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]. 

Human and Spiritual Wisdom, Understanding and The Differences

Spiritual Understanding

  THE “WISDOM OF SOLOMON”:

“The beginning of Wisdom is:  get Wisdom (skillful and godly Wisdom)!  [For skillful and godly Wisdom is the principal thing.]  And with all you have gotten, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation)”  ~ Proverbs 4:7

“A stated purpose of this book of Proverbs is to impart skillful and godly Wisdom.  Proverbs is a practical book dealing with the art of living, and it bases Wisdom solidly on the fear of the Lord (1:7).  WISDOM in the Proverbs has a broad base of meaning, covering such things as practical knowledge in discerning between good and evil in the ordinary affairs of life; the discernment between truth and error or that which is lasting and makes for success in life; and the insight of man beyond the human to the divine realities discerned and deduced from that which God has revealed”  [Taken from the Amplified Versions introduction to The Book of Proverbs].

This blog is not a study about The Book of Proverbs but an introduction to human and spiritual wisdom with understanding.

For the past few days, my morning reading in the Bible  has been in the book of Ecclesiastes; the author being king Solomon.  I came across a verse in CHAPTER 3, that somewhat puzzled me at first about the WISDOM OF SOLOMON:

“For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even [in the end] one thing befalls them both.  Yes, they all have one breath and spirit, so that a man has no preeminence over a beast; for all is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)”

I thought, where in the world did Solomon come up with the idea that a man has no preeminence over a beast?  Does the Bible really teach that? No!  Ecclesiastes gives a startling picture of how fatal it is for even the wisest of men to substitute man’s “wisdom” for God’s wisdom, and to attempt to live by it.  King Solomon’s reign began with God, gold, and glory.  It ended with bafflement, brass, and bewildered acceptance of man’s having “no preeminence over a beast”!–man, who was made “in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27) and “but a little lower than God”! (Psalm 8:5).  Also that man was given “complete authority over all the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

THE WORD “SOPHIA” Greek Word for Wisdom:

The Three Meanings.

1.  In the usual meaning of wisdom, understanding; 


“And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding)”  (Luke 2:53 AMP).  “But wisdom is proved right by all her children”             (Luke 7:35 NIV).

2.  In the meaning of the wise economy of God in the creation of the world; in His Providence over the world and in the salvation of the world from sin:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!    For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor?”  (Romans 11:33-34 AMP).

“But rather what we are setting forth is a wisdom of God once hidden [from the human understanding] and now revealed to us by God–[that wisdom] which God devised and decreed before the ages for our glorification [to lift us into the glory of His presence]”  (1 Corinthians 2:7 AMP).

3.  In relation to the Son of God (Jesus) as the “Hypo-statical Wisdom” of God:

“But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God,  [revealed to us knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness”  (1 Corinthians 1:30 AMP).

How Do You Use Godly Wisdom rather than Human Wisdom?

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle).  [It is willing to yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity)    And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God’s will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts]”  (James 3:17-18 AMP).

Questions to ask ourselves:

1.  How do you resolve issues in your life?

2.  How do you get your point across to others around you?

Most of us would like to think we are wise in our understanding.  We speak eloquently enough so the other person would understand what we are saying and that said, life would be great!  Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way.  Many times there is a ‘blip’ in our communication and understanding, then an argument on whose right or wrong.

The Bible States What Godly Wisdom Really Is!  First, lets look a little deeper into what wisdom is and how to recognize it:

INSIGHT;  The ability to see things from a different perspective that many times others don’t see.  When we think of someone wise, we think of someone who’s scholarly; with much education.  But the Bible states that God will frustrate those who consider themselves wise and intelligent (those with human wisdom).

“For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing.  Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not god shown up the nonsense and the folly of this word’s wisdom?”  (1 Corinthians 1:19-20 AMP).

Why would God want to frustrate those who are educated and wise?

Human wisdom is limited and can only see and understand so far; where godly Wisdom transcends the limitations of the mind; it comes from someone much higher than ourselves; from One who knows more, sees more, understands more…God!

Humans make mistakes, misunderstands but God makes no mistakes and understands all things and yet…we who have been deemed righteous still are attracted by human wisdom.  I noticed a post on Facebook the other day that certainly was incredulous:

“Attended a lecture at Western Washington University tonight on philosophy & religion,

specifically about the problem of evil & suffering in the animal world (like animals killing each other).

The speakers were a biology & philosophy professors.  It was an enjoyable challenge to follow their lines of thought.”

Why would mature Christians go to a college lecture to answer questions about what the Word of God so aptly explains in Scripture? That is a rhetorical question: spiritual immaturity!  Since human wisdom comes from a limited mind; because man can become selfish and boastful claiming all thoughts as his own.  With godly Wisdom, though it is given, take no credit in their understanding of things…give glory to the One it came from…God.

With human wisdom, man only understands the physical, that which he can see.  But godly Wisdom is able to understand past the physical; to things that are unseen.  All because God gives up the wisdom to see things that are unseen to see things more clearly…what we are seeing in front of our faces.

“There is no [human] wisdom or understanding or counsel [that can prevail] against the Lord”  (Proverbs 21:30).

“He who leans on, trust in, and is confident of his own mind and heart is a [self-confident] fool, but he who walks in skillful and godly Wisdom shall be delivered”  (Proverbs 28:26).

“For I [Myself] will give you a mouth and such utterance and wisdom that all your foes combined will be unable to stand against or refute”  (Luke 21:15).

Where are you in your Christian walk regarding godly [Spiritual] Wisdom and understanding?

You might ask yourself right where you are, “I know I depend too much on human wisdom and understanding…so how do I obtain a greater understanding and wisdom in my life?  I certainly desire it!”

The Letter of James gives one of the best answers I could find in Scripture and hold close in my thinking:

“If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him”  (James 1:5 AMP).

Some key words spoken here by James:

1.  “any of you”  means exactly that; ‘any’ not just those that are ‘gifted’; church leaders; those who have been Christians forever, your Pastor.

2.  “let him/her ask”.  If you don’t ask you will never receive wisdom or anything else for that matter.

3.  A giving God who gives to everyone…liberally and ungrudgingly, without scolding because you asked Him!

“I came that they [you and I] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” ~ John 10:10

Can you imagine having Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding in abundance, to the full, till it overflows?

4.  The “If” s in Scripture are always conditional; IF you ask, IF you will do, IF anyone thinks himself to be religious, IF My people who are called by My name…

In the case of James 1:5, The IF is concluded by 4-words:  it will be given. Wisdom will be given to you in abundance if you asked;’ till it overflow’s!.

HERE’S MY PRAYER AND FOR ALL THOSE SEEKING SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING:

“And this 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…Philippians 1:9-10 NKJV.

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE!