They Invest In Things And Relationships That Will Last
Because the world isnt yet what it should be, we all experience trouble and difficulty in this life. When we do, we can be tempted to comfort ourselves with fleeting pleasure: expensive gadgets, addictive substances, unhealthy relationships, and mindless entertainment. At first, these things may bring us a kind of relief. The new car or that third glass of wine will make you happy, at least temporarily, but youll quickly need another hit when the initial pleasure wears off. And youll be running in circles trying to find it.
Discerning people know that lasting happiness comes from eternal things. They arent immune to suffering in this life, but they invest in relationships and things that bring long-term stability instead of short-term relief.
They Know The Importance Of Truth
In a world of #fakenews and #alternativefacts, it can seem like we live in competing realities. Your truth isnt my truth and whatever we personally want to believe becomes truth for us. This makes for a fractured world where were isolated from even our friends and neighbors.
Discerning people know that truth isnt a private matter and that we must have shared truth to flourish. Theyre willing to submit themselves and their ideas to scrutiny, knowing that opinions and commentary do not replace facts. And when they encounter information theyve never heard before, they test it, not by their own opinions or emotions, but by the larger body of shared truth. Ultimately they know we all must submit to the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. In this sense, discerning people are honest people. Honest with themselves, honest with the facts, and honest with others.
Consulting Church History And Qualified Sources
As we test what we are learning by Scripture, its important to consider the creeds and confessions of church history. Though they were written by men long ago , many of them come with proof texts for what they affirm and deny. They act as a summary of what Scripture says on important subjects and confirm what the church has affirmed for hundreds of years. Many of the creeds and confessions define orthodoxy . If someone denies a doctrine that is clearly affirmed in Scripture as shown by these creeds and confessions, that should alarm us.
As the saying goes, history often repeats itself. Many the false doctrines we face today have already appeared in years past, and the church has already proven them false by Scripture. This is where some of our confessions and creeds came froma false doctrine was spreading like a disease, and church leaders and theologians came together to speak out and confirm what the Bible really says. This is how church history strengthens our discernment.
But great theologians and teachers dont only exist in the past. Today we have many reliable and qualified teachers, writers, pastors, and theologians whom we can consult when we are unsure. We also need to learn in community. While its good to understand the Bible for ourselves, part of this comes from learning under qualified teachers who know the vital doctrines of the Christian faith and strive for truth.
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Some Ignatian Principles For Making Prayerful Decisions
How do we know what God wants us to do in life? Thats the question for people in discernment, isnt it? We know that God wants all of us baptized Christians to be united with God, serve God, and share our gifts in service. But how? For each of us thats different.
To discern means to try to figure out what God wants us to do. How do we know? How do we find out? Its not easy. Fortunately, St. Ignatius of Loyola offers time-tested guidelines for the discernment of spirits to help us discover what God is calling us to do in the big and small decisions of our lives including vocational discernment that I have found extremely practical and helpful both in my personal discernment as well as in helping others discern what God is calling them to.
Beginning In The Word
There are a group of people in the book of Acts who were deemed more noble than others because of their discernment skills. What made their discernment so noble?
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
To be like the Bereans is to examine and search the word of God for the truth. When we have the word hidden in our hearts, we wont easily be satisfied with falsehood and contradictions. In order to be discerning, we need to know our Bibles.
As we come to Scripture to find answers, humility should be our posture we dont come to the Bible to be proven right, but to be shaped and taught by God. Start with one particular verse on the subject, study it in context, then turn to the cross-references and repeat the process. This shouldnt be to the neglect of the entire Bible either topical studies are good, but we should also spend time considering what the whole of Scripture says. As we study the Biblethe whole Biblewe grow and begin to develop a systematic theology.
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Where Is The Spiritual Gift Of Discernment Mentioned In The Bible
In 1 Kings 3, when the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him to name whatever he desired, Solomon pleased God by asking for the spirit of discernment. Solomons words were So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong .
Solomons request for discernment so pleased the Lord that God not only gave Solomon a wise and discerning heart, but He also gave him what he didnt ask for both wealth and honor so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings .
In the New Testament, Paul prayed that believers would have and apply the spirit of discernment: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ .
Paul realized if believers were able to discern what is best from what is just good or acceptable, they would be pure and blameless, and stand apart from the rest of the world.
The Apostle John also urged the first century Christians to practice the spiritual gift of discernment because of how quickly they could be deceived if they werent grounded in the truth: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world .
Being Discerning Helps Us Think Biblically
Discernment helps us navigate every area of our lives through Scriptural lenses, so we dont conform to the world but the image of Christ. Romans 12:2 says, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
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Why Is Discernment So Important
Discernment is more than just what you hear or see. It is given to us by the Holy Spirit. For example, the Bible itself is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is spiritually discerned by believers due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
7. 1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
8. Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
9. Proverbs 8:9 To the discerning all of them are right they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
10. Proverbs 28:2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
11. Deuteronomy 32:28-29 They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. 29 If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!
12. Ephesians 5:9-10 , 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
What Is Discernment 6 Ways To Grow More Discerning
Every Christian should grow in discernment. It is discernment that enables us to tell the difference between right and wrong. Spiritual discernment is a shield against spiritual deception. Without discernment we would be adrift in an ocean of differing viewpoints and pitted against one another.
In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asks for a discerning heart so that he could lead Gods people and to distinguish between right and wrong. He went on to lead the Israelites through a time of peace and wrote much of Proverbs. Yet he failed to discern the risks that having too many wives and concubines would bring to his life. As wise as Solomon was, he is a flawed example of discernment.
