This is written specifically to Christians, those that are truly born-again and not simply pew sitters.
You that have been Christians for a few decades, have you noticed how different churches are these days.
In the past it was common for most Christians to attend services three times a week, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and midweek service.
Now it is common for most Christians to attend once a week, with an option of different kinds of services in most medium to large churches.
In many of these churches the options that are presented are an early Sunday morning service or a later Sunday morning service, one with modern music and the other with traditional music.
Have you noticed how different the dress is within churches.
It used to be that men would wear suits, and women would wear dresses.
Now it is very common to see men and women to wear jeans, women in slacks; and even individuals wearing shorts.
Right now, I am not making a judgment concerning these conditions, I’m only making an observation (You make the judgment).
The point is there seems to be a loosening up within the churches, a bend towards liberalism, in the technical manner; meaning things aren’t as strict as they used to be.
As far as attitudes within the church, it is very common for people to not be apprehensive about admitting that their divorced, wherein the past this was rare, and if it occurred there was modesty displayed; it is more common to find pastors on their second marriage.
And do you notice that there are many programs within the church that are critiqued to the individual, rather than the group.
There has always been the nursery, the young children, the older children, and the teenagers; but now there is the singles, the young married group, the divorce recovery group, the seniors; and this is simply Sunday school, not extended groups.
There are other individual groups such as: weight loss group, new patients group, family blending group, substance abuse recovery group, female survivors support group, abortion recovery group, grief support group, sexual abuse recovery group, men’s sexual recovery group (not listed in the below church), family education group, cancer care group, care-giving support group, grace group (mental health), family-to-family support group (family care giving for mental illness), habit recovery group, financial planning group (not listed in the below church), music appreciation group (not listed in the below church), and one-to-one support; but to mention a few (Yes, almost of these groups are conducted by one church, Irving Bible Church; a good Bible based church I am told).
What I’m getting to is it is obvious that the church has changed, allowing for more individualism (See Endnote #1), which feeds self; while at the same time reflecting the culture that we live in.
I am not condemning these groups, nor even the concept behind them, at least not individually, I am simply making the observation that many medium to large size churches spend much of their time concerning the Christian, rather than Christ.
It is in understanding that we must not only do the right thing, but we must do it the right way; and that sometimes what becomes the enemy of the best is not the worst, but the second-best when it draws attention to itself away from the best (See Endnote #2).
Churches holding classes outside of the normal times of worship, and not instead of worship; I believe MAY have their place in attempting to address the pain and anguish that believers go through in life as long as they do not utilize modern psychology, Christian psychology or other forms of non-biblical a cultic practices (Such as yogurt, Acupuncture, New Age Techniques, And other practices which are NOT taught in the Bible), AND as long as it is done in a way where it does not fixate on the problem, nor that it fixate on the person, but utilizes only biblical Scripture, while at the same time holding preeminent Jesus Christ and how He, and He alone is the answer to these problems.
We should always remember how the Bible treats the condition of SELF in regards to our Christian walk, by re-examining passages such as:
“Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:22-26)
How often is this message preached and taught within the churches which I have referred to above?
And worse than this, how rapid is the growth of sin within churches, which is not only tolerated, but many times promoted in the form of doing just the opposite of what the Scripture teaches.
How can this happen within the church of Jesus Christ, and happen so easily?
The method that this is achieved is an obvious and simple answer, is it is a “frog in the boiling pot situation,” wherein discretion is under attack.
The result that it fosters is a mindset within mainline Christianity wherein keeping the pews packed becomes the focus of attention, while we tell ourselves that it’s all about expanding the Kingdom of God, we refuse to recognize how self-serving this can become wherein it’s actually about expanding the walls of OUR church and therefore it’s growth.
Everything that has been addressed comes down to one thing – the importance of discernment within the body of Christ.
Without recognizing it is definitely the choices that we make as individual believers, that affect the church is a whole; wherein It is this lack of discernment that has created this situation and we will hear address.
The answer to the problems that have been addressed is that the church needs to again teach and grow spiritual discernment.
Because without proper judgment, without proper discernment we have no ability to grow spiritually – to display spiritual wisdom (Remembering that wisdom is the application of knowledge, which explains why we have so many individual Believers which know so much about God’s Word – due no doubt in part by the expansion of the internet, yet that, yet in their life display such a lack of wisdom – so many bad choices made by so many intelligent people).
The Key – Proof Text
Perhaps one of the most important, as well sophisticated passages that addresses the application of proper judgment (or “discernment”, which unfortunately is a more user-friendly word for most of use) is found in Hebrews 5:11-14, which states:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
First, we should note that the writer states that in spite of his desire to press on, and teach the weightier issues of God’s Word, he cannot because they are “dull of hearing.”
