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The Need for Discernment
By David A. DePra
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why behold the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)
Spiritual discernment is the result of knowing Jesus Christ. If you know the Truth Himself, you are going to, well, know the Truth that pertains to Him – you are going to know what is of Him. This is, of course, a progressive revelation into which we have come.
We really must understand that discernment is the result of knowing Christ. Too often we make discernment a THING or a GIFT – and think of it as something we are able to do as a thing unto itself. No. For a Christian, EVERYTHING is connected to life in Christ, and NOTHING operates independent of our relationship with Him – nothing that is of God, that is. Thus, discernment does not operate independent of Christ, but rather, is a product of our relationship with Him, and knowledge OF Him.
This tells us how to know error. Error is not simply bad theology, although there is plenty of that out there. Rather, error is a misrepresentation of Christ Himself. One way or another it is that. Thus, I cannot know error unless I know the Truth.
I do realize that it is possible for discernment to operate purely on a theological or intellectual level. People DO have brains, and even an atheist can spot hypocrisy and some error. But the discernment of the Holy Spirit is much more than simply being able to compare notes and come to conclusions. The discernment by the Holy Spirit means that I am able to sense whether something belongs to Christ, or does not. It is all based on HIM – whether it fits into HIM.
Unless we know Christ, and therefore have HIM as our basis of discernment, we are going to use something else. Usually, we will use our understanding, how we feel about something, or whether something appeals to us. Sometimes Christians just don’t think. They simply resign and let others think for them.
If there is one thing the church needs today it is the discernment that comes from knowing the Person of Jesus Christ. The fact that there seems to be so little discernment out there today is simply evidence that many, including leaders, DO NOT know Him.
The consequences are everywhere. The growing trend in churches today is the compromise of Truth for the sake of unity. Churches compromise to keep members and get them. This compromise is not merely seen in WRONG things being preached. It is seen in RIGHT things being eliminated. Preachers like Joel Osteen openly brag about the fact that they never preach that we are sinners, must repent, or that there is a Cross that each of us have to meet. This, we are told by people like Osteen, is not necessary. We need a positive gospel, they say. And the fact that millions follow them in their error simply gives them all the more boldness to continue preaching it.
It would seem that today more than ever, whatever will get the people in the pew is what is accepted as Truth. Or people just don’t care about Truth at all. Either way, the trend of the last 10-15 years is one of, "anything goes in the name of love." People like Osteen, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels – all of whom have ties to, or are echoing heretic Robert Schuller – concentrate on YOU, and on making YOU the center of God’s universe. And since we all care about ourselves, we eat this stuff up. And yet this kind of message is actually THE message of antichrist.
Antichrist is basically Christ without the Cross. In other words, antichrist is man IN ADAM affirmed – religiously, just as he is, and without the need to meet the Cross. The modern gospel of self-esteem is the fullness of the gospel of Satan. That is not an extreme statement. It is the Truth – and it is HERE, right now, in the churches. It is one of the most subtle, yet damaging, deceptions ever perpetrated on the Body of Christ. Draw your own conclusions about what that means as to the times in which we live.
All of this comes back to a lack of discernment, and the usual result: Trying to do for God, on the wrong basis, what only God can do on the right basis. God wants His church unified IN CHRIST, and in the Truth. Today we are trying to unify the church by compromising with both.
Judging vs. Discernment
We live in a day and age where RIGHT and WRONG no longer have any meaning – or at least the goal is to try to make them have no meaning. Instead of absolute Truth, we are being told that there is only relative Truth, that is, Truth is whatever you think it is – or Truth is what you believe. In some peoples mind, the answer is that you really cannot know the Truth – even some professing Christians say this. In effect, what we are seeing is a world that more and more intends to do what is right in it’s own eyes.
