THE WALK OF DISCERNMENT
This week I received the sad news of our former pastor Denny Strickland going to be with the Lord. He was so gentle, kind and filled with love and compassion. He drew everyone around him like a magnet because he was such a spiritually wise “Grandfatherly” figure. As a mentor he demonstrated how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and I will never forget the times with him and all that I learned through watching him WALK the life of a disciple. One example of his discernment is how he could sense the corporate environment when he as the leader needed to make a decision of “direction” for the meeting. When he did not have clarity with the Lord leading in a specific way, instead of trying to force an agenda or panicking with the need to do “something”, he would gently and confidently say, “Let’s just wait on the Lord”. In that time of seeking, praying and worship there would always be a move of God that was so powerful and profound. I learned that as we allow God to do what HE wants to do, it is always wonderful and exactly what we need.
I have a mental image of our heart or “conscience” having a door, with Christ many times desiring deeper access to our will.
Everything that wants our attention stands on the outside and knocks because it wants our attention. It is a simple picture of how the most intimate recesses of our inner being is aware and vulnerable to outside influence. We choose each day whom we “invite” into our secret chambers. “Our heart is a garden, our thoughts are the seeds – we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds”. The handle to the door is always on the inside which reveals that it is our responsibility to WHOM and WHAT we entertain. One area of discernment is recognizing this constant spiritual reality as the Christian learns the only way to WALK in the awareness of God’s holiness is to keep the door locked to sin and only open it to Christ. There is a large crowd of shady characters that hang around outside our door for the purpose of corrupting our innocence and bringing negative influence. Our eyes and ears are portals to our soul and the devil works overtime to poison our conscience. It is very difficult to avoid being dragged down into a negative state of mind when we willingly allow our heart to be pounded with the corruption of this world. This repeated exposure to negativity, perversion, strife, chaos, violence and foolishness can callous the mind and bring apathy to our state of being. Satan’s strategy is to infect us with depression, anxiety, discouragement, anger, envy, arrogance and many other negative character traits. These bad attitudes pull us down into lukewarmness because they remove us from God’s presence. These symptoms conclude with the heart-breaking diagnosis of the early stages of spiritual “heart disease”. To WALK in God with a pure conscience is to not only be aware – but to obey with joy and peace. We are like a child playing on a sunny day as we are so secure and our outlook is so happy. But the opposite is true when we allow our heart to become dirty with sin and the heaviness that brings sadness and guilt. Those who have the Holy Spirit within them know when they are in God’s presence and when they are taking a wrong exit from the “holy” highway. This built-in alarm system was intended to help us stay on the right track and to warn us of danger. But most of the time, even God’s merciful influence and loving persuasion will not stop us from making wicked decisions. Our freewill can shut off the alarms and ignore His still small voice. It is dangerous to intentionally sin after we have been convicted over and over because it can separate us from His protection. Our tenderness to hear Him and our sincere willingness to respond to Him reveals our level of love for Him.
As we mentioned in the walk of effectiveness, our motives and availability is what Father is searching for and that includes not only our listening but being in the sanctified “position” to be used. He mentions the word “weights” when referring to being hindered or bogged down while trying to run. We realize that we cannot run fast or be free with the heaviness of sin strapped to our ankles. Sin can grow and accumulate if we do not make it a point to (seriously) repent on a regular basis. Actually, it is possible for our sin to become so oppressive and severe that we do not even feel like doing anything for God. If left unchecked we can become so cold and dull that we slide into a dangerous state of needing to be chastised for our rebellion. It is true our new spirit is very sensitive to everything that is connected to God but our carnality can drown out it’s pleading to repent. Do you remember when you were born again? We only desired to be in God’s presence and everything that was offensive to His holiness was extremely noticeable. It would be awesome if we could stay in that bubble of His glory but our flesh is weak to temptation as we hear our favorite sin ringing our doorbell. Those who do not have the reverential fear of God are definitely not concerned with developing their spiritual discernment!
