now is called this: "Movies from the 90s." Movies from the 90s... and the point of it was to take a movie from the 90s and find the storyline and then somehow tie it into God. Well, that doesn't surprise me since he doesn't want to take Christians deep. In fact, he isn't taking them anywhere in God's Word. He's making them more worldly and less discerning and showing that he has no discernment. And it breaks my heart because his job is to point Christians to the Word of God. And they're sitting there on a Sunday morning, getting a message about a movie.
Church there is a deficiency of Bible teaching in our churches in America. But we must be those who hunger and thirst for the truth. We must grow in our knowledge of God's Word so that we might be discerning Christians. So, there's a lack of discernment in the church because of a deficiency of Bible teaching.
Second, there's a lack of discernment because of dullness of hearing. Because of dullness of hearing. Now what do I mean by dullness of hearing? Well turn in your Bibles over to Hebrews chapter 5. Hebrews, chapter 5. The author of Hebrews, as he's writing at this point in chapter 5 begins to talk about Christ as our perfect high priest. And he begins to talk about the order of Melchizedek. And in Hebrews chapter 5 in verse 11, notice what he says there. He says, this, concerning him. Him... that is Melchizedek. "Concerning Melchizedek, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become" notice, "dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principals of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Heb 5:11-14)
The context here is that the author of Hebrews is wanting to tell this Jewish audience about the priesthood of Christ, and specifically relating it to the order of Melchizedek. But he gets to this point, and it's hard for him to explain it to them because - notice - they have become what? "dull of hearing". The Greek word for dull means lazy or sluggish, lazy or sluggish. The NIV translates the verse this way, "we have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand." You don't want to understand, there's no desire to learn the truth of God's Word. Notice the author of Hebrews says in verse 12, that by this time, they should have been teachers. They should have been teachers, which means that they would not only know doctrine, but that they would know it so well that they could teach others the truths of God's Word also. But they need someone to teach them the basics of Christianity.
What are those basics? Look at chapter six and verse one. Notice what he says there, "therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again, a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God." (Phil 6:1) What’s the basics of Christianity? It's the basic gospel message, repentance from dead works and faith toward God. And what the author is saying here is that they had become so lazy, so sluggish in their hearing, that they had no desire to even get beyond the basics of the gospel...which is the total opposite of King Solomon. King Solomon.
Let me show you turn over to 1 Kings chapter 3. 1 Kings chapter 3. In 1 Kings you have God speaking with King Solomon and then King Solomon giving an answer to God. And look at 1 Kings chapter 3, the beginning in verse 5, it says this. “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5) Now, how would you answer that question? Ask what you wish me to give you. Ask, I'll give it. Notice what King Solomon says in verse six. " Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. (1 Kings 3:6)
That’s Solomon, David's son, sitting on the throne. Look at verse seven. “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted.” (1 Kings 3:7-8) And look at verse nine. “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)
King Solomon was about 20 years old during this time. It's why he says I'm but a little child. I do not know how to go out or to come in. I'm 20 years old. And he recognizes how immature he is. And he understands that he needs wisdom and discernment in order to lead God's people. But Solomon doesn't just ask for wisdom to lead. But notice what he asked for. Look at verse nine again, notice what he says, "Give your servant an understanding heart." (1 Kings 3:9) In the Hebrew, those two words "understanding heart" is literally a hearing heart. God give me a hearing heart. The total opposite of those Jews and Hebrews who are "dull of hearing" and not able to get past the basics of Christianity. King Solomon asked God to give him a hearing heart. One translation says, "a discerning mind".
He knew that in order to have discernment to lead and to judge God's people and to tell the difference between good and evil. He needed a hearing heart. God give me a heart that hears the truth of Your Word so that I might know the truth of Your Word so that I might know how to lead Your people. But there are a lot of Christians today who have no discernment, because they have no desire to get past the basics. They don't desire a hearing heart. They don't want to do the hard work and study God's Word and listen to the truth. And sadly, pastors give into this type of laziness. And they feed this people this way, and they don't encourage them to go deeper. They don't encourage them to grow. They don't encourage them to become more mature.
