Separating the Gold From the Junk – (Part One)

A TREATISE ON SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT:

With the my conversations this past week [Adult Sunday School time;  plus trying to define the word “DISCERNMENT” and its meaning with my wife],  the Spirit directed me towards obtaining a clearer understanding.  I hope, as you follow along, you too will have a deeper understanding of discerning.

In its simplest definition, DISCERNMENT is nothing more than the ability to decide between TRUTH AND ERROR, RIGHT AND WRONG!  It is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.  In other words, the ABILITY to think with DISCERNMENT is synonymous with an ability to think biblically [I will discuss the “GIFT OF DISCERNING SPIRITS” and the differences in Part Two].

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches us that it’s the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning–

21  “Test ALL things; hold fast to what is good. 22  Abstain from every form of evil”  (NKJV).

Paul’s Admonition in a Letter:

Now my pastor used several bible verses relating to the topic of DISCERNMENT, but in particular, my focus in PART ONE will be directed to…

1 Corinthians 2:1-2:16– [The New King James Version].

Christ Crucified–

2  And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  [2] For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  [3] I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  [4] And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  [5] that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Spiritual Wisdom

[6]  However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  [7] But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery [“secret”] of the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,  [8] which none of the rulers of this age know; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

[9] But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

[10] But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God.  [11] For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man who is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  [12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the word but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

[13] These things we also speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  [14] 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.  [15] But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  [16] For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  But we have the mind of Christ.

8413196065_fb484f0a2f  The Truths Are Deep, and Yet Simple–

There are no commands in this chapter of I Corinthians 2.  No rebukes given to the First Church of Corinth.  Instead, Paul is calling us all to appreciate and puzzle over what God has given in Christ by the Spirit.  While the truths are deep, at heart, they are very simple.

Paul is arguing against the Corinthians for trying to find some deeper, profound, scholarly wisdom.  When all the depth they ever need is found in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, DISCERNMENT is an area where most Christians stumble.  They exhibit little ability to measure the things they are taught against the infallible standard of God’s Word.

“SPIRITUAL WISDOM IN A FOOLISH WORLD”

Waylon Jennings lyrics in the classic Country Tune, Lookin’ For Love, started out with the conundrum this way:

“I was looking for love in all the wrong places

Looking for love in too many faces…”

Paul’s Letter to the Corinth Church–

A Church in Greece
A Church in Greece

The church members in a large Greek city also were in a “conundrum”; they were searching for spiritual wisdom in “all the wrong places”.  They had formed elitist groups based on certain teachings and opinions.

We do the same today in our towns and cities.  Church people form groups based on some new spiritual guru, the latest best seller and seminar, seeking with levels of advancement in “spirituality”.  It can get really silly!

In Corinth, what the church thought was WISE…

What was WISE ends up being foolish sometimes and in modern Christian circles, some groups use “buzzwords” to express our take on what it means to be “spiritually mature.”

Ever have someone ask you if you were “full of the Spirit”?  Have you got the “second blessing”?  Does your church believe in the “full gospel”?  I’ve certainly asked the same questions.

Corinthian “Catchwords”–

The apostle Paul uses their buzzwords to reclaim them; re-defining them in the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

 In using their language but filling it with his own content, Paul rejects them.  He uses terms that the Corinthians had adopted to justify their spiritual elitism (“wisdom,” “mature,” “secret,” “spiritual”); showing that when these terms are properly understood, they include that which is available to ALL believers, not just the super-spiritual.

The Problem in Corinth–

The problem was not that some Christians didn’t have the Holy Spirit, for all the Christians in Corinth had the Spirit.  The problem was they were not living as spiritual persons ought to live!

Our problem today isn’t that we don’t have what we need to live Christ-like lives, but that we are not embracing what has already been given to us.  We are instead,  “Misfocused In Unfruitful Directions”.

WE’VE BEEN BOMBARDED WITH CLAIMS. 

Claims like: THE KEYS to a happy and healthy Christian Life is to be found in some new technique [Prayer, self-help therapy, a Christian book, spiritual warfare, certain style of worship, personal revelation, a prayer tongue], and on and on.  When these so-called “KEYS”, move away from the humbling, central focus of the Cross of Jesus, we risk becoming elitists, potentially divisive, and if not rejected…can cause a ‘church split.’

Ironically, many deeper life Christian movements have evidently appealed to the church in 1 Corinthians 2; to justify their approach, which is the opposite of Paul’s intent.

Paul’s Intent–

The Apostle’s intent is that we should embrace “spiritual discernment” in God’s wisdom in Christ and by the Spirit.  When we shift our focus off Jesus, to some other secondary teaching or emphasis, we have lost our way.  When we seek and pursue some “deeper” meaning or “better way” that only we and our group have seen, we’ve missed the opportunity of reaching SPIRITUAL MATURITY available to ALL… through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Now the Corinthian church members thought they were mature and spiritual in their pursuit of wisdom, but in fact, they were but spiritual infants, missing the TRUE WISDOM of God through His Son.

