This week, we’re completing this message series entitled, “theSource.” So far, we’ve learned that what is good and evil cannot be quickly categorized and that the Lord has given us a tool necessary to look beyond mere appearances to the source of things called discernment. Discernment is a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit can give us, but is also something that we gain through the consistent study and correct application of God’s word. We learned last week that we discern what is evil by personally knowing God through His written word and a healthy relationship with Him. The more fully that we know God, the easier it is to recognize the counterfeit works of our enemy, no matter how “good” they may appear to be.
This week, we are going to learn ways in which we can know whether we have discerned and acted correctly or not.
They say that hindsight is always 20-20 and there is certainly a bit of truth to that saying. One way that we can tell whether we discerned correctly is quite often simply by the results of how we handle a situation. Ideally, we would always be filled with and moved by the Holy Spirit alone and able to always apply God’s truth in love. Unfortunately, we still live in these tents of earthly bodies. That means that we only know in part and we’ll always struggle between our own fleshy opinions and will, the deceit of our enemy, and God’s perfect truth and ways.
We learned last week that discernment leads us to wisdom. Now just as we learned about how there is a good that comes from God and there is a masqueraded “good” that comes from Satan, there is also wisdom that can come from either source. We find that almost always to every good thing from God, there is a counterfeit of it from Satan. How do we judge the source of our “wisdom?” Let the results speak for themselves, the fruits of our choices! James teaches us about these two sources of wisdom:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James writes that if there is envy and selfish ambition at the source of even an apparently “good” deed, that you will eventually find disorder and every evil practice.
How many times have you been involved with something that was good such as an act that served someone and honored them only to find that some involved in that good act of service had envy and selfish ambitions? You cannot usually discern this at first, but eventually, you can tell by they’re actions. As soon as something doesn’t go exactly as they want it to, discord and fits of rage soon follow. This “good” act of service had, at its source for that person, selfish ambition and even perhaps envy. Was that act then good or evil? Well, it depends on which person that was involved you ask. Good for some, evil for others.
How, though, do we gain this Godly, pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, sincere, peace-making wisdom that comes from heaven? From Godly discernment!
If I am using Godly discernment, then I am going to become as aware as I can be about other people, their circumstances, their perspectives and I am going to lay myself down and act in a way that will lead us closer to the Lord together in unity. I’m not going to act in a way that will put others down, puff myself up, or cause division and disorder. Godly discernment will lead me to be peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, and sincere. Ultimately, Godly discernment will produce the fruits of the Spirit:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
and it will not produce the fruits of the flesh:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft (controlling & manipulative); hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now most of these acts of the flesh are pretty straight forward. It’s hard to argue with whether or not you are drunk, in fact, there is a test for that. It is fairly hard to argue that you are acting in the flesh if you are caught in the midst of an orgy. Those acts of the flesh are, as Paul said, obvious.
However, many acts that appear to be good on the surface have been done with their source motive being: selfish ambition, idolatry, discord, jealousy, dissensions, factions, envy, or with the intent to control or manipulate. These “good” deeds were in fact evil. They lead to the wisdom that James outright calls demonic and earthly. Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
To stop acting like mere humans and to start acting like temples of the very Presence of God, children adopted into God’s family, Royal members of the Kingdom of God, we often must go back to the elementary things of God. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 14 that everything must be done in love or it is meaningless. Often, we think we are acting in love, but our actions are far from it.
The elementary teaching that must remain the foundation for any type of spiritual maturity or revelation is that God is love. In fact, the more mature that we become and the greater mysteries that God reveals to us should take us simply deeper into the love of God.
Any good athlete knows and understands this principle. No matter how many impressive trick plays and skills you may be able to perform, it still all comes back to the basics and foundational training. When improving our skills and abilities, we still must maintain and not let go of the basics. If we fail to, we will begin to become less and less effective no matter how good we may think we are and how much we may think we know.
