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What Is Discernment?
Ligonier Ministry ^ | August 23, 2013 | Sinclair Ferguson

Posted on 08/24/2013 10:57:38 AM PDT by HarleyD

Someone I know recently expressed an opinion that surprised and in some ways disappointed me. I said to myself, “I thought he would have more discernment than that.”

The experience caused me to reflect on the importance of discernment and the lack of it in our world. We know that people often do not see issues clearly and are easily misled because they do not think biblically. But, sadly, one cannot help reflecting on how true this is of the church community, too.

Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.

Thus, discernment is like the physical senses; to some it is given in unusual measure as a special grace gift (1 Cor. 12:10), but some measure of it is essential for us all and must be constantly nourished. The Christian must take care to develop his “sixth sense” of spiritual discernment. This is why the psalmist prays, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge” (Ps. 119:66).

The Nature of Discernment

But what is this discernment? The word used in Psalm 119:66 means “taste.” It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. Thus, while warning us against judgmentalism, Jesus urges us to be discerning and discriminating, lest we cast our pearls before pigs (Matt. 7:1, 6).

A remarkable example of such discernment is described in John 2:24–25: “Jesus would not entrust himself to them … for he knew what was in a man” (NIV).

This is discernment without judgmentalism. It involved our Lord’s knowledge of God’s Word and His observation of God’s ways with men (He, supremely, had prayed, “Teach me good judgment … for I believe Your commandments,” Ps. 119:66). Doubtless His discernment grew as He experienced conflict with, and victory over, temptation, and as He assessed every situation in the light of God’s Word.

Jesus’s discernment penetrated to the deepest reaches of the heart. But the Christian is called to develop similar discernment. For the only worthwhile discernment we possess is that which we receive in union with Christ, by the Spirit, through God’s Word.

So discernment is learning to think God’s thoughts after Him, practically and spiritually; it means having a sense of how things look in God’s eyes and seeing them in some measure “uncovered and laid bare” (Heb. 4:13).

The Impact of Discernment

How does this discernment affect the way we live? In four ways:

How is such discernment to be obtained? We receive it as did Christ Himself—by the anointing of the Spirit, through our understanding of God’s Word, by our experience of God’s grace, and by the progressive unfolding to us of the true condition of our own hearts.

That is why we also should pray, “I am your servant; give me discernment” (Ps. 119:125, NIV).

TOPICS: General Discusssion; Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: discernment; discriminating; ferguson; sinclairferguson

1 posted on 08/24/2013 10:57:38 AM PDT by HarleyD
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To: HarleyD

It something not possessed by congress critters, Hollywood, or the MSM.

2 posted on 08/24/2013 10:59:08 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: HarleyD

when ‘I’ do it, it’s discernment.
when ‘You’ do it, it’s judgment.

3 posted on 08/24/2013 10:59:12 AM PDT by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: HarleyD

Discernment: something that disappeared from Western culture about 60 yrs ago, along with wisdom, prudence, discretion, self-control and grace.

It will return, after we have been painfully schooled.

4 posted on 08/24/2013 11:01:24 AM PDT by lurk
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To: HarleyD

Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. You can pray and ask for the gift of discernment, which is most excellent to have, but a trial to learn to use and apply.

5 posted on 08/24/2013 11:02:08 AM PDT by Truth2012
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To: HarleyD

Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, many people talk themselves out of this gift.

6 posted on 08/24/2013 11:04:23 AM PDT by svcw (Stand or die)
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To: Cvengr

you indicate a negative connotation with judgment.

it’s not that one can never judge, it is a warning to not judge hypocritically, and condemn others for doing the same things you do.

there is nothing wrong with Godly, righteous judgment. There is something wrong with for example ripping on someone for adultery while having your own private affair.

7 posted on 08/24/2013 11:10:59 AM PDT by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: Da Coyote

Indeed. To members of those groups you mentioned, it’s a “virtue” to be undiscerning and indiscriminate.

8 posted on 08/24/2013 3:30:01 PM PDT by ReformationFan
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