As followers of Christ, we need to be vigilant in testing what we hear from any Bible teacher. To accept instruction from a voice of authority without validation from the scriptures can be a recipe for disaster. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll presents message number two in his teaching series called, Growing Deep in the Christian Life.
In this study, we'll be reminded that the perfect ingredients for a wholesome biblical meal always includes sound scriptural doctrine. And that requires a personal working knowledge of God's Word and a measure of sensitivity. Our lives can become two-dimensional if we're not careful, devoid of depth and color and excitement.
And that makes us unhealthy and imbalanced rather than vital and whole. This often happens if we acquire knowledge without also gaining the depth of discernment. The Bible gives us an inspired recipe for a balanced, healthy approach to life that requires a cup of discernment mixed in well with biblical knowledge. There are many negative and positive examples in the scriptures, and we'll be looking at several.
But the church members in Berea had the right attitude. They were a positive example of mixing discernment with biblical knowledge. Let me read a couple of verses for you from Acts 17 out of the Amplified Bible. Acts 17 verses 11 and 12. Now these Jews in Berea were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Many of them, therefore, became believers, together with not a few prominent Greeks, women as well as men. You're listening to Insight for Living. To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures Studies by going to insight.org.
And now the message from Chuck titled, Don't Forget to Add a Cup of Discernment. So much of life is two-dimensional, and it seems to lack depth and color for many people. There was a period of time in my life where that was true, when the most important thing to me was simply the gaining of knowledge. There was nothing wrong with that in itself, but there was something terribly missing during that slice of my life. My interest was in getting a hold of biblical facts and gaining a knowledge of scriptural doctrines. I wanted to know what this book was all about, and I wanted to understand how it fit together into some kind of pattern or system of thought. And I fell into the teaching of a very persuasive and strong, powerful teacher whose stated goal was to communicate the doctrines of the Bible, and all who sat under his ministry, he promised, would become grounded in the Word, and he succeeded in many, many lives. And for that period of time I became, I suppose looking back on that, sort of brainwashed. I received information, some of which I realize now was spurious, but I got a hold of truth, and that was stimulating to me because I was so blatantly ignorant of how the scriptures fit together. And as time passed, I grew not only in knowledge but in pride.
My life, and I was at that time involved with the woman who was to be my wife, and even following our marriage we continued to be involved in that style of teaching. And there was a growing cancer in our lives. There was a lack of compassion, it seemed.
There was a lack of tolerance for people who would not agree with this system of thought. And interestingly, looking back on it, we both crawled in sort of an intellectual tunnel. People became less and less important.
The lost weren't significant to us, certainly not to me. And while I was growing in my facts, I was diminishing in what I would call color, a third dimension of life. My joy seemed to be missing, and in fact I became increasingly more rigid, and I'm not made to be rigid. I became more structured, and I am not that much of a structured person in my personality. Very little creativity flowed through my mind, and life became a series of grays and blacks and whites.
No color, no beauty, no cushion, no room for people who happened to disagree. And the more I imbibed at that fountain, the less there was of love in me. I suppose I could say, looking back on it, that what I gained was knowledge and what I lacked was discernment. I missed that which causes life to be tolerable, in fact beautiful.
And rather than having open arms for people, I pushed them away, certainly those who didn't agree with this system of thought. Now I feel deeply about what I want to talk with you about. I don't have a long talk in mind, but I do have several warnings that I want to leave with you, and in the process I want you to hear me well, because we are on the verge of a series of subjects in our ministry where there will be a lot of information communicated, a lot of facts. I hope they will be interesting.
I hope they will be presented in a believable and understandable manner. Interestingly, when I look back, I remember learning a whole new vocabulary. I'm not going to give you a new vocabulary. I don't want you to leave thinking like I think. I want you to understand as best you can what Scripture is teaching, but I want us to mix it with discernment.
I want that very much. I want our imagination and I want our color and I want our creativity to be encouraged while we learn new dimensions of Christian truth. The last thing I want to happen is that we become a body of exclusive people who have no room for folks who are not as informed as we. If somehow in the process of these studies you become less concerned about the person without Christ, something is missing and that's an alarm signal going off because life is not meant to be two-dimensional. It's multi-dimensional because our God is. Let me begin with some definitions.
Maybe that's a good place to start. First of all, what do I mean when I talk about knowledge? These are not the kind of definitions you'll find in Webster's.
These are definitions related to what I will call simply the spiritual life. By knowledge, I mean 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 that they fit together into a system of thought that become for us a doctrinal position. Knowledge doesn't have emotion involved. Knowledge lacks action. Knowledge lacks love.
Knowledge, as I refer to it, has to do with facts and they can remain theoretical if you let them. Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Let me show you a place where knowledge appears in this light, interestingly in a chapter on love.
And here there is a beautiful balance. 1 Corinthians 13, if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, there's the word, if I know all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. You remember this section. It's the most wonderful treatise written on love in all of literature.
