Tag Archives: Discernment

Corrective vs Judgmental: Distinctly Different Attitudes.

It may surprise some readers to learn that the Bible both encourages and requires us to correct those practicing sin. More than that, it provides a blueprint for effective correction. The apostle Paul urges Timothy to “patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2b, NLT).

We, too, must exercise patience when correcting those overcome by sin and recognize that change is often a timely process. Because sin frequently prevents us from recognizing the damage it does to our lives we often resist the correction of others and even embrace outrageous excuses to rationalize our behavior. We rarely welcome corrective comments from friends and loved ones, no matter how well intentioned or helpful, because we prefer to remain in the mud, blithely unaware of or disinterested in the destructive path we are hurtling down.

On a separate occasion Paul offers succinct and instructive guidance to the Galatian church: “If another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are spiritual should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1, NLT). How we correct others makes all the difference. If we operate from a posture of self-righteousness or brash arrogance we accomplish nothing. Instead we are to correct in a spirit of gentleness and humility. That makes it much easier for the recipient to digest our counsel.

Such an approach accomplishes two things. First, it increases the likelihood the person we advise is receptive to correction – no one entertains condescending rebukes from those with smug dispositions. Second, it minimizes the risk we fall into the same or similar sin. Whenever pride taints our actions or motivations we place ourselves in a position of peril. Remember Solomon’s insight: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, NKJV).

Keep in mind, though, that instances occur when a believer’s sin is so grievous or they are entangled so deeply that a gentle admonition is insufficient. Such cases require an urgent and forthright rebuke. Jude encourages us to make a distinction between the two. “On some have compassion,” he says, “but others save with fear, as if pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23, NKJV). Of course determining when to act with bold urgency requires discernment. Absent guidance from the Holy Spirit we ought to avoid that approach.

Correcting someone overcome by sin is not easy; nor is it without risk. It is quite possible the person you rebuke, however gently and lovingly, severs his or her relationship with you. For that reason many conclude the effort is not worth it. But before you arrive at that conclusion I encourage you to listen to the words God gave the prophet Ezekiel. “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:18, NKJV). God holds us accountable when we fail to correct and rebuke those practicing sin.

In light of the Scriptural support for correcting those drowning in sin, why do so few of us do it? Many factors likely drive that decision but the most prominent is probably a desire to obey Jesus’ command, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV).

Judgment and correction are quite distinct, however. The former involves condemning the accused, executing a sentence, and administering punishment. It is the sole province of God. In contrast, correction seeks to restore the wrongdoer’s relationship with the Judge.

If you know a friend or loved one ensnared by sin, who is either unaware of their condition or disinterested in the consequences, won’t you take time this week to come alongside and gently correct them? That faithful act of love may do more than change their life; it may change yours as well.

Transformational Treasure.

It is impossible to overstate the value of studying God’s Word and the benefits accrued to those who do. For evidence of this we need look no further than the first verse of John’s account of the gospel where he tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NKJV). That doctrinally significant verse informs us that Jesus is both the Word and God.

Consequently, when we study Scripture we study the mind of Christ and the heart of God. We learn not only of God’s character, attributes, and ways, we encounter Him in a dynamic, meaningful, and personal manner. That encounter, in turn, changes lives and establishes transformational faith in the hearts of those who believe.

During His ministry Jesus linked immersion in God’s Word with authentic faith, telling His followers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31, NKJV). To fully appreciate Jesus’ statement we need to understand that abide indicates permanence and residence, and therefore means much more than an occasional or casual reading of God’s Word. Jesus is essentially telling His followers that those who reside and remain in His word truly believe.

Perhaps the most powerful description of Scripture is found in Hebrews. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV).