As a logical outcome of this nonsense, people are being told that they should, "not judge." If I say that Robert Schuller is a heretic, some are offended, because we are not supposed to judge. But read the NT. Did Paul name names? It is certainly possible to become a person whose has appointed himself the judge of everyone else, and to set oneself up as the superior person – there are many, "discernment ministries," out there doing that. But according to the Bible, we are not only to preach the Truth, but we MUST also preach what the Truth IS NOT. Read the epistles. Everyone of them was written to combat error. One way or another they all come back to that. In the end, you really cannot preach the Truth unless you expose the error. Your message won’t be clear otherwise, and because many are looking for affirmation of their error, they will otherwise try to make what you say agree with them.
People like Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, and many others on TV today, are leading millions astray. They have already rejected all counsel and appeal. I know this because they themselves have bragged about doing so – and ridiculed their critics. It is far beyond that point. Thus, in accordance with Matthew 18, and other teachings of the Bible, they ought to be named before all. I am not naïve enough to think it will do any good. But that was never a criteria given by Christ for doing it. We are to name them in order to separate light from darkness, and in order to protect the Body of Christ.
But nevertheless, there are thousands of Christian people who will say that this is, "judging." Yet they themselves, if they gave it any thought, would see the folly of such a claim. For example, let’s suppose someone does object when I say that someone’s conduct or teaching is right or wrong. Suppose they say that this is, "judging." I submit that such a charge is, itself, hypocritical. Why? Because they are saying it is wrong to say something is wrong – and by doing so they are saying something is wrong! So THEY are now judging ME. They are violating the very principle they demand – that we never judge anything! The point is, once you condemn someone for judging, you are judging. It ought to be obvious that there is something flawed in the kind of reasoning that eliminates all moral reasoning from our thinking. It just doesn’t work, but creates a moral and logic circle that cannot be resolved.
The fact is, once you eliminate morality from our thinking, you eliminate all sanity. Once you eliminate the possibility of Truth from our thinking and reasoning, you create a moral vacuum. In fact, it really isn’t possible to eliminate morality, Truth, or right and wrong from a person’s thinking. The reason you can’t eliminate those things is that we are MORAL CREATURES. We have a built in moral nature – even if it has been twisted through sin. Morality is woven into the fabric of what we are as human beings.
If you examine yourself, you will see that this is true. You make moral or value judgments continually. You do that even if your judgment is nothing more than about how you feel, what you like, or whether it is a nice day outside. How much more we do this in relationships! The moment we don’t like someone – even if we don’t say or think it, maybe we just feel it – we are making a judgment OF THEM according to how they affect US. You cannot escape this. It is how you function – right or wrong.
You and I are continually making choices as to what to say, what to think, and how to act. We may not make those choices with a moral yardstick next to them, or even give them much thought. But most everything we think, say, or do is based on our inward sense, or upon our inward desire, to do right and wrong.
Human beings were created with a moral fabric – and this functions whether we care about God or not. In that case, it will not function according to the Truth, but it will function. People may try to deny absolute Truth or right and wrong, but they know better. They WILL react the moment someone does wrong TO THEM! They DO make moral judgments all the time. And as I mentioned earlier, even if I deny the existence of right and wrong, I am making a moral judgment in doing that – I am saying that it is RIGHT to say that there is no such thing as right and wrong. This is self-contradictory and hypocritical, and frankly, it is so obviously so, that God holds us responsible for proclaiming such a lie.
The fact is, there is NO escape from right and wrong. And the reason is not only because we are made moral in nature, but more so because we are created totally accountable to God. Accountability to God is a knowledge that is built into us. The fact that many neglect it, deny it, and push it away to the destruction of their conscience, doesn’t change anything. In fact, the necessity of DEALING WITH IT BY PUSHING IT AWAY proves that morality is IN US.
You and I have never been given the right to decide Truth. You and I have never been given the right to determine for ourselves right and wrong. In fact, you and I have been told that we are forbidden to do those things. Rather, we have been told that we are accountable to God, and if we want to live, we need to turn to Him.