But it's not just the pastors. It's also Christians who are dull of hearing. Jay Adams says about the lazy Christian..."If he will not sharpen his powers of discernment by aggressively practicing them, he will soon develop a lethargy and a habitual state of lazy nonchalance about the faith." If you don't practice discernment, if you don't have a desire to hear God's Word, to hear the truth to grow deeper in God's Word. You will become lazy, and you will become dull of hearing and you don't want to hear it anymore. And then you're just nonchalant about the faith. And this is the state of the church at large today. Dull of hearing, no desire to grow deeper. And so, there's a great lack of discernment in our churches today, there's a great lack of discernment, because of a deficiency of biblical teaching and the dullness of hearing.
Number three, a third reason why is because of a discomfort of seeming divisive. A discomfort of seeming divisive. There are a lot of Christians who think that if they dive deep, and that they take a stand for the truth of God's Word, that this will be divisive. And this is true both in their interactions with other Christians and with the world. So, they just try and get along with everybody. Whatever someone else says they just agree, because they don't want to seem divisive. So, they'll begin to listen to false doctrine that's being taught and lies that are being spouted by the world. And then they begin to put them into their mind and believe them. They won't take a stand because they're fearful that if they learn the truth of God, and take a stand for the truth, then they will be divisive.
But listen church -- doctrine divides. The truth divides. Now, is it our desire for doctrine to divide? No. It's not our desire, we wish that everyone believed the truth is taught in Scriptures, right? But the fact is, people don't. So when we become discerning and take a stand for the truth, the truth is going to divide. Let me show you this, by an example of our Savior. Turn over to John chapter eight. John, chapter eight. This is Jesus being confronted by the Jews. And what's interesting is that, John chapter eight, verse 31, it says, "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him." (John 8:31) These are those Jews who had even claim to believe in Him or claim to believe Him. But notice what He says in John chapter eight and verse 43. He says, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” (John 8:43-45)
Was Jesus worried about getting along with these people and not hurting their feelings? What did He do? He spoke the truth. He spoke the truth. And He spoke the truth out of love, because it was based upon real knowledge, and true discernment. The knowledge was that they were of their father, the devil, and so they couldn't hear the truth. But Christ's desire was that they would come to know the truth. In fact, look at what he says in verse 46. He says, "Which one have you convict me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?" (John 8:46) Why do you not believe me? I'm giving you the truth.
Jesus gave them the truth and He wasn't going to back down from the truth and give in to the Pharisaical teaching of the day, the religious teaching of that day was all about works-righteousness. And they had thought that being a child of God and getting into heaven was just being a Jew. If I was born a Jew, or I became a Jew, well, then I get into heaven. That was the religious teaching of the day in Israel. But Jesus didn't give into their feelings. Well, how do you feel about that? What did He do? He spoke the truth, because it's the truth that is going to set them free. And He stood up for the truth. And He spoke the truth that He had heard from the Father, which is what he says in verse 40. "He had heard the truth from his father, and then he spoke it to them." (John 8:40) We hear the truth from the pages of Scripture, and then we speak it to others.
And what was the outcome then of Jesus speaking the truth? Let me show you what the outcome is. Look over at verse 59. Verse 59, says this, "Therefore, they picked up stones to throw at Him." (John 8:59) For speaking the truth. They wanted to stone Him. There is such a fear of having stones thrown at us in the church, that we don't practice discernment. But instead, the Church gives into the lies of the enemy, and they believe what the enemy wants us to believe. Because we're afraid of having stones thrown at us. And the church then becomes less discerning because they mix truth with error, which becomes error. Truth mixed with error is error. It's no longer truth.
As I mentioned last week, Charles Spurgeon said, "discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right." That's true discernment. That's how we must be thinking, in our minds, knowing the difference between right and almost right. That was close. But it's not right. I'm not holding on to that. But the church has become afraid to stand up and say what is right. And so, they become less discerning. And they begin to believe that things that are almost right in order to please others. We must be discerning and not be afraid to speak the truth.
