Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When You Lack Spiritual Discernment

Image above from Flickr.
It's alarming when the church relies mainly on its intellect, logic and reason to understand God and his Word---which is where it's plunging headlong today. And at best, what it thinks it has spiritually is just plain instinct, not spiritual discernment.

Instinct has to do with a fixed mindset or action in response to a stimulus. It's really inbred thinking pattern. God can use it to reveal to you but it's not the Holy Spirit's gift. Lots of mothers, even non-Christians, have instincts. Nothing spiritual about that. You can know a used cup was left on the table by your spouse (and not your child or someone else) due mainly to familiarity. If you've been counseling folks for years, you get to a point where sometimes you can easily tell their emotions by simply seeing familiar hints on their faces or moods. That's intuition and has nothing to do with God's spiritual gifts.



What It Is and It Is Not

God's discernment is purely spiritual. You get it mainly through the Spirit's leading. It's supernatural, no less. You don't discern a person's motive by looking at his reactions, unguarded gestures or facial expressions. The Holy Spirit impresses clues in your heart. For instance, he tells you to beware of a guy who looks okay outwardly, teaches sound doctrines, is theologically correct, kind and polite in manners and speaks civilly.

And at times, God may tell you a suspicious looking guy is really trustworthy.

Learning God's supernatural ways. Click here.

One time, the disciples saw someone casting out demons in Jesus' name even if he wasn't one of the 12. They thought he was an enemy or impostor. But Jesus said, those who were not against them were for them. With Paul it was different. A young girl followed them around declaring, "These guys are servants of God telling you the truth!" or something to that effect. If someone goes around telling that about us, our egos would've felt good, especially when many pastors today get tickled by flattery or tributes.

But Paul had genuine spiritual discernment. He discerned a demon. So he rebuked it and cast it out of the girl. Do you see anything like that in church today? Nope, because they direly lack spiritual discernment. Church relies only on intellect, reason and logic. Worse, discerning people with sharp judgment (imagine telling people they are demon-possessed even if they don't behave spookily) is a totally alien thing to church today. It has lost touch with God's spiritual realities. Moreover, they insist on not being judgmental---so church can't judge anything correctly anymore.

Ananias and Sapphira were bonafide church members. They were givers. Yet Peter discerned their lie. Can pastors today discern like that? Their members could cheat about their giving and they wouldn't know a hint about it, except perhaps if an accountant looked into it and submitted a report.

Discerning the WORD

God's servants in the bible discerned the WORD spiritually. The Spirit of God told them what was truth and falsehood, nothing more, nothing less. They didn't rely on their intellectual ability to weigh whether something was correct or not. They didn't rely on any standard or measure they had decided on among themselves to determine what was acceptable.

Remember King Jehoshaphat and the prophet Micaiah? Ahab called 400 prophets to declare God's Word---all declaring the same thing accurately---on their planned attack against their enemy. But Jehoshaphat discerned something wrong. He looked for "the Lord's prophet." So they called in Micaiah who presented them a true picture of what was really going on in the spirit realms regarding their situation.

But the prophet Zedekiah had a different measure of truth. He thought Micaiah was wrong. After all, the measure he used for discerning God's Word was the same accepted measure the 399 other prophets also used. How can an overwhelming majority go wrong? Well, to cut the story short, Micaiah was proven right [2 Chronicles 18].

If 400 titled and degreed pastors all say the same thing---but which is really wrong in God's eyes---can you discern it and dare tell them you need a genuine pastor from God---insinuating that all 400 are bogus? You probably won't. You won't dare sound judgmental. And if one pastor disagrees with all 400 of you, how would you weigh things? Majority vote, as most churches today do when deciding on crucial matters?

One against 400. The sound thing to do (common sense tells us) is to side with the 400. And in 2 Chronicles 18, with the highly respected King Jehoshaphat on Ahab's side, the "theologically" sound thing to do is conclude that God wanted the attack. Everything was in place---Jehoshaphat was there and no less than 400 prophets were in agreement. Micaiah must be wrong.