There are many different thoughts that come to mind when people hear the term “discernment” in the world of religious jargon. The dictionary say’s, “to recognize, to perceive, make out clearly, keenly perceptive, shrewd, astute, keen judgment and insight”. We think of being sensitive to hear God’s voice and that is at the heart of the issue, but there is more. Being under the control of God’s influence is the focal point of being a disciple and to WALKING in the Holy Spirit. This is not just in areas we feel comfortable with because “selective hearing” is a trait of being religious without being spiritual. Selah. Along with listening for God’s direction we have the responsibility (the command actually) of being “aware” of our thoughts, words and actions as well. The weaknesses we struggle with are the very places that need the most discernment but are usually the first to be avoided. It is easy to put on a show in front of our peers but discernment is the love of God to help us SENSE what is happening around us and how we deal with situations when no one is watching. The problem with trying to understand about what God is trying to do IN US is that usually most of our problems are “protected” by the will of our flesh. If we enjoy our sin and have no intention of letting it go, then Father will go to the drawing board and begin working on a plan to get our attention (and it will not be pretty). Just because we do not desire for Him to intervene does not mean that He will oblige. If we are truly born again, He WILL bring discipline because He loves us enough to rescue us. As far as making us study, read, write, love, give and live as a shining light of purity, He can only do with what we give Him to work with. Selah. In order for discernment to become activated we must first have a desire to lay down our life to Jesus. Then we must go to the next step of desiring to be filled with His presence so that we can WALK in His Word. This will generate an enthusiasm about allowing His purging fire to cleanse our mind and heart, which will enable us to be willing to walk away from our sin and NOT return! These faith decisions are not done easily but He is more than ready to help us when we take an earnest “baby step” in His direction. Deliverance is the spiritual rescue for those who sincerely call out for freedom and discernment and are only developed in those who really want to be a sold-out follower of Jesus Christ.
So we see that discernment is a spiritual sensitivity to be aware of God’s presence and to help us resist our carnality. Let us stretch our perception to include the negative spiritual forces that are constantly trying to influence our flesh. Advertisement is based on the fact that our ears and eyes are receptors to the brain and are the stimulation and motivation to our thoughts. The devil is not ignorant and his strategies always include the enticement of our emotions. Our old dark nature has “built-in” radar when it comes to things like envy, lust, pride, jealousy, strife, greed and when these “attractions” are dangled in front of us, we naturally reach out to fulfill our desire whatever it may be. Christians who have not realized the reality of how this works are unlearned which is why spiritual discernment is a learned truth that is developed in serious PRAYER. If we have sincerely sought the Lord and allowed Him to do an extensive work in our heart – we will have the opportunity to be tested to see if we are MATURE to obey His will. It is easy to brag about faith and our knowledge when everything is going good but the enemy is always planning a surprise attack and discernment will be a shield of protection and a battle plan for success. How important would it be for the soldiers on a battlefield to be able to hear their orders? In this light we can see clearly just how crucial discernment is for those who desire to WALK with God.
“Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first BIND the strong man? And then he will spoil (rob) his house. He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathers not with Me scatters abroad.” (Mathew 12:29-30) The idea behind the attempt to enter into someone’s home while they are there and steal from them is to either do it without them knowing or to over-power them. In this particular scripture we read that Jesus is using the scenario of a thief being able to tie-up the owner while he takes what he wants and leaves without being chased. A security system is for the purpose of warning us when someone is trying to break-in and steal or harm. It is fine to use them on our homes and vehicles but we have spiritual protection that has been provided for us. We have been given angels to watch over us wherever we go and to keep an eye on our possessions. The Lord Himself also guards our life and has given us His blood covenant of protection and His promises connected with our obedience that are constantly saving us from harm. And we have been given a brand new spirit that is in perfect tune with God’s voice and along with The Holy Spirit, we can discern His truth which is our total salvation. This revelation knowledge is very crucial in our decision making abilities because if the enemy CANNOT get in – we can rest in safety. Discernment is the awareness of right and wrong and our will always chooses to obey what we desire. Lord, give us the desire to love you more. The closer we are to you – the more sensitive we will be.