18 - Obstacle 7: Poor Discernment and Understanding

Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?  You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.  Blessed is the man who listens to me…for whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.  But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death. – Pro 8:1, 5, 34-36

I am very sensitive to this subject because I lived for so many years as a simple minded fool, who thought the only keys to life success were enthusiasm and a positive attitude.  I was the “poster child” for Pro 19:2-3.

In the last two years, I’ve been intimately exposed to the life stories and Christian walks of at least 100 people, from all different places.  After seeing my personal testimony, they reached out to me for advice or encouragement, and openly shared their struggles.  I learned a lot from listening, but I was very disturbed to discover the widespread lack of wisdom and biblical understanding, among so many “Christians”. I had thought that I was largely unique, in the folly of my past simple mindedness.  By this, I mean my lack of discernment to detect good vs. evil, in everyday life situations, and my inability to respond the right way at the right time, in accordance with God’s thinking.

Today, I see that a lack of godly understanding is the greatest danger to most “Christians” and it will certainly be the greatest cause of spiritual death for many.  It’s so devastating because most don’t understand that they don’t understand. (Pro 8:36).

This leaves the door wide open, in countless ways, for Satan to sift and destroy a person’s walk, or to render them completely fruitless.  Fruit wise, many are no better off than the lost sinner on the street corner.  Sure, they get emotional during worship, they know church talk, they serve, and they talk about how much they know and love God, but the fruit in their lives proves that they do not actually know Him.  When they let down their hair, so to speak, the fruit of their lips or their actions display a temperament that contradicts the Spirit of Christ (Mt 12:33, Mk 7:6). 

Sometimes this is because they are false disciples (Jn 8:55, 1 Jn 3:10, 4:6, 2Tim 2:19, Titus 1:16, Jude 1:18-19), but sometimes it’s the result of not being discipled (Lk 6:40, Acts 2:42, 8:30-32, 1 Cor 9:25, Heb 5:14, 1Tim 4:7). 

This is what happened to me.  My seed was sown among the thorns, and I was not taught the importance of becoming spiritually mature by training myself to be godly (1 Tim 4:7).

Instead, I opened the door to things, people, and decisions that ultimately ruined my life.  I can see this clearly now that I have better understanding.  But at the time it seemed like everything I was going through was just life and that if I just endured long enough, it would all go away.  This kind of poor understanding is what kills even the most well meaning of “Christians”.

It prevents them from seeing the thief (Jn 10:10) in their life.  Instead, they dismiss the warnings about spending too much time on Facebook, getting drunk, the pain pill addiction, pornography, their favorite sport team or exercise becoming an idol, their heretical view on salvation, staying off the dating sites until they are healthier, being unequally yoked, inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, putting too much focus on money, their unforgiveness or anger issue, going to see the TV evangelist who took up a $400k offering for maintenance on his jet, listening to a false prophet who tells them to sell their business, partnering with someone who only talks about money, extreme neediness that opens doors to bad people using them, having Séances, etc.

One time a lady emailed an invitation to about 200 people, inviting them to watch a video series that her church had purchased.  I read the email and the vague description and I instantly had this sinking feeling in my stomach, sensing that this was a video series by a dangerous false teacher named Rob Bell.  I replied, asking if I was correct, and included a gentle warning.  It turns out they were getting ready to expose hundreds to a terribly deceived false teacher.  I sent a few videos to confirm his heretical teaching and she forwarded them to her pastor.  They were very appreciative for my pointing this out, but the lady admitted to me that her pride was bruised, because she felt like she should have known better.  Imagine how many things like this are taking place in churches all over the place, while the devil is just licking his lips!

Unfortunately there is nothing benign about deception.  It is always intentional and destructive.

Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.  – Pro 2:11

Fools die for lack of judgment. – Pro 10:21

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.  Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. – Ps 32:8-10

Now, look at what Jesus taught about having good spiritual understanding, using our “eyes” as a metaphor.  Good eyes in this passage refers to good spiritual eyes of understanding (Mark 8:17-18).

Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eyes are good, your whole body is also full of light.  But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.  See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” – Luke 11:34-36

So, how do we get good understanding?

“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?  Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.”  – Job 28:12-13

God is in charge of who gets to see (Acts 16:14) and who stays blind (Jn 12:40, Acts 26:17-18).  You cannot get good understanding simply by studying the Bible, going to church, or by someone preaching to you (all of which are important, but of themselves, not enough).  Some have memorized entire books of the Bible, but still lack the understanding to apply it and thus benefit from it (Jn 5:39-40).

The Bible teaches that understanding is imparted to us by God as a result of our fearing Him, studying His word, and more importantly, obeying His word.  Sound familiar?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. – Ps 111:10

See also: Heb 5:14, Ps 32:8-9, 119:104,125,130,169

Fearing the Lord does not mean we are actually afraid of God, but rather that we are afraid of being on the wrong side of God—we are afraid of offending Him or hurting Him through ungodly thinking and behavior.  We have reverence for Him.

When we come into agreement with God, by loving what He loves and hating what He hates, He rewards us with secret wisdom and understanding. (Ps 25:14, Jn 16:13, 1 Cor 2:10, 1 Jn 2:27)

We must depend on God to give us wisdom, not man.  (Jam 1:5) Example: If you share something really deep with me that God has shown you, I still won’t be able to understand it unless God gives me spiritual understanding. And that would only be under the condition that I am walking in a reverent, obedient, and growing fear of the Lord.

This is why you need to do most of your learning directly from God’s word and His Spirit, not from teachers, and that includes me. I see myself just as a catalyst, motivating and inspiring people to drink directly from The Source. Read (Ps 19:7-9, 119:24, 99,102, Jn 6:45, 1Cor 2:4,10,13, 4:6, 1Jn 2:27, 2 Tim 2:7)

This is one of the biggest reasons I’m so excited about you starting this devotional.  Perhaps you've learned or confirmed a few things from the reading so far, but nothing will compare to the soul excitement you will experience as you begin to really study and apply the teachings of Christ.  God will begin teaching you, by His Spirit, things you have never known, even though you’ve possibly seen the words many times before. 

Do not be discouraged and do not be afraid to jump in.  When God sees that we sincerely want to obey Him, He not only blesses us with the grace to do so, but He increases our understanding in ways that no man, or book, or sermon, could ever do.

I was an enthusiastic but simple-minded fool for so many years.  My seed was sown among the thorns, but God gave me another chance when I cried out in full surrender to Him. 

Then, with His help, I dug around my "tree" (Lk 13:8) and fertilized it with obedience. Today, I am bearing good fruit as I abide in Him, and my soul is full of joy (Jn 15:11).  There is nothing special about me; I am not a pastor or an ordained minister of any kind—I’m just a regular person who truly loves and seeks the Lord with all of my heart.  If He'll do it for me, He'll do it for anyone.  As one pastor said, “God doesn't have favorites; He has intimates.”  I have found Him to be extremely faithful to His word, and to those that give Him their whole heart.  He loves you so much and you’ll experience the depth of His love for you when you return your love for Him through His love language—obedience. (Jn 14:21, 1Jn 5:3)