Friday, 5 August 2011

A Hebrews Call To Discernment

The Epistle To The Hebrews warns its readers that certain ideas are incredibly spiritually destructive. The language of Hebrews is bold and strong. At times it is offensive to those who have the idea that Christianity is not about holy living ("Legalism!" they protest) or devotion to Biblical teaching. Offensive? Indeed! The unnamed writer to the Hebrews scolds his countrymen for being too easily swayed by false teaching. He pastorally urges them to use discernment which comes from correct understanding of Scripture, rejection of false ideas about Scripture and the application of Scripture leading to holy living.
Hebrews 5:13...But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is set against the backdrop of false teaching about Christ which had been gaining an increasing foot-hold among Jewish Christians. The writer to the Hebrews puts first things first:correctly understand Who Jesus is and What He has done. Get these two aspects wrong and your soul is in peril because it inevitably leads to unholy living (sin) and forsaking the truth.
Heb. 10:26 ¶ For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins
The need for discernment by Christians is critical. The Epistle to the Hebrews stresses this. There are so many false teachers with growing platforms that reiterate the spiritually toxic venom of the Edenic Serpent- "Has God said...?" - undermining the Word of God and its teaching; and, "You shall not die!" - making a mockery of the consequences of unholy living and calling immorality "outdated". The writer to the Hebrews has some stern and strong words to say about this type of attack on sound Biblical teaching. But it takes discernment to sometimes hear the error behind sometimes seemingly plausible sounding "Christian" teaching. Asking the questions- "Where does the Bible say that?" and "Is that how the original audience of this Text would have understood it?" Just these two questions can help modern followers of Christ increase their discernment skills.

Not only did the Serpent of Eden challenge God's Word, God's character, and God's Holiness in dealing with sin, but he was also striving to breach the bonds of fellowship that God had ordained. And the writer to the Hebrews warns his readers about this same devilish plot.
Heb. 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The local church is God's ordained plan for Christian community. "...not neglecting to meet together..." the simple act of meeting together to worship in singing, communion, and prayer, while giving heed to the preaching of God's Word, is designed by God to advance the growth of believers and to extend His Kingdom.
Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Heb. 13:7 ¶ Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.
The simplicity of what Christ has ordered for His Church- worship / Word / witness - is glorious. For some it's not enough. For some who have failed to discern that pursuing "signs" and "wonders" was never instructed, encouraged, or promoted in the Biblical record of the earliest Church, it is all too easy to become disillusioned with the elegant simplicity of participating in worship, heeding the preached Word, and being mobilised together as a witness for Christ, they fall for another Gospel of "me" "my" "I" and place the value of a church meeting on how much they "feel His presence", "experience God", or "receive" from the Lord. To be sure, we can feel, experience and receive - but these things are not the measure of a Church or its meetings. The writer to the Hebrews calls his readers to discern that Church is about Christ and our devotion to Him and His Word. He wants his readers to discern that this has immediate ramifications for how they eat, drink, socialise, and even express themselves sexually.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.".
Hebrews 13:4-5
The Enemy sows discord. Discord between the believer and God. Discord between the believer and a fellow believer. Discerning the schemes of the Enemy and clinging to the Word of God, the House of God, and Ways of God, helps to guard against such discord. This is why the next time you hear a teaching that unsettles you, ask the Lord to help you discern it. Ask God to protect your mind, your soul and your closeness to Christ. When you hear a teaching that claims that teaching is wrong, discern the irony of such a claim and consult the Word of God to see if it lines up. Anytime anyone teaches the Bible, ask the two primary discerning questions- "Where does it say that" And, "Is that what this text in context really says?"

You don't gold dust falling from the ceiling to know that God's Spirit is in the room. You don't need droplets of oil appearing on your hands to know that God's Spirit is in you. You don't need every sickness or illness healed instantly to know that God loves you and is present. You don't need to shake, fall-down, tremble uncontrollably and even laugh out loud. These things might happen, but you don't need them to happen in order for the church to be considered blessed with God's presence.

But you do need to worship in the House of God. You do need to participate in this worship through singing and prayer. You do need the Word of God preached to nourish your soul. You do need the strength of your brothers and sisters as they help you to collectively witness to those God has called you to shine before. Discern the source of the voices which claim you don't need these things!
1Corinthians 2:12 ¶ Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
Father, help us to be nourished by You. May we discern well. Give us an understanding mind to hear more closely the difference between truth and error. Surround us with truth-tellers. Help us to worship well, heed Your Word, and to witness together as Your church, In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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