Seeing Truth From Error
Hey friend, would you have time for a call?
I was curling my hair one morning a couple of years ago when I saw this little message brighten the sleeping screen of my phone. I set down my hair tool and let my friend know I had a few minutes to chat, already having a suspicion as to what she might want to talk about.
That week had held some hard, crazy events in our country, and there was an eruption of thoughts and opinions flying all over the place. I didn’t have a lot of words of my own, but I saw a social media post someone had written that resonated with me in the moment and I decided to repost it. I must admit, my conscience gave me a little twinge that maybe I shouldn’t share anything quite yet, but being mostly convinced of what I thought to be true I went ahead and shared it anyway. My friend texted me less than an hour later, and sure enough, she mentioned the post.
During the phone call she gently challenged me to think about all the facets of what was going on, and we discussed back and forth for a little while. She encouraged me to wait to voice my opinion until we knew more — until there was more clarity and the full truth had more time to come to light. Even though I was still quite convinced about my own judgement, by the end of our call I’d decided to heed her advice, take down the post, and wait.
You know what? She turned out to be right.
That scenario was a huge wake-up call for me. I’m not generally someone who jumps to conclusions, but I realized that I — along with many other Christians — had believed something that wasn’t completely true, and I was shaken by just how easily it had happened. As the months went by, I began observing in conversations and on social media the way people were speaking, reasoning, and arguing about all sorts of issues, and I’ve come to this conclusion:
We are in desperate need of discernment.
What Is Discernment?
Simply put, discernment is the ability to identify right from wrong, truth from error. Although that’s a straightforward definition, discernment means having the competence to look into situations that are far from straightforward and see not only what is true or false, but what is partially true. When we have discernment we don’t just lump everything into the good pile or the bad pile, but instead have the ability to perceive details that might seem insignificant, but could make all the difference in knowing what is actually right.
There is a kind of discernment that is available to all people, and we can recognize it in those who carefully and diligently study the world and their particular field, whether that be a doctor or a homemaker. But there is another kind of discernment that is only available to those who have been born again. This is insight that’s gained through eyes of faith and “wisdom from above” (Jms. 3:17).
Wisdom From God
How do we gain this second kind of discernment, in this day and age, giving us the ability to rightly judge if something is true, or whether a voice is in alignment with the Bible in a sermon, post, podcast, or book?
In 1 Kings 3 we read that God tells King Solomon that He will grant him anything he asks. Solomon says, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
This pleased God, and God granted Solomon wisdom beyond what this world had ever seen. (Read 1 Kings 3:16–28 for an example.)
True discernment comes from God; we can’t come upon it by chance. And to gain it, we need to be willing to seek it how God tells us to go about doing so.
Here are three ways we can begin to grow in godly discernment for every aspect of life.
1. Grow in the Fear of the Lord
Discernment, insight, wisdom, and knowledge are words that are used similarly in the Bible. The Bible abounds with instruction on gaining them:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7 ESV
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10 ESV
It starts with the fear of the Lord. This fear is one that says, “You are God, I am not. You are my all-knowing Creator, and I need what You have in order to live as I ought.”
We must submit ourselves to the authority of the Bible, viewing it as our way of knowing God as He has revealed Himself. From that, we gain understanding as to how He has designed us to live in and think about this world. Without the lens of Scripture we cannot think rightly about God, and in turn we cannot have true discernment.
Read the Bible daily. Don’t depend on devotional books written by others: dig into Scripture for yourself to see what lies in the pages. Study it diligently. And if you’re unsure of how to go about it, consider going through an inductive Bible study. This is a great way to begin to rightly and deeply understand the truth held in God’s Word.
It’s vital that we become diligent students of Scripture. This will grow our life-giving fear of the Lord, which will grow our ability to discern truth from error in this sin-riddled, confusing world.
2. Ask God
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (ESV).
Proverbs 2:3–8 says, “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. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints” (ESV).
God is the one who grants us this wisdom. It cannot be obtained any other way. So along with searching Scripture, we must ask God to open our minds and hearts to understand and apply what we are reading. He is the sole source of this kind of discernment and wisdom, and it honors Him when we acknowledge that by requesting it of Him.
Before, during, and after you read the Word, ask God to give you insight. Ask God for wisdom any time you find yourself in a situation where it requires wisdom and discernment you don’t have. He promises to give it, and He surely will.
3. Listen to Godly Counsel
One of God’s means for sharpening us and growing our discernment is through other believers, just like my friend did for me.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (ESV).
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another” (NASB).
It’s not always easy to receive this kind of counsel, because it stings to realize that we might not be right about something. When iron is being sharpened, it creates sparks from the friction. When someone’s challenge reveals a lack of discernment, there is a temptation to stiffen out of pride and hold even tighter to our opinion to save face. But if we want to grow, we have to be humble and teachable enough to receive it. As it says in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (ESV).
There is Hope
When our eyes are opened to an area where we lack discernment, it can initially cause discouragement or embarrassment. But take heart: God reveals our need for wisdom and discernment because He loves us. It is not to shame or disgrace us, but to grow and strengthen us. We are all in need of His wisdom, and He delights to give it in abundance. May we be faithful to seek Him diligently for the discernment we so desperately need. He will surely give it.