We could discuss that verse for hours but let’s focus on that last clause for the moment. God’s Word detects and reveals the secret motivations and desires of our hearts. The importance of that truth becomes clear when we recall the insight of Jeremiah 17:9, which declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

The heart constantly deceives. It convinces us our motives are pure when they are not. It insists we believe when we do not. It persuades us to view some Scripture through a selfish and worldly lens instead of under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Over and over it betrays us, peddling lies as truth and foolishness as wisdom. The antidote to such deception is found in God’s Word alone.

The psalmist identifies another benefit of scrutinizing Scripture when he proclaims, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”(Psalm 119:11, NLT). As we plant and nurture God’s Word in our hearts we become more like Christ and quicken the process of sanctification.

The Lord weighs in on the matter with these words, spoken through Joshua, “Study this book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8, NLT). Notice the conditional statement. A meaningful and successful life does not exist without reading and reflecting on Scripture regularly – day and night.

How often do you study and meditate on Scripture? If you do not abide in God’s Word on a regular basis why not begin establishing that habit today? Outside of committing your life to Christ, no decision will change your life more or give it more meaning.

Understanding the Bible: You Needn’t Be a Scholar to Comprehend God’s Truth.

Many people in the world today want to understand the Bible but feel entirely unqualified to unlock its truths. They believe only pastors or those with a seminary degree possess the requisite qualifications to fully understand God’s Word and the truths it contains. As a result, they spend little time reading and studying Scripture. Instead, they embrace as truth whatever message they hear on Sunday, at a Bible study, or on Christian radio. Perhaps some readers share that perspective.

If that’s you, I’ve got great news. Irrespective of your educational background, lack of training, or absence of credentials, you can understand the Bible without having to rely on others to tell you what a particular passage means, what insight God wants you to glean, or how to apply a specific verse to your life. How is that possible?

First, we need to understand that God reveals His truth through His Spirit. At the end of His ministry Jesus told the disciples, “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13, NKJV). Paul reinforces that truth in his epistle to the church at Corinth, saying: “God has revealed [His mysteries] to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10, NKJV).

Scripture leaves no ambiguity on this point. It is the Holy Spirit that guides our understanding of the Bible and equips us with the wisdom to discern the mysteries of God. God’s truths are not manifested to the carnal man, no matter how much study he dedicates to them, because they are fathomed under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Jesus reinforces this point when he chastises those who refuse to repent despite hearing His teaching and observing His miracles. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, NKJV). Men and women with considerable intellectual heft failed to understand God’s simple truths but young children comprehended them with no difficulty.

This disparity confounds the world but makes perfect sense when filtered through Christ’s words. Jesus tells us that God reveals His truths and mysteries to whom He will and withholds them from whom He will. In this instance, God revealed them to young children and withheld them from those the world considered brilliant.

So do we sit back and do nothing to learn more about God and Scripture? Absolutely not. To ensure God opens the eyes of our heart to His Word, we must surrender our lives to Christ. Only then will the Holy Spirit come upon us and reveal God’s thoughts and truths. One of the reasons so few professors, scientists, and intellectuals understand God’s Word in any substantive way is that they refuse to embrace Christ and submit to Him as Lord. Pride prevents them from committing their lives to Him and accepting the simplicity of the Gospel; as a result God withholds spiritual understanding from them.

Additionally, we should read the Bible on a regular basis. That is critically important. Jesus told His disciples, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:24-25, NLT). The same principle applies to reading God’s Word. The more we read, the more understanding God gives us. And as we understand more, we will want to read more, and God will reveal more. And a virtuous cycle begins.

In contrast, if we rarely read the Bible or study its content, then God will remove from our hearts and minds what little understanding we have. Either we are building on our foundation of biblical knowledge or it is being dismantled. The status quo never remains.

As you head into this weekend, reflect on whether you are establishing a sound foundation in the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If not, commit to reading your Bible on a regular basis and build it into your schedule so it becomes a habit. If you live in a part of the world where you do not have access to a church or Christian teaching, rejoice that God reveals Himself and His ways to those who read and study His Word, the Bible. You need only ask His Spirit to open your eyes and your heart to the truth.