Human Hermeneutics 

Today, it's all human acumen, logic and reason---especially backed with seminary degrees. They'd laugh at you if you sounded too spiritual, if you say you depend 100 percent on God's Spirit. You're an idiot if you relied solely on the Holy Spirit. So they often see me as an idiot. But I don't care.

Long ago, when I was still in a secular university, I already learned hermeneutics. Our church had a bible institute for young people in secular schools. More so as I attended various ministry seminars, about a hundred of them, or more. I know how to use it and do so now and then. But most times I trash human hermeneutics because I find that it merely keeps me in a box, "safe" and far away from God's sovereign Word.

God's sovereign Word in these last days. Click here.

With God's sovereign revelation, all you can do is open your heart and receive. You DARE NOT try to filter it out, weigh it, or screen it, to see if it passes human hermeneutical standards or not. It's stupid to even consider doing so.

I know the application of contextualization. It's a good tool, actually. But not always. It is anchored on what the story is about and man's understanding---your understanding (after you've been initiated in human hermeneutics) and the author's understanding. What's the author's intention? If it's a passage from Matthew, what was Matthew's intention?

Look at Jesus' temptation in the desert. He quoted a passage from Deuteronomy 8:3---man does not live by bread alone. But what's the context here? God was testing Israel, "to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." 

What? To see whether or not Jesus would keep God's commands? Does that apply to Jesus? Definitely not. Does that apply to Satan? A definite no-no. But Jesus used this passage in another sense, to point out that God designed man to eat both biological and spiritual food to live. That's all. But if I were to do the same, hermeneutics experts would probably say I'm out of context. They'd say the passage is a warning and a test, not for refusing to turn stones into bread.

Look at Jesus

And then we see Jesus driving out demons and healing the sick in Matthew 8. It was in fulfillment of what Isaiah said: "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases." But what does Isaiah really say? He said, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Literally, griefs here means "sicknesses" and sorrows means "pains" in Hebrew. There's nothing on driving out demons.

If I quote the same passage and claim it for driving out demons in people, the hermeneutics experts would probably say I'm out of context. They'd say sickness is a medical condition and sorrows here denote an emotional (psychological) condition. Nothing is inferred or even suggested by Isaiah about demon possession---that demons caused the pain and disease. In fact, if you checkout the whole 53rd chapter, nothing is about demon possession. The more likely interpretation, they'd say, is pain caused by serious physical diseases which result to sorrows.

And if we're going to follow human logic, the remedy here is medical science and counseling, not casting out demons. That's what they're going to tell me if I were to claim the passage for my, say, deliverance ministry. But since it was Jesus who interpreted it thus, they can't do anything about it anymore. They'd take their vengeance on me instead.

Of course, hermeneutics experts won't dare say Jesus was out of context. They'd take what he claimed easily in. But not with me. They'd cruelly correct me for mishandling God's word if I were to claim the same using the same passage. How can it be right with Christ and wrong with me if I'm doing the same thing he did? Didn't he say anyone who has faith in him will do the same thing he was doing?

The following passages also refer to Jesus [Psalm 69]:
  1. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.
  2. Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
But then, the context says this passage is about a man who did foolish things and was guilty of sin. "You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you." Definitely, this cannot be true of Jesus. Again, the quotation seems out of context. But since it was about Jesus, the experts cannot do anything about it.

Then Jesus announced his ministry thus:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
But Jesus actually cut this passage short. In fact, he cut the last sentence short, which is not a good practice in hermeneutics. He took it "out of context," as it were, because the whole passage in Isaiah includes:
...and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
If you take a passage, you should take the whole sentence at least (better yet, the whole paragraph), and not take out an incomplete sentence and then use that to claim legitimacy for your ministry. That's what they say. But Jesus didn't complete the sentence. The experts would defend Jesus by saying he used only the part of the sentence relevant to his day. The second part---the "vengeance of our God" thing is for his Second Coming and Judgment Day. They dare not accuse him of being out of context.

