Let’s take a look today at the prerequisites of discernment – it’s a long post, but hang with me! A prerequisite is something that we must have before we can have something else. For instance, a prerequisite to getting a Masters degree is that you have to have a Bachelors degree. A prerequisite to eternity with God is forgiveness at the foot of the Cross.
There are six key prerequisites to growing in the spiritual discipline of discernment – all of which begin with the letter “S”.
We begin with salvation. The first prerequisite for becoming a discerning person is that we must get ourselves into a right relationship with God through the salvation available in Jesus Christ.
But salvation is only the beginning: it sets the stage; it makes it possible for us to receive wisdom and practice discernment. The second step is sanctification. Sanctification means setting ourselves apart as consecrated to God. Seeking to be like Christ. Desiring to live a holy life. Committing ourselves to God and living it out. We are to produce good fruit, as Jesus commands us. Paul lists the kind of fruit we should be producing in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
But how do we produce the “fruit of the Spirit”? How do we live a sanctified life? By following one of the shortest, yet most profound commands in Scripture, found in Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.”God has not left us alone to try to live a holy life. He has not abandoned us. We are saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. We live by the breath of the Spirit within us.
If we desire the Spirit and seek to obey him, he will fill us. Being filled with the Spirit isn’t about some mystical experience reserved for extra-holy saints. It is about loving God, desiring his will, and seeking to do it. When we have that attitude, when we are praying for God’s strength and grace to help us do his will, God’s Spirit will gladly fill us, sanctify us, and help us live a holy life.
Next is service, or having a servant’s heart. It is vital to live a life characterized by humble obedience. You can see how all the prerequisites of discernment are intertwined: salvation is the beginning of the journey, continued on by sanctification through the power of the Spirit in a life characterized by humble service to the Lord.
I John 2:4-6 states this very clearly, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know him,’ and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in him: the one who says he abides in him ought himself to walk in the same manner as he walked.” And in John 14:15 Jesus says simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
The next prerequisite is supplication. Prayer. If we are saved, sanctified, filled with the Spirit, and living a life of service, then supplication is a natural outgrowth of our lives.
As with most things in our lives, God wants us to talk to him. He wants us to ask him. He knows what we need, but he wants the communication and the communion to flow freely between us: therefore, he usually waits until we ask before he will move to act.
This is definitely true of wisdom. James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” And Proverbs 2:4-6 states, “If you seek her [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.”
Don’t be satisfied with just muddling along: ask God for wisdom, and he is ready and willing to give it to you.
The last prerequisite of discernment is Scripture. Psalms is an excellent place to find affirmations of the Bible’s place in our lives:
- Psalm 19:7 “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
- Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
- Psalm 119:11 “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
We need to have a firm grasp on what the Bible says so that we will recognize evil to be able to avoid it, and good, so that we will be able to do it. The Scriptures are the absolute authority on good and evil.
So the six prerequisites of discernment are:
With these prerequisites in place, you will grow strong in the discipline of discernment: guaranteed!