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Archive for the ‘discernment’ Category

Last of the posts on questions by Craig Cabiness in Worldliness (edited by C. J. Mahaney).

He writes, “After reading these questions, you may get the feeling that practicing discernment is a lot of work.  It can be, but it’s worth the careful deliberation because the goal is lofty:  discerning what pleases the Lord!” We have considered time and heart questions already in previous posts.

Content Questions

  • What worldview or philosophy of life does this program or film present? What’s the view of man’s nature? What’s the view of sin? Is sin identifies as such? What’s the view of God-ordained authority figures? And how do these views relate to God’s view?

  • What does this program or film glamorize? What is valued or considered important?

  • Who are the heroes of the story? Why are they heroic?

  • Is sin shown as having negative consequences? Or is sin glorified or rewarded? Is sin presented in an appealing or seductive way?

  • What is humorous in this work? How are people made fun of? What is mocked?

  • Does violence appear as a natural part of the story, or is it used gratuitously to entertain?

  • What’s the sexual content? Is there nudity? Sensual or seductive dress? Are there images, language, or humor that are sexually impure?

  • Is sinful self-sufficiency honored? Are the heroic characters concerned for others or merely for themselves?

  • Does the program or film portray materialism as “the good life”?

  • Would seeing this help me better understand God’s world? Would it help me understand my surrounding culture better without tempting me to sinful compromise?

  • Will I benefit in any way from viewing this program or visiting this web site?

  • Does its content or artistry reflect truth, beauty, or goodness?

  • Online, do I communicate graciously, patiently, and humbly? Do I use crude or arrogant speech? Is my speech consistent with the gospel, or does it reflect worldliness?

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Pastor Craig Cabiness in Worldiness (edited by C. J. Mahaney) offers the following heart questions to ask as we consider our daily media intake.  He says, “We need more than a rating if we’re to honor God through our viewing.  We need an evalution process that takes into account our time and our motive, as well as offering a biblical benchmark for measuring content.”

Heart Questions

  • Why do I want to watch this program or film? What do I find entertaining about it?

  • Am I seeking to escape from something I should be facing by watching this? Am I seeking comfort or relief that can be found only in God?

  • What sinful temptations will this program or film present?

  • Do I secretly want to view something that’s sinful? Am I deceiving myself by saying, “I’ll fast forward through the bad parts”?

  • Similarly, am I telling myself, “I’ll just visit this web site once, and I won’t click on any other links I find there”?

  • Am I watching because I’m bored or lazy? If so, what does that reveal about my heart?

  • Am I watching simply because others are? Am I trying to be relevant or to fit in?

  • How have my online relationships impacted my face-to-face relationships? How has my online activity impacted my soul? For better or worse?

  • What motivates me to create and maintain a blog, MySpace, or Facebook presence? Am I attempting to impress others? Am I being prideful, slanderous, deceitful, or self-righteous?

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Pastor Craig Cabiness serves the church well by providing a series of questions that will help us be discerning regarding what we watch on our TVs, DVDs and movies. I will post three separate categories of questions he suggests we ask:

Time Questions

  • Am I skipping or delaying something important in order to watch this now?

  • What are my other social/entertainment options besides watching television or going out to see a movie?

  • How much time have I already spent on media today?

  • How much time have I spent surfing the Internet? How much time have I spent blogging or maintaining an online presence through social network sights?

  • In the last week, how much time have I spent on the spiritual disciplines, building relationships, or serving in my local church compared to time spent consuming media?

  • After investing the time to view this, will I look back on it as time well spent?

From Worldiness, p. 57

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“The truth is under attack more today than at any other time in history and this should not be surprising in a culture that so values religious freedom and tolerance. Add to such an accepting culture unparalleled speed of communication and the ability to publish books and other writings quickly and easily, and we can rightly conclude that error is being spread with startling speed and efficiency. What the church needs today is a class of believers who are identified as the experts in discernment and as those who have special ability in this area.”

