Discernment: Session 1

Janet Aucoin October 14, 2017

Session One: Discernment Basics

Introduction: John MacArthur definition of discernment: The ability to distinguish truth from error. (More accurately…to distinguish truth from half-truth).

Some verses discussing discernment

1 Thess 5:21-22 Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2 Cor 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Some verses on the sad alternative:

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.

Titus 1:10-11 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.

Hebrews 5:11-14 Concerning him (Jesus) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Matt 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

Theological Triage

Some things are more important and serious than others and should be treated accordingly.

First level issues – most central and essential to the Christian faith; those directly related to the gospel. (Trinity, atonement, deity and humanity of Jesus, justification by faith alone, authority of Scripture – source of truth). Denial of these things represents the abandonment of biblical Christianity.

Second level issues – important issues that will form significant boundaries between true believers. Frequently determines different denominations among true believers (the mode and meaning of baptism, continuation or cessation of the miraculous gifts). We proclaim each other brothers and sisters but the doctrinal differences will limit the degree of unity.

Third level issues – true believers may disagree while maintaining close fellowship and remaining in the same local church (end times, consuming alcohol, eating out on Sunday, how to observe the Sabbath).

First Level Beliefs: The Bible is the inerrant and sufficient word of God! (I Tim 4) Not what makes sense to us and not what “works,” and not my experience.

1. We affirm that God is holy. (Lev 11:44)

He is without sin. He is above us, over us and we are beholden to Him.

2. We affirm that Jesus is God in the flesh. (I John 4:1-3; John 1:1; Heb 1:8)

Jesus is who should be magnified, exalted, pleased and He is the standard by which I determine how I should live.

3. We affirm the substitutionary atonement. (I Peter 3:18)

The great exchange is the amazing offer of Jesus crediting me with His fully righteous life and then taking on Himself my sin.

4. We affirm that we are sinners by nature and by choice. (Eph 2:1; Psalm 51)

We are not inherently good. We are not just a bit needy of some help to get a bit closer to God. We were dead in our sins when Jesus came.

5. We affirm that the means of receiving salvation is faith alone. (Rom 3:28; Eph 2:8-9)

We did NOTHING to merit or deserve what He did and we are not entitled to anything now. We have the privilege of making much of Him not ourselves.

6. We affirm that assurance of salvation comes through resting in the sufficiency of Christ’s work in our behalf. (I John 5:11-13; Rom 8; Gal 2:20)

Overall Summary

Jesus is the central character in my story. NOT me. I now live for Him and for His glory; I don’t use Him to make myself famous. It just isn’t about me. Jesus is holy, Jesus gave me His Word so I could know Him, Jesus is the hero who sacrificed Himself for me while I was dead in sin and yelling at Him on the cross, Jesus did it all…and now it is joyfully ALL about Him.

Questions to aid our discernment

1. What is the source of truth being implied or stated? God’s Word or experience, common sense, psychology, etc.

2. Who/what is the focus of the material? Is God/Jesus the focus or man?

a. Is Jesus the hero of this story?

b. Am I drawn to Christ?

c. Is my focus lifted to Him?

d. Or am I left thinking about how this will make my life easier?

e. Who is being glorified?

3. What is the view of man being proposed? Is man viewed as basically good or sinful?

What is man’s purpose according to this author?

4. What is the goal of the author? God’s glory? Man’s happiness?

What does man need according to this author?

5. Are my thoughts pulled toward the vertical – hope in God, eternal view, supernatural peace regardless of circumstances; or horizontal – comfort, ease, no conflict, etc.

Foundational Questions undergirding our Discernment

What is my purpose?

(2 Cor 5:9, Rom 8:29 – to please God, to represent Him, to be conformed to the image of Christ – that is what most pleases God – His Son, Luke 3:22: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”)

What do I need?

(Forgiveness, restored relationship with God. Created by God for God and to live with God. I need a way to God!, I need God’s love and acceptance, I need righteousness because without that I cannot see God.)

Short cut (for use in group discussion time)

What is the root problem as the author sees it?

What is the root cause?

What is the solution?

Janet Aucoin


Janet is the Director of Women's Ministry at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); Host of the Joyful Journey Podcast (helping women learn that when you choose truth you choose joy); ACBC certified; teacher in Faith Community Institute; Coordinator of FBS seminary wives fellowship, retreat and conference speaker; B.S. Human Resources, University of South Florida.