The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment


June 8th, 2009 • By Mary Kassian 

It happened. Again. And it’s been happening with increasing frequency. I was listening to a Christian speaker, and she implied that anyone who disagreed with her position on women preaching in church was being “judgmental.” That person ought to examine his/her heart and repent of his/her attitude of superiority.

Arrghh…. how frustrating!!!!!!!!! It seems that nowadays, anyone who has a doctrinal conviction is pooh-poohed and written off in this way. Especially if one’s conviction goes against the tide of popular opinion. Far too many people consider the pursuit of sound theology the mark of a person who is argumentative and proud. That’s why I loved…. absolutely LOVED… reading Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

Challies argues that “spiritual discernment is absolutely crucial to the one who would understand and heed the gospel. Nothing less than the gospel is at stake… By practicing spiritual discernment we guard the gospel, the message of eternal life.” Discernment itself is rooted in the understanding that there is good and bad, that there are God’s ways and other ways.

Challies defines discernment as the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. According to Challies, “When we practice discernment,we are applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. We are attempting to understand the words of the Bible and trusting God’s Word to give clarity so we might see things as God sees them. Our goal in discernment is to do just this: to see things through God’s eyes through the Bible and thus to see things as they really are. Like wiping the steam from a mirror, we seek to remove what is opaque so we might see with God-given clarity.”

Challies believes that the “gray” situations we encounter in life are gray “only because we have not done enough work to clarify them or because our own sinful desires have interfered and have interposed themselves between black and white.” We must determine whether something is good or evil, right or wrong, based on the objective, unmoving standard of the Bible rather than on our subjective, constantly shifting feelings and preferences.

Challies argues that we MUST judge doctrine and behavior by the objective standards of right and wrong that are given to us in Scripture. We MUST be discerning to understand and apply God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. What we may not do, though, is judge a person’s heart and motives.

Challies’ call to discernment flies directly in the face of the “Whatever you believe and do is OK” mentality that is crippling the Church. Doctrine is important. Theology is important. Those who are bored or disinterested with doctrine and theology are bored and disinterested with God himself.

We need to be discerning because Satan constantly seeks to lead us away from truth, to deceive us, by offering us a counterfeit version of truth. Satan offers something that resembles the truth but is actually error. He is crafty and subtle, offering something that seems so close yet is still so far away. “Did God really say?” were this words to Eve, and they are the words he continues to use today. That’s why discernment is absolutely essential.

Discernment is a skill that must be sharpened with long years of practice. Hebrews 5:14…tells us that discernment comes to those who ‘by constant practice [work] to distinguish good from evil.’

To lack discernment is to sin against God.

Are you discerning? Do you carefully study Scripture and work at distinguishing good from evil, right from wrong? The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment encourages believers to embrace and treasure discernment, for there are few things that are as important, or as precious. The Bible cries for you to seek after it so you can live, so you can grow, and so you can mature in your faith.

I highly, highly recommend this book for all who would stand against the tide and answer the call.

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Please include the following statement on any internet copy: © Mary A. Kassian, Girls Gone Wise. Visit Mary’s Website at:

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