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God's Word instructs us to discern, but how do we know we're discerning in the way He intends? How do we know if we're discerning with the right motives? Let's start by looking at what the Bible tells us:
"For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
— Hebrews 5:13-14
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
— Romans 12:2
From those pieces of Scripture, we see that discernment is important, and it's part of maturing as a Christian. We're called to seek what is good, acceptable, and perfect, and we're called to know the difference between good and evil. The next passage tells us to keep our eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances, who use their smooth and flattering speech to deceive.
"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil."
— Romans 16:17-19
Paul also reminds us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we should be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. So, we see plenty of reason to discern in Scripture. There are many other passages as well, but have we covered the whole picture?
In today's world, we have access to great amounts of information. You can find information on almost any topic instantly online. Someone may have searched for the last thing you searched for just seconds ago, and I'm sure you both found information.
We also have access to communicate information we find to others instantly. We can go online and present our point of view to many people in a short amount of time. As Christians, we're called to be wise in what is good. Doesn't that include the way we conduct ourselves? Let's check out more Scripture:
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."
— Ephesians 4:25-29
When discerning, we're often led to communicate what we have discerned to brothers and sisters in Christ. The above passage reminds us to speak in ways that will edify and to speak according to the need of the moment. There are many different moments. If this wasn't so, the verse above would have no need to convey that truth.
There are times when we need to softly relay information to our brothers and sisters, and there are other times when softness does not fulfill the needs of the moment. However, there is one aspect that should be present in any situation, and that is love for our brothers and sisters. If you're not correcting or teaching in love, just stop. You're hurting more than helping, and instead of being a blessing to the person you're communicating with, you're causing your brother or sister to stumble.
I've seen many comment sections on social media that are supposed to be filled with fellow believers, but I often find vile and arrogant comments between brothers and sisters. I'm not talking about a brother and a heretic having a discussion online, I'm talking about a back and forth contest about who understands a tough doctrine better. I hardly see either side professing to come out edified, and there certainly isn't a sincere "thank you for teaching me this" because the dialogue didn't allow for that.
Instead, if we get over ourselves and lovingly relay information to one another we may actually edify a fellow believer. We may learn more about theological truth together. It may take a little more time and patience to relay information lovingly, but we can't afford to rush into conversations with each other as if we're trying to win a contest for all comment readers to see. These principles apply offline as well.
Sometimes it's hard to tell what motives a person has when typing or talking, and sometimes it's very obvious. However, when all is said and done, there is a Judge who knows exactly what our motives are.
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives."
— Proverbs 16:2
"Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts."
— Proverbs 21:2
The Lord knows our motives. He knows what we're setting out to do. Are we warning others lovingly, or trying to win the comment contest? Are we speaking with one another with the end goal of edifying, or are we rushing to prove our intelligence?
I speak from failure as I've been able to see my own heart in this area at times (see The Failure). I think we, and I know it's true for myself, have looked back on our motives and realized we sometimes weren't out to love but to "win". This is why "Discerning music in love" is our goal and our motto here at Sound in Worship. If we're not doing that, we might as well not do it at all.
We have set out to discern a touchy subject, worship music, with loving motives because it's the only effective way. If we fail at this, I'd love to see a loving correction from you, and if we're succeeding at this, may the Lord be glorified.
Also, it's important that we discern others as we would ourselves. That means we need to verify what we're sharing, and not build an argument on speculation. We also don't need to write worship artists off because they once had a two-minute conversation with the aunt of a worship pastor in Vermont who quoted a theologian we disagree with. When critiquing public information, we must do so fairly and out of love for the body.
We shouldn't be ecstatic about exposing false teaching. It shouldn't be an "AH-HA! I have found another false one!". Instead, it should be more like an "I feel the need to tell you about this dangerous false teaching. It is false because of *insert Bible passage here*."
Sound in Worship, let's discern music in love.
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