Spiritual Discernment


 “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14

     Spiritual discernment is as vital to the health of a Christian as eating vegetables is to the human body. Without the use of discernment, through the proper application of God’s Word, we will never be able to know God more fully or grow in our relationship with Him. We will bandwagon with lies and live by what makes sense to our untrained minds and reckless emotions!

The spiritually undiscerning will often hide behind very powerful truths they misunderstand and misapply.

One example of this is the phrase: ‘God knows my heart.’  The implication is, ‘because God knows my heart, you can’t judge me!’ This is often used to defend one’s actions, particularly when confronted by another believer. While it is true that God does know our hearts . . . This should be cause for the individual to genuinely beg God for a revelation of their own heart instead of a complacent, apathetic, and or stubborn lack of searching and application of God’s Word.  James tells us in 3:17 that true wisdom will listen to admonition instead of denying error so change does not have to be considered. May we never forget that one of the chief reasons for a church is so that others may prod us out of our self-deceived complacency and remind us of who God is and what He requires (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The church as a whole has way too much trust in their own hearts which God says are, “deceitful above all else and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9.). We have very little trust for the Creator of our hearts. We are out of practice when it comes to a teachable spirit and a total dependence upon the Word of God to guide our lives. Conversely, we have perfected, to the point of incompetency, the misapplication of individual soul liberty and frivolous feeling driven doctrines.

Woe to anyone who would dare speak contrary to the passions and ideals of the heart. We throw verses at anyone who challenges our lifestyle. Like Satan, we twist Scripture from its original meaning and proudly proclaim, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Math 7:1) Or “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”   (I Samuel16:7)

The spiritually undiscerning Christian will take these and other verses out of context and pick and choose Scripture passages that meet their already achieved level of Christianity. However, they will neglect such verses as Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore  wrong-way-167535_1280such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained a brother.” Titus 1:13, “. . . Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;”

The undiscerning Christian will not allow another individual to scrutinize their actions for several reasons: God knows the heart, the confronting Christian has faults, and they’ve prayed about it. This kind of individual will not take time to consider the possibility that they have erred.  Sadly, they are often more concerned with their current position in life being confirmed as right than wanting to be stretched and shown their sin.

This is not to say that every instance where a confrontation takes place will always be accurate or even done in the right spirit. Yet, the spiritually discerning individual will welcome Biblical confrontation.  “A wise man will hear and increase learning.” (Proverbs 1:5)  We cannot embrace some portions of Scripture and neglect other portions and present ourselves as those who are exercising or training unto godliness. (I Timothy 4:7, “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godlintruth-166853_1280ess.”) The Lord wants us to test the things we see and not mindlessly accept them. “He wants us to hold them up to the standard of Scripture and discern whether they line up with God’s plumb line.”(1)

Discernment is crucial to the body of Christ, and is played out by individual believers interacting with the Word of God. When God has clearly spoken our application is a priority that requires no hesitation. In other words, we don’t need to pray about what God has already outlined for us in Scripture. Discernment is played out by individuals recognizing their own faults through Scripture. We then apply God’s grace to our own sin, so that we are qualified to gently, caringly, firmly, and even sharply point other believers to the Savior (Mat 7:3-6). Those who are willing to mutilate Scripture for their own purposes will be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), and will defend their unstable Christianity because it endangers their pride to do otherwise.

Lack of discernment can be due to lack of maturity (an element of youth in the LORD). This immaturity  is a natural process of the Christian life, however, one of the main characteristics of immaturity is an unawareness of one’s inability. This is why throughout Scripture, God commands His people to help each other along the pathway of holiness. The babes in Christ need to be nurtured and fed milk. There ought to be a time, however, when the baby moves on to solid food. If this does not occur, it is the responsibility and obligation of the mature Christian to confront and point out their sin, I Corinthians 3:1-3a, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: . . .”

Once believers have been made aware of an immaturity and refuse to submit to Scripture, the issue then is not a lack of maturity but rebellion. This rebellion results from a lack of discernment due to one’s own neglect to consistently meditate on and apply Scripture. This mentality has nothing to do with youth and everything to do with disobedience! Belief determines behavior; what do your actions reveal about your beliefs?

Written By Christa Mielke

Christa has served the Lord faithfully alongside her husband in full time ministry since 2007.  She has a passion to introduce people to the beauty of a Christ-Centered relationship. She holds a BA in Biblical Studies and Sacred Music and has written extensively on adult and young women’s issues.  Even as a full time mother of three and wife to (one) high maintenance and slightly deranged husband, she still finds time to grow her relationship with God through concentrated Bible and book studies.


1) Kassion, DeMoss, True Woman 201, pg. 35.

7 thoughts on “Spiritual Discernment

  1. Good reminder about our “deceitful, wicked hearts”. I want to be wise & walk with the wise – we can only do that by staying in God’s Word & seeking Him passionately. Thank you, Christa! 🙂

  2. I appreciate your thoughts on discernment. Several verses come to mind upon reading your article. May we all submit ourselves to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit that we may grow and then be found “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Eph 5:21.
    Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    Pro 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
    Pro 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
    Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

  3. I find that true discernment can be more of a result or an action taken, such as a verb compared to a noun. In my case, I want to follow my own way when I don’t read His Word or pray as I ought, rather than use a discerning spirit to just turn the page and refocus of Christ. Other times a deliberate choice to ‘just say no’ to those noisy distractions, take the moment for my Bible reading and prayer – and then that will lead me to discernment on my next choices, my attitude, etc. Thanks, you put together a great article. hope this is just the first of a very long line…
    Terry of Chronicles of Orm.

  4. Great thought. Wish people actually did go in meekness. Correction involves both parties listening and understanding each other. Just because you believe yourself to be right does not mean you are right. Listening to the other person allows you to see their point of view and: 1. Make sure you are correct and if so 2. How best to correct them. Correcting someone in spiritual matters is not a matter of who is right or wrong but a matter of what does God say and what would Jesus do in this sutuation. Many young people leave church over this reason. The pastor/ Assistant Pastor/Youth pastor come to them in what appears to be pride and tries to control them. We all are human and have a bit of independence in all of us. If pastors and lay people alike, do not learn to come in meekness and do not learn to listen, their ministry to others will die.

    1. I think you are right on. It is very easy to pump ourselves up on truth that we forget that true submission and meekness is asking someone else to bow with us. I also think it is easy to use meekness as an excuse to either not share truth, or reject truth. Jesus was filled with meekness and truth, and after he preached a message on commitment his church went from over 5,000 to 12 in one message, and then they killed him. Sober thoughts for all of us.

  5. Did you ever stop to think that the person who says “You are judging me. God knows my heart,” may actually have a valid point? Is it possible for the “discerning” Christian to err–or is the “discerning” Christian somehow exempt from the idea that his own heart is deceitful and desperately wicked? The Holy Spirit can. You have totally left the Holy Spirit out of your dissertation. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. The Word of God is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Have we not all been caught in a situation in which our intentions were very good, we have prayed, we have believed we were doing the right thing and it turned out very badly and we are judged by other Christians as having evil intent in our hearts.

    To confront someone about open sin in his life is quite simple. A man in bed with someone not his wife–no problem. Sin is obvious! The situation is black and white.

    On the other hand, to deal with the thoughts and intents of the heart of one who appears to be caught in a fault requires and very, very close and intimate understanding of how another person ticks–a Jonathan and David relationship if you will. That requires much two-way communication. It requires hours and hours of sharing the thoughts and intents at the deepest human level. It would be an unusual case in which one believer has that type of deep friendship with more than two or three people in a lifetime.

    What has been suggested by the article results in a hierarchy in the church. There becomes a ruling classe of “discerning” Christians and a lower class of “immature believers.” One labeled “immature,” who may have been judged wrongly and stated as much by saying, “You are judging me. God knows my heart,” is then deprived of any voice in exercising obedience to to the Word of God for conflict resolution. The “discerning, mature” believer is exempt from having to listen to one he or she has already deemed “immature.” War breaks out as the immature seeks desperately to be understood. That isn’t an issue of pride. It is an issue of desiring Christian fellowship that has been broken by and allegedly “mature” believer wrongly determining the motives of the “immature” believer. Which raises the question, “Who is the mature believer and who gets to make such a determination?”

    In this way the deeds and the doctrines of the Nicolaitans (rulers of the laity) are allowed entrance into a body of believers. God hates the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans and says as much in the letters to the churches in Revelation. Check it out for yourself and see what is the end of the churches who refuse to repent of their Nicolaitanism.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you completely regarding the work of the Holy Spirit my question would be, how does the Spirit Work? Ephesians 5:18 commands all believers to be filled with the Spirit which is explained in Colossians 3:15-16 as being filled and controled with God’s Word. The way God designed for all believers to grow is by the the Spirit’s Word (Rom 12:1-3,2 Tim 3:15) and by believers sharing His Word proactively (Heb 10:24, Gal 6:1-3,1 Thessalonians 5:20-22).
      It sounds like you have had a difficult time in your past with believers and sadly proud believers can use scripture improperly (as does Satan). To quote from John piper “Asking someone else to bow with you on submission to scripture is not pride it is love, similar to telling someone with cancer to quit smoking.

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