Exercising Discernment Part 1 – The Right River

4  There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Psalm 46:4 (NKJV)

Have you ever been on a mountain and observed how different little streams and tributaries flow together to become a river, or stood looking up a mountain seeing water coming from various places merging into one larger stream? As the volume of water increases so too does the depth and breadth of the river. At the same time some small streams diverge off and simply disappear into the mountainside as they end. Ultimately what provides water to all of the communities downstream from mountainous and glacial areas is the rivers that form from the merging streams in these areas.

Let me illustrate further. My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Invermere BC. Twenty minutes south the Columbia River begins and flows north through Invermere, then Radium, up north past Golden, then turns and heads south and eventually west out into the Pacific Ocean through Oregon. It is referred to as the Mighty Columbia. Now if you were to canoe or kayak between Invermere and Radium and someone told you that you were on the ‘Mighty Columbia’ you might say, ‘really?’ After all in places it is about 15 metres wide and you can often touch the bottom with your paddle. So what makes it mighty? All the tributaries that feed it before it reaches the Pacific Ocean and provides water and life to so many communities as it journeys. For example Lake Okanogan, which is 135 kilometres long and 4-5 kilometres wide in places, flows into it.

What does this have to do with His river as expressed in Psalm 46? When we see or understand something or some teacher brings along a new ‘revelation’ we need to test it. The first place of course is the scriptures. Another test is looking at church history. Does this teaching align with the practice or teaching of our historic faith? Let me provide a couple of examples. Some modern teachers have said that God judged Jesus on the cross so He won’t bring any further judgement on sinners. That teaching is clearly at odds with scripture. The Old and New Testaments are replete with warnings of coming end time judgment from His hand. This is part of the process He will use in creating a qualitatively new heaven and earth.

Another aberrant teaching that has been promoted for decades in the ‘faith’ movement is that Jesus was tormented in hell after He died on the cross. The clear error here is that Jesus said on the cross His sacrifice had accomplished what was intended, this battle was finished, as the scriptures attest.

30  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30 (NKJV)

46  And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:46 (NKJV)

When we look at the two passages above what Jesus cried out in a loud voice was, “It is finished!” Then He committed His Spirit into His Father’s hand, not to the devil.

So what do we do with wrong teachings like these? We look to the river. Movements that hold to teachings like these are off in these areas, they have streams diverging from His river that will not produce life. We need to avoid those streams. At the same time when I have heard teachings like these I have often also recognized a great deal of the river of life in these movements. I need to follow those streams of life into His river. Knowing how to follow the right river requires; knowing the scriptures, knowing how to interpret them, knowing something of church history, being rooted in a family of believers that are committed to His word, and paying attention to His leading in our spirits.

In coming posts I will further explore these areas.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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