Friday, January 17, 2014

The Blind Side of Discernment




One of the many, many things that is unsavory about politics is how each side can viciously attack the other when some scandal or shortcoming is exposed. And the sides just as viciously defend basically the same shortcomings or scandal when it occurs within their camp. It is predicable and hypocritical. The word "by-partisan" is a joke when it comes to politics. When examining the other side there is 20/20 vision, but when evaluation their own side the eyes go blind. This is how it has always been and it reveals the fallen heart of man as well as the vacuous nature of politics.

Within the evangelical community we have what is known as the discernment wing. There are thousands of blogs and newsletters and books and sermons which deal specifically with the slide to apostasy within the community of faith on many different levels. Although my blog deals with such things frequently I do not consider myself primarily a discerner. I am a pastor at heart. But I do speak out about the emergent church and the purpose driven model and false teachers from Joel Osteen to Rob Bell to Rick Warren and everywhere in between. But there are literally many thousands of men and women who consider themselves as discerners or a catch-all moniker a "watchman".

Many of these men and women do a very good job of exposing error and falsehoods within the church. I have benefited from such information many times and I am sure others have as well. It is impossible to know all about everything as it pertains to false teachers and false teachings. These days many things come aboard very subtly and slowly infiltrate God's truth until it has been changed. And many of these evil spirits look and sound very spiritual and sincere. We need discernment in these days of itching ears and false teachers.

But there is a blind side to all this discernment. You will be hard pressed to find discernment sites which openly rebuke and repent of things they themselves do or are in some way deficient. Where are the posts about how our prayer lives are an affront to Christ? Where are the discerning voices crying aloud about our lack of love? Where are the discernment posts that expose us for the hedonists we have become? I am not speaking about the liberal and the emergent and the mega church crowd. I am speaking about us. Yes, us.

Does discernment stop at the door that has our name inscribed upon it? Are we immune from an authentic and painful rebuke as it pertains to our own spiritual walk? Is discernment about error only for the Osteens and Warrens but we subtly give ourselves a clean bill of health just because we know the approved list of false teachers? Let us be frank. If we see clearly the sins of others but are measured and even blind to the depth of our own spiritual need then we have become politicians who are adept as castigating the other side but circle the wagons to defend our own orthodox camp.

And that kind of discernment, albeit true and beneficial in warning about wolves, is also detrimental to our own pursuit of Christlikeness. In fact, in many ways the evil one uses our own needed discernment against us. As we see spiritual apostasy, and as we are able to identify and reject Biblical error, there arises within us a sort of self righteous contentment and reinforcement. And feeding upon our discernment about others we lose the passion and pursuit of Christ which should be filled with personal humility and a steady diet of repentance. While we call Osteen and Warren and Driscoll to repentance we stand in great need of repentance ourselves.

This is serious issue because it is a clever deception and it also becomes a debilitating influence upon us all. To whom much is given much is also required. So we who by God's grace have had our eyes opened to many things must never divert those same eyes from seeing and addressing our own spiritual errors. I do not speak primarily about doctrine although we have become very selective about our doctrines. But in general we have allowed ourselves great latitude about our own spiritual condition. We can copy and paste some exhortation from a dead man of God or some devotional from a Puritan and we enjoy it. But do we strive and labor to enter into that which we paste? While we rehearse the commitment exhibited by Wesley against the shallow nothingness of the modern preacher are we ourselves cut to the quick and go before the Lord in sincere repentance?

Oh that God would set us free from ourselves! Oh that our hearts would be pure before Him and not filled with all kinds of self affirming sin which shackles our walk before Him. Oh to be so filled with His Spirit that we could rebuke in His love without any hint of self righteousness. Oh that the Spirit could hold up a spiritual mirror that would reduce us to the abject servants we should be. Oh that we could experience the kind of humility which breaks us completely and remakes us in the mold of our Suffering Servant. Oh that God would set us free from ourselves. Yes, that man in the mirror has been my most relentless enemy and how many times dear God have I embraced him and not You? And have I not felt smug so often because I am not like those liberal doctrinal miscreants. And how many times when I do rebuke those who need rebuke do I delight in the affirming comments on my blog or FB page and I walk away feeling so good about myself? Oh if the truth were known would I not be deeply embarrassed before men and yet I am not embarrassed before You?