He goes on to state that in spite of the amount of time that they have been believers, in which they should be “teachers” by now, they haven’t even began to understand the elementary “principles” and doctrines of God’s Word, which he refers to as “milk,” that they are unable to metabolize whole food – strong meat, the more deeper issues presented in God’s Word.
Discernment & Spiritual Growth
What a pathetic picture the author draws, that of believers who should be spiritual adults, yet spiritually immature believers unable to dig deeper into God’s Word; not because they have not heard the teachings, not because there’s not been a teacher to explain it, not because there is a lack of ability to perceive what is stated cognitively; but because of their lack of exercising proper judgment concerning what is good and evil.
In the same way that faith is like a muscle and must be stretched and used in order to grow (See Endnote #3) , the same principle is true concerning Spiritual growth, wherein the muscle spirituality must be stretched by using judgment and discernment concerning the difference between what is good, and what is evil.
It’s like a baby that does not practice crawling, can never achieve the muscle necessary for standing and then walking.
What is unfortunate is that the lack of ability to judge is formulated because of a lack of desire to use it.
Why the Church is so Weak Today
Now it makes sense why today in our culture, which boast itself of tolerance and acceptance, and refuses to judge another; why people in general, and due to the compromise of the church, believers specifically are so spiritually immature.
We see the church large in number, but small in effecting the world around it.
There must be an application of God’s Word regarding judgment concerning what is right or wrong in order to create the condition for Spiritual growth.
The 21st century church in America has allowed the culture at large to define it, inhibited, alienate it, and emasculate it.
The Church of Jesus Christ in 21st Century America
This last year, I temporarily filled In addressing the day-by-day operations of the Pastoral Department of a large hospital.
One of my functions was to host a monthly ministerial alliance meeting where local ministers met in order to function better as the body of Christ in our area.
These are some great guys that I’ve grown to love.
And during our fellowship together I have had the opportunity to gain an overview of what the local churches were doing in our area regarding a very wide swap of denominational diversity.
I have no doubt whatsoever that these pastors are teaching the Word of God, which I have even witnessed in visiting their churches.
Yet, the churches are so full of believers that have been polluted by our culture wherein they become hearers and not doers of the word, as is said in James 1:22, which states:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
Part of the problem with becoming hearers, and not doers; is a conclusion that James lays out, that of deceiving ourselves in the process.
If we do not do God’s Word, then we deceive ourselves; and is it any wonder that mature Spiritual discretion is lacking?
This is especially noticeable on radio, television, and internet regarding religious programming; wherein it is evident that the church, which is made up of believing individuals has become affected by the culture, to the extent that proper judgment is not utilized and because of this, self-deception reigns.
The answer to the dilemma that James lays out is very easy – become doers of God’s words and not hearers only.
Yet there is one particular Area that we need to adhere to in God’s word in order to fight off the self-deception, and become doers – doers because we have the discernment to understand what it is that we need to be about doing – we need to be using our discernment as the above passage states regarding Hebrews 5:14.
We must remember what Paul told the church of Corinth, which of all the New Testament churches may be closest to our own (See Endnote #4).
I Corinthians 11:31, states:
“For if we would judge [Greek: diakrino] ourselves, we should not be judged [Greek: krino].”
The first word for “judge”, diakrino, means to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, to discriminate, or decide; depending on the grammatical breakdown.
The second word for judge, krino according to its grammar means to condemn.
Therefore, we understand that this is passage is stating that,
“if we would discern ourselves; with the implied intent of change, we would not be subject to ultimate condemnation.”
This is what is to take place within the life of the believer according to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Also, without judgment we have no ability to perceive danger when it is present.
This is why Jesus spoke so often (Mat. 24:4,5,11,24; Mark 13:5,6; Luke 21:8) about deception to His followers (Believers – Christians – saved), which He would not have done if it were not possible for them to be deceived, as seen in the following Scriptures:
The only protection against deception is God’s Word and its application as seen in proper Biblical judgment.
To Reiterate – To be able to Discern, you must Practice Discerning Good and Evil
We must keep in mind the biblical admonition concerning how the believer is to maintain proper discernment – judgment, Which is to exercise, constantly exercising proper judgment concerning that which is good and evil, as Hebrews 5:11-14, which states:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.“
This text is very straightforward, yet mainly overlooked.
Spiritual maturity comes due to discernment, which comes due to the use of judgment concerning what is good and evil – if you refuse to judge, you will only drink milk, and never strong meat.
