In my first post on discernment I said that ‘general discernment is not a gift, it is a skill we develop.’ The last area I want to look at regarding discernment is the relationship to maturity, understanding how 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)
There is an expression, ‘Age is inevitable, maturity is optional.’ The way that applies here is that to deepen our discernment we need to practice discerning, just like improvement in public speaking requires practice speaking. The phrase ‘of use,’ in the passage above is the Greek word hekin and is explained below.
This form appears in the New Testament only at Hebrews 5:14. It refers to a thoroughly established habit or skill achieved through repetition. Here the writer held up as a model those who were “ethically mature” by virtue of their experience and skill in discerning good and evil (Bruce, New International Commentary on the New Testament, Hebrews, p.109).
The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.
A key phrase in the definition is ‘a thoroughly established habit.’ We start with different levels of potential, just as in math or hockey, people bring different capacities; the same is true of discernment. Yet no matter where we start we can all deepen our discernment by becoming grounded in the scriptures.
So what does discerning rooted in the scriptures look like? If we are grounded in the Word when we hear something that doesn’t align with the scriptures our spirit is disturbed. We live in a culture that generally exalts experience and feeling over truth. Yet the Word tells us the truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21). When we get Jesus word in us through spending time in the scriptures something within us comes alive to truth in a deeper way.
Deepening discernment is a cyclical process,
Ø we pay attention to our spirit,
Ø feed it on the word, and
Ø apply truth to our experience.
Tied into this is something I have referenced many times, Revelation, Interpretation, Application. We receive something, we seek to interpret the meaning and then discern the application. What is important in the discernment process is the corporate nature of the body of Christ.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV) 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)
The word ‘judge’ in verse 29 could just as easily be translated ‘discern.’ In fact is used that ways in places in the NT. We discern best not as the final decision maker in all things but in the context of a body of believers.
The Quakers use a discernment circle to make major decisions. One Quaker shared a story where he had been offered the positon of head of a bible college. Trying to discern whether or not to take the position he called a discernment circle. Here mature believers would sit in a circle with him and could ask any question the felt pertinent. He said one wise individual asked him what he really wanted to get if he accepted the positon. He said this question arrested him and when he faced to truth he realized he wanted to see his name in the newspaper as the head of the institution. When he heard this the old fellow said, “Couldn’t you think of some other way to get your name in the newspaper?” The fellow who called the discernment circle saw his own motives and turned down the position.
So, I pray that our discernment deepens as we spend time with Jesus and in His Word. At the same time I also pray that we recognize our need for one another and learn to discern together, be open to being wrong or ‘missing’ it, and remain humble and teachable. In the revelation, interpretation, application process one may have the revelation, two or three others the interpretation (we may have different pieces) and another the applications. Let us grow together in maturity in Christ.