Posted in discernment, glorify, jesus, paul

Philippians 1:10- Why do we want to abound in all discernment?

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; (Philippians 1:9-10)

Let’s look specifically at verse 10. Whenever there is a ‘so that’ or a ‘in order to’ it means there is a causal relationship. We are supposed to DO something in order that a result can come about.

Here I’d like to focus on the “all discernment”. Why does Paul want the Philippians (and us) to have all discernment? Because discernment is a critical ingredient in an important process. The result Paul is praying for his people to have is to be pure and blameless on the day we stand before Jesus. So now let’s look at this process and see how in honing our discernment it helps us strive toward this end.

Literally, “With a view to your proving (and so approving and embracing) the things that excel” (Ro 2:18); not merely things not bad, but the things best among those that are good; the things of more advanced excellence. Ask as to things, not merely, Is there no harm, but is there any good, and which is the best?

Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 361). 

Now this is interesting. There are three questions the Commenter said we ask in discerning.

–Is there harm?
–Is there any good?
–Which is the best?

We already know that at the basic level, discernment means sifting between what is good and what is bad. That’s the part in asking ‘is there harm?’ In addition, as Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” That’s the second question.

And now here we have a third part of the process of discernment, distinguishing between what is good and what is best. This is an often overlooked part of discernment.

If your son or daughter is choosing a college to attend, if you’re able, don’t you want them to choose the best? If you’re buying a book to read, all other things being equal, don’t you choose the one with the best reviews? If you are a Sunday School Superintendent choosing new material to use in class, don’t you want the best? No one says, ‘Nah, I’ll pass over the best and settle for the merely good.’

It’s like if a tsunami is coming. The waters are rising and you’ve gotten to high ground. It’s good ground. You’re pretty sure it’s good enough. But you still have time to reach the best ground, where you can be sure you won’t get swept away. Do you stay put? Of course not. To save your life you strive for the best and highest ground.

Discernment is like that. I remember reading a Christian woman’s essay about this very thing in practical terms. Sunny Shell, on why she chose to no longer follow John Piper.

I’ve found the teachings from John Piper and “Desiring God” (after testing it with God’s word) requires more discernment than I currently possess. And since there are other Christian teachers/ministries I can learn from (e.g., John MacArthur/Grace to You, Alistair Begg/Truth for Life, R.C. Sproul and son, R.C. Sproul, Jr./Ligonier Ministries) that don’t give me tired-head, I’ve chosen to only follow those who are clearly and faithfully following the Lord (Heb 13:7).

Discernment includes searching out the best holy ground we possibly can, so that Jesus is MORE glorified rather than LESS glorified. Seek out what you know to be the best, and stick with that.

Keep going up and up

Our ultimate aim always is to glorify Jesus. However there are several additional reasons why we want to “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent”. The first reason is so that others will benefit.

all discernment – The term aisthēsis refers to the ability to make decisions for the benefit of others. 1:10 what is superior When the Philippians’ love abounds, they will be able to determine what is most valuable or beneficial to the community of believers.

Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Php 1:9–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

What if you were running from the rising waters of the tsunami again. And you were not too familiar with the ground and you thought you’d reached the highest you could go, and sat down to see if the waters would reach you or not. But along came someone who had hiked that hill before and knew there was a narrow pass that led to even higher ground? Would you stay put? Of course not, you’d be grateful someone came along and showed you that though where you were was good, it was beneficial to move to where it was best.

The second reason we discern is so that our minds can be renewed. And here we have the most critical reason why discernment is important. (along with the other items Paul prayed for us to have). The process of discernment helps to sharpen the mind and to renew it according to Christ’s likeness. This is the process I spoke of at the beginning.

Gills Exposition explains this aspect of the Philippians 1:10 verse

Or “try things that differ”. There are some things that differ one from other; as morality and grace, earthly things and heavenly things, carnal and spiritual, temporal and eternal things, law and Gospel, the doctrines of men and the doctrines of Christ; all which differ as much as chaff and wheat, as gold, silver, precious stones, and wood, hay, stubble.

These are to be tried and proved; they are not to be received without distinction, but should be examined, which is right and best to be chosen and preferred; and to such trial and examination it is necessary that a man should be transformed, by the renewing of his mind, that he should have spiritual light, knowledge, and experience, have his spiritual senses exercised to discern the difference of things.

Let Jesus freshen and open your mind
as you practice discernment. EPrata photo

Gill said these things are not to be received without distinction. In today’s Christianity we are barraged with the notion that we are to let the false teachers alone. We are not to point out the false doctrine. We are not to say this or that is a bad book. ‘Let God judge’ they say. ‘It will be taken care of in the end’ they say. However, failure to participate in the important process of discernment means you are choosing deliberately NOT to renew your mind.

The process of choosing, testing, weighing, examining, reading, comparing…all these are part of the process of how the Lord transforms our mind. As we hear a teaching and go back to the word, He transforms our mind. Through hard work, trial and error, we gain experience.

It would be nice if we were sitting around and Jesus simply plopped discernment and experience into our minds. This is what many of the false teachers say happens to them. They sit on their porch or sequester themselves in a cabin or shell peas and all of a sudden presto, a new revelation from God and a new ‘level’ of ‘fresh experience.’ They say, “God told me.” “God wrote the book for me.” “I saw Jesus and He said…” But that is not how it works.