Judging and Discernment
Once we see that we are moral creatures who function IN the realities of right and wrong, it points us to the Truth about what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7. He is NOT saying that it is wrong to say that wrong IS wrong! Neither He is saying that it is wrong to say that right IS right! Read the gospels and read the epistles. Does it sound as if Jesus was hesitant to tell the Truth about right and wrong – in people’s actions and even in their hearts? No. Neither was the apostle Paul hesitant. Right IS right, and wrong IS wrong – and to say so is nothing more than telling the TRUTH.
The fact is, the closer you get to God, the more sensitive you are going to be to right and wrong, and the more you are going to see the Truth. You are going to see the Truth about God, about yourself, and about everything and everyone else, to a greater degree. God is light, and light exposes everything for exactly what it is. The idea that the closer we get to God, the more GRAY things will become is a lie. No. The more black and white they will become.
The attitude that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and that, "true Christian love," will more and more take us into a moral gray area, is Satanic to the core. That’s right. Satanic. It is exactly that. People who deny the necessity of right and wrong, and of absolute Truth, usually have one thing in common: They have refused these things from God for themselves. What I say I believe about these things is usually the result of what I have received from God about these things – it comes down to that in the end. To the extent that I am walking in the light, I will acknowledge the light. It is as a law of our nature.
This tells us much about the meaning Jesus was conveying about judging. Jesus was NOT forbidding us from telling the difference between right and wrong and saying so. No. In fact, Jesus would WANT us to do that – He would want us to DISCERN good from evil, right from wrong, and Truth from error. Exhortations to do so are all through the Bible.
Herein we again see the definition of DISCERNMENT: It means to see something exactly the way it is – the way God sees it – because I know Jesus Christ. You cannot discern anything – in the right attitude -- unless you know HIM.
It is impossible to know error unless you know the Truth. You would have nothing to use as a standard. It is impossible to know what is OF the Truth unless you know the Truth Himself. From this we see that discernment – as does all else in the Christian life – comes from a relationship with Christ. It is the outcome of knowing HIM.
This doesn’t mean that we cannot use our brains to figure out right and wrong without Christ. Sure we can. But not only is discernment the ability to know truth from error, and right from wrong – but it is also to have God’s attitude in the discernment. Thus, when I see wrong, I always call it wrong. But I don’t use this information to exalt myself, or to put others down. They may be dead wrong. I cannot compromise with the fact. But I must not become even MORE WRONG by condemning them for it.
"Discern," in the Bible, comes from the Greek word, "anakrino." It means, "to distinguish, or separate out so as to investigate." Also the word, "diakrino," is used, which is similar in meaning, but which can also mean, "to learn by discriminating." Another word used is, "dokimazo." It means "to test, prove, scrutinize, so as to decide." All of these words point to the same thing: To see clearly the moral nature of a thing, and to be honest about it.
But there is such a thing as JUDGING – which Jesus tells us never to do. The word that is most often translated, "judge," is "katakrino." It means to "condemn, to pass sentence upon, to pronounce judgment against."
Now we can see a vast difference between discerning good from evil, and judging against someone. To discern is simply to call things what they are. To judge is to decide what people deserve because of it. To discern is to be see as God sees. To judge is to play God in the lives of others.
So what we see here is that it is quite possible to be RIGHT in my discernment, but to use that discernment to pass sentence against someone. This is exactly what it means to JUDGE in the sense Jesus said we must NOT do. The problem, in that case, is not my facts. No. The problem is my attitude. I am using myself as the standard by which other are condemned – rather than pray for them. I am using their sin to exalt myself.
God wants us to discern. In fact, if you read the above passage again from Matthew, Jesus tells us to discern by first turning to ourselves and removing the beam from our own eye. We could hardly do this if it were wrong to know the difference between right and wrong. And then He says that we can help the other person – again, something impossible if knowing right from wrong were prohibited. No. We ARE to discern – but to do so with redemptive goals. We are never to JUDGE – never to play God by deciding for God what others deserve.
