Teachings of Jesus on Discipleship
Lesson #10: Discernment


  by: Bill Bratt         Email: info@icogsfg.org

A Christian is a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is our master, and the disciple has a strong desire in spreading Jesusí teachings and His message of the gospel of the kingdom of God.

A very important lesson that Jesus gave His disciples is that of "discernment" which is the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. Discernment involves perception and insight.

An example of Jesusí "perception" is recorded in Lukeís gospel: "And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" {22} But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? {23} "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?" (Luke 5:21-23). Jesus perceived their thoughts. Jesus also had "insight" which is the power of seeing into the inner nature of things such as the human mind. He knew what men were thinking: "But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4).

We, the disciples of Jesus, need to be able to "discern" right from wrong. We also need to be able to "discern" and understand the difference in spiritual lessons compared to the physical lessons.

Letís look at an example in John 6 verse 48: Jesus said: "I am the bread of life. .... {50} "This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. {51} "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." {52} The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" {53} Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. {54} "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. {56} "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. .......{59} These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. {60} Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" {61} When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? ..... {64} "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. {65} And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." {66} From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." (John 6:48-66).

Jesus gave a physical message that involved His physical body and blood but His disciples were not able to "discern" the "spiritual" aspects of what Jesus was actually talking about. Notice that many were "offended" and in verse 66 it says: "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."

Jesusí disciples need to have "spiritual discernment" in knowing what Jesus is talking about. In this case Jesus was preparing His disciples in that He was going to change the "Passover" symbols from the "physical lamb" to the "spiritual lamb" and that His "body and blood" would be symbolized by the sacraments of the "bread and wine."

Letís look at another example of "spiritual discernment" by asking a question: Why did Jesus speak in parables? "And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" {11} He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. {12} "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. {13} "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Matthew 13:10-13).

Notice two points here. Jesus spoke in parables so that "His disciples" would "know the mysteries of the kingdom" and that "those" who are not His disciples would not be able to see, hear or understand the parables.

Another point to consider is that Jesusí own disciples did not understand His parables! How did they come to understand them? The answer is that later when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him to explain the parable to them (Matthew 13). We should appreciate that the explanations to most of Jesus' parables are recorded in the Bible for us today. The parable of the "mustard seed" is an exception for which Jesus left it for us to interpret.

Jesus instructed His disciples to: "be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). By using our spiritual "discernment" we know that to be wise we need to study Godís word and to obey His law. King David said: "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me" (Psalms 119:98). To be "harmless as a dove" means to exert the fruits of Godís Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

In Conclusion: Pray for spiritual "discernment" so that you can see the spiritual intent of Godís word and that you can have the insight to obey God..


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