“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and it was pleasant to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” [Genesis 3:6].
This is the main premise of Pastor John Bevere’s book Good or God?.
It wasn’t the evil side of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that drew Eve to sin, it was the “good” side.
Bevere says that the key words good, pleasant and desired touched him the most.
What does he mean touched?
He means the Spirit of God revealed the deep meaning of this scripture to him. In fact, he states that God said to him “There is a good that is not of Me. It is not submitted to Me.”
How could this be?
It is all about discernment, a term that is tossed around in some Christian circles but many don’t really know how discernment works. The dictionary definition says “(in Christian contexts) it means a perception that comes about in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.”
Some readers may have checked out by now, thinking that any perception that comes about in the absence of judgment must be a belief from the “lunatic fringe” of Christianity, but maybe it is not.
Sinclair Ferguson writing on the “Ligonier Ministries Website” [from R.C. Sproul’s ministry] says that discernment is a special grace gift and cites 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Psalms 199:66 as Scriptural support. A discerning Christian is not a judgmental Christian; discernment goes beyond judgment. “It [discernment] 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 [Jesus’] discernment grew as He experienced conflict with, and victory over, temptation, and as He assessed every situation in the light of God’s Word” [Ferguson, “What is Discernment?”].
You might think this is ok for Jesus, but does He expect us to develop discernment?
Yes He does.
It is a level of growth that we can aspire to, reading and studying the Word of God to the point that we can “think God’s thoughts after Him.” Does it come easily? No. Does it come quickly? No. Is it something we can ask for and expect that we can get? No.
It is a special grace gift.
Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” All men will not have that perception but Christians with great discernment can have inklings of this view if they devote the time and effort to really know God.
What is the value of discernment? Discernment can guard us from the false teaching that is so common in the world. Many spiritual leaders would have us believe their message but their word may not really be grounded in God’s word. Ferguson states that discernment can assist in spiritual healing. A Christian with discernment can see deeply into a person’s heart where they are struggling with issues that are damaging their lives. This “heart knowledge” can help another with healing that goes beyond physical healing or psychological healing. The focus is on spiritual healing. Discernment can allow a Christian to truly lead a “free” life. We all know that “things of this world” can bind us but a discerning Christian is not held back in life by worldly concerns. “The zealous but undiscerning Christian becomes enslaved—to others, to his own uneducated conscience, to an unbiblical pattern of life. Growth in discernment sets us free from such bondage, enabling us to distinguish practices that may be helpful in some circumstances from those that are mandated in all circumstances” [Ferguson]. Finally, discernment triggers spiritual development in the Christian. The discerning Christian avoids the frustration of understanding the presence of God in today’s world. This person can see harmony in all God’s work and how His words apply to the world today. This knowledge leads to phenomenal spiritual growth.
In the study of Good or God?, why should we be concerned with this idea of discernment?
Because our author claims it.
When he says “the spirit of God” said to me “There is a good that is not of Me. It is not submitted to Me”, he is talking about receiving a discerning word from God.
We can cast doubt on Bevere’s ideas and label him as a member of the “lunatic fringe” of Christianity, but let’s not do that.
Psalms 119: 125 has the prayer “I am your servant; give me discernment.”
Maybe we should pray that prayer…
And hope for the gift…