We speak the truth in love, right? Paul tells us that in Ephesians 4:15. That's the only way somebody is going to grow in Christ or come to know Christ is if we speak the truth in love. We must speak that truth with a love for them. But we must discern the truth from almost truth. And then hold on to that truth and take a stand for that truth and then speak out that truth. And if the stones come at us, let it be. Then we can rejoice that we are being persecuted for our Savior. Isn't that what the apostles did? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for their Savior. What did they do? They spoke the truth. But there's a lack of discernment in the church today because Christians are afraid to speak the truth.
Let me give you a fourth reason. Number four, there's a lack of discernment in the church, which ties in with the previous one because of a disengaged mind of a disengaged mind. What do I mean by this? I mean, this is a person who disengages with the truth and begins to open their mind up to all kinds of other junk. This is a person who claims to be "open minded" as if that's some kind of virtue. I'm an open-minded person. But God tells us we are not to be open minded. We're to be closed minded. In fact let me show you. Turn over to Ephesians chapter 4. Ephesians chapter 4. Paul is addressing the Ephesians in unity in the spirit in Ephesians 4, and he talks about the purpose of God establishing apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor-teachers in the church. And notice what he says in Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 13. He says, "until we all maintain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Eph 4:13) What is Paul's desire for the church? To grow and become mature!
And what happens when somebody becomes mature? Look at what he says in verse 14. "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Eph 4:14) What's he saying there? You're no longer to be open minded, close it, and grow, become mature in Christ --as you grow in His Word. Don't open your mind to every wind of doctrine. Study the truth and hold fast to the truth. And don't let anything else in -- close your mind to all of that other stuff.
Those people who open their minds up to all kinds of other teachings, other than the truth of God's Word are like children who are tossed here and there by waves. If you've ever been out on the ocean or a lake when it's really windy, you understand the imagery here, you understand this picture here and what Paul's talking about. Those waves just toss you all over the place. You want it to stop, but you can't control it. It now controls you and it tosses you around all over the place. And the same is true with those who listen to false doctrine -- to those who get away from discerning the truth found in God's Word -- they're just tossed around by every wind of doctrine. They don't know what they believe anymore. They've opened their mind to all of this other junk... to the lies of the enemy...and they're tossed all over the place. And then they get to a point where they are little children, spiritually speaking, and they're gullible to whatever new doctrine or false teacher on the radio or the TV screen tells them because they think it's a virtue, to have an open mind.
Listen, that is Satan's scheme. That's Satan's scheme, he gets into the church through bad doctrine, through false teaching. He knows he can't stand up here with a pitchfork and horns and say, "worship me". We will run, we will recognize that... it's too obvious. And so, what does he do? He uses false doctrine to get into churches to get people distracted from Christ. He wants Christians to open up their minds to false doctrine. And then he gets into the church, through deceitful scheming and the trickery of men -- of false teachers who claim to be a shepherd of the sheep fold, but who are really wolves in sheep's clothing.
Look, when we hear the truth of God's Word is taught in His Word, we are to grab onto it, hold onto it, and then close our minds to all of that other junk to all of the other lies of Satan that are out there. We aren't called to have an open mind. We're called to have a closed mind. We're called to have the mind of Christ as 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us.
And as I read earlier, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "But examine everything carefully. Hold fast to that which is good." (1 Thess 5:21) That word "hold fast" in the Greek means "to adhere firmly to". Or one definition says, to keep in one's memory. To take it and put it in your memory, put it in your mind, and keep it there and hold on to it. And don't let it go. Don't let other false teaching come in and push that truth out of your mind. But we must be discerning and know the truth and take the truth and plant it deep in our minds, and then close our minds to all of the other half-truths and lies that are out there. That's what we're called to do. That's what a discerning person does. But there's a lack of discernment in the church because we have too many open-minded people.
Let me give you a fifth reason. Number 5. Fifth reason why there's a lack of discernment in the church is because people are driven by emotions, rather than the mind. People are driven by emotions, rather than the mind. Now think about all the ads that are out there. Think of all the ads, TV ads, ads that popup on your computer, ads that come in the mail, all of these ads that are out there. I read a a marketing blog about ads. And it said this, "Ads that make people share and buy can usually be summed up in one word, emotional. That should be no surprise. Studies show that people rely on emotions, rather than information to make brand decisions. And that emotional responses to ads are more influential on a person's intent to buy than the content of an ad." Even the marketing companies have figured it out. And they know just get them riled up emotionally. And they'll buy... we'll get them hooked. They don't care about the information; they don't care about the content. Just go after their emotions. Then on this blog post, there was a picture of this little puppy sitting on a couch, the cute little face. What were they showing? Emotions. Someone's going to look at that and go "awwww" and they've got them. What did these ad agencies know? They know that people are led by their emotions, and they'll buy based upon that. People don't research the products; they don't care about the information being given. They just get emotional about something. And then they allow their emotions to lead them right into the purchase of a car, or whatever it is that the ad is wanting you to buy.