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE “KEY” IN DISCERNMENT:

(Verses 10-12):  “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God.  [11] For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  [12] 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.”

The Spirit of God knows ALL the things of God, including the DEPTH of who God is, and His thoughts.  So the Spirit can and does enable us to know what God has already given us!

What is amazing to me is what the Holy Spirit does for us; providing for us to know the things God has graciously given to those who believe.

What are the “THINGS” He has provided?

The NIV bible translates “freely given” from the Greek word Charisthenta, from the word GRACE, charis.  So Paul is talking about Christ and everything we have available through JESUS through His cross and we are to grab hold of the WISDOM that is present in Christ Crucified!  This is TRUE WISDOM, which the Spirit makes possible for us to know–to “discern”.

So what do we do with this knowledge?

“…which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words”  (verse 13, NASB bible).

We are to DISCERN SPIRITUALLY, then we are to explain spiritual truth to others around us, all by the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

Then Paul continues the thought in verse 14, sharing that the person without the Spirit doesn’t accept “the things” or “the depth” or understand because…only discerning is through the Spirit.

The ‘natural’, ‘nonspiritual man’ doesn’t accept the truth.  They appear foolish, not understood.  The Greek phrase here doesn’t describe a ‘weak Christian’, but rather a person who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, so they’re NOT a Christian.

This is a person who lives on a purely human plane, so following Christ crucified doesn’t make sense to them.  It’s like a deaf person trying to listen to music; or like trying to get email on a phone that’s not smart.

THE AMAZING TRUTH REVEALED: 

Separating the Gold from the Junk
Separating the Gold from the Junk

The last two verses in our text brings us to the Amazing Truth:  The ‘Spiritual’ person discerns [or “judges”, “separates”] ALL things–what is wise and foolish, by sifting out the gold from the junk.

[15]  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  [16] For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  But we have the mind of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit of God enables us to DISCERN WISDOM as we evaluate ALL LIFE with the mind of Christ.

Paul Verifies His Final Point:

Paul’s reference to a Scripture quotation in the Old Testament from Isaiah 40:13, asking rhetorically: ‘for Scripture says who can know God’s mind?  Who can instruct God?’

Of course the answer is that no one can; no one knows the mind of the Lord, which makes the final phrase seem so outrageous.  He says…we can know God’s mind.  He says…but we have the mind of Christ.

By the Spirit we have the mind of JESUS which is to have the mind of God.

If you want to continue looking at the word DISCERNING, you might look up and read some other *Bible verses in reference to this study in 1 Corinthians 2:1 – 2:16.

 In Part Two, we will again look at DISCERNMENT, but as a spiritual gift of discerning “spirits” and the understanding within the context of the verses found in 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 2..

*Bible References for DISCERNMENT:  [1 John 4:1; Hebrews 4:12; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 5:14; Proverbs 3:1-12; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Kings 3:9; Proverbs 18:15]. 

The “THIRD PERSON” is more than a Ghost! (Part 1 of 2)

Who is The Holy Spirit and what does He do?

John 1:32
John 1:32

John gave further evidence, saying,  “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it dwelt on Him–not to depart.”

WHERE TO START?   1 Corinthians 2:1-16 (NIV).

[1]  WHEN I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  [2] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  [3] I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  [4] My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  [5] so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  [6] We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age, who are coming to nothing.  [7] No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  [8] None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  [9] However, as it is written:

“No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him” —

[10] but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  [11] For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  [12] We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  [13] This is what we speak, not in words taught to us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  

[14] The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  

[15] The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

[16] “For who has known the mind of the Lord

that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

He is More than a Ghost–Verse 14 tells us so!

More than a “GHOST” – HE HAS A HISTORY OR “BEING”:

Let me give you an insert I came across in my detective investigation this past week:

Denying the personality of the Holy spirit.  In their denial of the Trinity, Jehovah Witnesses deny the personality of the Holy Spirit.  They claim that “the holy spirit is the invisible active force of Almighty God which moves his servants to do his will.”  To a Witness, the Spirit is a mere impersonal force similar to electricity.  [from A Guide to Cults & New Religions by Ronald Enroth & Others; page 109].

Non-believers have…

1.   Resisted – “This man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God.”

2.  Ridiculed – “For they are foolishness to him.”

3.  Misunderstood – “And he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

It is completely understandable that of the Trinity; the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit–we are the least knowledgeable of the “Person” and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

My wife and I had decided to join a church fellowship in a new community we had moved into.  The church required that those who DESIRED to become members, must go through a “New Membership Class” conducted by the senior pastor.  At the end of the classes, there was a QUESTION & ANSWER time.  Not being a shy person, I raised my hand and asked,  “Why don’t we talk more about the Holy Spirit in church, is there a REASON?”  After a brief pause by the pastor…”Well, we probably should mention the third Person of the Trinity more often…but I guess the reason might be that ‘certain’ denominational churches have over-emphasized the Spirit, others have backed away.”

