“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their sense exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
With all the talk of spiritual gifts these days, the most neglected gift is discernment.
Discernment is the practice of testing or determining what is in the spiritual waters. It is based on the commands we have been given to differentiate between good and bad teaching.
Which implies that everything has a spiritual source.
No Criticism Allowed
But that source is often not clearly seen. It may even be camouflaged or disguised to deceive those who otherwise might know how to reject a bad doctrine or practice.
Tragically we are commonly discouraged from exercising biblical judgment in spiritual matters. Because that is increasingly viewed as being critical of what others are saying. Or of taking a negative position.
This “spirit” against criticism or discernment comes from many directions. It comes from national leaders, from popular authors, evangelists, and even our fellow Christians.
Preachers, writers and teachers today are expected to focus on the positive. A quick way to get rebuked by a pastor or brother in Christ is to question something that a popular leader has said. Because that would mean we think that we are perfect in our doctrine. That we are the “only ones who have the truth”.
Have you heard this before? It has become such a common way of thinking that it is frightening.
To explain how we got into this predicament could fill up many books. Suffice it to say for now, that there is much we have come to accept within our churches that must be re-evaluated. Much that the Evangelical churches, as a whole, must discern, test and judge while there is still time.
Creating a “Safe Place”?
For example, I was reading recently about how we are supposed to deal with those in the church that practice or promote promiscuity or homosexuality. Especially as relates to someone coming into our midst that is not a professed believer. Someone who might be a first-time or even regular visitor wanting to see what we believe.
Now, I believe in being kind and friendly to everyone. And unless someone is openly challenging the positions of a church, then we should do our best to be warm and cordial.
Just as any one of us would want to be treated when visiting another church.
However, the church is starting to sound more and more like a liberal college campus. Such as in the use of phrases like, “creating a safe space” within the church.
If you have followed that idea as it plays out in the university setting, it’s a disaster. With the universities promoting the idea that students should have a “safe space” where their ideology will not be challenged by opposing viewpoints. Where people with opposing political or cultural viewpoints must shut up and conform to the popular ideologies of the particular school.
What this means, for all practical purposes, is that you can say and believe whatever you like on a liberal college campus — unless you are a Conservative or a Christian. Then you must keep your mouth shut. Or else.
Few things I have heard in recent years are more ridiculous than this idea.
In fact, it is an astoundingly unthinkable idea that a place of supposedly higher learning is going to limit discussions of belief and ideology wherever they may occur.
I have always believed, as most normal, rational people do, that students go to college to be challenged in their thinking? To be educated beyond their childish intelligence, rather than coddled and bundled in warm, cozy, ideological blankets.
So, for the church to listen to and emulate this thinking is shocking. But that is what the church continues to do. It is always trying to appeal to the concerns and sensitivities of the young. And to whatever bad thinking they are picking from the general culture.
Everyone is Fighting a Battle
Now, I know that many will say that the church has a history of being hard and intolerant toward those who “don’t fit the mold”. And that’s true. There are many local churches I would not visit today for that very reason. Who needs the grief?
And even for believers, the struggles we all have with sin are seldom discussed or acknowledged among other Christians. Because we would be ostracized and rejected if we were truly open about what we struggle with.
In all honesty, trusting other Christians with our struggles is a seriously risky venture.
So, all of us need compassion. All of us need to acknowledge that everyone is fighting a spiritual battle. And we must take care to listen kindly and carefully when people open up to us.
And to keep our mouths shut as long as possible before giving them our often “automatic Christian response”. And to carefully pray and seek the Lord’s wisdom before offering our wonderful advice.
So that, in the end, we may actually say and do something that is truly, spiritually helpful in grace and truth.
Which means, having not just one or the other, but both grace and truth in fullness.
The Church is Not a Christian Starbuck’s
However, the church is not our mother.
Nor is it some type of Christian Starbuck’s. It is not a place where everyone’s ideas are to be aired out and considered. It is not a place where we all come to express ourselves. Like Madonna.
The church is not a warm, cozy place to just relax and sit back to cogitate on all things theological. With no clear, bold statements of what must be believed. And what must be rejected. And what must be practiced.
We are not here to accept everyone’s ideas. Nor to approve every idea spewed forth.
Yes, we must be open to listen to people. To hear what people have to say. And to respond in a kind and respectful manner.
In that respect, we are making a safe place. But within clear limitations.
We are here to glorify Christ. To worship Him. To walk in His way. To keep His word. To defend His truth and His authority.
The church fellowship is where we gather to be taught what God has said in His word. We gather here to know Him better. And to help each other to know Him.
That is why we are here.
Every other consideration is secondary.
To Be Continued . . .