Discerning Good and Evil
Sound doctrine is like a skeleton in the body. It is absolutely essential for stability and structure. But a skeleton by itself is dead and so is orthodox teaching without the life of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14). The “elementary teaching” that the writer of Hebrews mentions is what we would call good theology (see 5:12-6:3), which is essential, but learning to walk with God is more than an intellectual exercise. Those who put their faith into practice have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Paul wanted to give the Church at Corinth solid food, but he could only give them milk. They were not able to receive it (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), because of the jealousy and quarrels among them. They were acting like mere men instead of children of God. There are people sitting in our churches who cannot receive solid teaching, because they have never put into practice what they have already learned, and because they have unresolved personal and spiritual conflicts.
In church matters, immature saints proceed without caution. They conduct business as usual when the spiritual atmosphere is clouded and members are operating in the flesh. The mature saint can sense the oppression and would alert the others while calling for prayer. Spiritually immature parents see no visible signs that their children are in trouble. Discerning parents know something is wrong and petition God on their behalf and share their discernment lovingly with their children without judgment. They let their children know that they are aware something is wrong, but they don’t try to guess what is wrong if they don’t know. They let the Holy Spirit bring that conviction and keep the communication lines open while remaining available to their children.
Those who are spiritually discerning can sense a false prophet before their false doctrine is exposed. They can sense a compatible spirit in another believer and discern an incompatible spirit in others. They know during and after an event whether it was their idea or God’s idea. They know when they are living by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, and can sense when they aren’t.
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