Why do I not speak with great eloquence about my own sin? Why can I hide behind my written doctrines and yet just Your Sermon on the Mount is a monumental indictment of my discipleship. Lord, I so often play the harlot in my heart. It is no secret to You and yet I am able to set it aside and speak to others? How often do my words about others hide the apathy I so often exhibit about following in Your steps? I do not wish to become immobilized by my sorrow or my confession about my own sins and shortcomings. But I do wish to be personally surrendered to all of You. I know I need more time with You and with a contrite heart to carefully walk the path upon which You walked. I abhor the self righteousness which crops up in my heart and which can so easily be covered by the sins of others. It is all to my shame.

And I reach out to all my brethren who do the work of God in the area of discernment. Let us, not just them, fall on our faces before our Wonderful Redeemer and cry out to Him in confession and repentance. Let us allow the Spirit to light a fire in our hearts which consumes our flesh and burns away all that displeases Him. Can we not pursue with abandon and great vigor a desire to be like Jesus? Is not that the greatest calling of all? And if we turn our discerning hearts toward ourselves will we not see that the little foxes have been given such license and we have played the fools? Look and see! The evil one has distracted us from our holy calling even while we were doing a service to the body of Christ.

I bow before the Risen Christ as a dead man yet filled with worship. But oh to be like Him! OH TO BE LIKE JESUS! When I worship Him and experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and as that same Spirit has given me such gracious glimpses of the Lamb of God, I wonder what it would be like to be like Him in thought, word, and deed. No wonder I am not asked about the hope which lies within me. No wonder my life does not yield such incandescence that those lost in darkness must either be drawn to Him or shield their eyes and turn away. So how is it I can walk in this world with the lost all around me seeing or feeling nothing? There should be a word more potent than repentance for ones such as I.

Release the hounds and uncover our nakedness! We have made holiness a doctrinal word and not a broken pursuit. We have defined love is ways which we have already met. We have presented grace in embarrassing words of men's theological acumen. We have worshiped the Bible and rebelled against its teachings. We have talked about hell with dry eyes and a doctrinal hubris which must make the angels ashamed. We have patted each other on the back as if we have offered anything which actually cost us anything. We have created words like "orthodox" or "fundamental" or "Spirit-filled" in order to elevate ourselves in our own eyes. And we have taken the Lovely One who gave us everything we are or ever hope to be and we have made Him some doctrinal marionette who dances to our American lifestyle and approves our compromised hearts.

And we have taken lost sinners, made them repeat some words, and then openly lied to them. And ordained preachers stand relentlessly behind pulpits and spew damnable lies and caress the flesh of their listeners. We have mocked the Holy One and used His name to support our own agendas. We have built large and advanced buildings by leveraging debt through the same institutions we claim are not of God. And we have made the gatherings a place of fund raising and theatrics and announcements and a few precious minutes of worship and a few precious seconds of prayer. And men and women who have not spent one moment with God, and men and women who are practicing adultery, and men and women who have never known God feel right at home and blessed. What kind of unholy travesty are we attempting to hoodwink God with?

It all has become such a game. And this post is a self exhortation that makes me know that I cannot, I must not, you must not allow our uncovering of the false to satisfy our calling to the true. We should not sit down in the stagnation of orthodoxy and wait for Jesus to come. In fact, the church has been sitting and waiting for so long we need a revival just to be enlightened to all the things about which we have no knowledge because they have been lost to us. And prayer, its value - its practice - its sacrifice - its calling - its holiness - its power - its life changing essence, has all but been lost except for a few convenient scraps. Our wicked generation cannot bear to retreat from entertainment or work or the business of our earthly lives in order to seek His face without time restraints or a passion which captures the entirety of our minds.

I agree with and appreciate so much of the discernment that flows freely among those whose eyes have been opened. But just being against false teachings, and just being non-violent, and just being against nationalism, and just being pro-life, and just being for Biblical marriage, is not nearly enough. We are on a path which leads to Him. Read the Sermon on the Mount and see how many of the things I just mentioned are in there. Most are not. But there are a wealth of commands and exhortations and teachings which have all but been ignored but which were spoken by the One we claim as Lord.

It is time for repentance and a new and vigorous house cleaning among the "orthodox" community. And we who have Biblical systematic theologies must enlarge our coasts and see that to be a disciple of Jesus requires more than some written affirmations. It requires our lives.


And after we set out on that course perhaps we can discern others much better.
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