When Paul said ‘persevere in the struggle’ and ‘run the race’, he didn’t mean as a sidelines armchair quarterback waiting for a personally dove-delivered epiphany. LOL, that is hardly running, now, is it? The practice of discernment is part of the struggle and through it, we gain experience and a transformed mind.

The more I practice discernment the more my love for Christ abounds, because that means I see Him more clearly than the day before. We still see through a glass dimly, but in practicing discernment, it’s like when we walk into a dark room, instead of choosing to turn on only a flashlight, we are using a floodlight.

So we end as we began, with Paul’s prayer:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; (Philippians 1:9-10)

Posted in evangelism, glorify, holy spirit

When they reject the Gospel…God is also glorified. Evangelism part 3/3

photo credit: Chris Yarzab
via photopin cc

We are commanded to share the Good News, make disciples, and teach (Matthew 28:19-20). We love Jesus so much that when we share Him and His unique and magnificent work on the cross, we think, why doesn’t everyone just see how clearly He loves us? Why don’t they see how great of a sinner we really are?” But we also know that minds are blinded and hearts are dead. (2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 4:18). Not all will accept the truth.

Jesus was very popular, with all His miracles and feedings and casting out demons. But after He’d fed the five thousand, He shared some hard truths.

When many of his followers heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:60-61)

They did.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66)

Was Jesus doing it wrong? They wanted to stone Him, throw Him off a cliff, and eventually they did kill Him. Many left His ministry after teaching them God’s standards and His words. Did Jesus do it wrong? Should He have been less oft-putting? Watered it down so they would listen?

Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know. Matthew 19:16-22 describes a young man who looked like the hottest evangelistic prospect the Lord had encountered so far. He was ripe. He was eager. There was no way he would get away without receiving eternal life. But he did. Instead of getting him to make a decision, in a sense Jesus chased him off. He failed to draw the net. He failed to sign the young man up. Should we allow our ideas of evangelism to indict Jesus? I think we need to allow His example to critique contemporary evangelism. Christ’s confrontation of this young man gives us much-needed insight into reaching the lost. (source)

His truths and the reaction to them should not be alien to you if you’ve been sharing the Gospel at all. One where the Holy Spirit is present, anyway! The truth of the Gospel always divides or angers. Paul’s truths caused riots. Stephen’s sermon caused him to be killed by stoning. They tried to kill Jesus many times. Christians today in Muslim nations are killed outright for their preaching. Jesus said that even families will be divided. (Matthew 10:34-36).

photo credit: daveblume via photopin cc

When there is a reaction, it is because people don’t like their sin exposed and don’t like even a discussion about it. Everyone wants to think they are good, and have a solid “moral compass.” The truth of it though is that we are all evil, rotten, and bad. Only God is good. And He is SO good He sent His Son to bring us evil bad rotten people iniquity to heaven under the covering of His blood. I wish the reaction would be over that fact, where people would shout for joy.

Back to evangelism. The word of God upsets.

When we evangelize the full Gospel, beginning with sin, wrath, and Law, and ending with the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, it will seem to cause some to reject. I say seem because we don’t know what is in store for that person and what work the Holy Spirit will do.

In one case of a street preacher baldly and honestly sharing the truth, one man who had heard the Gospel several times before was suddenly convicted on that day. He repented and was saved.

In other cases, like the Rich Young Ruler, he heard and rejected, and went away sorrowful because he wanted to keep his possessions (and was oblivious to his sins). (Mark 10:17-22)

God is magnified in both cases. How?

Wikimedia Commons

In the former, His Spirit drew the man to God and one sinner was rejoiced over by all of heaven (Luke 15:7). God is magnified immediately by His magnificent act of redemption.

In the second case, and in all cases where a person hears the Gospel and rejects it, God is also glorified, in the future. Here is a template of future glory onto God: God called Ezekiel to proclaim His word and go to where there was rebellion and stubbornness.

“And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:3-5)

When they stand before Holy God they will know He was faithful and true to His promises. He offered redemption, and in stubbornness and sin, they rejected it. His is still glorified, because He is true to His Holy name.

“Salvation is always attributed to God. A sinner’s judgment is always attributed to sinner’s unwillingness to believe.” (source)

My job is to deliver the truth and to pray the Holy Spirit applies it to your heart. Many will not believe and will reject. Some may come to faith. It is in the hands of the Spirit. But the message that is watered down to make you feel comfortable and wonderful is not the message of the Great Commission nor is it the whole counsel of God. We deliver the message that Jesus told us to deliver, how the receiver feels about it is up to them.

Jonathan Edwards wrote of God glorifying Himself,

“But it was his design to make a true manifestation of his glory, such as should represent every attribute. If God glorified one attribute, and not another, such manifestation of his glory would be defective; and the representation would not be complete. If all God’s attributes are not manifested, the glory of none of them is manifested as it is: for the divine attributes reflect glory on one another.”

“Thus if God’s wisdom be manifested, and not his holiness, the glory of his wisdom would not be manifested as it is; for one part of the glory of the attribute of divine wisdom is, that it is a holy wisdom. So if his holiness were manifested, and not his wisdom, the glory of his holiness would not be manifested as it is; for one thing which belongs to the glory of God’s holiness is, that it is a wise holiness. So it is with respect to the attributes of mercy and justice.”

God is sovereign in salvation, and whether they listen or they do not listen, God is always glorified because His attributes of justice, holiness, and mercy, and all His other attributes, are plainly manifested.

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Evangelism part 1
Evangelism part 2