And the same is true in the church. Pastors will stand up and they'll give emotional speeches to draw people in and get them to come back. Why? Because they know that the people don't care about the information. They don't care about knowledge. They just get them pumped up, feed them a bunch of emotional stuff that will lead them down all kinds of different paths. And there's no discernment to stop and think about the content and what is being preached. Because it doesn't matter. They got to their emotions, and now they're hooked because they're being led by their emotions.
When King Solomon wrote the Proverbs his goal was to give wisdom through knowledge and instruction. In fact, turn over to Proverbs chapter one. Let me show you this. Proverbs chapter one. King Solomon is desiring to pass down wisdom to his son. And look at Proverbs chapter 1 beginning in verse 2. It says this,
"To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding,
3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4 To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles." (Proverbs 1:2-6) verse seven, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Look at the words that Solomon uses in order to gain wisdom here. Notice what he says in verse 2: instruction, understanding, in verses three and four, instruction, knowledge, discretion, in verses five and six, learning, understanding, counsel, understand. And then in verse seven, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. In order to be wise discerning people, we must acquire knowledge, instruction. But knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord. Solomon continues, though, and he says, "fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) They are those who are led by their emotions. What he's saying, those are the fools, who don't want to acquire instruction, who don't want to acquire knowledge. Those are the fools who are just being led by their emotions.
John Kitchen says, "The wise never graduate from the school of instruction and wisdom." Let me read that again. The wise never graduate from the school of instruction and wisdom. But the moment that we begin to think that we are above instruction, above knowledge, is the moment that we will begin to be led by our emotions. And our emotions will take us in all kinds of different directions. It's what they do -- emotions are up and down, right? Different emotions come. It's like a roller coaster ride. Our emotions are changing all the time. But the truth of God's Word never changes, never. And so, we need to be discerning and hold fast to that never-changing truth. So that we will become discerning believers. Don't be led by your emotions be led by the knowledge, the truth of God's never changing Word.
The sixth reason why there's a lack of discernment in the church is because of a defective view of the church, because of a defective view of the church. There are many people today who treat the church as some kind of social club. That’s all it is, is just one big social club, they come in with their coffee, they watch some kind of production happen on the stage, and then they go home, and they call it church. But that's not church. And that's not what the church is.
So, what is the church? Well, again, let me give you three truths about the church to help you understand what the church is:
- First, the church is not only made up of believers, but the church is for believers. The church is for believers. When Paul went into towns and planted churches, who was it that started these churches? Not just a bunch of random people in the city. It was believers, Christians, Christians who repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ. Listen church -- this place is not for unbelievers. Ace, how could you say that? This place, what we're doing here this morning is not for unbelievers? No. What we are doing this morning is for believers. It is for true Christians. Now are unbelievers welcome here? Of course, they are. They're welcome. And our prayer is that they would hear the Gospel, repent of their sin, put their faith in Christ and become a part of the church. But we're not going to take our service and gear it and change it and do what we do for unbelievers. Because what we do is not for them. They don't worship God. We do. They don't hear from God, we do. They don't desire to honor Christ and to live for Him. We do. And what we do on Sunday mornings, is to hear from God be fed by God's Word so that we can then go out and live for Him. We gather together to worship Him to give Him praise and glory. Church is for believers. Unbelievers can't worship Him. Because they don't know Him. So, the church is not for those people. It's for you and I who are believers who have come to worship God and hear from God and His Word. And that's why we don't cater our service, or our message to them.
