- Sermon Notes
THE MARKS OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT
I am going to finish what I started weeks ago regarding the life of Paul.Collectively I chose to teach on
- Acts 16; Being in the Right Place Right Time
- Acts 17; God’s Incredible Opportunity
- Acts 25; The Marks of Spiritual Discernment
Illustration: Pinball Machine
Discerning situations with God’s help is like that tilt mechanism – Discernment gives us wisdom before the circumstances around us TILT.
What is discernment? Webster defines:
The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. – that really clears it up for us doesn’t it?
There is no better teacher of discernment than theApostle Paul.
This is a narrative, a story, designed to help us see basic truths in action – in this case – through the life of Paul.
Background – we are in the Summer of 59AD – Paul is in Caesarea, in jail for 2 yrs – This is the Roman Capital of the Middle East – Paul was sent there after the Jews tried to kill him.
The Governor at the time was Felix who could find no charges against Paul but to keep peace with the Jewish leaders kept him in prison.
Felix does such an awful job that Rome removes him and places Governor Festus in his place.
I. The Religious Hatred for Christians
What was once an original plot by 40 men – now 2 yrs later – has become official policy – Festus is new and under pressure by Jewish Leaders to keep peace and do them a favor.
We live in a day that Christians need only take a biblical or conservative point of view on any topic and be prepared to subject yourself to passionate disagreement or worse.
We must remember that the resistance aimed at us from the opposing view is really not aimed at us personally, but at the foundation of what we believe.
Matthew 5:10-12;Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A.Discernment may create difficult choices
The Jewish leaders must have thought, we have got him now. Festus was a young Governor, a naive Governor, he had no idea about their plotting or to even suspect a plot against Paul.
Paul’s spiritual discernment kicked in – he sensed something was wrong.
Special rights for Roman Citizens; right to appeal to Caesar himself if so desired.
B.Discernment protects us
Festus didn’t have to do it…but his advisers probably told him you are in lose/lose situation.You keep him here without the ability to charge him and the Jewish leaders are unhappy, yet you have nothing to charge Paul with and Rome will surely inquire.
Illustration: President Dwight Eisenhower
History: There wasn’t much good written aboutEmperor Nero in Rome.He killed thousands of Christians
Why would Paul want to appeal to this guy?In 64AD Rome burned,and who was blamed; Christians – result – Nero killed thousands of them – In 66AD he killed Peter and Paul.
This is 59AD – Nero under mentorship of others – 54-59AD were the golden ages of Rome, no persecution, no fear from Paul for Nero.
II.The Wise and Loving Providence of God
Illustration: Those without discernment
Look at the situations of life with God’s supernatural guidance – Bible says when we are anchored correctly spiritually, we can expect God to impart this type of spiritual discernment to us.
I Corinthians 2:14; The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
Before I became a believer I told people I just didn’t understand what the Bible was telling me – Like reading someone else’s mail.
A.Benefits of discernment await us
How do we position ourselves to benefit; 3 ways.
#1) Saturating our hearts & minds with the God’s word and instructions
PS 103:7; He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
He allowed Moses to understand his very ways and thinking – not just God’s acts for factual knowledge – but understanding God’s ways creates spiritual discernment.
How do we do this? He gave us the Bible.
Psalm 119:105, 130; Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
B.Discernment comes with spiritual discipline
Back to the Pinball machine – We know that not every machine has the same tilt mechanism – some more sensitive – vast differences.
After pastoring for many years I see people tilt spiritually at different places – often the exact same scenario in their life; one sees danger and gets out of it – the other completely oblivious to it.
Why such a difference?The answer; those at the highest level – the people who are saturating their lives with God’s word and instruction – they always produce more discernment!
This is just another reason why reading the Bible produces fruit in our lives.Perhaps this is your time to join a Growth Group or to find your place of service in the ministry?
Being a pastor has thrust me into God’s word more regularly, more deeply…it has created more discipline in this area of my life.
You don’t need to be a pastor to have this discipline or to grow in discernment.God used my responsibility to motivate me in ways I wasn’t previously disciplined. Find triggers in your life to be motivated in spiritual things.
#2) By staying connected to God through prayer
Prov 3:5-6; Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Bring every situation to God in prayer, thought and walk and pray unceasingly, or on your knees.
- He promises to guide our paths – give us the discernment we need to make wise decisions.
- David is a great example – had he done this, the disaster with Bathsheba would never have happened.
- Samson and Delilah
How about you and I – what might we have avoided if we took those situations to God in prayer before making poor decisions?
#3) By keeping Holy Spirit flowing freely in our life
- One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment.
John 16:12; “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
John 15:5; I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Paul warns us not to allow spiritual discernment to dry up.
1 Thessalonians 5:19; Do not quench the Spirit;
Ephesians 4:30; Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption
C.Basics of the faith assures us of Discernment
How do you keep from impeding the Holy Spirit in your life? Confession and Repentance keeps us open.
1 John 1:9; If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confess your sin to God.For some of you its been a long time since you sought forgiveness, genuine repentance?
We need discernment – God is anxious to give it to us.
#1 – Saturate your hearts & minds with the God’s word and ways
#2 – Stay connected to God through prayer
#3 – Keep the Holy Spirit flowing freely in your life -keep short accounts with God in regards to your sin
Basics – not profound – it simply requires spiritual discipline – Wednesday nightwe talked about Waiting on the Lord – perhaps the most difficult spiritual discipline we encounter.
Paul is giving the most basic instruction to us, followers of Christ – but like many things in life, the basic fundamentals is all it takes to separate us – not major differences in the gifts God has given us.
Illustrations – Baseball & Nike
Closer to home: Parenting and Marriage – discernment creates more consistency – better balance – more grace – more wisdom – hearts after God’s best in these relationships.
Acts 25:1-12 NASB
1Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, 3requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). 4Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5“Therefore,” he *said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.”
6After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” 10But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”