I watched Pastor Justin Peters last night at Grace Community Church’s live stream of the introduction to his conference Clouds Without Water: A Biblical Critique of the Word-Faith Movement. That introductory hour of the two day conference was helpful in laying the ground work for the remainder of his lessons, because he explained what discernment is, and why it is important to practice, even for Christians who do not possess the gift of distinguishing of of spirits. (1 Corinthians 12:10).
Though Peters adds new video clips and updates the details over time, the overarching topics remain the same. Therefore if you are ever in a position to attend or watch it online as a video-conference, please do. I haven’t found a better series of lessons in which discernment is explained and then the audience is shown how to apply it to today’s Christian landscape. This link brings you to the conference outline and the topics specifically covered.
Providentially, as I read my Bible this morning, my reading brought me to John 7:17.
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
The context of that verse is Jesus is teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles. The audience is amazed that He teaches with such insight and authority. They wondered where Jesus obtained this insight and knowledge and the above verse is part of His answer. Now…what does it mean? Matthew Henry explains the first part of the verse:
That the most competent judges of the truth and divine authority of Christ’s doctrine are those that with a sincere and upright heart desire and endeavour to do the will of God (v. 17): If any man be willing to do the will of God, have his will melted into the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.
Observe here, First, What the question is, concerning the doctrine of Christ, whether it be of God or no; whether the gospel be a divine revelation or an imposture. Christ himself was willing to have his doctrine enquired into, whether it were of God or no, much more should his ministers; and we are concerned to examine what grounds we go upon, for, if we be deceived, we are miserably deceived. Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume
Walvoord continues with an explanation for the rest of the verse-
The religious authorities figured that either a person studied in a traditional school or else he was self-taught. But Jesus’ reply pointed to a third alternative. His teaching was from God who had commissioned Him (cf. 12:49–50; 14:11, 24). Jesus was God-taught, and to know Jesus properly one must be God-taught (6:45). In order to evaluate Jesus’ claim, one must desire to do God’s will. Since Jesus is God’s will for man, people must believe in Him (6:29). Faith is the prerequisite for understanding. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). If Jesus were only self-taught (speaking on His own) or a genius, then His ministry would be self-exalting. But He did not seek honor for Himself. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Walvoord, Blum
John MacArthur finishes us off. Remember, the verse is that if anyone’s will is to do God’s will then he will know if the teaching is from God. The first cause is that the person desires to do God’s will. THEN he will be able to discern the teaching.
There’s a beautiful analogy to this in Proverbs Chapter 1 where wisdom is personified and is an analogy to Christ. Chapter 1, verse 20, “Wisdom shouts in the street, even as Jesus did; lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: ‘How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing? And fools hate knowledge? Turn from your folly, from your simple mindedness, from your scoffing, and I will pour out my spirit on you and will make my words known to you.'”
Do you see? You turn, and then it becomes known to you. Repentance comes first. God does not grant light on his truth unless a man is anxious to walk according to that light. He doesn’t grant an understanding of truth until a man is willing to obey that truth. John MacArthur, Embracing the Claims of Christ
Are you willing to walk in His light? Are you desirous of understanding truth, discerning right from wrong and truth from error? Jesus was the only man on earth ever to perfectly represent the Father. Though we cannot represent Him perfectly, our our task is to strive for a better representation of Him each day, and we do this by obeying His will, delving into His truth, and discerning truth from error. Discernment is part of the mix in striving to represent the Father. He grants it all to us, the desire of His will, repentance, and discernment, so let’s praise Him that He drew us out of darkness and depravity so we could represent Him at all! He gave us the wonderful gift, He poured out His spirit on us and has made His words known to us.
Todd Friel’s Drive By Discernment. While Mr Peters’ conference covers the Health/Wealth and NAR movements and teaches how to discern them, Friel’s series has a wider range and covers discernment itself as a biblical topic.