Get Off the Roller Coaster: 4 Ways to Practice Biblical Discernment
I am fascinated with roller coasters and just love riding them. Did you know that when a roller coaster is being constructed, if the builders are off even a half inch at the bottom of the first lift hill (the upward-sloping section of the track), it can be off as much as three feet at the top of the lift hill, depending how tall it is? That's a coaster I don't think I want to ride!
This past year has felt a bit like being on a roller coaster. Many of us have been shocked by the events and news reports that seem to challenge the very core of our beliefs. We live in a time when women are talking about transgender issues, political elections, and Supreme Court decisions on the one hand while struggling to know what really is true, noble, just, and pure (Philippians 4:8-9).
Perhaps the place in which we find ourselves today is like the proverbial roller coaster that was a quarter of an inch off at the bottom of the lift hill. The issues that a decade ago didn't seem like a big deal to slide a half-inch have now set us on a course where we feel we are about to fly uncontrollably off the track.
As women, we may not be building roller coasters, but we are mentoring, discipling, and influencing the lives of others. And it's important to recognize there are many things that can move us off course from the truth.
We have the responsibility to make sure we are not even a half-inch off.
Warnings of Twisted Truth
Scripture warned that there will come a time when some will try to twist truth and deceive, even to the point of calling evil "good" and good "evil" (Matthew 24:4-5; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 John 7; Isaiah 5:20-21). Additionally, we have been commanded to grow in our ability to discern in order to test all things and to approve those that are excellent so we can hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 5:8-11). But I fear we have loosened our grip, and we are about to fly out of the seat.
As John MacArthur writes in Truth War, "Jesus commanded us to be on guard against false christs and false prophets. The apostolic era was filled with examples of wolves in sheep's clothing. . . . Only sinful and willful unbelief can account for the refusal of so many in the church today to heed those warnings."
Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Develop
Discernment is being able to decide, determine, distinguish, or discriminate what is truth and what is error. So what is truth? It's whatever God decrees. How do we, as women, build up those discernment muscles in order to know truth and recognize what is error? Jude 20-23 gives four admonitions that help us develop biblical discernment, which will keep us on track.
1. Build your faith (v. 20) by being secure in knowing what and in whom you believe. The only way to do that is to continually read, study, and be consumed by the Word of God. You must engage and immerse yourself in what is truth so that when you encounter error, it can't help but be obvious. How much does the Word permeate your typical day? How secure are you in your knowledge of who God is?
2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20). You can have true biblical discernment only in and through the Holy Spirit. Pray without ceasing, being in constant communication with heart and ears wide open. Are you staying in constant communication with the Spirit, or do you have an on-again/off-again connection?
3. Keep yourselves in the love of God (v. 21). How are you to love God? By being obedient to all He has commanded and walking accordingly (2 John 6:1, John 15:9–10). Are you picking and choosing some things to obey and letting others slide, or are you daily striving to walk obediently?
4. Look for the mercy of our Lord (v. 23). That is, keep your eyes fixated on Christ. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the church at Colossae: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). When we take our eyes off those things above, we become distracted and frightened by all that is going on around us. What are your eyes fixated on today? What things easily divert your eyes away from Christ?
Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Practice
As women's ministry leaders, we have an added responsibility when it comes to the women we influence.
1. Know what you believe, why you believe it, and be able to articulate it. If you can't articulate it, you can't counter lies with truth.
2. Help the women you lead develop biblical discernment by teaching the whole counsel of God, not just the easy, feel-good parts we like.
3. Recognize your responsibility to be on guard for the "savage wolves" that will come in attacking the flock (Acts 20:28-29). You are the gatekeeper for what is let in and exposed to the women you lead. Keep your guard up, testing everything.
4. Be willing to redeem and rescue. Jude verses 22-23 makes it clear that there is a time to be compassionate and redeem those who have strayed off course and there is a time to sound all alarms, rescuing someone before they are lost.
Yes, it does feel a bit like a roller coaster ride today, and you may wonder how in the world you are going to be able to navigate all that is to come. The answer? Look to Jesus, the One Who can keep you from falling out of your seat.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).
By Terri Stovall