Discernment: Separating Truth from Lies

«Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.» – 2 Timothy 2:15

We live in a time today where having spiritual discernment is, as John MacArthur says, «out of fashion»[1]. Because of this, among other things, many people who claim to follow Jesus do not know, and often do not practice, truth according to Scripture. The evangelical church is becoming, «doctrinally clueless»[2]. Why is that? There may be several reasons, but I want to share a few thoughts that have come to my mind, and then encourage us all to pursue with passion the heart of 2 Timothy 2:15.

In today’s mind-set of postmodernism and tolerance, we see it is becoming more and more unpopular to have an strong conviction about what is true and what is false. Falling victim to this kind of thinking, the church has found itself not wanting to make a stand on the issues that face our culture today. Whether we are talking about abortion, homosexuality, transgender, fornication, drug use, pornography, etc., lately, the church has found its stance more determined by current popular opinion rather than the authoritative word of God. Because of this, we see the church being tossed to and fro by the waves society due to having no anchor holding it down firmly in truth. If we asked many pastors and lay-people in the average church about what their stance was on current morals issues, many would not give any concrete answer, but waver and mold their response according to their audience. Unfortunately today, getting mainstream Christianity to give clear doctrinal stances is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Nothing holds. In the name of unity and tolerance, the solid foundation of truth that the church has stood on for 2000 years is being compromised away.

Why is that? There are probably many reasons. Whether the goal is to not be labeled as non-tolerant, not loose friends, trying to fill up a church building, or simply not knowing the answer, getting clear and concise answers is often hard to come by. A popular opinion today is, «let’s just believe in Jesus and leave all the rest alone». While that sounds incredibly mature to a tolerance-preaching culture, it is simple not biblical, nor wise. The biblical illiteracy in the church is a major contributor, if not the main reason, why my are being falling victim to lies and are being trapped into cults and false religions.

The truth is, is that we can know for certain many things. We can know many certain things about the nature of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, heaven, hell, origin and nature of sin, Satan forgiveness, salvation, inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, the virgin birth, the return of Christ, and well as other things. These are black and white doctrines that the Bible teaches. But, we can also know for certain what God thinks about moral issues like homosexuality, abortion, transgender, fornication, pornography, lying, stealing, murder, pride, slander, gossip, being disobedient to parents, child abuse, the prosperity gospel, as well as a plethora of many other issues facing our culture today. Many in the church today, including leaders, are trying to portray these issues as gray areas, while to the contrary, the authoritative word of God speaks very clearly black and white.

Are there gray areas in Scripture? Sure there is. But, not on major issues like mentioned above. Gray areas, like church government & structure, views on end times, and style of worship are all places where we can be different, and still claim to be Christian. But we must not be so confused as to think that one can live in unrepentant sexual sin and at the same time claim to be a follower of Jesus. We can not compromise and call baptism, or any other sacrament, the means of salvation. There is no room for acceptance in the Christian church for false doctrines like a denial of the deity of Christ or the virgin birth. One is not a Christian if they believe in Jesus as a human, but not as God. Those that deny that we are born sinners and in need of redemption in order to have eternal life, are not Christian. The arms of unity and hand of Christian fellowship do not extend that wide. Scripture does not allow them to do so. Therfore the church cannot and must not go there.

If we are to follow Jesus, then His word must have the authority over our lives. We cannot claim to have salvation in Jesus and then to decide to live by our own ways and by our will. Faith in Christ means that we give up our rights to govern ourselves and that we belong to God.[3] This is not a bad thing, but a good one. I mean, take a quick look at our world and you can see the effects of governing ourselves without God.

Now one of the reasons we are seeing a departure from biblical truth, even in the church, is due to a warped, unhealthy, and even unlogical view of unity. I get it. There are a lot of divisions inside and outside of the church. But the mistake we make is elevating unity above truth. Outside the church there is a popular thinking that says that all beliefs are true. The idea being conveyed is that every faith is a different path going up a mountain all leading to the same place. This kind of belief causes one to commit intellectual suicide, for practically every belief system (especially the Christian faith) is diametrically opposed to one another. The Christian faith is an exclusive faith that rest on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, who was the divine Son of God. The popular yet false view of unity, while appeasing the world’s desire of wanting to cease conflicts due to religion, is founded on shifting sand and does not come from serious reflexion of truth. This desire for unity filters all the differences away. But this is naïve, for to ignore foundational religious differences does not make them go away, it only ignore the huge pink elephant in the room that everyone knows is there. In essence, one would have to rewrite the doctrinal beliefs of all faiths in order to obtain this kind of unity, which would require all conflicting truth claims to be removed. Again, this desire directly or indirectly ignores and denies truth.

On the other side of the token, inside the church we are seeing the desire for unity in ways that are unhealthy. Do not get me wrong. I am all for unity. But what unifies the Christian church is truth, not the denial of it. If we deny foundational truths in order to obtain unity, we cease to be Christian. If there is one thing that we cannot afford in the Christian church is, the abandonment of truth. The Bible is crystal clear in the major doctrines and we must work hard to know them, live them, and teach them. The Bible also states emphatically God’s point of view on moral issues (like the ones I mentioned above). The ecumenical movement that seeks to join, in the name of unity, biblical Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and the prosperity gospel, knowingly or unknowingly is poisoning the faith of many and denying clear biblical teaching that has been the cornerstone of the church for 2000 years. We must contend for truth[4] and share it with confidence and love.[5] To relinquish this battle for truth is to depart from God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and forfeits salvation.

As I conclude my thoughts on this subject, I think it is important to state a real fundamental reason why I think this is going on. If we as the church transform clear black and white biblical truths into gray areas of preference, then there is no need to repent of sin and walk in holiness. Living in this kind of gray mentality removes any conviction and and need to change the way we live. The heart of this movement wants to worship God without conforming to His character by the power of the Holy Spirit. It has turned the Holy Spirit into a feeling one gets in a «worship service» rather than the Person who lives in the believer who gives us the power to live holy lives and be conformed to the image of Christ. When it comes to worship, Jesus was clear. We must worship the Father in spirit and truth.[6]

If we stand for biblical truth, we will have oppostion.[7] But, if we contend for the faith in the Spirit of Christ, He will be honored, people will hear truth and be saved, and we will grow in our faith. There will be others that disagree with us. That is okay. Not everyone agreed with Jesus. We should be able to share biblical truth as well as disagree with others in a respectful manner. The important thing we must remember is that we are seeking to be an approved worker who has no need to be ashamed as we rightly divide the word of truth. Seek to know truth, live truth, and share truth, for the glory of Christ’s name. We need a renewal of biblical discernment in the church. It comes from loving truth more than unity. For all who love truth will be unified in it.

[1] MacArthur, John. The Truth War. Thomas Nelson, 2007, p.185.

[2] Ibid, p.188.

[3] 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

[4] Jude 3-4

[5] Ephesians 4:15

[6] John 4:24

[7] John 15:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:12

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