But if I were to do it, I'd probably be denounced a false prophet.

Look at Paul

Then there's Paul. He said in Acts 13.47 that his mandate for preaching the Gospel to the gentiles was from Isaiah. "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." He said this after turning away from the Israelites who had rejected his message. But what's the context?

The Lord actually said this to the Israelites, not specifically Paul. The "light for the gentiles" was Israel, according to Isaiah. Yet Paul used it to reject the Israelites and turn to the gentiles. Hermeneutics experts would probably declare this out of context if I were to do it.

Look at Peter

Peter saw an open vision of a large sheet coming down from heaven. It was full of unclean animals. Then God told him to get up, kill and eat them. But Peter tried to weigh out God's words with his Jewish hermeneutics. He thought God was wrong. He refused to obey, saying he had never eaten anything unclean. God had to tell him three times, to no avail. Peter was strict with his hermeneutics.

However, God did say in Old Testament times never to eat unclean food. So how come he was urging Peter to eat them now? And how about Ezekiel? God told him to cook his food on burning human poop. This would surely defile Ezekiel, so he protested. So God told him to cook it over burning cow manure instead, which would still defile the prophet.

Sovereign Revelation of the Word

God is God. He has a higher way of looking at (and interpreting) his Word. His thoughts are much higher than ours. We cannot measure or check what he says with our hermeneutics. We cannot apply our ways of thinking (hermeneutics) to interpret his sovereign spoken Word. We can only listen and obey. Period.

Church has enthroned and crowned his own glory---his intellect---and replaced the wisdom of the Holy Spirit with it. Nothing is correct until it passes his hermeneutical tests---even if it's God's own revelation. Ever since I saw this, I determined to rely only on what God shows me in his Word. Exegesis and hermeneutics help a bit, but God's voice is supreme to me. I must be led only by the Holy Spirit.

Moses tried to intervene for the rebellious Israelites in the desert by what he understood to be God's will. But God told him to stay out of it and let him kill all the Israelites. Moses probably thought it was wrong, so he tried to talk God out of it. Imagine that. God did relent for a while, but in the end he killed all the Israelites (the old generation). Even Moses himself died. That's the disaster when you try to understand God with your human intellect and standards. "They didn't enter God's rest because of their unbelief."

How Do You Know?

But the fear is, how do you know you're not just making it all up? How do you know it's God's supernatural revelation? It's really so simple.

First, the fruit. What differentiates false teachers from true ones? The fruit. "You will know them by their fruit," [Matthew 7.15-16]. Do you manifest the fruit of the Spirit? I'd rather listen to someone with the Spirit's fruit preach the Word (though with hermeneutical errors) than listen to one with perfect hermeneutics but wallowing in sin.

God does not look at the appearance but the heart. Your hermeneutically correct theology and preaching may appear good, but I want to see your heart. Because it's the life (heart) and character (spirit) of a messenger that matters, not what he says. Elisha was after the double portion of Elijah's spirit, not a double portion of his words. And I don't want to catch the wrong spirit from the wrong person who happens to know everything about hermeneutics.

Jesus' spoken Word is Spirit and life [John 6.63]. Why? Because they come from the mouth of One who is pure in heart (Jesus). The experts---the Pharisees and law teachers---always found Jesus in error, probably thinking him to be quoting Scripture out of context---passages, they felt, he should not apply to himself. They forfeited themselves of God's sovereign Word by limiting themselves (boxing themselves) to their own hermeneutical standards.

When you have a myopic view of the Word (limited by your hermeneutics), you may soon find yourself fighting against what God Himself is saying.

Second, you must meditate the Word day and night, and apply what God tells you to your life. The right daily dose of God's spoken Word builds his mindset, language and culture in you so that you become a quick and active receptor of God's revelation. Then you possess the mind of Christ. You cannot go wrong with Jesus' mind, heart and spirit.

For more radically life-changing insights, get my e-books! 

GOD's Flesh: "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" [Job 19.26-17]. LIKE US ON FACEBOOK!