Are you discerning – or are you deceived?
What indicators are there in our life that reveal whether we are discerning or deceived?
Meaning of 'Discern': To perceive or distinguish something, to pick out by diligent examination.
Now more than ever, discernment is a vital tool for the believer—however now more than ever, we are seeing many Christians straying from the truth of God’s Word and accepting wrong doctrines because they lack discernment.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Now I’m not just talking about any discernment. We could have plenty of discernment; like knowing not to go too close to an open fire, to wear gumboots when walking through mud, or to avoid putting clothes on the line on a rainy day. Those are all forms of common sense, which is necessary for our own safety and convenience, thereby being important from a physical viewpoint—however all of these are classed as general discernment.
What I’m referring to here is much more important – especially for our spiritual lives.
Proverbs 2:1-5 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we will be well-equipped to stay in correct doctrine, to spot fake from real, false from truth, lies from honesty, darkness from light.
You may believe that it’s fairly simple to spot the difference between these because they are so opposite. This is exactly what the enemy wants you to believe because then you won’t be alert and on guard like you should be (1 Peter 5:8), instead, you’ll be in danger of falling prey to deception in its highest form—subtle evil. 2 Corinthians 11:1-3 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Meaning of 'Deceived': When someone believes something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.
When a person is deceived, they don’t know when they are being deceived. This is why it’s so essential to line our lives up against the Word of God to ensure we really are believing and living in righteousness.
Satan is the great deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and he is always trying to sneak through that breach in your wall—that weakness where he knows he may have a way in.
The Bible warns of Satan’s schemes and also provides an adequate solution—if only we’d utilise it.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Not only are we to resist the devil—but before that, we must be willing to submit ourselves to God. Once we have wholly submitted ourselves to Him, then He gives us the strength and ability to resist the devil. Quite often this part of Scripture is missed and many try to resist the devil in their own strength but end up unstuck, wondering why it didn’t work. We need to realise that we are unable to overcome the enemy in our own power. Jesus has defeated the enemy (Hebrews 2:14-15) so it is only through Him that we have victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). We have no power in and of ourselves (John 15:5) and the sooner we realise that, the better.
Zechariah 4:6 “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”
Although deception is quite often a tool of the enemy, it’s not always Satan who is out to deceive us. We too can deceive our own selves. Why would we do such a thing? In order to believe something that we so badly want to hold on to. What a strange thing it is to want to deceive our own hearts into believing a lie so we can take advantage of and continue to hold on to a falsehood. Sadly, this is a reality that all of us, at one stage or another, have stooped to doing. Whether it’s telling ourselves we deserve to be happy in life and therefore it’s ok to place our attention on self, or rationalising in our mind that it wasn’t really a lie that we just told to save face, excuses can be very easily made—resulting in deceiving our own heart.
1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
Human beings are very good at justifying themselves.
We have a tendency to elevate our own self-worth and cover up our wrongdoings by justifying them to ourselves so we feel ok about them and can then continue in them. It’s quite easy to make a compelling case for our sin—convincing ourselves (and others) that what we’re doing is fine, and even godly—when in actual fact it is contradictory to the Word of God. More about this later.
Moreover, we may hear the Word of God, but we can’t just be hearers. If we are only hearing and never doing, then we are actually deceiving ourselves. The Bible says we need to not only hear the Word, but act on it!
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Proof of a genuine Christian is one who bears fruit (John 15:8)—believing the truth, hearing the truth and walking in the truth. When we are operating in all three of these truths our fruit will be good, and it is then that our Heavenly Father is glorified through us.
So in knowing and living God’s Word to ensure we’re not deceived, we are perfectly positioned to grow in discernment, because it isn’t something that Christians have automatically.
Philippians 1:9-10 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
From the smallest to largest detail, having godly discernment will lead to approving what is excellent—knowing what is pure and holy, as well as what is not. It brings the bearer great wisdom in knowing what is acceptable before the Lord—compelling them to walk closer with Him in holiness as they determine and eliminate anything that is ungodly, no matter how large or small.
Following the world in matters of life is fruitless foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). If we’re not careful, we can easily be swayed by the teachings of this world and blindly follow their ideologies, especially in areas of everyday living such as; families, household management, marriage, parenting etc.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Worldly philosophy, human traditions and the like are all empty. They will not give us the godly values that we need to live uprightly.
Here are a few examples:
Families/Marriage The world introduces families as consisting of all different ‘types’. The Bible expresses a distinct standard from the Lord, which is one man and one woman married for life (Genesis 2:24, Romans 7:2-3, Luke 16:18), however the world have modified this over time, adding the option for men and women to marry, divorce, then remarry and perhaps even divorce again, or not even marry at all—just live together like a married couple. Then there’s men and women wanting to marry people of their own gender. Next comes the children who were meant to be conceived naturally through a godly marriage, yet now the world both permits and endorses not only surrogacy, IVF and abortion, but homosexuals to raise children.