It cannot be improved upon. But the reference here is to a knowledge that is a factual, doctrinal, theological, biblical kind of knowledge. And Paul's emphasis here is that there be love with it. Turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 10, same group of people written a little bit later by the same writer, Paul. Verse 3, 2 Corinthians 10, 3. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against, there's our word, the knowledge of God. And we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I am referring to a knowledge of God, a knowledge about God, a knowledge about his word. And in the process of developing a learning church, knowledge is extremely valuable.
But as I've said earlier, it is not an end in itself. I came to an end of just sheer knowledge in my pilgrimage when I met up with a man who took me under his wing for a period of over a year. He detected in me this awful pride, this intolerance that I referred to earlier.
And he found that I was, with him, somewhat easy to get along with, but with others of my peers, I was not. Didn't have much patience. When they said foolish things about something that they said was from the Bible and I was Bible and I knew it wasn't. I didn't have any tact about it.
I didn't have any tolerance with them. And he pointed it out to me. He said, you know, Chuck, you have a lot of knowledge, but you don't have much tact. You seem to be proud of a Bible that is really well marked. In fact, I'll never forget the way he put it.
He said, it looks like you've been dragging it behind your car for a year or two. And it was very well marked. And I went back to that old Bible just this past week and I looked at my notes and everything in my notes had the mark of one teacher, one system of thought, one kind of marking.
And I don't think there is a page that doesn't have some kind of marking on it. And it all is from that slant. And I find it today rather tragic.
And I look at it with a sigh. I am grateful for the facts that to this day hold up. But I've had a devil of a time unlearning those things that were false.
And there was a lot of that. I've had the hardest time in the process of years that have passed putting into practice all that knowledge. You see, with the entrance of truth, there is equally an entrance of responsibility. And if I'm going to do a study on patience, it isn't simply to learn how to spell it or how to trace every time it appears in scripture.
There is the assignment to become patient. So I think what I really want to address and I have been wanting to address it for a long time is, along with knowledge, discernment. Now what do I mean by discernment? What is that? Discernment is the ability to recognize, to perceive beyond what is said.
Now this gets a little bit sticky and it's not quite as exact. Discernment is the sense, the intuition. It is insight outside the realm of the obvious.
It is reading between the lines. You're with someone and he wants to sell you a car. In the process of listening to the person for a while, you sense the individual is not telling you the truth. Now he doesn't have a little card in his upper pocket that says, I am a hypocrite. I do not tell the truth. That's too obvious. But you say to your mate or to your friend who is with you on that car lot, I don't trust him.
Why don't you trust him? Because you have perceived, you have discerned something that's either present or lacking in his character or in his words, in his presentation. Discernment enters into the realm of wisdom, the wisdom of God. Solomon prayed for it in Solomon prayed for it in 1 Kings 3 and verse 9. So give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people to discern between good and evil. I don't want you to make me rich. I don't want you to make me famous.
I don't want you to expand my territory. But I do ask you, oh God, to give me discernment, to understand, to perceive beyond the realm of the seen, of the heard. It would include the idea of sizing up a situation, a person, spotting evil that's lurking in the shadows. But it doesn't always have to do with spotting evil. Discernment also helps us sense truth and good.
You discern when you are with certain individuals or listening to certain teachers. That person has character. There is a lot of depth in that person's life. That individual is presenting only a bit of what that person knows.
There's a lot more behind the counter. I discern I am with a resourceful individual. Proverbs 2 and verse 5 talks about discerning the fear of the Lord. In the New Testament, it appears not in word, but in idea. In 1 John chapter 4, over there in the end of the New Testament, chapter 4 of 1 John verse 1, you've read the verse or you've had it referred to a number of times, I'm sure.
Beloved, written to the Christian, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. In today's terms, don't believe everything you hear. Put it to the test. Check it out. Mull it over. Talk it through.
Think it out. Check it with scripture. Be selective.
Don't be gullible. Just because a man wears a collar doesn't mean he's to be followed. Just because there is a media ministry in the media ministry that the person's involved in doesn't mean that he ought to have your support.
Just because he writes material or just because he may present to you in a persuasive fashion some system of thought that sounds so interesting, in fact intriguing, doesn't mean you ought to embrace it. Test the spirits. Turn to Philippians 1 verse 9. It's the only time this word in the New American Standard Bible appears, that is the word discernment. Philippians 1 verse 9.
It's Paul's prayer for the Philippians. He says, in this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge. Interesting word, that real knowledge. It's full knowledge that you might grow in the depths, in the heights of God's truth and all discernment. Only time it appears in our Bible is right here. It means to perceive.
That's what the original word means. That you may grow not only in real knowledge but in all perception. Now I wish I wish I could describe to you how that happens.
