June 17, 2016

Discernment: yes . . . judging: no

Of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12, the most difficult to live with is the one called prophecy. In biblical times, this gift was associated with the prophets and the authors of Scripture. It is defined as “the ability to deliver representative declarations of the mind, will, or knowledge of God.” Few people liked the prophets.

Since the completion of the canon of Scripture, many would say this gift no longer exists because it is no longer necessary. In contrast, some abuse it by calling themselves prophets and telling other people, “God says that you . . . .” followed by descriptions and directions for them, often given in a critical or superior way.

Another view is that this is a spiritual gift and should be understood as the ability to understand the mind, will, or knowledge of God, and it is better labeled as “spiritual discernment.” People with this gift are able to see issues in the lives of others the way God sees them. This does not mean they are without issues themselves, but they just have insights that others don’t notice. These folks are supposed to take their insights back to God in prayer.

Unfortunately, many with this gift abuse it by having a black and white a critical spirit. They are unpopular with their continual expression of what is wrong with everyone else. This is why Jesus said . . .

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

In Chambers devotional for November 23, he says a most helpful thing: “When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”

Again, this gift is for prayer, specifically intercession for people with problems. It is not to be abused by critically judging others, gossip, or in any other way.

In today’s devotional, Chambers gives warnings about that abuse. He says in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism. It pushes the Holy Spirit out of the way. I have no right to think and act as if I am better than the Lord and can show someone what is wrong. If I abuse that gift, I will wound others, not help them. I’ve no business playing Holy Spirit.

Not only that, when I have a critical attitude, I cannot pray. It marks me as vindictive and reveals my pride in thinking I am a superior person. God blesses humility. I cannot expect His blessing when discernment leads to a critical spirit.

Chambers says to “stop being a measuring rod for others” because there is always one fact more in every situation about which I know nothing. For instance, a friend made a decision that perplexed me. I tried to understand her motivation and when I could not, my attitude toward her decision became critical. Last night, God clearly showed me why she did what she did. Immediately I felt compassion for her and ashamed of myself. Now I know how to pray for her, but also clearly see that being critical, even speculating, was not the way to go.

The verses following this “do not judge” command reveal that when I see something wrong in another person and judge them for it, that same problem is in my own heart and life, likely to a greater extent than what I’m seeing in someone else. I need to deal with my own sins and issues before I have clarity about the needs of others and a deep concern for their spiritual well-being. Then I can obey this command, but only then . . .

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

When God shows me my sin, pride cannot rise up, nor can a critical spirit remain. As God shows me my sin (the log in my eye), then I must deal with it. I cannot judge anyone else. Discernment into the will of God must begin with looking in the mirror and realizing that apart from the grace of God, I am the worst of sinners.

No comments: