I recently began reading a book by Francis Frangipane called “Spiritual Discernment and The Mind of Christ.” I highly recommend it. I have read most of his books over the last 25 years and in my opinion this is his best one. Francis is someone for whom I hold a deep appreciation and respect. While I will reference some things from his book in this series I am not going to teach from it.
I began writing about discernment over two decades ago and defined discernment as “Seeing the reality which lies behind appearances.” Part of what I have been emphatic about over the years is that while there is the gift of discerning of spirits in 1 Corinthians 12, general discernment is not a gift, it is a skill we develop. Francis makes this same distinction in his book but refers to general discernment as a gift while functionally describing is as I would, as a skill to be developed. I found his definition similar to mine as well, “Spiritual discernment is the grace to see into the unseen.” (page 32).
I think we are basically saying the same thing. Francis just has more practical experience. I think an important point is that if we are to discern accurately there are some requirements to meet;
– We cannot base our discernment upon outward appearances.
– We must walk closely to Jesus to see accurately.
– We need to test our discernment.
– Discernment develops and is the fruit of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:13-14)
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)
I will address all four of these points but my main point is that while our discernment can deepen through practice we need to actually practice for that to happen. As Hebrews says, our discernment develops “by reason of use.” I am confident we have many opportunities every day to discern, we just need to see and intentionally apply them.
I know in my own life I have changed over the years from judgment to discernment. I used to be very good at what Francis Frangipane said, “The only thing we need to find problems in the church is one good eye and a carnal mind.” It is still an easy default position to go to.
When we actively seek to understand discernment we find a lot of judgment masquerading as discernment. Let’s take off the mask and seek His heart to guide our discernment that His body may be built up.