A Cry for Discernment! Part One: Establishing the Need for Believers to Read
••part of the Smart Sheep series••
The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time.
Let us beware of traveling without its light. -JC Ryle
We are living in an age where love trumps all, where feelings and experiences are elevated above truth and doctrine, and where undiscerning believers are swallowing anything that sounds "Christian." Tolerance has become an idol. Grace is favored over truth. Fear of offending people reigns supreme, and, like Pastor Voddie Baucham famously says, people believe the 11th commandment above all: "Thou Shalt Be Nice." (watch clip here)
Because of this, it is crucial for all believers to arm and immerse themselves in the unchanging truth of Scripture. The battle raging around us has ramped up and many are unaware of the dangers lurking even within their own churches–places they thought were safe and free from false teaching and from an unbiblical tolerance of sin. Moral relativism–the belief that there are no absolute truths–is everywhere, pushed into our educational system, and widely accepted by many. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.” Say what? Since when is anybody entitled to their own personal truth? Shouldn't we be concerned about that? Shouldn't we be fighting that? Truth is not subjective. Truth is found in Scripture. We need discernment to navigate these waters and every single believer has the ability to cultivate it. We have the tools. So what is the problem?
Years ago, my husband and I attended a leadership conference with other volunteer leaders from our former church. During one of the main sessions, a lady on staff from the host church walked up onto the platform and introduced a form of prayer called "Contemplative Prayer." I had never heard of this before, was pretty confused, and became determined to understand what was happening. My mind was filled with red flags, though I was unable to formulate my concern. Upon returning home, I poured myself into reading anything and everything about contemplative prayer, Spiritual Formation, Centering Prayer, Christian Mysticism and the like. It was at this moment that I kind of "woke up" to discover error entering my own church. (On Twitter? Check out my hashtag campaign: #SayNoToContemplative).
Before this? Yeah, I naïvely swallowed everything. I trusted my pastors and elders to protect me from anything that would harm me spiritually. I figured that protection is their job–that they would do the hard work for me. After all, I was the sheep--the dumb sheep. True shepherds protect and feed good, healthy food to their sheep, right? 😬 This, my friends, is dangerous thinking. Every single one of us are susceptible to deception. Even shepherds. We are ALL told to be on the alert. It takes work. It takes discipline. And it takes time. I believe this is why there is such a lack of discernment in churches today. We're either too busy to care, too afraid to offend, or too lazy to bother.
I remember being so upset upon finding some not-so-good books on our former church's book table, wondering why the pastoral staff was not focussed on vetting the authors in order to protect their sheep. Books like Jesus Calling, and One Thousand Gifts, were not only on the table, they were promoted at women's retreats as favorites, the last one promoted from the stage by even the pastor's wife as her "favorite of all time." (Curious? Read a few reviews about these two books here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
At one women's retreat, as I was running the computers in the back, I wept and prayed for the young women as they eagerly listened to speakers who were encouraging them to try contemplative prayer and to ingest these types of books. I kept thinking of how vulnerable, trusting, and naïve I was at their age, and how I would have been easily swept away and deceived by this. Did I approach the leaders? You bet I did. Many of them. But my concerns fell on deaf ears. The main lady told me, "Oh, it's OK, Jill. It's really not as bad as you think." Soon after this, I stepped down from my leadership position as I could no longer tolerate what they were doing. (And this is one of the reasons why I started the FaceBook page, The Ruminators. You can read more about it here.)
False Doctrine does not meet men face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before men in broad day, and summon them to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm man's suspicion, and throw him off his guard.
-JC Ryle, Warnings to the Churches
The battle for truth is not an optional fight for the believer. Paul reminds us that we are to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:1-4) And the most surprising thing to me? The attack is coming from within our own ranks. We MUST be on the alert. We MUST be watchful. (1 Peter 5:8). And we MUST be reading God's Word. We all should be Bereans, as in Acts 17:11. All sheep should be comparing everything to God's Word. God is the standard, not anybody or anything else. Why are we so afraid of offending others and not afraid of offending God?
When we are studying God's Word and are immersed in it, we are better equipped to identify and stand up against error sneaking into our churches. We should be praying for discernment, praying for our pastors and comparing everything to the truth in God's Word.
In Part Two of the "Smart Sheep Series," I will start to unpack a list of the ten predominant characteristics of SMART SHEEP. Stay tuned....
“Teach me good judgment…for I believe Your commandments,”
“I am your servant; give me discernment.”
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;"