Monday, October 09, 2006

Reasons for the Absence of Discernment 1

It appears that spiritual discernment is deficient amongst Christians today, especially within Contemporary Evangelicalism. But what could be the reasons that might account for such a deficiency? Again, why are serious doctrinal errors and multifarious “movements” ensnaring Evangelical Christians? If the Holy Spirit guides us into all Truth, why are Christians so confused with regard to the teachings of the Bible?

Spiritual Immaturity

Peter exhorted the Christian Diaspora to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Likewise, Paul chastised the Corinthian Christians for being spiritual babes. Subsisting only on spiritual milk, they were unable to take solid food. “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor 3:2).

Therefore, the first obvious reason for the lack of discernment is spiritual immaturity. This can be the consequence of slothfulness, the unwillingness to study the Bible, a lack of interest in spiritual things, or the inadequacy of good teachers. A spiritual baby will not be able to discern right from wrong, truth from error, or the shepherd from the wolf.

Caught up with the cares and worries of this world, some are unwilling to invest more time for the study of God’s Word, while others are too exhausted after slaving for riches and honor. When the world ceases to be a battleground for the pilgrim, it is transformed into a playground where carnal believers wallow in its lusts, pride and beauty.

Some Christians even claim to glorify God by doing well in examinations, securing a prestigious job in a company, or achieving an impressive post-graduate degree. One wonders how God is glorified by the sacrifice of personal devotional time, the neglect of Bible study, and the desecration of the Lord’s Day by missing church services and fellowship. There is nothing wrong with achieving good results in examinations or acquiring a doctorate per se, but when priorities are confused, these pursuits can easily dominate a person’s life. Precious resources such as time and energy are consequentially invested in areas other than the Lord’s work.

The conscience has an uncanny way of defending selfish desires by camouflaging it in “Christianized” uniforms and garbs. The quest for personal gains is sometimes disguised as “God glorifying” deeds. Nevertheless, when self is placed on the pedestal of worship, the only “god” that is glorified is the god of this world.

When addressing the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, the author of Hebrews wrote, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat (Hebrews 5:12).”

This rebuke is true for many who (choose to?) remain in spiritual infancy, when they ought to have matured to consume strong meat. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

The ability of spiritual discernment will not be available to those who choose to remain in spiritual infancy. If they refuse to study the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is unable to use the Bible to transform the mind of the believer (Romans 12:2).

Spiritual maturity does not come via sudden visions, dramatic dreams, exhilarating experiences, electrifying emotions or fanciful magic shows and skits. The Holy Spirit works by applying the written Word. The Bible and the Third Person of the Holy Trinity work in tandem to bring about spiritual growth. No amount of fables, newspaper headlines or “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul” from charismatic preachers will bring about spiritual revival. The only “revival” observed here is a biological, pheromonal ecstasy or an adrenaline rush to the unthinking brain.

To be continued

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