Yes, it's true. Knowledge is power.
But it's not everything. In fact, sometimes information without discernment is dangerous. And all of us know a few brainiacs who lack the sensitivity to employ their knowledge with wisdom. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues a message he started last time.
It's part of our series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. We live in a day when knowledge can be retrieved with a few mouse clicks. But the wisdom part is much more complicated. As Chuck puts it, don't forget to add a cup of discernment. 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, 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. Verse 9, I wrote something to the church, 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. 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. In the process of growing up in the family, 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.
Do not be blinded with your own importance. Diotrephes was a man like that. Now there's a church that lacked discernment.
It had knowledge, but it didn't have discernment. First Corinthians, chapter one, you know I'm referring to the church at Corinth, that dear church. I'll bet those people will be so glad when heaven comes, so they'll stop being the brunt of every preacher's illustration of carnality. Every time I think of a church, I want to illustrate something bad.
I think the Corinthian church fits. But don't misunderstand. Those people were with it mentally. They were bright. They were cultured. They knew their way around the block, theologically even.
Problem is, they couldn't get along with each other, and there arose all kinds of difficulties. But before we go to that, look at verse four, chapter one. I thank my God always concerning you. First Corinthians 1.4.
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you so that you're not lacking in any gift. What a place. What a place to be in its pristine days. Talk about good teachers. Talk about an understanding of the truth founded by Paul, watered by Apollos, nurtured by Christ.
This place was an explosion of incredible proportions there on that little isthmus in Greece. But look at verse 10. These people with all that knowledge, now I exhort you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind, in the same judgment. For I've been informed concerning you, my brethren by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Quarrels among people with knowledge?
Yes. Quarrels because they weren't able to keep their knowledge in balance. They lacked the discernment to see the danger signals. As they grew in knowledge, they didn't grow in grace. And they were blind to that.
They didn't perceive the dangers. Look at chapter 1 verse 12, for example. I mean this, that each one of you is saying, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. There were cliques. They followed the teachings of one individual and they had their reasons. But all of them were out of balance.
And all four of the groups lacked discernment. Chapter 3, you're still fleshly, verse 3. There's jealousy and strife among you. Are you not fleshly and are you not walking like mere men even as though you weren't even saved? You are. For when one says, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are you not mere men? What is Apollos and what is Paul? They're servants. They're just another teacher. Maybe I've said it enough.
Maybe I've said it too much for some of you and I think perhaps not enough for others. You who are new in the faith must constantly guard against getting all your food from one source. You need to gauge the source. You need to determine if this individual is presenting truth. But guard against believing it just because one person says it, even if the one person was the one that led you to Christ. No one person has a corner on the truth.
And if you follow just one, you will live to see the day that you become disillusioned. The church was known for its immorality, chapter 5, for its license, chapter 8. Let's look at chapter 8 just in passing.
This reminds me of a, yeah that's what I want, chapter 8, verse 1. Lack of self-restraint. They didn't want to hold back because there were weaker brothers among them. They were gaining knowledge. They were getting with it. They were learning about liberty.
Concerning things sacrificed to idols. We know that we all have knowledge. Look at the next line. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.
Mark that down. You think you've got it together in knowledge. You don't really understand what knowledge is about, spiritually speaking. You lack a sense of dependence upon the Lord.
If anyone loves God, he is known by him. And then he goes on to describe the importance of restraining their liberty for the sake of brothers and sisters who wouldn't understand. See, it takes discernment to gauge one's actions.
You don't just simply get heady, get knowledgeable, and learn about liberty, and then run wild with it, and care a little about others and how it impacts people. Your lifestyle speaks. And a person with discernment thinks about his lifestyle and addresses such things as how far should I go and what should be done in public. That's part of growing up. That's part of discernment.
That's why they must be mixed. Now, enough on the negatives. Positive examples and then a few warnings and I'm through. Back in Acts chapter 18, we have Apollos. I mentioned him earlier. Acts 18 toward the end describes his ministry. And I see a couple of people with discernment in this last section of Acts 18.
One is Apollos and the other would be Aquila and Priscilla. Here's a bright capable man, gifted. His theology was a little thin at one point and he listened to some people who knew more than he did.
So we've got him described for us in 24 through 28. Now a certain Jew named Apollos. Acts 18, 24. He was an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man came to Ephesus and he was mighty in the scriptures. Did he know what he was talking about? You bet. Was he able to preach with all his heart? People come to listen? Indeed.
