What does Jesus think about discernment? This verse tells you

We live in an age where fellow Christians say that to speak of someone specific being a false teacher is mean, or ill-mannered, or inappropriate. “Just let them alone, God will take care if them,” they say. Or they claim that speaking against false teaching is uncivil, and to “Just pray for them.” Many of thems ay, “You can’t know if he/she is false, you don’t know their heart.”

The skill of discernment (and the gift, too) involves vigilance. It is extremely important. John MacArthur wrote,

In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

Every book of the New Testament (except Philemon) has some passage or chapter devoted to its writer urging fellow Christians to practice discernment in order to combat some false teaching or other. Jude is entirely taken up with the topic. And the exhortations in those books of the Bible are not to stand by and let false teachers be. Those admonishments are not to tolerate false teaching and wait until Jesus comes back to judge it. Not only the NT writers, but Jesus also has some very explicit thoughts about churches that practice discernment. And those instructions are not to overlook it, be passive abou ti, or ignore it. Quite the opposite.

You might know that the book of Revelation is a considered an apocalyptic book. It deals with last things, and Jesus’ return in victory. However the first two chapters are letters to churches of the time, but also warnings and encouragements for us in this day and all present days. Some churches received a commendation only, some received a hard warning only and most churches received a little of both.

In the letter to the church at Ephesus, we read that Jesus directed the apostle John to write,

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (Revelation 2:2).

In this letter, Jesus opens by congratulating the church for being discerning. They are lauded for their persevering efforts to retain the highest purity possible in their church. How? First, they can’t bear the evil ones in their midst, and second, they tested those who call themselves teachers. Their discernment was apparently a skilled discernment, because Jesus congratulates them for worming out which teachers were false.

Never, ever let anyone tell you that discernment is unnecessary.

John MacArthur preached on this verse from Revelation, saying in part,

Beyond that, verse 3 says something else about them: ‘You cannot tolerate evil men. You cannot tolerate evil men.’ They were intolerant of sin. They were sensitive to the presence of evil. They hated evildoers as God hates evildoers. They resented evil; they resented evildoers. They resented sin; they resented sin in the church. They recognized the damage that sin does to the fellowship and the testimony. They saw that sin in the church destroys the unity of the church and destroys the testimony of the church. They hated all that was morally bad, all that was spiritually bad. They knew that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

…Or, you could say this: ‘You put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.’ This is a church with discernment.

Where does discernment come from? Well, where does discernment come from; clearly, it comes from a knowledge of the truth, right? The only way you can discern error is know what? Truth. You have to have the truth in order to see the error.

Many evil people come into the congregations, particularly in the early church. Satan was infiltrating these early churches all the time. Judaizers, false teachers were everywhere. This church took the warning seriously.

Read or listen to the full sermon here

Practice discernment, whether you have been given the spiritual gift or not. It matters to Jesus. And if it matters to Jesus, it should matter to us.

discernment

5 Comments

  1. What happens when you try to approach someone about their doctrine and they do not address it? It is more difficult because it is an online situation, so not sure how to bring a ‘brother or two’ to caution and try to redirect this person. Just abandon the idea that they may change and watch as they continue to lead others astray? It’s kind of a helpless feeling to stand by as it takes place.

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    1. Hi Taylor,

      I understand completely the frustration as you stand by and watch it all unfold. It’s a horror and it grieves us. So then, imagine how Jesus feels! ALl that unbiblical stuff is done in HIS name!

      I can’t tell from your name if you’re a man or a woman, but if you’re a woman trying to correct brothers then that adds an extra wrinkle. In any regard, all should be done with gentleness and humility, as I’m sure you know and I’m sure you did. Online is harder, too, since tone and intent can’t be read in the face or voice.

      If you have influence you can ask the person questions, not accusingly but probingly. Oftentimes we sue words that we assume the other person knows the definition of but maybe they have a different understanding. Making sure you’re on the same page as an even playing field heps before you launch in. Then, you can ask them if they are open to you sharing a different perspective on whatever doctrine you’re discussing, but better to do it out of the public limelight. Maybe an email or a direct message. Then, if they say yes, share, and use lots of scripture. Man’s reasoning nor experience will convince.

      At any point if they close down communication or even if they don’t, pray! Appealing to Jesus via the Spirit is all the power one needs! It is God’s will that they may turn from the false, or it is His inscrutable will that the person persists in the false. At any rate, through it all, the main thing is to honor Jesus. So reaching out to a brother to correct him is both loving toward him and honoring to Jesus, if done sensitively but clearly and honestly. As for the helpless feeling, I understand. But all is under God’s sovereignty and there is a whole lot going on in the invisible realms that we are not privy to. Think of the scene in Job 1, or Elisha asking God to open his servant’s eyes (2 Kings 6:17), the scene in 2 Chronicles 18:21…Jesus is always working as the Father is working (John 5:17). We can’t see it, but it is happening.

      Pray 🙂

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      1. I am a woman who is also addressing a woman. It was done privately via email and I typically receive a response as we had been serving in online ministry together, but this time, no response. This individual seems to believe they receive direct revelation from God and is promoting the study of materials that are authored by known false teachers. I was very loving when I addressed it, I just hope that it was received that way. Thank you for your response. I will continue praying for that ministry!

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      2. Great! It sounds likeyou did everything in a God-honoring way and the best you could! It’s hard to watch the horror unfold, when a teacher promotes false doctrines such as personal revelation. I’m so sorry.

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