This is the basic truth that we must not let go of as we dive into the deeper truths and revelations of God:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Love your neighbor as yourself. It is the foundation for which the entire law of God and all prophecy is built. It is the foundation that remains consistent through both the Old and New Testaments, both the New and Old Covenants. To love our neighbor as ourselves literally means to put yourself in they’re exact situation and treat them the way that you would want to be treated yourself in their situation. We are not to act in a way that we can argue to be loving from our perspective, but what they would consider to be loving in their circumstances.
Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did? Isn’t that the most powerful way in which we can minister to someone and utilize discernment? Ministering not by knowledge alone, but coupled together with empathy, compassion, and understanding? Isn’t that precisely what Jesus did?
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.
Jesus knows everything and yet ministered to people not out of knowledge alone, but coupled together with empathy. Jesus stepped into our flesh and was tempted in every way that we are. He personally experienced all of our weaknesses. Jesus can empathize with us completely. That is why He had such compassion and gentleness toward the worst of sinners and such zeal against the religious ones who thought themselves to know more and to act more godly than “sinners”. This should radically change how we view Jesus, ourselves, and especially others.
This is why ministry through relationship is so powerful. As we get to know someone, not only do we build rapport and trust with them, but we get to know and understand them better. We understand more readily how they became who they are today, what their true needs are, and how we can best come alongside of them and help them. We come to know how they will respond to certain situations and the best way to approach them about things.
This is one of the reasons why I believe that Jesus’ ministry was so powerful and ours is often ineffective. Whenever someone came to Jesus to be ministered to, he very, very rarely ever told them what they need to do. Yes, there were a few times recorded when this was the case, but it was the rare exception and not the norm. Even in those instances, it was often to prove their healing and not actions to take in order to be healed. How many have received ministry only to walk away feeling like a failure that needs to do a laundry list of things in order to change our circumstances?
When Jesus ministered to those who came to Him, He would often ask questions, but always displayed the power of His Kingdom and provided the solution. He was moved by love and compassion toward people. Jesus was not by puffed up knowledge about their circumstances, even though He knew and discerned the source of their needs perfectly. From what is recorded about the ministry of Jesus, we find that He didn’t even normally explain to them what their root, source problem was which was causing their circumstances. He simply delivered them and brought the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth for those people.
If their circumstances were due to sin, He forgave their sin. If they were being possessed or oppressed by a demonic spirit, He cast it out. If they were sick or diseased for any reason, He healed them. Whenever people came to Jesus, He rarely sent them away with a list things that they needed to do in order to have their needs met. Rather, He met those needs by the power of the same Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
If we take close notice, because Jesus ministered through relationship, He treated everyone differently. Since Jesus ministered through relationship, He could say, “Get behind me, Satan” to Peter and it didn’t seem to impact their relationship much. However, we never find Jesus rebuking or harshly dealing with John. Jesus had a relationship with His disciples and therefore didn’t minister to each of them in the same way. It wasn’t favoritism, it was love. It wasn’t equality, it was meeting their individual discipleship needs out of an equivalent love and compassion toward them.
When we interact with others, we must take this into consideration; being more discerning of ourselves and aware of others. For example, people often act harshly and offensively toward others because of the deep wounds and hurts that they have experienced. If we used Godly discernment, we would clearly see that they need healing and not correction, delivered and simply not told of their problem, befriended and not instructed, discipled and not taught. Sometimes the hardest people to love are the ones who simply need loved the most.
As a general rule of thumb, we can determine whether or not we have used Godly discernment by the results of our actions. Overall, are our actions peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere? Are we being peacemakers that do all things with the love of God as our motive producing in our own lives, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control?
Even when we use Godly discernment and do everything right, people may still oppose us and reject us. Just look at the ministry of Jesus as an example. However, despite the division that following Jesus can obviously cause, He overall brings billions of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, social status, economic status, and even historic time frame together into unity.
In closing, I’d like to encourage you all to:
Titus 3:1-8 (modified for application)
Be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
Remember that at one time we all too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on usgenerously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that you, who have trusted in God, may be careful to devote yourself to doing what is truly good. To do these things which are excellent and profitable for everyone. To act always with the love of God as your source motive and the fruits of the Spirit and His wisdom as rich and undeniable evidence of the Spirit’s work in and through your life.