Discernment

At some point almost every Christian has some problem in understanding what it is they should be doing in the future. There are two errors which Christians fall into at this point, the first is that they can become double-minded about what to do, and thus not work in faith that God will grant success in the task that they hae come to, and the second is that they jump into something well before God actually has spoken.

The first I think, is part of the problem we see dealt with in James 1:1-6 (go read it, I’m going to refer to it here). Many people read this passage as a demand that we not be in doubt about anything we ask of the Lord, thus we should name and claim whatever we desire in the Lord. In context, however, it refers directly to the gift of wisdom. It is wisdom that we use when we discern God’s call in our lives.

This passage is against the strange belief current in many Christian circles that God is hiding the desires he has for us, and that we must somehow “discover” them. Indeed, it is true that discernment is work, and must be done carefully, but God is not a capricious game-show host demanding that we choose the right path though many seem right to us. In most cases, God has given us the methodology to understand what he calls us to do (usually through scripture, prayer, and the counsel of Godly friends), and even promises to grant us wisdom when we need it.

The second problem of the daredevil Christians is dealt with in scripture as well. We are called to obey God, but we are also told to discern the spirits by which we are told things to do (1 John 4:1). This doesn’t just mean to test those freaky people that claim to speak for the Lord, but even test our own motivations and ideas. How do we do that? Here’s where we get t the crux of the matter:

Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I believe that God shows here that He is far more interested in remaing us as worshippers of His, rather than working through us to do stuff. He does in fact do both, but first He is interested in ordaining people to glorify Him, because his ultimate goal is the praise of his glory. He deigns to transform us into people who can act in such a way as to make Him look glorious to those around us, and thus the primary task of the believer is not to discern God’s call on our lives, but to become conformed to the image of God.

I am wary of using the word “transformation”, as it is commonly used as a quasi-pagan idea that the universe is primarily a becoming. We are, however, called to be transformed BY the renewal of the mind so that we may discern the will of God, a will that is good and acceptable and perfect, and in so doing glorify God.

So what is rule number one of discernment? Be transformed, so that you can discern. That transformation is wholly gift of God that we work through, and it has a specific goal of God’s will being performed. Thus when we ask “what should we do for the Lord”, we are asking the wrong question. Rather we should be asking, “What am I to be?”, and that answer can only come through communion with God in prayer and in the Scriptures.

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