When we do discern error or sin in others, the first thing God would have us do is turn ourselves to Him. Not necessarily because we are guilty of that error or sin. But because we dare not become guilty of the sin of judging. He wants us to turn to Him and give ourselves to Him as a vehicle to pray for another. This doesn’t dismiss their sin or responsibility to God. But we are taking a redemptive position, rather than a condemning one. This is the will of God.
Jesus said the judgment with which we judge we will be judged. This is true in a number of ways. First of all, the moment I condemn or pass sentence upon another I am demanding a standard that I claim is God’s standard – no one is actually going to admit the standard is their own. But if I apply such a standard to another, and say it is God’s, then it must also apply to me. I will be judged by what I believe is that standard. In short, what I say is right and wrong for another – unto their condemnation – can only be a reflection of what I believe is right and wrong for me. Secondly, if I judge in the way Jesus prohibits, then I myself have sinned. So how can I condemn another for their sin and not be condemned for mine? I’m not saying that any of this is God’s judgment – I’m just saying that I am condemned by my own condemnation of another.
There are reasons why we must never play God by deciding for God what someone deserves. One of them is that we cannot fully know the motives of another person. So even though it is acceptable to say, "What that person did was wrong," it is not acceptable to say, "They deserve such and such because of it."
Common sense tells us that God wants us to discern, but not to judge. Think about it. If Jesus meant we should never make moral judgments as to what is right and what is wrong, then where does that leave us?
One place it leaves us is that we cannot obey God. That’s right. How can we obey God if we must not judge between right and wrong? Furthermore, we cannot ever help other people obey God or know His will, for to do so would necessitate making certain moral judgments.
Another thing it would mean is that we would never be able to pray for someone who is going astray. How could we? We aren’t allowed to even think they are going astray. That would be, "judging." So that’s out the window.
Conviction of sin would be wrong. Because let’s face it, if we are to be morally callous as to right and wrong, we must no longer have any conviction as to right and wrong in ourselves, or others.
Discerning the difference between true and false doctrine would also cease. For that too would be judging. Thus, we must adopt an, "anything goes," attitude towards Christian teaching. To question it would be, "judging."
The fact is, once you eliminate right and wrong as necessities, you eliminate accountability to God Himself. You eliminate Truth. You eliminate Christian character. You eliminate Jesus Christ – for if there is no such thing as right and wrong, then He died for NOTHING.
The writer of Hebrews made it clear that we are to discern:
But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:14)
Mature Christians do not walk around with a big magnifying glass trying to figure out everyone else. They do not hold up a little list of rules and laws and try to see whether everyone else is living up to their standard. No. In fact, to use ONESELF as the measuring rod for the conduct of others always leads to judging. Every time. Mature Christians have all of that kind of self-righteous attitude crucified out of them. Their focus is upon
Christ -- upon the interests of Jesus Christ in other people.
So all of this tells us—not only how we ought to answer those who would say we are judging—but it also tells us to beware lest we do judge. We are able to say, "Such
and such is someone who is teaching error." But I must not say, "This teacher has no salvation because of what they are teaching." I can leave that to God. I must discern the teaching, and even the conduct. But I must not play God and pass sentence.
The Bottom Line
The conclusion of all of this ought to be more than obvious. We are absolutely to discern – in fact, we WILL DISCERN if we are close to Christ. In short, discernment is the by-product of knowing Jesus Christ. When you know HIM – you are able to discern everything else according to HIM.
The result of that discernment will not be for us to refuse to define right and wrong. It will not be to live in a gray area. Rather, the result of discernment will be to come to see things more like God see them – black and white, so to speak. But we won’t take that discernment and condemn others. They may be dead wrong, and they may be in great danger. We may need to say so. But we will not trash them because of it.
Because discernment is the product of knowing Christ, it will also carry with it the attitude of Christ. This is why it is so important to discern because we know Christ, and not because we enjoy picking things apart!
