Training Disciples For Discernment In The World -- By: Denis D. Haack

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 07:3 (Summer 1998)
Article: Training Disciples For Discernment In The World
Author: Denis D. Haack

Training Disciples For Discernment In The World

Denis D. Haack

Essential to Christian discipleship in a fallen world is the need to be discerning—the ability as God’s people to faithfully apply the truth of His Word to the issues, challenges, truth-claims, and values that we meet in an increasingly pluralistic culture. “I want you to be wise in what is good,” Paul wrote in Romans 16:19, “and innocent in what is evil.” Earlier in the same epistle the apostle warned his readers of the danger of being squeezed into the world’s mold; if they were to live transformed lives which please God, their minds must be renewed (Rom. 12:1–2). The church is to be a discerning community within the pluralistic postmodern culture at the end of the twentieth century. Christian leaders have a responsibility to train the believers under their care to be discerning. In both church and home, discernment—like so many other spiritual disciplines—is a skill which can be modeled, taught, learned, and encouraged.

Jay Adams defines discernment as “the ability to distinguish God’s thoughts and ways from all others,”1 and in our pluralistic world there are myriad “others” vying for acceptance. Discernment is important not simply because it identifies nontruth, though that is vital for the health of God’s people; discernment is important because Jesus Christ is Lord. Since He is King, and since the Scriptures speak to all of created reality, we must live

intentionally under His authority, bringing every aspect of our life and culture into submission to Him. Our faithfulness to His Word witnesses to the reality of His reign as King.

Sometimes discernment is relatively easy. There is no need, for example, to pray about whether to rob a bank. Stealing is forbidden, and the commands are easily found in any concordance. The process seems so easy and the answer so immediate that we usually do not even think of this in terms of “exercising discernment,” but it is: We have applied the truth of God’s Word to an issue of life in a fallen world.

Sometimes, however, discernment is less easy. The issues involved are more difficult to sort out, and the concordance seems to be of less immediate help. Consider, for example, Christians whose vocation is in sales. They will likely receive training in sales techniques by which they can increase their effectiveness. Sales techniques, however, like every other part of life, are never neutral, and the training will be related to what the trainers believe about who people are, wh...

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