Whatever Happened to Christian Discernment?

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work."

D iscernment is a most wonderful gift which the Lord grants to His people and it is needed because - let's face it - sometimes we Christians seriously misjudge things! Let us recall what we are told in Hebrews 5:

We evangelicals must stop 'rubber-stamping' and giving our approval to heretics just because they - just occasionally - mention Jesus! Where is our discernment?

For at the time when ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and have become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14, 21st Century King James).

The big question is:
Do we have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil?

Frankly, I am inclined to believe that an increasing number of Christian believers don't even think that this is an important point. But this puts us at odds with the Scripture which insists that it is a most important point!

I always used to agree with leading British evangelical writer of the 1990s, canon Michael Saward (now retired). Michael used to say, "I love my fellow evangelicals but sometimes I am so disappointed by things which they do and say." I too love my fellow evangelicals but - frankly - they regularly exasperate me. We need to face the fact that sometimes we are exasperatingly naive as a group of people. A slowness to judge can be commendable but sometimes this is taken to such an extreme that plainly heretical, money-motivated preachers are not only tolerated among us, but warmly welcomed. I recently heard a typical remark from a very fine Christian gentleman. He said, "I don't completely go along with this man (a famed prosperity gospel man) and some of the things which he says, but I nevertheless embrace him as a brother in Christ!" Now that is all very well but does not the New Testament fairly beg us to condemn heretics in our midst? Can refusing to ever judge a "fellow evangelical" sometimes even amount to submitting to heresy? Where is the maturity of Christian discernment here?

Here in the West we now live in what can unquestionably be described as 'a post-Christian age.' Churches which preach the genuine, bone-fide Christian message now often struggle to get good attendance at their places of worship, yet extremist charismatic churches, frequently preaching a mixture of the Gospel plus some dreadful heresies, accompanied by a more money-motivated approach seem to get an increasing following. The lack of good Christian, seasoned discernment has not only led to such a situation but now encourages it to grow. So Christian discernment has started to take a major hit. I find that modern Christians are not quickly sensing evil, greed and spiritual posturing. It's fine to go on believing the best about people but don't we sometimes have to stand up and be counted?

We evangelicals are sometimes incredibly naive; we want to believe the best about our fellow evangelicals and that is generally a good, positive approach to adopt, but sometimes we are too naive, too gullible, to open to being 'taken for a ride.' Just recently I heard about a sincere group of people who have come under the influence of an extreme charismatic. To my amazement, quite an elderly and experienced ex-pastor (who was personally known to me a few years ago) actually encouraged these people to go in that direction. Where was his discernment? In a man of his years and experience I would have expected far better. Such things are very disappointing.

Does It Even Matter?

In case a few are now asking the above question, let us now look at a few Scriptures. Please note: the following Scriptures have not suddenly gone away! As well as delivering the great commission to His Church, our Lord - through the pages of the Bible - has delivered a stern warning to us all not to associate with those who would manipulate and distort the message of the Gospel:

These Scriptures Have Not Suddenly Gone Away, Why Do So Many No Longer Even Consider Them? ...

A POINT TO NOTE: John tends to highlight the early heresy of gnosticism because it was one of the first to hit the church. These people taught that Christ did not really come 'in the flesh' but as a phantasm, ghost, or spirit, but all heresies which subvert the plain Gospel message were to be avoided. As we have seen, those who turn the gospel into a kind of money-based message are especially condemned. The above are not the only New Testament warnings about false teachers, just a selection of them.

May I Issue A Challenge To You, The Reader?

I know that many of you who read these pages are not only preachers but a fair number of you are also pastors and ministers. Why not make a point of preaching a sermon on wise Christian discernment within the next 3-4 weeks, including a warning that some who preach about Jesus have hearts which are not right before God and have motives of greed and self-promotion? There are certainly some Scriptures on this very page which you could use.

Robin A. Brace. May 31st, 2014.