Saturday, January 05, 2008

...spiritual survival for a church in crisis

This is an excellent article on equipping the church to be spiritually discerning. It is a portion of an article you can find here written by John MacArthur.

John is a time-tested, biblically sound, and theologically precise preacher/teacher of God's Word. INHO, he is the finest Bible expositor in the world today and his words below here are essential ways to instruct us to "test everything and cling to what is good." They are "equipping truths" where we may find solace, wisdom, and exhortation to live discerning lives of glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,
Col. 1:9-14

How Can I Be Spiritually Discerning?

"but test everything; hold fast what is good."
-1 Thessalonians 5:21

Desire It

Spiritual discernment starts with your desire for it. If you seek only to be happy, healthy, and wealthy, you will not be spiritually discerning. You must be humble enough to admit your need to develop discernment. Proverbs 2:2-5 says, "Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God." Are you willing to follow the path that leads to spiritual discernment?

Pray for It
You must balance your desire for spiritual discernment by depending on the Lord for it through prayer. King Solomon prayed, "Give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3:9). The Lord replied, "Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you" (vv. 11-12). James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

Learn from Others
You can learn how to be spiritually discerning from the example of gifted, mature believers in the church. Some in the early church were specially gifted to discern between divine truth and error (1 Cor. 12:10). That gift was essential since false teachers tried to destroy the early church with their teaching. First John 4:1 says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Does that gift exist today? Yes, there are theologians or Bible scholars who are gifted by God to unmask false teachers. They have a special ability to think carefully, critically, and analytically. They are the church's guardians of truth. Some teach in seminaries while others do such things as write books. In whatever capacity they serve, they give clarity and insight to help us know right from wrong. You need to learn from what they teach and write.

You also need to follow the example of other mature believers. As it takes years of parental training for children to become mature, so

it takes years of godly training
for believers to become spiritually mature.
It's not a matter of praying in the evening,
"Lord, give me discernment,"
and then waking up the next morning and having it.
Spiritual maturity is the result of
being nourished by God's Word.

First Peter 2:2 says, "Long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." God also uses trials to mature believers: "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Pet. 5:10).

Depend on the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the true Discerner who will lead you into all truth (John 16:13). He perfectly knows the mind of God: "The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural [lost] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:11-16).

Allow the Holy Spirit to control your life by confessing and forsaking sin and living a pure, holy life. Galatians 5:16 says, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." As you are obedient to that, He will make you a discerning believer.

Study God's Word
Spiritual discernment flourishes in an environment of intense, faithful Bible study. You will not be spiritually discerning--even though you desire it, pray for it, learn from the gifted and mature, and depend on the Holy Spirit --unless you diligently study His Word. Only there will you find the principles and truths to discern between truth and error. In Acts 17, for example, the Jewish people of Berea received Paul's preaching eagerly, and then tested his gospel message by comparing it to the teachings of the Old Testament. As a result many became believers.

In Acts 20 Paul warned the church leaders at Ephesus about false teachers who would try to infiltrate and devastate the church. His concluding word to them was this: "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (v. 32). Paul knew that their careful study of God's Word was essential for protecting the church from error.

Second Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." The laborer who gives maximum effort to the quality of his work will not be ashamed because of any faulty workmanship. That means the believer is to present God's Word accurately to others in contrast to those "wrangle about words" or engage in "worldly and empty chatter" (vv. 14, 16). By doing so, he will receive God's approval and be counted as one worthy to stand alongside Him. The unashamed believer can say, "Lord, I studied and presented Your Word with integrity."

What about you? How do you study God's Word? In a superficial, careless way, or carefully and thoughtfully? Digging deeply into God's Word requires effort, but remember this: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Spiritual discernment requires desire, prayer, learning from the gifted and mature, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and a diligent study of God's Word. If you follow those steps, you will strengthen your doctrinal convictions, think antithetically, be kept from worldly approaches, be a good interpreter of God's Word, and confront sin. All that will help you mature and bring honor to God!


Anonymous said...

Is there a reason my post about Tim Challies new book was deleted???

SJ Camp said...

Hello Paul.

Yes. It was not due to content, but to your anonymous blogger ID. I don't allow anonymous posting here.

"RULE #4. No anonymous posting allowed. By "no anonymous posting" I mean: you must fill out and complete the Blogger bio form on all essential categories completely (i.e. email, blogs, city, state, vocation, etc.). In regards to name: first name only is acceptable-last name can be included at your own discretion. AND, you may only post under one name at a time--no multiple "nicks." Please enable blogger to allow your profile to be shown."

Please enable blogger to reveal your bio or if you haven't, please complete the form. I do this so that I can have an idea with whom I am conversing with. I think it provides for good, honest communication. As you know, a lot of things can be said hidden behind the anonymous label.

Thank you for understanding and I do look forward to future posts from you once you have filled out the profile.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 3:5

john said...

Is the Church really in crisis? I would agree that the right-wing, conservative evangelical establishment is in great peril. But I think the Church (big "C") is just fine.

It strikes me that when a generation begins to lose control and influence, they start talking about crisis. That's why so many churches are filled with elderly people who insist on doing things "their" way. They force out young leaders who end up moving down the street and building the mega-church that ends up killing all the traditional churches in the area.

So younger generations are moving in other directions. Some focus more on social justice and building community. Others are into the church growth thing - trying to be the biggest deal in town. I think it's natural for the old guard to cry foul.

SJ Camp said...

I just saw your comment Mike and yes it will be deleted immediately.

Please fill out the blogger profile and enable it for view. You are welcome to contribute here on any discussion as long as you follow the rules of this blog.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Anonymous said...

Steve--I took the time to fill out the bio tonight. Why isn't it required of everyone?