Probably you’re like most people, you always wish you had more and more wisdom and spiritual discernment. Maybe then you could avoid the sin that easily ensnare you. You’re now tired of being like the people of Nineveh, who didn’t know their left hand from their right.
I am not a cessationist, I am a continuationist who is Reformed-ish. Therefore, I believe God’s word doesn’t change and his power never ends. If he promised spiritual gifts to all who believe, he is faithful enough to give you if you so desire.
I don’t believe it’s mandatory for you to speak in tongues. But I believe you will reap great spiritual benefits if you do. I believe in the Pentecostal theology and I agree with James KA Smith who observed in his article, Thinking in Tongues:
At the heart of [this] Pentecostal theology is an ontological claim: that the same Spirit who animated the apostles at Pentecost continues to be actively, dynamically, and miraculously present both in the ecclesial community and in creation. Pentecostal theology is a theology of the Creed’s third article and is predicated on the belief that the Spirit is a spirit who surprises us by continuing to speak, heal, and manifest God’s presence in ways that counter the shut-down naturalism of modernity.
But to most Reformed Christians, being a continuationist means, I am not smart enough. It means I am an outsider to their theological tradition. And everything I write is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt.
But I consider it an honor when you read what I write skeptically – it means you’re going to use wisdom and discernment. After all, “Reading a book or listening to a sermon is like eating fish. Eat the flesh and throw away the bones.”
Is Spiritual Discernment A Head or A Heart Issue?
I and continuationist disagree on what spiritual discernment is. As a Pentecostal, I grew up knowing spiritual discernment is the divine gift of separating spirits. I was told a person with a gift of discernment could tell if a person is demon possessed or not.
However, discernment wasn’t isolated to detecting demons. Sometimes a person with a gift of discernment could tell the spiritual climate in a house, church or during an event. So, I have always thought of spiritual discernment as a spiritual thermometer.
However, as I studied the Bible in my own and read more books from Reformed scholars, I discovered they treated spiritual discernment as something entirely dependent on your wisdom and knowledge. For example, John MacArthur argued spiritual discernment is simply the ability to think biblically.
If you’re a cessationist, you probably believe spiritual discernment entails using your mind to decide what is right and what is wrong. And you would use the Bible as the basis of your decision. Therefore, it’s most likely you would treat the Bible as the source of your wisdom.
No matter what your beliefs are, you need to grow in wisdom and spiritual discernment. Continuationist believe discernment is a Holy Spirit directed activity and stems from the heart. Whereas, cessationist believe it is a fruit of effective Bible study and rises from the head.
But have you ever considered that spiritual discernment might be a head and heart issue?
From the cessationist argument, truth births knowledge, knowledge births wisdom, and wisdom births discernment. However, Christ gave the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. Importantly, you cannot think biblically without the Holy Spirit opening your mind. I believe discernment can be both subjective and objective.
How to grow in wisdom and spiritual discernment
What is spiritual discernment? Sinclair Ferguson defined spiritual discernment as ‘the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action.’ This ability comes from the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of Christ.
1. Love is the Root of Spiritual Discernment
There’s a difference between paranoia and discernment. When you’re paranoid, your decisions are driven by fear. You weigh up situations out of fear of people, the past or the unknown. But perfect love cast out all fear.
Spiritual discernment helps you to celebrate patience and kindness. While rejecting any form of arrogance, envy, boasting and selfishness. And it encourages rejoicing in the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
2. Spiritual discernment is a gift from the Triune God
Have you ever met a physician who is a chain smoker? Head knowledge is overrated. The physician knows all the dangers of smoking but doesn’t quit. Yes, you can study the Bible all you want but that’s not a guarantee you will have spiritual discernment.
I agree with Sinclair Ferguson, “We receive [spiritual discernment] as did Christ Himself—by the anointing of the Spirit, through our understanding of God’s Word, by our experience of God’s grace, and by the progressive unfolding to us of the true condition of our own hearts.”
3. Spiritual discernment is about right information
Have you ever tried to eat breakfast after brushing your teeth? The food tastes horrible. But the truth is the porridge never changed its taste. Your taste buds were spoiled by the toothpaste.
If there’s anything that can affect spiritual discernment in the 21st Century, it’s media and electronic gadgets. These things if unguarded may numb our discernment by providing unnecessary information that cloud our judgement. Devoting your time to prayer, fasting and Bible reading might be a good detoxification practice.
4. Fellowship with the Triune God
When Peter stood up at Pentecoast to explain the speaking in tongues phenomenon, people marveled. And they agreed he had spent time with Christ. You can grow in wisdom and spiritual discernment if you remain in Christ.
One way to easily spot a fake bank note is by simply familiarizing yourself with the authentic notes. But the best way is to walk around with a bank teller with a currency detector. That is us, we have the Triune God in us. And we only need to stay our mind on him (Isaiah 26:3).
Spiritual discernment is both a head issue and a heart issue. You need the Holy Spirit to guide you in all truth. And you need to spend time in the Word, since Christ promised to open your mind. The Father has loved you so that in your discernment you don’t resort to unwarranted judgmentalism.