People who know Jesus Christ take a stand FOR Christ and FOR Truth. But not AGAINST others – although we might have to take a stand against what they are teaching, or what they are doing. But really, this is actually a stand FOR them – because it is a stand in the Truth and in Christ. It is a witness and a testimony to them – even if they don’t believe that, or hate you for it. The goal, rather than trash them is to win them for Christ.
Of course, some folks just aren’t going to be won for Christ. They are not going to stop destroying themselves, and trying to take down others with them. The solution is never to give in to them. The solution is to stand in the Truth.
Paul the apostle would not accept false teachers in the church. He would not accept immorality. He told the churches not to associate with immoral brethren, and to never welcome false teachers into the church. He did not mince words, and did not compromise. Yet Paul knew that he was not to judge or condemn – but to love. Today his words probably seem contradictory to some. But they are not. And it helps to know where he was coming from.
Paul knew that if you allow people to continue preaching error, or living in sin, that not only would that eventually harm other Christians, but you would be putting an affirmation upon the one who is sinning. You may not mean to, or realize what you are doing, but in the end, to embrace a fellow Christian in their sin – when they have no intention of turning from it – is actually to affirm their sin. This is why Paul insists that these things be dealt with in the church – immorality and false teaching. To get comfortable with these helps the offenders destroy themselves, keeps them deceived, and eventually endangers the whole church.
Now, of course, I’m not talking about petty doctrinal distinctions or the usual failings that we commit each day. I’m talking about a person who is teaching error that corrupts the spiritual life of the church, and about sins that are open, deliberate, and where there is no intention of repentance. Jesus gave the steps to deal with such cases. The third step is that the people are told they are no longer welcome in the church. So this is after every attempt has been made to help and restore the offending party. But if they won’t turn and accept the help that is offered, they must leave.
Of course, even THEN, they can be accepted back IF they repent. But I cannot think of anything worse than to go through all of those steps and have to tell someone to leave, only to accept them back without repentance. If we do that we are violating every standard for the church God has established. And we will reap what we sow.
Can we see that all of these measures are really LOVE? It is not love to help others continue in error or sin – even if our, "help," is a passive one. It is not love to watch others destroy themselves and do nothing, because we don’t make to make them mad, or offend other church members who might not think it important. Obviously, in these cases, leadership is responsible, and must make sure they are RIGHT, and have the right attitude – the Bible teaches this as well.
Pretty much every teaching in the Bible on this matter is ignored today – all in the name of love. Stand up today and even SUGGEST that someone must not be allowed to preach error in your church – even if they are merely spreading it behind the scenes – and you will be labeled a troublemaker, too insistent upon your own opinion, and you will be avoided like the plague. At best you will get a smile of pity because you are too immature to be as, "loving," as the people who think that anything ought to be permitted in the Body of Christ. But the church today is suffering greatly because there is no love of the Truth.
I want to give a couple of extreme examples right out of scripture. Suppose I was a member of the church at Galatia, and read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, and came to this passage that Paul wrote about those who were leading the Galatians astray:
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:9-10)
I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (Gal. 5:12)
Since the Galatians did embrace the false message of these false teachers, we can assume that they had a certain amount of friendship with them. Let’s pretend as a member of the Galatian church I have befriended some of these false teachers, and have bought into their error. I simply don’t see any real necessity of making such a big deal over this – certainly not the big deal Paul is making over this. So I write Paul back and, "appeal," to him:
Dear Brother Paul,
I read your recent letter to our church and I wanted to let you know how grieved it made me feel. You yourself wrote in that letter that the most important thing in our lives is, "faith working through love." And yet most of your letter did not show much love. Those whom you accuse of preaching another gospel are not terrible, wicked people. They are very nice people. They have treated us with respect and love. All they are trying to teach us that we need to obey the law of God. So what if they are wrong on a few other Truths? Is that so bad?
I want to appeal to you, Paul, to take your attitude to the Lord. You are causing division in the church because you insist upon your doctrines as the only answer. There seems to be no flexibility in you. You really were not with the Lord among the original twelve and yet you claim to be an apostle. I dare say that at times you seem quite arrogant. Is your perspective the only possible answer?