I thought, where did that reasoning come from–who told you that and how can a Christian “over-emphasize” Holy Spirit?  That explanation didn’t set right in my spirit and two years later…I swallowed the “RED PILL” and the attributes of the Spirit began to become more personal, more real, more visible [*See “Taking the Red Pill” at the top of my Blog-site].

“Who is the Holy Spirit?”

Simple answer is…the Holy Spirit is GOD!

The Proof–

If you look at the Scripture passage given in 1 Corinthians 2, we see the words of GOD and Spirit are interchangeable or one in the same.  For example; verse 4 and 5, we see the Spirit’s Power is also called GOD’S POWER.

“[4]  And my message and my preaching were very plain.  Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.  [5] I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God”  (New Living Translation).

In verse 11, we see the very thoughts of GOD are the very thoughts of the Spirit:

“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”  (New International Version).

The SECOND THING we need to be seeing–

The Holy Spirit is  NOT some impersonal force as some cults claim.

HE SPEAKS TO US  (verses 9-10).

HE SEARCHES ALL THINGS  (verse 10).

HE KNOWS THE THOUGHTS OF GOD  (verse 11).

HE TEACHES US WHAT GOD HAS FREELY GIVEN US  (verse 13):  “And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].”

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He EMPOWERS US to share our testimony or as some Bible translations say, “our witness”.  (verses 1-5)–

As the WORD DETECTIVE, when I come across words Christians almost flippantly use, we’ve perhaps lost the meanings of…and I began the search there.

In First Corinthians, Chapter 2, verse one, we come to the word “testimony” or “witness”.  Turning to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I proceeded to look up the two words and their definitions.  I found the English Word, “testimony”, comes from the Greek Word “maturion” or “marturia”, where we also get the English Word MARTYR from.

The word MARTYR can be defined as “a person who is killed because of their beliefs: “she was martyred for her faith.”

 So, with that definition in mind, to give your testimony to someone or to witness  in your neighborhood gives us an entirely different perspective. To me anyhow.  “Am I willing to be “martyred” to give my testimony?”  Are you?

Vine’s says, that a “… witness or testimony refers to the fact that the missionaries besides proclaiming the truths of the gospel, had borne witness to the POWER of these truths.”

As unlikely as it may seem, the apostle Paul experienced all of the same difficulties we face in sharing OUR FAITH:

In Verse One, he was not eloquent nor did he have superior wisdom.

In Verse Three, he confesses he came to them in weakness, fear and much trembling.

Can you see that Paul could identify we every objection, excuses we have in not sharing our faith with others?  It is only because you and I are NOT QUALIFIED that we are given the Spirit’s POWER to share the gospel with others.  I like an old saying that was given to me in a Evangelism Training class years ago:  “You don’t go out witnessing, you witness as you go!”  BUT, do we?

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”  (Verse 4).

If we can only believe verse 4, it will set us free to share our faith and the demonstration of the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

“What do we say?”

Not feeling qualified would be one of the biggest objections in sharing our faith.  And, “What to say in our testimony” might be another objection.

We have to be careful that we don’t make the mistake of putting something else at the center of our testimony–our witness.  The most important thing to share with someone is what God has done for us.  God has done a lot for you and I but we see in verse 2, Paul gives us the answer of the most important thing God has done for us!

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was

with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

According to the Apostle Paul, the crucifixion of His Son Jesus for our sins is the most important thing:

“But God shows and clearly proves His love for us

by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).

Is it really that simple, to just say, “Christ Jesus was crucified on a Cross; died for your sins and mine? Yes, it’s that simple!

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Share Our Faith–

1.  We have seen that despite the fact we’re not qualified, He wants to EMPOWER US!

2.  We have seen that the most important thing to share with others is that Christ Jesus was crucified for their sins.

Before I move on to the next point, I want to direct you to another part of SHARING YOUR FAITH.

“What is the GOAL of SHARING?  And how do we know when someone is SAVED?”

“so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power”  (Verse 5).

EVERYONE is resting their FAITH on something but not everyone is resting their FAITH on the right thing.  Looking back over my Christian life, the biggest thing I’ve found in sharing JESUS with people is that they rest their faith on their own good works.

A person is SAVED only when they rest their faith on the historical fact that JESUS DIED for their sins on the Cross.

“We all like sheep have gone astray but

He has laid on Him the sins of the world.”

1.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to share our testimony (Verses 1-5).

2.  The Holy Spirit helps to bring us to Christian Maturity (Vs. 16).

“We do, however speak a message of wisdom among the mature…”

I am going to break at this point in the study and continue in PART TWO of The “THIRD PERSON” is more than a Ghost!  I will begin with a question for you to ponder:  “WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY?”