The pastoral burden for the church is simple: Maturity. Under-shepherds tasked with the responsibility of preaching, teaching and leading constantly struggle for the spiritual development of their people.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29, ESV)
We begin this series on discernment because discernment is a critical part of spiritual maturity. As the Christian grows in his or her walk with Christ, they should correspondingly grow in their ability to be discerning, or in their ability to understand, enjoy, and apply biblical truth. The book of Jude is an excellent place to begin this valuable study, as it clearly explains the mission and vision of discernment in the life of the local church.
What We Do: We Fight.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”(Jude 1:3, ESV).
To contend means to struggle, to agonize, to strive against obstacles. The struggle is not merely a kind of behavior universally applied, so that Christians are consistently controversial and often offended. The struggle is also not always against something, but for something. What do we struggle for? The faith. We struggle to establish, examine, understand, love, and apply biblical truth. This language is too aggressive for many modern evangelicals. Many anesthetize themselves into thinking few things are really clear in Scripture, and thus, there’s no reason to contend for anything. “Doctrinal issues, moral questions, and Christian principles are all cast in hues of gray. No one is supposed to draw any definitive lines or declare any absolutes”(John MacArthur). In our culture, the prevailing moral law is to do what is right in our own eyes, a similar standard of belief in the lawless days of the Judges (cf. Deut. 12:8; Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Contrary to popular opinion, there is one faith delivered to the saints, one Biblical gospel and it is objectively true. We are not contending for our opinions, nor are we seeking to protect others from mere opinion. Rather, we are seeking to fight for the knowledge, love and obedience of the truth (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Timothy 1:13-14).
Why We Do It: Because of False Teachers.
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”(Jude 1:4, ESV).
Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking church people to devour. He does it through false teaching. Jude describes these false teachers as those who were designated (previously documented) for condemnation. Why? Because of their wicked character (ungodly people), and their wicked activity (they pervert the grace of God into sensuality). There are those that call themselves pastors and teachers of the truth that claim God’s wants you to be healthy, wealthy and prosperous. There are those who claim that Jesus wasn’t perfect, that God manifests himself in different ways like bread and water and trees rather than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are those who claim that Jesus died so we could experience financial blessing, and that our words move this force of faith so that we can get whatever we want. There are those who teach that we are equal to God, and indeed, little gods with all the power and God is merely our puppet to command.
These perverted appeals to our flesh are attractive. Indeed, who wouldn’t want to have houses and cars they didn’t work for and live in the illusion that they’re sinless? But these philosophies are false and they will destroy you if you’re not grounded in the truth (Matthew 13:24-30; 2 Timothy 3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
Action Step: Seek Wisdom.
“My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:1–6 NASB).
Your worldview will change as the Scriptures infiltrate every area of your mind. Think! Get wisdom! Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Remember that discernment is critical for living a mature Christian life. That means spending time in God’s word and a constant pace of learning so that you grow in the grace and knowledge of him. If you’re not doing this, you are setting yourself up to be blown all over by the winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4). If you need help in this area of bible study, please look through our bible study resources and bookstore. We would be glad to help you.