I don't believe there is such a thing as a course on how to become more intuitive. I don't believe anyone can give you the process in a step-by-step or one-two-three fashion on how to grow in discernment. But it can happen if you let it. See, looking back on my life, I didn't let it. I was young, I was impressionable, I was caught up in this movement and I was swept into it along with hundreds of others and I cut off any question though my mind on occasion got glimpses of a lifestyle that in my heart I knew wasn't right. And of certain rationalizations that down deep inside I knew better than to believe that. And even some questionable interpretations that as time passed I became increasingly more uneasy with. But at the beginning he said it and I believed it and I bought it. I was growing in knowledge but I wasn't growing in discernment. Now I'm growing in both.
And I wish I could just give it to you in an easy fashion so that it could suddenly take place in your life. Perhaps the warning is all that's needed. Be warned, beware that if you drink at just one fountain you will lose. You will lose something of a perspective that God wants to give you.
It's like eating one food or going to only one kind of entertainment or reading only one book or wearing only one color. Does that sound drab to everyone else? He says I pray that you will grow in full knowledge and discernment. Now this is bringing up the question or the issue of balance. And you hear me talk about that a lot.
I hope you do because it's a major theme of my life. What do I mean when I refer to balance? I mean by that remaining free of extremes. Being able to see the whole picture not just a part of it. Maintaining one's spiritual equilibrium. It's another way I would put it.
That's what I mean by balance. Balanced Christians are realistic people. They're still having fun. They see other sides. They are not afraid to say I don't know. They are tolerant. They are gracious. They value another opinion even one that may disagree. They may not agree with it, but they value it. They give an individual the dignity of holding another opinion without being put down. They are not threatened. They are not insecure.
They're balanced. They realize they haven't all the truth. There may be alternative positions that later they will see as near the truth and where they are at the present time. I read somewhere and I don't know where it was that heresy is nothing but a truth taken to an extreme.
Trace it out. Trace out the heresies and you will find that they began with a truth that was pushed out of balance. Now in the scripture we find some examples of both positive and negative nature. Individuals as well as churches where there was knowledge but lacking in discernment and on the other hand where there was both knowledge and discernment.
Let's look at the negative examples first and sort of get them out of the way. Over in the little book of 3 John, you were in 1 John a moment ago. Go back to 3 John. There's a classic example of a man who lacked discernment. He has been called by some writers of New Testament works a church boss. He is a self-appointed authority in the early church.
His name is Diotrephes. It's a classic example of an unbearable man. There are a few in every church.
That's still true today. Some people simply remain unbearable and they won't leave. They stay and in the early church there is one.
There are many but this is one who is earmarked. Verse 9, I wrote something to the church but Diotrephes. I think John must have sighed but Diotrephes who loves to be first among them doesn't accept what we say. Now note Diotrephes for a moment he describes him. For this reason if I come I will call attention to his deeds which he does.
What are they? He unjustly accuses us with wicked words and not satisfied with this neither does he himself receive the brethren and furthermore he forbids those who desire to do so and he puts them out of the church. In today's terms this man was running the show.
Here is a savage loose in a congregation. Here is a man who apparently was well read. There's not a word about his lacking knowledge. Note that he could have been well versed in the Old Testament.
That could have been the reason he was brought to power or into leadership but he became so overbearing in his leadership so lacking in discernment to know that he was missing tact and grace and love that John says he is way out of line and when I come I will call attention to the deeds that he does. There's something awfully blinding that occurs when you lack discernment especially if you are one grasping for knowledge and you go for it and you go for it like a race driver going for that final lap and you've got it in that gear and you've got that thing floorboarded and you are full bore ahead and you lack the perception that makes you easy to live with. In the process of growing up in the family I plead with you if I could get on my knees to make it more effective I'd do that. I plead with you to remain gracious and tolerant.
I plead with you to be forgiving to perceive your own logs in your eye lest you become one who looks for specks in other eyes. In the recipe of healthy living don't forget to add a cup of discernment. That's the creative title that Chuck Swindoll chose for today's message. You're listening to Insight for Living and if you'd like to learn more about Chuck or this ministry visit us online at insightworld.org. Well today is a new day the Lord has made and perhaps you've resolved to spend more time in God's word.
Well Insight for Living has prepared a variety of resources to help you along the way. First did you know that Chuck Swindoll provides a daily devotional by email? In this way you can either start or end your day with reading and reflecting on biblical truth. The daily devotional is free when you sign up online at insight.org devotional. In addition every sermon Chuck presents on Insight for Living is paired with interactive study notes. We call this resource Searching the Scriptures. By using this online document you can learn to study the scriptures in the same manner that Chuck does. Plus you'll discover what God is saying to you as you dig into his word on your own.
To access this online bible study tool go to insightworld.org studies. These free resources and the daily programs that feature Chuck's messages are available through voluntary donations from people just like you. We're especially grateful for those who automate their giving as monthly companions of grace. Their regular monthly gifts empower Insight for Living to be heard in multiple languages and on more than 2,000 radio stations across the world. And with the advent of the mobile app and the internet anybody with a cell phone can hear the practical bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll. So join the team today to become a monthly companion of grace give us a call. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or you can sign up online at insight.org monthly companion. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. That's Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message Don't Forget to Add a Cup of Discernment was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 2005, and 2011 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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