TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement
Verse of the Day - Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
In order to learn to discern there are a few things that are necessary. As we have been studying the topic we have learned that we must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we must have wisdom, and we must practise discerning. Discernment is not just something that happens. It is not a gift that we are given and suddenly we know the difference between right and wrong. It is indeed learned and we must have the Holy Spirit and the right perspective in order to further learn by doing.
But as we learn, and as we grow in the Christian life, we see around us that there are many Christians who fail to discern. And even those of us who know that we need to be discerning might have a hard time learning how to understand (and apply) the difference between good and evil in our daily lives. The truth is that there are obstacles to discernment - things that we must work diligently to overcome if we are to exercise discernment. This week we will take a closer look at two main obstacles to discernment and we will learn the steps we must take in order to overcome them.
Let us start then with the first obstacle to discernment:
Remember when we started this study that we found the writer of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul telling the church that they were immature. Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Paul admonished his readers in a similar manner in 1 Corinthians 3, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able." The Christians receiving these letters needed to be mature! They were immature and unskilled and therefore unfit to be fulfilling their duty to teach and disciple other believers. They needed milk, the basics, the fundamentals. And they were not able to discern as a result.
Don't misunderstand what I am saying. Immaturity is natural. We must understand this. There is a time when we are all immature. The example of course is that we all started out in this life as babies! We needed to be nutured and cared for so that we would grow. And then as we grew we came to be more and more able to take care of ourselves. This is true in the Christian life, though we understand that we will always need others to teach us, disciple us, and hold us accountable through fellowship and worship as we grow up in the Lord.
And even while immaturity is natural, it is not natural to stay immature. One that stays immature, whose growth (physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually) is stunted, usually has something wrong. There is something out of order. Something is not working right if a person in any way remains immature. We are built in every way to grow up and become more and more mature!
Spiritual maturity is not something we can put a time limit on either. But we can say with certainty that someone who is a Christian should be maturing and someone who has been a Christian for years should be mature. In the Scripture it was only a few years between Paul's visit to Corinth and his letter where he chides them for their immaturity.
Of course, maturity in our physical bodies can be measured as we grow. Likewise, spiritually we can see character, the fruit of the Spirit, and other "visible" markers of growth. Someone who claims to be a Christian and never grows is really not a Christian, for we are called, expected, and empowered to grow in grace.
And today as we begin to look at the Scripture to see how to overcome immaturity we must lay this foundation - maturity is not measured by where you are, but by the direction in which you are moving. We should all be farther along the road in our Christian walk than we were a year ago. But the area covered and the changes made are not nearly as important as the direction in which we are headed.
We must keep this in mind because often we discourage growth by expecting people to be further along than they are, and then we either mock or judge or ridicule them and discourage them from being diligent in their pursuit of truth and holiness. We should encourage them to be diligent in their pursuit of forward movement. The question we must ask ourselves and others is,"Are we being conformed and transformed more and more into the Image of Jesus Christ?" That is what really matters.
This directional progresion is illustrated for us in Psalm 1:1-3. There David writes:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
And we can see here a progression in spiritual growth. The man who is blessed - filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord and rejoicing - is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. He does not live (walk) according to the counsel, advise, and direction of the world. He rejects the world system and presses on in holiness in his daily life and walk with the Lord. We also see that he does not stand in the path of sinners. This is the lifestyle of those who are slaves of their sin. And he does not sit down in the seat of those who would mock God and His holiness.
See the progression? In a negative light we see that a man who walks in the counsel of the ungodly will soon be slowed in his spiritual progress to the point that he is standing in the path of sinners and after a while there he will sit down in the seat of the scornful.
Walk. Stand. Sit.
If we play with sin and allow worldy thinking to guide us then we will be walking in the counsel of the ungodly. And that always leads to standing still when it comes to spiritual progress. We stop moving forward and just stand there. Not moving back. Not moving forward. Just standing. But since this is the path of sinners we soon find ourselves sitting down. Sitting in fellowship with those who openly mock God.
The man who is blessed, remember, does not do any of these things. Instead he keeps moving onward and upward walking closely with the Lord in fellowship with His body. And as he makes progress, as he moves forward, he leaves the counsel, lifestyle, and attitudes of the world further and further behind. They are all foreign to him. And this is the man then that is truly blessed.
He is like a tree planted by the rivers of water. He is fed and nourished. He grows, He produces fruit. He does not wilt in the sun or fade under pressure! And his secret? He meditates on the Word of God. He delights in God's Word. He reads it, craves it, hungers and thirsts for it, memorizes it, mediates upon it. He hides it in his heart and uses it to guard his way.
In fact, this is a key element of discernment - for the Word of God is what the Holy Spirit uses to inform our hearts and minds as to the difference between right and wrong. It is this Word hidden in our heart that protects us from sin! Lights our path! Guards our minds! And teaches us what God requires of us so that we might please Him and obey Him and love Him with all that we are.
So the very first step we must take toward maturity is this daily step of loving, reading, and meditating upon the Word of God. We must make His Word a part of every day life. It is our food and our drink. It is what nourishes and satisfies us. Without it we cannot and we will not grow.
Do you want to mature? Get into the Word and get the Word into you!
Links for Further Study (links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)