A gracEmail subscriber from Michigan writes: “I’ve been feeling like I don’t know how to discern truth and righteousness. Is there a right stance to take on various issues? How can we better discern God’s ways and truths in our actions and focus?”
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The art of knowing God’s will regarding life issues comes with experience as we live in communion with the Father. One mark of the new covenant is that God’s people “know” him (Jer. 31:31-34). Followers of Jesus Christ are personally and individually taught by God, who gives a spirit of wisdom and of revelation and enlightens the eyes of our hearts (John 6:44-45; Eph. 1:17-18). We also learn from Jesus himself as we accept his invitation to come to him for rest (Matt. 11:27-30). The Spirit of God leads God’s children (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit is an “anointing” that teaches truth to those who abide in Jesus (1 John 2:20, 27). Believers in Jesus can be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order to live lives that are fruitful and please God (Col. 1:9-11).
I do not mean merely that we study the Bible (though that is an important part of this process). I am affirming that the deity lives in us, transforms our minds, enables us to think the thoughts of God, to have the mind of Christ, and to gradually see things the way God sees them. As we live in union with Christ, asking God for such discernment and wisdom, giving ourselves over to his service and acquainting ourselves with his word in Scripture, God gives us such spiritual illumination and moral discernment.
This happens progressively, cumulatively and steadily as we live the Christian life. By ongoing practice, our spiritual sensitivities are gradually trained to discern instinctively what is good and what is bad (Heb. 5:14). We learn to test situations and to discern God’s good and perfect will in all circumstances (Rom. 12:1-2). This common Christian discernment — “common” in the sense that the whole believing community enjoys it, not that it is less than supernatural — has to do, I think, with living our individual lives in the community of God’s people and in our relationships within the larger world. It is not a matter of having a checklist or a formula. It is part of real life. Not everyone needs the same discernment at the same time.