A Beautiful Life

Part 6: Possess Discernment

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Scripture says "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world". Do you believe that? As you consider the challenges you are facing presently, have faith that the Lord will see you through. Faith is a decision to live with fierce optimism.

Be on Guard, Christian

Think back to a time when you got fooled by someone or something. Whether that’s a junk email that fools us into clicking, an advertisement that promotes something that isn’t all that it seems, or a person who tells us something that ends up being untrue, we sometimes need help determining what the truth is and what’s something that we need to ignore. 

This problem of discernment is what the apostle John is dealing with in 1 John 4. He is noticing that people are struggling to distinguish which teachers are telling the truth about God and which are sharing things about God that we shouldn’t be listening to. In our world, we simply cannot listen to every message that we hear. We must run tests to decide which are the things that are biblical, sound messages. And, when it comes to teachers, we especially need to be on alert and aware of what we’re being taught.

We must be on guard. We may be able to visibly see those who are harming us or feeding us lies, but we also must know that our real enemy is the devil. He’s after our hearts, and he will use anything he can that will distract, destroy, and damage us – and he will never relent. That’s not something that should cause you to live in fear; rather, you should live with intention, trusting in the Lord and using discernment that comes from the Spirit.

What the Bible Says about Discernment in 1 John 4

At the start of this chapter, we’re hit with a strong challenge from the apostle John: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). John doesn’t tell us this to make us run and hide. He tells us this, so we can be aware of all that is going on in the world. He’s bringing to attention that we cannot trust each and every teacher who claims to be teaching God’s truth.

Our faith as Christians is built on the words in Scripture. We believe in what the Bible says, and we base all the basic foundations of Christianity on God’s Word. That’s part of why we must know what Scripture says. However, we also must know what it says because that knowledge helps us to discern when others are teaching messages that are not found in God’s Word. False teachers make the Scripture out to be lies, and that’s exactly what John is warning us against.

Knowing that we must have discernment is essential to our growth and protection as we continue living in this broken world. This passage, however, is not just a warning to us as Christians. John also gives us encouragement with these words: You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Our God is greater – and He’s in each one of His children. 

What does that mean? It means that God’s very Spirit lives inside of us and helps us to know who we are in Christ, to discern the truth from the lies, and to live with purpose and free of shame, guilt, and fear. 

How does discernment play a role in identity?

John’s words and warning in 1 John 4 are not meant to drive us into fear, shame, or doubt. Rather, his words are meant to spur us on towards a few things:

  • A deeper knowledge of God and His Word 
  • A stronger sense of community with other believers who can point us back to the truth
  • An ability to discern truth from lies through God’s Spirit
  • A confident security in who we are as children of God

This does not mean that we won’t struggle to discern what the truth is at times. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to always be one-hundred percent secure in who we are in Christ. This doesn’t mean that fear, shame, and doubt will forever be gone. These difficulties will not be fully gone until the day we are reunited with Jesus. 

What it does mean is that our lives can look different because of the truth – God’s truth – that we are sure of. Discernment can help us to live in confidence – in our faith, in our identity, and in the truth found in Scripture. Trouble may come. Lies may creep in. Shame will come knocking. But, our God is greater. Every time.

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