I want to help. Therefore, I am exhorting you to talk to these teachers you condemn. Then you can see that they are not sinners, but Christians. And it will be a good opportunity for you to resolve your differences with them and find common ground. I assume that you will be willing to do that. I have to be honest in saying that if you are not, you will simply affirm my suspicions that you are unloving, inflexible, and someone who is causing division in the Body of Christ.
And incidentally, I have heard about your command to the church at Corinth to disfellowship the guy who was in an immoral relationship with his father’s wife. Do you really think that he is better off out of the church? How does that help? Seriously, Paul, you sometimes lack compassion. Didn’t Jesus love everyone?
Sincerely in Christ,
Well, I hope this gets a message across. Of course, I do realize that there are also many people out there who are guilty of everything of which this hypothetical letter accuses Paul. They ARE unmerciful and mean spirited – and use the Word of God as a sword to chop down everyone who disagrees with them. Sure. But again: SOMEONE is letting them. Someone is allowing them to continue. And sometimes that is done by simply sitting in the pew and saying nothing.
Paul’s concern in these matters was always the TRUTH. He would not compromise with Truth. He knew that to do so was to compromise with Christ Himself, not to mention to violate the Body for which Christ died.
Unity in Christ
Unity for the sake of unity is wrong. God never wants any kind of unity unless it is IN CHRIST – and that means IN TRUTH. Any other kind of unity is OPPOSED to unity in Christ and the Truth. This is so even if the people involved don’t realize it.
To try to FORCE UNITY because you think it needs to happen is not only of the flesh, but it will NEVER work. Unless unity is voluntary, and in the Truth, it is not of God. The Holy Spirit isn’t going to make a unity on any other basis. It is certainly possible for religious people to have unity – outside of God’s will and Truth. All might be well. But in the end, this is deception – a group deception or blindness.
All it takes for unity is agreement in mind. And you can do that on ERROR. Cults do. God wants us to have the mind of Christ and to be unified in Truth. All other unity must be dismantled to make this possible.
Truth is often what is sacrificed for unity when religious flesh is at work, because flesh will always find the common denominator that pleases people. But the moment you sacrifice TRUTH for unity you have compromise. Indeed, what you have is error.
Jesus did not compromise Truth for unity – ever. Jesus absolutely loved the Pharisees, in fact He died for them, but did He make it His goal in life to have unity with them? No. It was impossible – because they would never come over to the Truth. Paul never, "reconciled," with the Judizers. The only kind of unity they would have accepted was in their error. Thus, we see that unless unity is in the TRUTH, there can be none – and that is better than unity at the expense of Truth.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 10:34-39)
Jesus Christ intends to smash and destroy ALL UNITY that is NOT in Himself. We must understand that. Thus, for any person in the Body of Christ to go around trying to create unity through the force of their personality – thinking that they are serving God – this can actually be counter to God’s purpose. That person may, in fact, be creating unity that Jesus intends to smash. They may actually be setting up obstacles to unity in Christ and in Truth.
For example, I have known of examples where church leaders or laymen have, through a quest for power, or through false doctrine, caused great division and harm in a church. In some cases, they left that church, and caused others to leave. But no one obeyed the Word of God and attempted to deal with this. No one wanted to call it what it was: SIN against God. The person left, the damage was done, and that was that. But in some of these cases, the person just went somewhere else and did the same thing all over again. I have even known of cases where that same person, after some time had passed, came back into the original church as if nothing had ever happened – and again, no one does a thing about it. I know of one case where the troublemakers just, "waited out," the pastor, and when he left, the other members just let them back in.
Jesus never told us to kick people out of church if we don’t like them, or if they aren’t perfect. Generally speaking, the two reasons for having to deal with people in any official way are teaching or promoting heresy, and immorality. But even in these cases, the goal would be to restore and help. But usually, people will have none of that if you try to help them. They will instead take offense, and YOU will be the bad guy. It is a fact that in many churches today there is absolutely NO regard for pastoral authority – he is merely an employee. And it is a fact that in many churches today there is very little reverence to the point of any kind of church discipline. It would seem that the only time this is evidenced is when the agenda of the, "powers that be," is threatened. Then the disciple kicks in and action is taken. This isn’t the case everywhere, but it is the case in lots of places.