Household Management The Bible clearly defines the husband as the head of the house (Ephesians 5:23) while the wife is to be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). Scriptures also state that God has created women to be homemakers (Titus 2:4-5) and men are the providers (1 Timothy 5:8). The world on the other hand, not only pushes to elevate women to the point of being over the men, but urges women to go out to work and indoctrinates people into believing that it’s good for men to stay home and be the home maker. The fruit of this is what the Bible predicted, that we would have a generation of youths who are rebellious, unloving, unholy and every other undesirable character trait (2 Timothy 3:2-3).
Parenting This is a big one that is heavy on my heart because sadly the lack of godly parenting is damaging many Christian homes and having devastating consequences. There are over a dozen Scriptures directly referring to raising children in the ways of the Lord, with the most prominent focus being discipline (Proverbs 23:13-14). God’s Word repeatedly speaks of raising children in His ways (Proverbs 22:6), primarily using physical discipline to drive out rebellion from the child’s heart and correct wrong behaviour so the child’s conscience is struck and they are remorseful for their sinful actions (Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 13:24, Hebrews 12:11). The world, however, persuade each other that physical discipline is inappropriate and should be abolished—and over time have conditioned many parents to accept disobedience and allow their children to ‘rule the roost’, and not only allow, but encourage bad behaviour, whereby children are running the family and showing complete disrespect to their elders. Unfortunately, instead of repenting and doing what God has commanded, they excuse their children's behaviour with name tags of diseases, social disorders etc.—even blaming food for their children's poor behaviour. The victims of this foolishness are the children because the parents refuse to obey the Lord.
Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.
A generation of disobedient parents raise disobedient children.
Some parents will go as far as correcting adults who will not tolerate disrespect from children, rather than correcting their child. The excuse here is that the adults are intolerant, or just don't understand the 'complexities' of their child. Again, who suffers? The child. Rather than repenting, the parents find they are then held hostage in their own home, unable to socialise or minister in situations where their children must be orderly.
You will find we have a generation of parents who cannot go out as a family because one parent must stay home with the children—causing separation and disharmony in the family unit. Something so simple as family outings has been destroyed because of this dysfunctional generation. Although far from normal, this has become the new 'norm' because rather than looking at God's standard, this generation measures their success as parents and spouses with the world. Even taking parenting advice off of one another, when the fruit of their parenting would bear witness against them as one who should be giving advice on parenting. But do they repent and seek godly counsel? No. They continue to excuse their own rebellion against God and His Word, thus sending their children to destruction as the Bible warns. Children are the fruit of our marriage (Psalm 127:3), and as Christians, are a reflection of how we are walking with God.
So if I could summarise this, the biggest mistake parents are making is that they are rewarding bad behaviour, which directly results in discouraging their children from good behaviour. What does this ultimately mean for the children? Their discernment of good and evil has been skewed. When reward is given for bad behaviour, they learn that bad is good, and good is bad. It is no wonder that the Bible says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil’ (Isaiah 5:20).
We have been entrusted to train up our children in the way that they should go, yet this generation of Christians are teaching their children that evil has its rewards, and there is no reward in being good. The alarming deceit here is that parents are under the illusion that teaching their children a few Bible verses will ultimately undo an entire lifestyle of ungodliness.
For example; God’s Word says respect your elders (Leviticus 19:32), and little Johnny consistently is disrespectful to his elders. Not only doesn’t he receive any punishment, but he receives a reward when he gets home. Johnny has been trained to disobey God and that rebellion against God has its reward. Does Johnny know that he’s being rebellious against God? No, of course not…not while he’s young anyway. But his whole lifestyle is rebellion mixed with a few of his favourite Bible verses. Following a day of rebellion, disorder and dysfunction not only having gone unchecked but rewarded, Mum and Dad say a few prayers and tuck him into bed. Days fall into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, and he is already learning what it is to be a modern Christian. He is already learning to live in the greatest deceit of hypocrisy, which is something he will take with him into adulthood—to be a hearer of the Word, but not a doer.
Deceived parents raise deceived children.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
When biblical principles are disregarded, dysfunction runs riot!
What’s worse, not only the world are living out these futile lifestyles—many so-called ‘Christian’ churches are also approving of and endorsing these unorthodox lifestyles, often equating it to modernism and being ‘relevant’. These viewpoints then infiltrate the hearts and minds of many believers and they subsequently blindly believe what the media, world around them and even their own church are giving the nod to, and as a result realign their living to be in accordance with worldly practices…not realising that in doing so, they are neglecting and ignoring the very thing they’re supposed to be obeying—God’s Holy Word.
Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
This is why it is so important to have godly discernment.
We have been given all we need to know in order to live in holiness. The Bible is God-breathed—His Word has been set forth for us so we can know His will, His character, His ways and how He wants His people to be so we can walk upright in all areas of our life when following its inspired teachings – becoming a people who are pleasing to our Lord.
1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Discernment is something that needs to be nurtured in order for it to flourish.