- Which leads secondly, to this. The church is a place of true worship to God. The church is a place of true worship to God. The church is not only for true believers, but it is for true worship. And how is true worship to be done? Well, it's laid out for us in Scripture. God tells us how. One author says this, "In Scripture, God tells us how we should approach Him in public worship. We read the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible and see the Bible in baptism and the Lord's Supper." Is that good? That's good. We read the Bible, we sing the Bible, we preach the Bible, pray the Bible and see the Bible in baptism and the Lord's Supper. That's what we do in the church. We can't come to worship God however we want to. Israel tried that with the golden calf. How did it work out for them? Not good. Crush it up and put it in their drinks. Let them drink it. God was not pleased with Israel trying to worship Him however they wanted to worship Him. God tells us in His Word, how we're to worship Him, and we cannot deviate from that. But because people, and specifically pastors, don't understand what the church is, and the purpose of the church, they make up church and they do church however they want to. And when that happens, the people were there in the church aren't growing in the knowledge of God's Word and becoming more discerning. In fact, they're becoming less discerning, because they're thinking that they are worshipping God, when in reality, they are not!
Look, you won't become more discerning by me showing you clips of movies from the 90s. You won't. That's not church. That's not worship. Those people are sitting there becoming less discerning rather than growing in their knowledge of God's Word and being able to discern truth from error.
- Let me give you a third truth about the church that people don't understand. Which leads to a lack of discernment. And that is this, the church is to be a place where we encourage each other toward righteousness and holiness, toward righteousness and holiness. We are to encourage one another, to live righteous and holy lives. And that's where church discipline comes in. If your brother is in sin, what are you to do? Come on church. Go to him. If he won't listen to you, what are you to do? Bring one or two more with you. If he still won't listen, what are you to do? Bring them before the church. And if he still won't listen after that, what are you to do? Get him out of the church. Remove him from the church and treat them as an unbeliever.
Which means... what does he need? The Gospel...repentance and faith. That's Matthew 18. Those are the words of Jesus. That's what Jesus tells us to do in the church. But this isn't popular in churches today. And when this doesn't happen, then you get a church that is full of all kinds of sin and error, and it becomes an undiscerning church. There's now a mixture of truth and error. And you can't have discernment in a church where this is happening. Because true discernment is being able to assess truth from error. But if you don't preach the truth, and practice the truth, how can you encourage others to pursue the truth. And when you have people who are unbelievers running around in churches, mixing in with believers, and nothing is done to confront sin, then the two mixed together and there you have a place that is now full of undiscerning people. Because no one can tell what the truth is anymore...they just mixed it all together. There's a real lack of discernment in the church because people have a wrong understanding of what the church is.
Finally, number seven, seven, the reason why there's a lack of discernment in the church is because of a devotion to self. A devotion to self. People are devoted to self and self becomes the standard for which they discern the truth. They think it's right then it's right. Listen to what the Proverbs says about this kind of person.
- Proverbs 26:12. "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes, there is more hope for a fool than for him."
- Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way in which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
- Proverbs 12:15 “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
- Proverbs 3:7, "Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil."
Listen church, we are not the standard. And you can see what the Proverbs says about a man who thinks that he is the standard, who is wise in his own eyes. He has no hope. His way leads to death. He is a fool, and he doesn't fear the Lord. But as Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." We must get our eyes off of self and look to the Word of God. We are not the standard. This is the standard. God's Word is our standard. But when we think that our opinions, or the world's opinions become the standard of truth --we will show that we are foolish and undiscerning.
Charles Spurgeon said this about being discerning, he said this, "It is for us, therefore, to judge carefully, and not to think that any opinion will do... besides opinions have influence upon the conduct. And if a man has a wrong opinion, he will most likely in some way or other have wrong conduct for the two usually go together." Our opinion doesn't matter. We must look to the Word of God as our standard and seek the truth and find the truth. And when we find the truth in God's Word, we're to hold on to it. And don't let it go. Guard it, protect it. Don't let Satan come and steal it away. He wants to come and feed you lies. He's the father of lies. Don't listen to those lies. Listen to the truth and hold on to that truth. Hold it fast. Put it in your memory and keep it there.
Well, that is seven reasons for why there's a lack of discernment in the church today. So how do we get discernment? Well…come back in two weeks, and I'll tell you.