Lack of Spiritual Discernment: Decaying the Church from the Inside

 

Matthew 13:33 “Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

This is the parable of the leaven bread as told in accordance with a series of parables that Jesus gave describing the impacts and influences of the world (devil) on His Kingdom.  What did Jesus mean by this parable?  I’ve seen two schools of thought on this parable, one is the spread of the gospel throughout the world and the positive influence it has and the other is the evils of the world infiltrating the Church through false doctrines.

This parable was placed on my heart while researching current apostasy’s within the church, even though admittedly I was unaware of the implications of this passage.  To me I feel led to read this passage as a warning on corruption.  The “woman” in the passage hid leaven in three measures of meal.  If this was a positive influence on the “meal”, why would she need to hide it?

If the meaning behind this parable were the spreading of the gospel, as some contend (including some pastors who I greatly respect), wouldn’t it be more open and visible than to be hidden in with the rest of the world?  It seems easier to process by thinking that such a large quantity of meal (3 measures equals approximately 30 pounds of flour) has been infiltrated intentionally with a little leaven that attempts to ferment, or corrupt, the entire loaf of bread from the inside. With this context, it’s imperative that we as Christians take a step back and recognize the leaven, or corruption, that is taking place within the church.

The Bible requires us to have spiritual discernment.  By discernment we mean, the ability to distinguish lies from the truth using the Bible as a measuring stick against which all things are tested.  As we read in Philippians 1:9-10 NKJV, “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”  The knowledge and discernment that Paul is speaking of is that we will have the ability to recognize those evils which oppose God’s will for our lives and His church.  In I Corinthians 5:7-8 NKJV Paul uses the analogy of the leaven bread that we read about earlier, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

In this passage, the Apostle is directly speaking to the church at Corinth warning them of the defilements that are taking place within the church.  The corruption, defilements, and false doctrines that are hidden in the church today are no different than those from Paul’s day.  The difference is that Paul called for the churches to wake up and recognize the apostasy’s that were taking place within the church.  Today’s church body is not nearly as discerning.

These days the Evangelical community has allowed the Bible to become watered down and its truths diluted leaving the door open and unguarded for the wolves to come in.  When we combine this weakened doctrine with relative, worldly, liberal viewpoints, we get in return an apostasy, “leaven” filled church.

My fear is that the lack of spiritual discernment within the church today is due primarily to the lack of the Holy Spirit, this can be due to a few key reasons of which the most obvious is the absence of true, repentant, faith relying, born again Christians.  There seems to be an increasingly large number of those who think that because of “righteous” living, good works, or simply “believing in God” that they are saved.

Another reason for the lack of spiritual discernment surrounds those people who are truly saved but have yet to submit their lives to the will of God.  Those folks may be more likely to rely on self than on the Holy Spirit and the discernment that develops through reading and studying the word of God, through praying daily, as well as developing strong relationships with Spiritually mature believers.  The Holy Spirit provides the discernment we need to detect false doctrines that seek to infiltrate the church.  I Corinthians 2:11-16 NKJV speaks precisely to this very point:

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ”

Over the next few posts, I want to begin to address these apostasy’s that are infiltrating the church.  I want to clearly point out who they are, what to look for, and what ungodly doctrines they are teaching.  I feel it’s extremely important to identify the falsehoods that are taking place in the church today.  Just as we learn in Jude 3-4, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I Thessalonians 5:21-22 “Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”

Ephesians 4:14-15 “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ-“

Input = Output

 

When I was a kid, there was a school play where the main character was a robot and the “theme” of the play was Input/Output.  As I remember, the title song’s chorus went something like, “Input, Output, what goes in is what comes out, Input, Output, daily you must choose.”  Since it was a Christian School, the context was exactly how you might’ve read it.  The things that we surround ourselves with daily, i.e. the music we listen to, movies we watch, entertainment choices we make, and company we keep all influence us.  They are all the inputs into the “hard drive” of our bodies, if you will, our hearts.  These inputs result in unholy outputs such as our language, our behavior, and our attitude towards God.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:34 NKJV, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  This is the principle where Input = Output.  The sin and darkness that we allow into our hearts, whether through hearing, watching, or spending time with the wrong things, will eventually fill up and overflow to our outward behavior.

