Periodically, Scripture warns us against having knowledge as an end in itself. For example, without love, knowledge alone can be a source of pride. Without humility, it can lead us into a judgmental attitude. Without wisdom, it can result in idealism and a perfectionistic spirit.
Knowledge needs a buffer...something to soften it, give it perspective, make it workable and real. Perhaps the very best companion for knowledge is discernment.
Before we can put discernment into practice, we must first understand the definitions of some key terms: knowledge, discernment, and balance.
Knowledge: an acquisition of biblical facts, principles, and doctrines
When we talk about gaining knowledge, we talk about understanding the facts and the principles of Scripture so they fit together into a system of thought that becomes for us a doctrinal position. Knowledge doesn’t have emotion involved. Knowledge lacks action. Knowledge lacks love. Knowledge has to do with facts, and they can remain theoretical if you let them.
Discernment: the ability to recognize, to perceive, beyond what is said
Discernment is the sense, the intuition. It is insight outside the realm of the obvious. It is reading between the lines. Discernment enters into the reality of wisdom, the wisdom of God.
Balance: maintaining one’s spiritual equilibrium
Balance means remaining free of extremes, being able to see the whole picture, not just a part of it. Balanced Christians are realistic people. They’re still having fun. They see other sides. They’re tolerant. They’re gracious. They value another opinion, even one that they may disagree with. They are not threatened. They are not insecure. They’re balanced.
Some examples from Scripture
- Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9–10 is an example of an individual without discernment
- Apollos in Acts 18:24–28 is an example of an individual with discernment
- The Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1:10–12 is an example of a church without discernment
- The Berean church in Acts 17:11–12 is an example of a church with discernment
Several principles are worth remembering. First, no one person has all the truth. Second, no single church owns exclusive rights to your mind. Third, no specific interpretation is correct just because a gifted teacher says so.
“Don’t Forget to Add a Cup of Discernment” is from Chuck Swindoll’s series Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Returning to Our Roots. You can stream this message online anytime at insightforliving.ca/audiolibrary.