Now again, if you DID try to obey the Bible – in love – even if you are a pastor – you would probably be labeled as unmerciful and judgmental. You would be the bad guy because, "you won’t forgive," and allow certain people to remain in church or allow certain ones to come back into the church. Or you would be labeled self-righteous if you suggested that anyone needed to be restored. This attitude is everywhere today. It is of Satan and has been successful in destroying much of the spiritual life of the Body. If you want to know what kind of message Christians like today tune in Joel Osteen. He had a best seller and is the pastor of the biggest church in the US. And yet he is totally blind to the Truth. He preaches love at the expense of Truth and holiness – but he does it with such a nice attitude, doesn’t he?
The fact is, people need to be stopped. And if the only way they can be stopped is by putting them out of the church, then at least they won’t hurt others. And it is the job of leadership to do that – in love and in Truth. I won’t even bother quoting the dozens of passages from scripture that teach this – no, which COMMAND this. But you see, in order for these things to be obeyed, the leadership themselves would have to get right with God and know the Truth. And therein lies much of the problem, and the reason it is NOT done.
The Bible teaches that THINGS ALWAYS GROW UP TO BE WHAT THEY ARE. Always. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Reaping is always directly related to what is sown. This can change, of course, upon repentance. But unfortunately, repentance is becoming more and more rare as a taught necessity in the church today. Yet the point is, you will never solve real problems IN CHRIST and IN TRUTH by sweeping them under the rug. There is a time, "to let love cover," and if that is possible, then it is what ought to be done. But there are other times when it is love NOT to cover, but to expose and deal with in Christ.
Churches today want to keep the peace at all cost. All cost. They want everyone to be happy. This is the gospel of Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels. And how easy it is to teach SOME Truth – but to leave out the most important Truth of all: The personal CROSS. That omission always seems to go with the peace at all cost mentality, and the notion that, "anything goes equals love." As Paul said, "Be not deceived: evil companions corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. "(1 Cor 15:33-34)
What we end up with from all of this is a spiritually weak church, where the Truth of the Bible is not preached with authority and certainty, and a group of Christians who have never realized the damage they are doing to themselves. We have people in leadership who, in many cases, are not even born again, and who, even if they are, should not be in those positions. And we have, in most cases, a complete disregard for the Truth, the Bible, and for Christ – all because we want unity, love, peace, and a big happy family. What greater deception could there be?
I know of one case where the pastor of the church was falsely accused by the elders of the church of a number of things – most of them based on gossip and just plain jealousy. (The truth is, they just couldn’t control him – they said that.) This pastor was not at fault in this matter as far as I know. The elders passed a motion to dismiss him – which required a majority vote of the membership gathered at a meeting for that purpose. Well, it was announced after the vote that he had been dismissed by a margin of ONE vote. Later, I ran into a deacon who happened to be in the room where the elders counted the votes – which should never have happened. He said that there were two people who abstained, which meant that the pastor actually WON the vote by one vote. This is so according to the church by-laws, for the motion was FOR dismissal, needed a majority, and didn’t get it. The elders knew this and LIED to the entire congregation about it. And what was the reaction to all of this by this deacon, who was the only person who knew the truth about what had happened? He said that he felt it was LOVE to keep it quiet and to continue to support those deacons, rather than expose a matter than would cause further strife.
Was that right? He probably had good intentions, but did covering up this sin spare people, or did it, in ways that were much less observable, do great spiritual harm? Funny how spiritual harm is easy to overlook. And yet it is the worst kind imaginable.
I have also known of churches and groups where the leadership went around acting like the Nazi Gestapo – they so fully sought to control the lives of others – all, "in the name of love." Yet all of this comes back to not knowing Christ, not knowing the Truth, and often results from ignoring God’s requirements for NT church leadership.
