15 Diagnostic Discernment Questions, What is Discernment, and How do I Increase it?

“Discernment”. Source- Ligonier article linked at bottom

Five years ago Beth Moore was more cloaked in her language about receiving personal revelation. During her lessons she would say, “God laid it on my heart” or “God impressed upon me” which is still wrong because she was teaching from these impressions, and not the scripture.

Anyway, as time went on, she became more direct with her quotes from God. In one bible “lesson”, Moore told the audience that God said this to her, and she quoted him-

“I’m gonna tell you something right now, Beth, and boy you write this one down, and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it . . .”

So…that is prophetic language and it is clear that it is not from God. (Because what she said next was contrary to the bible). 1 John 4:1 applies here.

Five years ago I went on the Beth Moore retreat with some ladies. It was a weekend where we had devotionals together in small groups in the morning, fellowship all day, then we would gather to watch a DVD of a Beth Moore lesson and the leader would lead us in what Moore had ‘taught’. In my case, we had finished listening to one of Moore’s sessions on DVD. Moore spoke a long story about how God was speaking directly to her in specific sentences, and directing her on what to do at a given moment. As the lesson ended, a moment of silence passed and the screen went blank, the ladies sighed. One of them said, sadly, “I wish I had what she has.”

I was so struck and saddened by this. Bible study is supposed to energize us, lift us, empower us! Yet these ladies were drained, believing that Moore has a ‘more special’ relationship with God than they had. In fact, they believed Moore had so much more of that special something than us that would be impossible for us to attain it.

It was a perfect example of how false teachers drain us.

I spoke up and said, “We DO have what she has, the Holy Spirit! We all have Him inside us!” But they looked at me like I was crazy.

What ended up happening on the retreat is that after each lesson, the women talked about Beth Moore, her ‘power’ in God, her teaching style, her life. Their desire to “have what she has” made them want to be like Beth Moore, not be like JESUS.

You see the problem.

The root of the false teacher problem is that too many in the church lack discernment. You might be surprised to learn that the false teacher problem plaguing us in today’s church is not simply that ferocious wolves have come in, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:29). It’s also that those without discernment have let them. The Bible gives us our part in this problem too, saying,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (2 Timothy 4:3)

False teachers DO something for the one who lacks discernment. And so they gather the teacher and follow them, happily, because that false teacher is filling some unholy passion, one that is contrary to Jesus (or they would be having Jesus fill it.)

In this essay by Pastor Kevin DeYoung, he lists 15 Discernment Diagnostics. Number 10 is pertinent here. With Moore, and all the women (and men) teachers who go around saying that have had a word from the Lord, read this:

10. Does it promote an unmediated approach to spirituality? Mysticism, in its technical sense, can be defined as an approach to God apart from mediation. False spirituality tries to foster intimacy with God that does not go through the mediated revelation of Scripture and does not lead one to the mediation of Christ on the cross.

Please read Pastor DeYoung’s list. It is so well-written and incisive. Just a few sentences under each bulleted main idea, and it’s like cold water thrown on a feverish brain. See if any of these stand out to you, and if so, take them to heart. Satan’s subtlety knows no bounds, and it is easy to allow him to incrementally cloud our thinking. I loved how DeYoung phrased number 10; ‘an unmediated approach’. Meaning, does the teacher teach from the Bible, where Jesus had taught us first, or is her approach unmediated and direct, skipping the mediator of the Inspired Holy Spirit’s Word?

I bookmarked DeYoung’s list. I hope it blesses you and that you find it helpful.


Further Reading

John MacArthur Short essay, Q&A: What is Discernment and Why is it Important?

Tim Challies Book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

Sinclair Ferguson essay, What is Discernment?

GotQuestions: How Can I Increase My Spiritual Discernment?