This is Apollos. He was apparently quite an orator. He had it. Verse 25, he had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was fervent in spirit.
The word means boiling. So he was passionate. He had a real delivery. He was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John. So there were limitations in his knowledge. He began to speak out boldly in the synagogue but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, this is a couple who had been trained by Paul in Ephesus and dropped off or in Corinth and dropped off in Ephesus to begin to minister and this man came to Ephesus and they went to the meeting and they heard him speak and they listened and they discerned something is lacking. They loved his delivery. They appreciated his emphasis but he needed to know more. He didn't know much about the work of the spirit. He only knew about salvation and he lacked in a full knowledge of the truth.
And so, Apollos, come on home with us tonight. It's kind of a Swindoll paraphrase of verse 26. When he spoke out boldly, they heard him and they took him aside and they explained to him the way of God more accurately and he was just like a little puppy dog getting a little pat on the head and he loved it. He was teachable. He discerned. They knew what they were talking about. They discerned. He needs to know more. So the discernment with knowledge met and melted together and for how long?
We are not told but they spent enough time with him to help develop what was missing. I am impressed with his teachable spirit. Not many preachers are open to the counsel of others. It's wonderful when you meet one who is willing to listen to another side and certainly willing to listen to something that he may be missing altogether and they said we have something to show you and they showed it to him and it says that they explained it to him more accurately. Now verse 27, he was ready to leave. When he wanted to go over to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and they wrote to the disciples and welcomed him and when he arrived he helped greatly those who had believed through grace for he powerfully refuted the Jews.
I would love to have heard Apollos now especially. He's got that part of his theology honed and he delivered the goods and he refuted the Jews in public demonstrating by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. Now he has knowledge and it's because he's mixed it with discernment he's even better equipped. I don't care how gifted, how capable, how charismatic you may be, how widely used in your ministry, you always need the counsel of someone else to hone, to sharpen.
Accountability, we're back at that same truth. You never get too old to be taught a new truth. Discernment says I know that my knowledge is limited, others can help me. And finally the church that we've all heard about, chapter 17 of the book of Acts, this church had discernment. Chapter 17 of Acts, the brethren immediately, verse 10, the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. That's not Berea, that's Berea. And when they arrived they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
And what about those people in Berea? They were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica. Wait a minute, what does that mean? That mean uppity?
Stuffed shirt? What's noble minded? Everett Harrison writes, noble minded indicates a quality different from high minded, referring to a generous spirit free from prejudice. Instead of having a suspicious attitude, which was ready to reject what was set before them, they actually received the word with great readiness. Now I wanted to read that quotation from his work on the book of Acts because I am not trying to describe a suspicious spirit. There's a fine line between discernment and suspicion. These people, when they heard the man who came to them with the truth, perked up, they listened, and they were open to what was presented.
Now watch what happens. They were noble minded enough to receive the word, the word means welcome, they welcomed the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. That's discernment. Good truth Paul, great sermon Silas, and that's a great dynamic duo. These guys can really preach.
Now let's go home and see if it's right. Let's dig through the scriptures and let's compare one with another and let's talk it over and make sure that that's really what we believe. We respect them, we know God's anointed them, his hand is on their lives, but we don't just believe it because they said it, we want to believe it because it squares with what God has written. I don't think we ought to become theological detectives sniffing out clues of wrongdoing in one another's lives. I don't think we want to develop a church of suspicious people who question everything they hear.
That's not the spirit I'm referring to. But there is a very real need on our part every time we hear the word proclaimed. We hear it and think it through, sift it out, compare with other things we've been taught. And like making those triangles congruent, though those things fit, does that square with what I have been taught?
Does that square with scripture? Now if you want to live your life in two dimensions, you're free to do that. The problem is you will become drab and colorless and easily disillusioned. You will not do much thinking on your own. And the joy of discovery will be a lost art.
You will simply take pre-digested food and try to eat it again. Or, if you prefer the color and the creativity of thinking on your own, you will see another side of knowledge. And I'll tell you, it will just set you free.
It's wonderful. Let me mention three principles that are worth remembering. And they're not in any way complex or profound.
First is this. No one person has all the truth. No one person has all the truth. Healthy Christians have a variety in their diet. They take here and they take there. They grow from this person and from that. No one person has all the truth.
Here's the second. No single church owns exclusive rights to your mind. No single church owns exclusive rights to your mind. Maybe we ought to say ministry. No single ministry owns exclusive rights to your mind. You don't commit intellectual suicide when you become a part of a ministry. If you do, you're on your way to trouble. No one owns exclusive rights to your mind.
