Discretion and Discernment Part 1

I. Definitions. A. discretion: Ability to discern or distinguish what is right, befitting, or advisable, esp. as regards one's own conduct or action; the quality of being discreet; discernment; prudence, sagacity, circumspection, sound judgement. B. discreet: Showing discernment or judgement in the guidance of one's own speech and action; judicious, prudent, circumspect, cautious; often esp. that can be silent when speech would be inconvenient. C. discernment: a. The act of discerning or perceiving by the intellect; intellectual perception or apprehension. b. The faculty of discerning; discrimination, judgement; keenness of intellectual perception; penetration, insight. D. discern: trans. To separate (things, or one thing from another) as distinct; to distinguish and divide.

II. Discretion and discernment are critical to our success in all things, spiritual or natural. PSA 112:5; PRO 1:1-4; 2:10-20; 3:21-22. A. By these, we put differences between diverse concepts, values, speech, actions, etc. 1. They are integral to our decision-making process. 2. They make it possible for us to analyze probabilities: What is likely to happen? What is likely to succeed or fail? What direction should I take? B. By these, we make determinations of good v. bad, right v. wrong, acceptable v. unacceptable, profitable v. unprofitable. C. There are distinctions that need to be made or all identity of positive v. negative is lost. This is especially important in areas of morality, service to God, and holiness (that which is for God). EZE 22:26; 1CO 11:29; HEB 5:14. 1. The flesh at war with God rejects such distinctions, blurring lines or reversing them. ISA 5:20; MAL 2:17; 3:15. 2. Valid judgments are impossible under such conditions. ISA 59:14-15. 3. Nothing less than the fear of God cures this. MAL 3:16-18. 4. Discretion can save us from a snare of Satan. ROM 13:14; 1CO 9:27; PSA 101:3. a. Discernment could have saved the young man from the strange woman. PRO 7:7-23. b. Solomon there was able to discern between the simple and the stupid (v. 7), a distinction we all need to remember. There is a difference between the ignorant and the willingly ignorant (2PE 3:5), between the greenhorn and the fool who is void of understanding and acts accordingly.

III. Whereas discernment and discretion are common to all men (though sometimes misused owing to ignorance or lust), there is discernment and discretion that is alien to natural man. 1CO 2:14. A. Natural man is averse to things of the Spirit of God such as Scripture, the reality of sin, hell, heaven, future resurrection, the necessity of the crucifixion, etc. 1CO 1:18; PRO 14:9. B. Natural man is of the earth, the world is in his heart, and things beyond the measurable, observable or tangible (like faith, future judgment, God’s existence and omniscience, etc.) do not enter into his decision-making process. JOH 3:31; ECC 3:11; 1CO 2:11; JUDE 1:10. C. Natural man would not be expected to set his affection on heavenly things (COL 3:1-2) to regulate his decision-making process since the notion of a heavenly state is folly to him. D. How important is the new birth and quickening of the Spirit! JOH 3:6-7.

IV. We are instructed to be “...proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (EPH 5:8-10). A. prove: “To make trial of, try, test.” B. We are commanded to “...prove all things...” (1TH 5:21). C. The purpose for proving all things is to determine if it is good and therefore acceptable to the Lord. D. This process of proving obviously calls for discretion. E. The standard for this proving process is God's will in His precepts (ROM 12:1-2; PSA 119:128), not methinks, feelings, the world, circumstances, etc. The divine revelation provided in Scripture exceeds and overrules all natural standards (which are subject to change because of man’s limited knowledge and his propensity for power). F. By knowledge gained from Scripture, we can try (test, prove) spirits. 1JO 4:1, 6. 1. We can conclude that a prophecy is not of God’s Spirit if it disagrees with His revelation and/or doesn’t come to pass. DEU 18:21-22; 13:1-2. 2. We can conclude that a God-demanded diet or celibacy is from a seducing spirit. 1TI 4:1-3. 3. We can conclude that the doctrine of sinner-earned salvation is of the spirit of the world since such salvation is not free. 1CO 2:12. 4. The Thessalonian saints could, in those days of the spirit of prophecy, determine by apostolic measure that the spirit which troubled men with false concerns about the coming of Christ was not to be heeded (2TH 2:1-5), whether that spirit was just the natural spirit of man (1CO 2:11) floating some idea ignorantly, or a false spirit of prophecy pretending divine revelation. G. The Ephesian saints could discern by apostolic revelation that there were false apostles come unto them. REV 2:2. 1. They could recall the God-given qualifications for the apostolate, especially that one had to be a personal witness of the resurrected Son of God (Paul being a unique case). ACT 1:21-22; 1CO 15:8. 2. They could conclude that if the so-called apostles were teaching works and/or Judaism instead of pure grace that they were false. 2CO 11:13-15. 3. They could remember Paul’s prophecy in ACT 20:29 and be prepared to challenge the coming false apostles with knowledge and the Jerusalem church council’s letters. ACT 15:23-24. 4. This is the proving/discerning process in action: applying God-given credible information to whatever challenge should come along. This is a power of discernment that we can also use without any special gift from the Spirit of God other than the new birth.

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