In learning to discern we have seen that we must work at gaining understanding. We must do our part in learning the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and sound and unsound doctrine. Interestingly at their roots the words good and evil allude to health. The word good means to be clean or healthy. It is that which promotes life. Evil on the other hand is literally “that which causes harm.” Evil hurts us. It destroys life and well being. So as we learn to discern we see that it is more than just striving to know the difference between right and wrong. It is a matter of life and death, living the abundant life of a Spirit filled believer or dying as a result of the wages of our sin coming due!
We must be nourished from the Word of God and taught the truth so that we are able to understand and obey God’s will. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14) And we see that solid food belongs not to the babies, but to those who are of full age, who are maturing. We must learn how to nourish one another with the Word.
So what is it that makes us grown up spiritually? Spiritual growth and maturity is not a matter of time, it is a matter of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Knowledge refers to facts. And any person young or old can regurgitate facts, but when we add to facts wisdom, that is, the right perspective, then we see that we can learn facts in a way that they influence who we are and how we think, talk, and behave. Understanding comes into the mix as we must know how to have a right perspective as we ponder the facts and make decisions. Understanding is having the ability to use both the perspective and facts we have and arrive at good, sound decisions. Simply stated, to understand is to discern.
The words used here are that those who eat solid food are those “who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” They use their senses. They have exercised their senses so that they might discern good and evil. They by reason of use have come to understand the difference between good and evil, between that which promotes life and health and that which destroys life and health.
In speaking of our senses though we need to be very clear. Those who are maturing are using their senses for the purpose of discerning. That is why our senses are bombarded daily with things that would distract us from this important mission! Think about it. Let us talk about our senses and the battle that is fought so that we might pay attention to good or evil.
We sense through sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. It is the experiencing of the world around us. There is a physical reality here as well as an emotional and spiritual reality. We are spiritual beings living in a fleshly body, all one whole being that is created in the image of God. And we learn the difference between good and evil experientially.
But what dominates our senses these days? We suffer from sensory overload. A simple illustration is found in the world of television. Each year producers of TV shows push the limits more and more trying to gain and keep an audience and win more market share of viewers. More sex. More violence. More language. More shock! Why the downward spiral? Because once they gain an audience it takes more and more to keep that audience!
Think in terms of food. If you eat at a restaurant and the food is awful and the service deplorable will you go back? No! We go back to that which pleases us. And the more it pleases us the more eager we are to return. Another example is found at the amusement park where each year the rides get more and more outrageous. Why? Because we demand more of a thrill, more of a ride, more of an experience!
Sin is like that! The more pleasure we can find the more we want. But in the face of the sensory overload we live amidst, we must learn to discern!! To meditate on the Word, to be still and know He is God, to wait on the Lord. In these times of microwaves that are not fast enough and drive through fast food that takes too long, we must not ever put aside spiritual disciplines for the sake of selfish fulfillment. We must lay up treasures in heaven, having and eternal perspective instead of a temporal perspective.
The truth is, it is easy to feed the flesh and overload our senses. It is easy to drown out the Spirit of God with the methods, music, and messages of the world. It is all too easy to drown in a pool of pleasure unaware of the danger that surrounds and engulfs us.
But those here, those who discern, those who know the difference between good and evil, they are those who exercise their senses in that very pursuit – to know the difference between good and evil so that they may do the good and shun the evil. As Paul wrote to Timothy he encouraged him to do two things – to flee and to pursue (1 Timothy 6).
What was Timothy to flee? He was to flee from envy, strife, arguments, selfishness, greed, hatred, wrath, discontentment, and all the other works of the flesh that the Scriptures warn us about. He was to run away from youthful lusts and selfish ambitions. He was to shun those who cause division in the Body of Christ. He was to fight for the truth against those who lie!
But it was not enough for Timothy to flee these things. Just as importantly, he was told by Paul to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” He was to yearn for the fruit of the Spirit in his life. To chase after being right with God and loving Him with all he was! And that is our example – to flee what is evil and to run after what is good.
But how do we know which is which? Here is the practical application of learning to discern. We learn as we go. We learn from others and from our experience. Mostly we learn from the Word of God. We must know the Word if we are to know God’s standards of right and wrong. And as we learn from the Word and are discipled in the Christian life we must keep in mind that when we find evil we should shun it – not play with it! And when we find good we should embrace it and hold firmly to it.
How are you exercising your senses today? Are you filling your senses with the works and wants of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Or are you exercising your senses toward godliness? Deep down you know the answer. I pray that you are learning to discern and fighting to do what is right for all the right reasons.