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Explore the importance of maturity of discernment in a Christian’s life. Learn about its Biblical, historical, and cultural context, and understand its role in distinguishing good from evil. This spiritual growth shapes our relationship with God and guides us to live a life that honors Him.
“The mature . . . have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. . . . let us press on to maturity.” “He . . . will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”—Heb. 5:14–6:1; 2 Cor. 9:10
Maturity of discernment holds an essential place within the Christian life. The Scriptures repeatedly urge us towards maturity, as in Hebrews 5:14–6:1, where the mature are those “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil,” and who are urged to “press on to maturity.” This speaks of a spiritual growth that deepens our understanding and refines our discernment between good and evil, a growth in wisdom and understanding which leads to a richer harvest of righteousness, as promised in 2 Corinthians 9:10.
Understanding the call to maturity involves understanding the context in which the Scriptures were written. The writers were often addressing people living in turbulent times, facing moral and spiritual challenges not dissimilar to our own. Both the Old and New Testaments abound with warnings against a variety of evils and false teachings, suggesting that the spiritual forces we face are not to be taken lightly. These warnings imply a need for keen discernment to navigate our way in a world where good and evil are often intermingled.
The Scriptures reveal a God of deep perception. His discernment is unparalleled, understanding the hearts of men, seeing their thoughts and motives. This divine perception is seen in His interactions with His people, as He calls them back to righteousness and discerns their true intentions. We find this particularly in the prophetic writings, where God’s perceptive judgments are laid bare. God’s keen perception provides a model for us, encouraging us to strive for similar discernment.
The New Testament discloses Jesus Christ as possessing a deep discernment, seeing the hearts of men, and perceiving their true spiritual state. This is demonstrated in His encounters with individuals, His confrontations with religious leaders, and His teaching. His discernment offers an exemplar for us, a model of mature discernment to which we are called to aspire.
The Scriptures are clear about the higher powers’ attitude toward evil. God abhors evil and commands His people to do the same. This is an aspect of spiritual maturity, a developed discernment that rejects evil and cleaves to what is good.
As we appreciate God’s discernment and His stance against evil, we gain practical guidance for our lives. We are to cultivate a similar discernment, striving for the maturity that enables us to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood, and right from wrong. This is part of our spiritual growth and development, an essential aspect of our walk with God.
Maturity consists not merely in the accumulation of knowledge but in the development of discernment. It involves growing in wisdom and understanding, deepening our grasp of God’s truths, and sharpening our ability to discern good from evil. This maturity is illustrated in the lives of the faithful who walked before us, who, through their experiences, gained a depth of understanding and discernment that shaped their lives and their witness.
The Scriptures trace the origin of evil to the disobedience of the first humans and the prideful ambition of Satan, as depicted in Isaiah 14:13-14 and Revelation 12:9. These passages show how pride and ambition can lead to disobedience and rebellion against God. The workings of evil in the heart and mind are laid bare, giving us insight into its dynamics and enabling us to recognize its presence and influence.
The warnings of Scripture are essential in guarding us against a corrupt mind and the deceptive allure of evil. They point to the dangers of false teachings, ungodly lifestyles, and the subtle seductions of the world. They call us to guard our hearts and minds, to develop discernment, and to hold fast to the truth.
It would be erroneous to presume that once we have come to know the truth, we can never lose it. The Scriptures warn us against complacency, urging us to remain vigilant, to hold fast to the truth, and to guard against false teachings that can lead us astray. The discernment we develop is both a gift and a responsibility, a powerful force that we must exercise and cultivate.
Psalm 139 beautifully summarizes these aspects of discernment. It acknowledges God’s deep perception, His intimate knowledge of us, His discernment of our thoughts and motives. It serves as a reminder of the divine model we are called to emulate, the mature discernment we are called to cultivate.
Our spiritual maturity of discernment is vital as it guides us in a world where truth and falsehood, good and evil, are often intertwined. It equips us to navigate our way, to stand firm in our faith, to discern truth from falsehood, and to live in a way that honors God. As we grow in discernment, we grow in our relationship with God, gaining a deeper understanding of His truths and becoming more effective in our witness for Him. The growth and maturity in discernment are, therefore, an essential aspect of our spiritual journey, one that we are called to pursue with diligence and prayer.