As we close out Chapter 1 in John Bevere’s book Good or God?, I think it is fitting to return to the mysterious idea of discernment.
Author Geri Ungurean defines discernment as “The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; an act of perceiving something; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” The definition also stresses accuracy, as in “the ability to see the truth.” Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is basic to having wisdom. He goes on to say “I’ve heard it said that discernment is the ability to tell the difference between right and almost right.”
I like that definition because I think it fits Pastor Bevere’s concept of discernment, the key factor in determining man’s concept of good and God’s concept of good. Bevere writes that God’s concept of good is not always clear to our “natural thinking, reasoning or senses” [Bevere, 11]. Bevere quotes Hebrews 5: 11-12, 14: “We have much to say…since you have become dull of hearing.” He is not referring to Christians who cannot hear well any longer. He is referring to Christians who have lost their ability to discern. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Instead of growing in their faith, these Christians were stuck. The writer of Hebrews felt they should be able to discern the will of God but he scolded them and said they still needed milk [like babies].
That is where a lot of us are when it comes to discernment. Sadly, we don’t listen to God calling out to us to do His bidding. We are distracted by the siren calls of the world: “what is cool”, our friends, society’s notion of status, etc. etc. We try to do what we think is “good” and miss His higher calling to do the best He has in store for us.
Bevere ends Chapter 1 with the famous passage from Matthew 16 when Peter disagreed with Jesus about His impending death. Jesus said He had to go to Jerusalem and there He would suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law. He even announced that He would be killed.
Peter said “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
Then Jesus rebuked Peter with the famous words “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter was worried about his own earthly concerns, when Jesus was telling him this news because God had revealed the information to Him. Of course Peter wants to protect Jesus. He wants him to have a long life, but God has other ideas. Jesus’ death is the fulfillment of scripture. It was part of God’s plan to redeem man, so it had to be. Indeed Jesus was privy to a higher level of spiritual knowledge than Peter.
As we wrap up Chapter 1, it is good to realize that growth in discernment is the purpose of this study. Bevere intends to teach us how to “illuminate” God’s will for our lives through the scriptures. He knows we should respond to the “help” of our Holy Spirit so we will experience what is good for our lives and avoid what will ultimately be detrimental.
Why would we not want to be able to discern to a greater degree than we do? Back in Hebrews the writer says “Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, those by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
From the Gotquestions.org website [a source that I often use], there is the following practical explanation of discernment. “When a bank hires an employee, he is trained to recognize counterfeit bills. One would think that the best way to recognize a counterfeit would be to study various counterfeits. The problem is that new counterfeits are being created every day. The best way to recognize a counterfeit bill is to have an intimate knowledge of the real thing. Having studied authentic bills, bank cashiers are not fooled when a counterfeit comes along. A knowledge of the true helps them identify the false.
This is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. We must know the authentic so well that, when the false appears, we can recognize it.
Indeed it takes time as one dedicates themselves to reading Scripture. It takes dedication as one searches for insight in God’s words. It takes wisdom to apply the truth to areas of life that have been neglected. It takes “hearing” as we receive messages from the Holy Spirit, messages that lead us to the “real” good that God has in store for us.