We bow to the lordship of Christ, not the lordship of anyone else. Third, no specific interpretation is correct just because a gifted teacher says so. No specific interpretation is correct just because a gifted teacher says so. Well, there you have it all. A slice of my life, another side of truth, and just a brief period of time. I really want you to live a fuller life than you live, especially you who have settled for tunnel vision, lack of imagination.
In fact, I don't want you to wind up your life and lack the beauty and color of life. For that reason, I want to close with this story. There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital, just large enough for the pair of them, two bedside lockers, a door opening on the hall, and one window looking out. One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon, something that had to do with draining the fluid from his lungs, and his bed was next to that window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back, and both of them had to be kept quiet and still, which was the reason they were in the small room by themselves, and they were grateful for peace and privacy, none of the bustle and clatter and prying eyes of the general ward for them.
Of course, one of the disadvantages of their condition was that they weren't allowed much to do, no reading, no radio, certainly no television. They just had to keep quiet and still, just the two of them. They used to talk for hours and hours about their wives and their children and their homes and their former jobs and their hobbies, their childhood, what they did during the war, where they had been on vacations, all that sort of thing. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would look out and pass the time by describing what he could see, and the other man began to live for those hours. The window apparently overlooked a park with a lake where there were ducks and swans, children throwing them bread and sailing model boats, and young lovers walking hand in hand beneath the trees. There were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball, people taking their ease in the sunshine, right at the back behind the fringe of the trees, a fine view of the city skyline, which he described to perfection. The man on his back would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute how a child nearly fell into the lake, how beautiful girls were in their summer dresses, and then an exciting ball game, and how it ended, or a boy playing with his puppy. It got to the place that he could almost see what was happening. Then one fine afternoon when there was some sort of parade described to him, the thought struck him, oh, why should that man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what's going on?
Why shouldn't I get the chance? He felt ashamed and tried not to think like that, but the more he tried, the worse he wanted to change. He'd do anything. In a few days, he had turned sour. He should be by the window, and he brooded and couldn't even sleep and grew even more seriously ill, which none of the doctors understood. One night, as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, the man by the window, coughing and choking, the fluid congesting in his lungs, his hands groping for the button that would bring the night nurse running, but the man watched without moving. The coughing racked the darkness on and on, choked off, then stopped. The sound of breathing stopped, and the man continued to stare at the ceiling. In the morning, the day nurse came in with water for their baths and found the other man dead. They took away his body quietly, no fuss. As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved to the bed next to the window, and they moved him, tucked him in and made him quite comfortable and left him all alone to be quiet and still.
The minute they had gone, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out the window. It faced a blank wall. For many years, my life faced a blank wall, and I lacked any imagination.
I was very little help to anyone else. Today, your life may literally face a blank wall, and the only thing you can draw on is the beauty and color of God's book. You need not just knowledge, you need discernment, depth, color, beauty.
Don't miss it. You've been very patient with us, our Father, through the years of our pilgrimage. Thank you for people who have been wonderful models, who have patiently worked with us and labored with us and seen us through times when we lacked tact, when we lacked depth. I pray for those today who find themselves in the other bed. I pray for those who are struggling with attitudes. I pray for those who today lack that sense of direction and discernment, who have been caught in the trap of pursuing knowledge for knowledge's sake, those who have bowed down to one person, who have followed one teacher or who have limited their theology to one system of thought. Lord God, enable us to see afresh and anew how big and broad you are, how full of dimensions, how surprising, how mysterious, how deep, how unsearchable are your judgments and unfathomable, your ways. Forgive us for strutting in our pride of knowledge when in reality we know so little. Now, our Father, I pray that you might help us through this series to grow in knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus. May he be our constant model of balance.
I pray for Jesus' sake. Amen. You're listening to Insight for Living. And with Chuck Swindoll's closing prayer, we conclude message number two in the comprehensive series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. If you'd like to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org.
Well, you might recognize the title of this series because it's also one of Chuck's hallmark books. In this no-nonsense study, Chuck blows the dust off the dull doctrines and breathes life into the practical side of theology. And right now, his book Growing Deep in the Christian Life is also our featured resource. We're inviting you to get grounded in key theological truths that will provide a strong foundation for your life. You'll find Chuck's book Growing Deep in the Christian Life online at insight.org slash store, or you can purchase a copy right now by calling us.
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The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. That's tomorrow 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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