As I close this section on discernment, I’m reminded of Paul’s word to the Philippians. Paul says that we are to let our love abound yet more and more, in “all knowledge and discernment” that we may prove by testing the things which differ and are “more excellent.” This section was about discerning that which differs, but this is done in the context of guarding that which is most precious, and “more excellent.” Our focus must be on the treasure that has been committed to us. Previously I gave a list of items that I believe are “essentials.” Let us quickly revisit these and enjoy for a moment that these essentials are are wholly positive, delightful, and focused on what Christ is to us:
- The word of Prophecy- He has proven and vindicated that He is indeed the one who was promised, and that His word can be fully relied upon. We can trust Him when everyone else and every situation lets us down.
- The Mystery of the Incarnation – He is fully God – strong and able to save us to the uttermost. He is also fully man – able to sympathize with our weaknesses and touched with feeling of our infirmities, a perfect representative for us in Heaven – full of compassion and always living to make intercession for us.
- The substitutionary atonement – He has in one offering of Himself fully paid the price for our sins, and there is no longer any expectation of wrath for us. He has made peace with God on our behalf.
- Concerning regeneration-we have been born of the spirit, and born of God. We have received His life and nature and have become a new creation in Christ. We are changed from within and our spirit has been joined to the Lord. We are one with Him.
- The Assurance of Salvation, He is the Good Shepherd who will never let us escape or be plucked from His hand.
- Our identification with Him in His death and resurrection – we are dead both to sin and to the accusations and requirements of the law. We have been made alive together with Christ and in Him we live unto God. We have been seated in Him at the right hand of God and made heirs.
- The Riches of Christ as our inheritance – He is everything that God has planned for us, and He is unsearchably rich. He is the center of God’s economy, the unique focus of everything that God has purposed and will ever accomplish, and He has been fully given to us as our eternal portion and enjoyment.
- Works versus grace for justification and sanctification – He is our right standing with God – our righteousness, and He is our eventual perfection and even our glorification. Our justification is found in Him, and our sanctification must be found in Him. We are not being made righteous by works or by law keeping, and we are also not being perfected through law keeping. All of our Christian life is to be lived by the hearing of faith.
- His coming and His rewards, the judgement seat of the Church is not the same as the judgement of the nations at the establishment of the kingdom, or of the Great White throne judgement at the end of time. The “bema” judgement mentioned by Paul (Romans 14:10, 2 Cor 5:9) is a celebration of victory and the distributing of crowns, an allusion to the Greek athletic contests. While some might not receive any rewards and thus suffer loss for not following the rules of the game, the judge at the bema seat did not “whip” the losers or sentence them to hard labor. There is a rightful amount of fear and trembling that comes from knowing that we will stand at the judgement seat and may only be saved as through fire if our works are found not to stand the test. However, we also must remember that Our Lord is generous! He gives the same pay to the 11th hour laborer that only worked for an hour that he gives to the one that has been working all along. He says even giving a glass of water to a prophet in His name – we will not lose our reward. Many might be surprised as He hands them crowns they never expected because He remembers every deed wrought in the spirit and in truth and in His name.
- The glorification of the saints – this is the ultimate hope of our calling – to be conformed to the image of Christ and to share with Him in the Father’s glory for eternity.
- The Salvation of Israel and the establishment of the Millenial Kingdom– her regathering marked the beginning of the most exciting time in human history – that which the prophets foretold and the apostles yearned to see is upon us. We are privileged to live in this hour when God’s word is being fulfilled and vindicated! The birthpangs we see in the earth today are just the sign that the joyous moment when our King Jesus takes over this earth and establishes the righteous rule that was promised and given to us from before the foundation of the world. All of the prophets and saints looked forward to the time that we are rapidly approaching!
So, the negative things in this section are discerning are negative only because they differ from that precious truth which has been committed to us, which is more excellent! It is our love for the truth and our appreciation of the treasure that we have been given in Christ that causes us to rejoice, and to jealously guard against any teaching that would diminish that which we have received. One who understands these major Bible themes will see that almost systematically every single one of them is ignored, contradicted or undermined through the teaching in many churches today, and this is where our vigilance is demanded for both ourselves and those who God has put in our path. As Paul said in Col 2:19 “beware that no one judges you unworthy of your prize.”
There are teachings today that attempt to rob the saints of their sense of blessing, their sense of their freedom in Christ, their assurance of their inheritance, their confidence in having been translated into God’s kingdom and having been qualified by a righteousness that is not their own. These teachers bring people into bondage by taking away the key of knowledge and instead bringing people into systems of error. Discerning is really just the automatic result of growing in the knowledge of God and love for His Son.
There are many “discernment” ministries especially on the internet that have clearly lost the focus on this joyful treasure. It is easy to become so discouraged in the face of opposition and conflict. The Church at Ephesus was commended by the Lord Himself because she would not tolerate false apostles and teachers and false doctrine. However she had left her first love and was in danger of losing her flame. We must guard our hearts. In Matthew 24 Jesus said one of the signs of the end would be false apostles and prophets with false signs and wonders going out in His name and deceiving (if possible) even the elect. He also said right after this that iniquity would abound and the love (agape) of the many would grow cold. “But He who endures to the end will be saved”. We must not depart from the truth, and we must not depart from the love. The only way to do this is to guard the treasure, to discern that which differs and to cling to that which is “more excellent!”