David describes this message with his walk of integrity in Psalm 101:

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.

 2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life-
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.

 3 I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.

 4 Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.

 5 Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret,
him will I put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
him will I not endure.

 6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.

 7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.

 8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the LORD.

The message from God’s Word here is clear, we are to remove ourselves from the presence of everything wicked and displeasing to God.  Ultimately, daily prayer and reading God’s Word will allow the Holy Spirit to show us every aspect of our lives that need change.  This change will be so radical we’ll find ourselves living the verse, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Saul vs. David: The heart of man vs. the heart of God

 

Recently while reading and teaching a small youth group lesson on Saul’s life, specifically his disobedience and the consequences he faced, God revealed a passage of truth to me in His Word.  As you may recall (and from a few posts I’ve made), Saul was Israel’s first king, anointed by Samuel, chosen by God.  I’ve discussed the warnings that God passed on through Samuel to the Israelites about their demands for a king and how they were not only rejecting Samuel, but ultimately rejecting God as their king.

For this lesson, we’ll pick up the story where Saul was about to engage in battle with the Philistines after Jonathon had defeated a garrison of Philistine troops in Geba.  I Samuel 13:3 As the tensions mounted and the Philistine troops were amassed, the Israelites found themselves cowering in caves and holes, those with Saul at Gilgal were likewise fearful.  I Samuel 13:6-7

Samuel had instructed Saul to wait seven days before taking any actions.  Because of his impatience, Saul decided to do what he thought best and offer a sacrifice to God, despite the fact that it was in direct contradiction with what God had commanded him.  In verse I Samuel 13:12 NKJV we hear Saul’s explanation for his disobedience, “Therefore I felt compelled,  and offered a burnt offering.”  Therefore I felt compelled….  Think about this for a second, we use this same excuse only worded differently when we sin.  Why did you do that?  Because I felt like it, because it felt good to me, because I wanted to, because I felt compelled, therefore I felt compelled.  This is the sinful nature of man’s heart.  To do what it is that we want to do, when we want to do, no matter the consequences.  Just as the Bible says in Judges 21:25b, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” and Saul was a perfect and fitting example of this point.  This is the world in which we live in today.

But there is hope.  For after Saul came Israel’s great king.  After Saul came a man after God’s own heart. I Samuel 13:14 After Saul came King David.  David was also chosen by God and anointed by Samuel.  But instead of cowering when it came time to assume the throne, David waited on the Lord.  Just like Saul, David sinned, but his reaction was far greater.  With Saul, we learned that he sinned because he felt like it.  With David, we learn what it means to have heartfelt remorse, to pour out ones soul over the pain that we’ve caused our heavenly Father.

God used Nathan to “wake” David up from his sinful slumber.  After Nathan’s rebuke, David’s immediate response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.” II Samuel 12:13 Notice the difference when confronted by their sins. Saul said to Samuel that he felt compelled to do it.  David said to Nathan that he sinned against the Lord.  This is what is meant by being a “man after God’s own heart.”  David recognized his sin and through his heartfelt change, desired to become a better man in the Lord each day.  In fact we can read about his changes and about his remorse throughout the Psalms of David.  Take Psalm 25 for example:

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.

4 Show me Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

6 Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
9 The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

12 Who is the man that fears the LORD?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.

16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
18 Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
19 Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all their troubles!

A far cry from, “Therefore I felt compelled.”  There are far too many people today with the heart of Saul and too few with the heart of David.  Whose heart represents yours?  One who callously shrugs off their sins, with a passing repentance of words?  Or the heart of the Lord, whose heartfelt remorse and repentance leads to a life change and a desire to live more like Christ each day?

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"