Judgment is not requested, It is demanded as is seen in the following Scriptures: John 7:24; Acts 20:28; Romans 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 5:1-13; 6:9; 15:33; Galatians 1:6-9; 6:3,7; Ephesians 4:14; 5:6; 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:3,10; 3:6; 3:14-15; Titus 1:10-16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:5-7; Hebrews 5:14, James 1:22,26; 2 Peter 2:14; 1 John 1:5, 8; 3:7; 4:1; and 2 John 1:6-9.
There are dozens of Scriptures which demand that believers exercise judgment – for a much more thorough examination of the subject of discernment and judgment please see: “Judging ~ Church Discipline ~ Forgiveness & Turning the Cheek.”
What we must keep in mind is that these references are exclusively to believers, it is the believers that can be deceived when they refuse to stand firmly on God’s Word and judge according to what God has said.
There is a real connection between:
Spiritual perception, the understanding of God’s Word,
and most of all: Spiritual growth
The habitual use in exercising judgment
in regards to good and evil.
1. How often are we guilty of Christian idolatry:
Which can be seen when believers:
“Worship Their Work, Work at Their Play,
and Play at Their Worship.”
2. The Enemy of the Best
The most successful enemy of the best is not the worst; it is the second-best when it draws attention to itself from the best.
On Christian websites, it is common to observe a focus on people in an effort to display a central theme of fellowship and relationship.
And while God has called us to enter into fellowship one with another, as well as calling us to be good husbands and wives, good parents, and good people; when these become the preoccupation of the Church of Jesus Christ, it starts down the road of dethroning the status of Jesus Christ and His preeminence as God incarnate, and Savior of the world.
(“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 loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” ~ Matthew 10:35-37)
There is a place for teaching concerning families and relationships – yet never to be predominate to the ministry, or from the pulpit as the focus of the church; but in classes or studies – or do it like the first century Church example of one-on-one mentoring; or very small group mentoring – what we call discipleship.
Are we not told in the Scripture: “Go therefore and make disciples [“students”] of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching [it does not say to “go witness to men;” understanding that our current Use of this term, “witnessing,” has become a quick in-and-out process, In order to bring an individual to a verbal commitment in Christ, then leave. This is a self-centered type of witnessing, it takes no commitment of the Christian, no time; give them a track and say “God be with you.”] them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. ~ Matthew 28:19-20).
Discipleship, leading students in reading and studying God’s word, In order to understand what it says about life while always maintaining the preeminence of Jesus Christ is meant to be the fabric of the life of a believer.
And whereas there are many important issues which can be served by these individual groups, these groups MANY TIMES do not keep Christ as preeminent, whereas the problem, or what they referred to as the solution becomes the focus of attention.
In past generations, where the church was alive vital mature and relevant, we did not have these type of individual centered classes to deal with life’s problems (While also Unfortunate is the fact that these classes utilize modern psychology, Christian psychology, are some other form of self-help which is not biblically centered), we simply had the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ which addressed these needs while not exploiting the sense of self wherein the focus is on self as opposed to Jesus Christ.
It is when these things become preeminent in our lives, wherein solutions and problems are our focus instead of Jesus Christ, that the second-best of addressing people’s needs becomes the enemy of the best itself, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. The Process of Faith
Faith only grows when it is stretched by tribulations (problems, hard times, difficulties, calamities, trials, and testing; they’re all synonymous concerning the “trying of our faith”). Faith can only grow incrementally, as more and more is demanded of it. This is because trust is a process contingent upon experience, as someone (or in the case of God and His Word the Bible – Rom. 10:17) proves they are trustworthy situation after situation, we trust them more and more. In this way faith is analogous to a muscle which must be torn before growth can occur. Therefore, we must always realize and therefore understand that testing is not done simply as a process whereby God attempts to validate the existence of our faith, or its degree, which might appear cruel on the surface; but that these trials are necessary for faith to grow, and that without these trials, it is impossible for faith to mature ~ James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12.
4. The Church of Corinth and its lack of Judgment
The church of Corinth displayed such poor judgment that it had allowed incest to be accepted openly, as well as believers defrauding other believers financially, their preoccupation with mysticism, along with signs and wonders in place of gifts of the Spirit, where the supper of the Lord was abused in drunkenness and gluttony, while others went hungry. Where selfishness became the norm to the extent that Paul worked a full-time job to support himself as well as the Ministry (which he later regretted because it added to their spiritual immaturity) no doubt exhibiting their lack of financial support in spite of the fact that they were very affluent. Yet, in a close examination it becomes apparent that all of this existed because of their lack of and refusal to exercise proper judgment according to the mind of Christ. They were a very worldly church that refused to judge and intervene according to the church discipline (As Jesus instructed us in Matthew 18:15-17).
See the full article on judgment: ” Judging ~ Church Discipline ~ Forgiveness; Turning the Cheek“