If the church is in bad shape, and God’s wants it in good shape, can we see that it must be RESHAPED? And can we see that this will absolutely mean that this will require that Christ be allowed to dismantle, and bring down, all of the false kingdoms that have been set up in His name – even if those false kingdoms seem to have unity, peace, and happiness? God, in His mercy, certainly lets things go on for a long time because He would rather have His people seek Him and make some of these changes willingly and in a less traumatic way. But do we really think that God is not going to deal with these matters at some point? Even if it is only when Christ returns?
The whole point is this: The goal of God is NEVER to force unity. The goal of God is Christ. The goal of God is NEVER to sacrifice Truth and holiness for the sake of peace. The goal of God is Christ. And the only way any of this is possible is if individuals, especially leadership, get RIGHT WITH HIM, and allow Him to be Lord over them.
I would submit that it is actually WRONG to have unity in a church on any other basis than that of Jesus Christ. It is WRONG no matter how happy the people are – for if there is one thing that can keep people from seeing Christ it is to be happy and at peace outside of His will.
What we see in all of these terrible possibilities is that we are to discern, and not judge. But if we discern according to the Holy Spirit, we will be accountable – because we now know the Truth. We dare not compromise with it.
Christ is Central
So many problems in churches are the result of taking ones eyes off of Christ – assuming those eyes were ever ON Him – and getting those eyes onto a THING called, "church." The result of doing that is often power struggles, politics, and the flesh doing its thing. But the fact is, it is impossible to DISCERN at all – to see anything according to the Truth – unless we see it in the light of Jesus Christ. If we know Him, and focus on Him, everything else is discerned. But if we don’t see Him, all will, at best, be intellectual. We won’t be able to discern by the Spirit.
God wants His people to have ONE MIND – HIS MIND. The mind of Christ. And this Greek word, "mind," in the NT, is not equal to brains, or opinion. It speaks of a person’s attitude towards God Himself – of their relationship with Him. Our mind towards God is to be like that of Christ’s mind towards God.
Contrast that over and against trying to bring people’s minds together in a reconciliation, just to make peace. You could do that and end up with NO ONE having the mind of Christ. But they might have each other’s mind – because someone, or both, give in. Again – compromise for the sake of peace can actually be of Satan. It could be his tool to get everyone out of the will of God – "all in the name of love."
True unity is when everyone has the mind of Christ in Spirit and in Truth. It is not something that can be forced with laws and commands. It is not something that can be faked – although lots of people try. It is the product of EACH in a group of Christians having the same mind – the attitude of Christ towards God, and one another. Division, on the other hand, is when some people operate out of their own mind – usually a religious one. Or even a carnal one. Usually they don’t even know what they are doing.
Do we realize that UNITY IN ERROR is actually division in the eyes of God – because it divides us from fellowship in the Truth? Sure. Unity for the sake of unity, peace at all cost, and an, "anything goes," policy for the sake of, "love," make give an appearance of something good, but in the eyes of God, if everyone in a group of Christians are unified OUTSIDE of the will of God, that is division. They are separated from God’s will – no matter how, "unified," they are in that separation.
Perhaps the greatest harm of all in unity in error is NOT so much the error itself. Perhaps the greatest harm is the Truth that the error keeps us from. People can spend decades, or even their whole lives, coasting through life in Christ in a church or group, comfortable in darkness, and at ease in the deception that binds them together, and they may NEVER see what they are missing. They don’t see that they don’t see. And it takes a miracle to set them free – and even then some won’t respond.
Discernment is the result of knowing Jesus Christ. God wants His people to KNOW HIM. He wants us to know the Truth. This will result in discernment – not judging. But it will also result in a stand in the Truth for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of TRUE UNITY in Him.
Once again, the solution to every problem in churches comes back to the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said this to each of the churches to which He spoke in Revelation 2 and 3. "e that has an ear let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
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