In order to grow in spiritual discernment, we must not only know the whole counsel of God’s Word—but also be practicing it!
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Woah! This one verse above explains everything that this entire article is about. A mature Christian is one who has a solid faith in the Lord due to their diligent learning of His Word and praying according to His will. This Christian will have been trained in discernment through the learning of the Scriptures and constantly living them out in their own life—which leads them to be able to distinguish good from evil. The powerful spiritual tool of discernment protects the believer from the wiles of the devil as they are equipped with the ability to quickly distinguish from that which is good, as well as that which is bad—and make right decisions to steer clear of the bad, no matter how small or large.
Ephesians 5:6-10 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
The Principle of Justification Although I touched on this subject earlier, it would be remiss of me to at this stage not mention the principle of justification in further detail. It is interesting to note that we are all designed by God to seek justification. God has placed this within each man's heart so that we will seek Him who truly justifies us, which is ultimately the work of the cross. But what happens when you are in rebellion and not following God's Word? Did you know that one of the greatest deceptions in the church is self-justification as opposed to God-justification? When one obeys God, his behaviour in God's eyes are just. When one disobeys God, his behaviour in God's eyes are unjust. So what must one do when they refuse to repent and obey God in certain areas of their life?
They must justify themselves. How? One way is that they look to God's Word, yet not to seek the truth but to twist Scripture, thereby thinking they are justifying their behaviour. The only other way to justify one's self is to look outside of God's Word, often attracting or seeking out others who are rebellious in the same area so that they feel justified.
There is a true peace that comes from true justification through God—as there is a false peace that comes from a false justification, whether from twisted Scripture, false preaching or from others in general. This is a great deception because even though there may be an initial feeling of justification or resolution to their angst, anything but true peace follows. People who justify themselves will never truly experience continual joy and peace of the Lord because they are living a lie. The saddest thing is, rather than seeking counsel from godly people who heed God's instructions, they continue in undesirable relationships with other rebellious people, resulting in a community of unhappy people. Again, who suffers?
Rebellion/disobedience is sin, and when we sin, the people closest to us, including ourselves, are going to be hurt. With regards to children, they are not really ours, but have been entrusted to us for only a short season, so repentance on the parent's behalf for self-justifying behaviour is paramount as early as possible, lest they realise their folly when it's too late. Remember, disobedient parents raise disobedient children, and this will only result in disaster with their own relationship with God.
Are you even reading this article with the heart to justify yourself? Using techniques such as; blaming others like your spouse or your own parents, blaming me for writing this, or other excuses. No matter what issues we are facing, whether marriage challenges, child raising, financial, temptations and lusts, we must stop making excuses, because these only serve to justify sin—not free you from it. Don’t remain a slave by making excuses. The Israelites wanted to turn back to Egypt and remain slaves because they didn’t trust God and were grumbling about their situation (Exodus 16:2-3). They could have been set free within a matter of weeks by seizing the Promised Land but instead, because of their rebellion, they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years (Joshua 5:6).
Are you wandering around in the wilderness? If so, rather than grumbling or making excuses or preferring to remain a slave, why don’t you receive the Promised Land that has been given to you? It will come at a cost. It will mean trusting God and being obedient. It will mean putting His desires for your life over your own. It will mean letting go of the control and giving it to Christ.
A warning though, giving Christ the reigns means living in a way that is the complete opposite to the world, and unfortunately, opposite to much of the church. It means living as one who is not politically correct with the way you live your life; your marriage will reflect the pages of the Bible, as will your child raising and every other aspect of your life. I have found that every time God cleans up a part of my life, even Christians in my life condemn me because they are not willing to repent. And if we’re both Christians, why aren’t we walking together in agreement with what it looks like to live for Christ?
Discernment is about knowing the difference between good and evil, and justification is about whether you choose to be justified by that which is good (God/His ways) or that which is evil (Satan/the world’s ways).
With wisdom comes good discernment.
Proverbs 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
When Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom, the Scripture reveals that with wisdom comes discernment. And discernment is necessary for us to know what is right so we stay on the narrow path. 1 Kings 3:11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.
Wisdom and discernment go hand in hand. When one has wisdom, they too will have great discernment, which is why a wise person will make good godly decisions, never falling prey to the enemy because their discernment capability is at its highest…determining what is good, as well as what is evil—and making righteous choices with this valuable information.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
What is lacking from so many churches and individual Christians today is these vital spiritual gifts—discernment and wisdom. It should be something we all have because God gives it freely to those who seek Him, however too often we are allowing ourselves to be overtaken by our own agendas and would actually prefer to use foolishness of the world – simply because it suits us.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Let us repent of allowing the world to creep into our hearts and ask the Lord to give us the wisdom and discernment we so desperately need—even all the more in these end days. Our Heavenly Father has this precious spiritual tool available for us, to help us as we journey through this life and draw closer to Him. Let us not begrudge this valuable gift—let us accept it wholeheartedly and grow to mature in good, godly discernment.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
-- By Judah & Jenny Ayling