Tim Challies writing on the spiritual gift of discernment in The Spiritual Discipline of Discernment.

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It is easy to be duped into thinking that just a little error is harmless and will not matter. And yet Scripture teaches otherwise. Pastor and author Joshua Harris speaks of “half a poison pill” to describe the mindset of many Christians in which they think repeated exposure to just a little bit of evil will not harm them. These Christians seem to think they have a sin threshold beyond which they dare not go. Yet these people may as well ask just how much of a poison pill they need to swallow before it kills them. “The greatest danger of the popular media is not a one-time exposure to a particular instance of sin (as serious as that can be). It’s how long-term exposure to worldliness—little chunks of poison pill, day after day, week after week—can deaden our hearts to the ugliness of sin. Repeated exposure to error can lead us to unwittingly swallow a lethal dose. Error may be subtle but it is always deadly.

The truth is under attack more today than at any other time in history and this should not be surprising in a culture that so values religious freedom and tolerance. Add to such an accepting culture unparalleled speed of communication and the ability to publish books and other writings quickly and easily, and we can rightly conclude that error is being spread with startling speed and efficiency. What the church needs today is a class of believers who are identified as the experts in discernment and as those who have special ability in this area.–Tim Challies, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

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Quotes on discernment

Here are some short takes from Tim Challies’ recent book on discernment.

“Discernment is a discipline, and like other disciplines such as prayer and reading the Bible, it is one that all Christians should seek to practice and should seek to practice deliberately. If we are to be a people who show our love for the Lord by faithfully serving Him, it is a discipline we must practice.–Challies

“The recipients of this letter [Hebrews] were like many Christians today who think that theology is a waste of time. What difference does it make, people ask, whether God is a Trinity or not, whether Christ’s righteousness comes by imputation or infusion, and whether regeneration comes before faith or after? What is important, they say, is that we get along with each other. Then they cite passages commending a childlike faith, as if that were the same thing as a childish faith, that is, one that is indifferent to or ignorant of the Word of God. Richard Philips, Hebrews

“To lack discernment is to sin against God. It is an inevitable result of turning from Him. It is easy to look at those who have turned from God and to look at their lustful and angry hearts and affirm that this is the result of their sin. When a Christian falls into moral sin he may well examine his life to determine how he has turned his back on God, but is the same true when he exhibits a lack of discernment? A wise pastor writes, “to willingly neglect the truth and to live with our eyes closed shut while good and evil stare us in the face is to sin against God, ourselves, our families, and our Church…Again, this is worth stating over and over again. It is the responsibility of every Christian to learn, to be discipled in the Word, so that we can know how to be discerning. To fail to discern is to walk in darkness.”–Tim Challies

“The Church of our day urgently needs to heed the message of this second letter of Paul to Timothy. For all around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp of the gospel, fumbling it, in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether. A new generation of young Timothys is needed, who will guard the sacred deposit of the gospel, who are determined to proclaim it and are prepared to suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation which in due course will rise up to follow them.–John Stott, 1&2 Timothy

On the relativism in our culture:  “Every idea is a shade of gray. There is no right and wrong or true and false, but only shades of right and wrong or true and false spread along a continuum. The poles of this continuum are extended so far out towards the wings that for all practical purposes they are unattainable and therefore worthless. Nothing, then, is wholly right or wrong. All is relative; most of it is subjective.–Jay Adams, A Call To Discernment

Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.–Tim Challies

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Discernment is “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong” (Tim Challies).

If the above definition is true (and I think it is), where should discernment start? I propose that it starts with how one thinks of God. A. W. Tozer wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He goes on to say,

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may so or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. . . .Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightest word in any language is its word for God.

Trace any error in doctrine or religion and you will see that it began with some wrong view of God. Our thoughts about God shape everything else.

So discernment starts with your view of God. This is discernment 101. If you want to be able to discern between truth and error, you have to make sure you know God or else, in the words of J. I. Packer, “you sentences yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

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