But Jesus is the ultimate example of discernment. John 2:24-25 shows us that he knows all men and the contents of their hearts. So how do we gain discernment?
God ties discernment to spiritual maturity, and spiritual maturity links to wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Discernment is an acuteness of understanding. Its a spiritual gift as well as something to grow in.
As a spiritual gift, it is given in special circumstances so that Gods will is fulfilled in the moment. As a skill, it is grown over time as one studies and applies Gods word.
So how do we grow in discernment?
But Jesus is the ultimate example of discernment. John 2:24-25 shows us that he knows all men and the contents of their hearts. So how do we gain discernment?
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Ignatian Guidelines For The Discernment Of Spirits
Ignatius guidelines for the discernment of spirits fall into four major categories: seven attitudes or personal qualities required for an authentic discernment of spirits, three different times or conditions during which decisions are made, seven practical techniques which can be helpful in the discernment process, and some guidelines for how to distinguish whether a given inner movement or desire comes from the good or evil spirit.
Remove Feelings Of Judgment
Letâs be clear about one thing: discernment should not be an excuse for judging others. Itâs merely a tool to help make decisions about right and wrong.
Through discernment, we can make the best decisions in our own lives, which is why we should not judge others. While discernment may be used to make decisions about a group or movement, it doesnât mean it should be used for judgment.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2 âDo not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.â
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Where Does The Bible Talk About Discernment
There are several general categories under which the verses about discernment can fall. Whenever good law or lawmaking is the subject, discernment is involved. Good behavior and decision making is another general category. It is also one of the subjects of the poetic books Psalms and Proverbs.
In the New Testament, there are many verses about the difference between worldly wisdom and true discernment, warning Christians to lean on the Spirit for guidance rather than what the world says is right and wrong. The apostle Paul focuses on it when speaking to fellow Christians, and emphasizes it when addressing his peers or disciples, such as Timothy and Titus.
Here are a list of verses about discernment. They are all from the English Standard Translation, so the word discernment may not appear, but one of its synonyms will:
Proverbs 8:5 – O simple ones, learn prudence O fools, learn sense.
Deuteronomy 4:6 – Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
1 Samuel 25:33 – Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!
Job 12:20 – He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders.
How Do You Know You Have Discernment
Those who possess the spiritual gift of discernment can see right through smokescreens and obstacles as they uncover the truth. … Discernment springs from the truth taught in His word. The insights that come from discernment stem from solid knowledge, understanding, and a firm belief in God’s word.
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Ignatian Assumptions Underpinning His Guidelines
Ignatius assumes in his discernment of spirits that God communicates directly with each of us in our hearts, minds, and souls through various interior movements our feelings, thoughts, and desires. However, Ignatius was not so naïve as to think that all of our thoughts, feelings, and desires were caused by the Holy Spirit. Some indeed are holy desires that come from God, while others come from other sources negative spirits ultimately from what he called The Enemy of our Human Nature. So, the trick is to figure out which of our inner desires, thoughts, and feelings are from God, and which are not. To help us with this, Ignatius overtime developed his rules or guidelines for the discernment of spirits.
Discernment Protects The Church
When members of a local body are discerning, they are a bulwark against false teachings gaining a foothold in their community. Take Priscilla and Aquila, for instance. Acts 18:26 says, He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. This couples discernment protected their community from Apollos false teachings.
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Seven Practical Discernment Techniques
1. Ignatius suggests that we start the decision-making process by putting before our mind what it is we want to decide about. For example, we might be trying to decide whether or nor to enter a specific religious community.
2. He then asks us to pray for the grace to try to be like a balance at equilibrium, without leaning to either side . In other words, we should try to the extent possible not to prefer one option to the other but only desire to do Gods will. To help us maintain focus and perspective, he asks us to keep the ultimate end and goal of our existence clearly before us.
3. Then we pray for God to enlighten and move us to seek only what is most conducive to Gods service and praise.
4. One suggestion Ignatius makes is to imagine a person we never met who seeks our help in how to respond to Gods call in the same decision we are considering. We then observe what advice we give this person and follow it ourselves. This is helpful since most of us are better at giving others advice than at figuring out what we should do.
5. Another suggestion is that we imagine ourselves at the end of our lives either on our deathbed or after our death standing before Christ our Judge. How would we feel about our decision then? What would we say to Christ about the decision we have just made? We should choose now the course of action that would give us happiness and joy in looking back on it from our deathbed and in presenting it to Christ on the day of our judgment.
In A Rapidly Changing World Amid A Deluge Of Ideas And Opinions How Can We Clearly See What Is Right And Wrong Where Can We Find True Wisdom
Why is there so much confusion in the world when it comes to morality? What is good and what is evil? Who defines it? What about those gray areas where so many find it hard to decide?
Why does corruption seem to happen on all levels of government and no one bats an eye? Who is to say what is right or wrong when it comes to sexuality?
These questions boggle the minds of many. But the Bible has the answer to help us distinguish between good and evil. God also offers the power of discernment to those willing to understand.
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Discerning Good And Evil According To The Bible
Often times what is evil will not appear evil. The devil appears as an angel of light. We have to rely on the holy spirit giving us discernment so that we may know whether or not something is actually evil.
13. Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil cling to what is good.
14. Philippians 1:10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
15. Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
16. 1 Kings 3:9 So give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?
17. Proverbs 19:8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul He who keeps understanding will find good.
18. Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
19. Job 28:28 And he said to man, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.
20. John 8:32 And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.