In their desire to boost attendance, many churches today openly state that their primary goal is to make themselves as attractive as they can to the unsaved.
The error in this thinking is that, when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, the lost have no idea what is good for them—they need to be saved and to grow strong in the faith. We would never give a young child whatever he wants in order to get him to eat without taking into consideration his own physical well-being. If your two-year-old or perhaps nine-year-old child were to ask for ice cream as his sole sustenance three times a day, would you give it to him?
We are very careful to exercise discernment in some areas of our lives, and yet it seems we are quick to ignore it in spiritual matters.
Jay Adams describes discernment as, “The ability to distinguish God’s thoughts and ways from all others.” This is a spiritual exercise which requires spiritual maturity. The writer of Hebrews deals with discernment in chapter 5, verses 11-14. The Spirit, through the pen of the author, identifies the problem as being “dull of hearing.”
The word dull is a combination of two words—one meaning “no” and the other meaning “to push,” hence, “not to push.” Thus, dull means “slow or sluggish.”
The Hebrew Christians were slow, sluggish, and numbed in their apprehension of New Testament truth. This made it difficult to teach them. However, they were not always this way. The word translated are means “to become.” Their lack of discernment was the result of neglect and a gradual working away from New Testament truth. Remember the caution penned earlier: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1). It seems that they had the truth, but they began to become slothful in their application of the truth. We need to heed this caution.
We are privileged to have the truth found in the Word of God, but it is easy to accumulate facts in our heads without ever letting them impact our day-to-day living. No one sets out to become dull of hearing. It happens through a lack of vigilance.
If there is anything a child dislikes, it is to be called a baby. That is what happened in our text. The writer to the Hebrews was admonishing them for being immature. I submit to you that spiritual immaturity causes so many today to evaluate their experiences according to their feelings. The mature Christian knows that he always has to evaluate his feelings and experiences in light of God’s Word because it is the Word of God that defines truth.
Without absolute truth, it is impossible to learn. One of the first things a child learns to do is to discriminate—to discern. So, too, should it be with the child of God. If you are spending time in the Word of God studying it and applying it to your every day life, you will learn to discriminate between good and evil, between better and best; and in time, you will become more discerning.
This is the promise given to those who exercise spiritual discernment. As we mature spiritually, we graduate from milk to solid food. We become more Christ-like and stronger in the battle for our Lord: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Every aspect of our lives as Christians must be trained to reflect spiritual discernment—our bodies, our minds, our consciences, and our senses.
Discernment comes from studying the Bible like the Bereans did in Acts 17. A clear understanding of the Word of God will keep us from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Doctrine will divide, and it should divide. We are not to compromise what the Bible clearly teaches for the feelings of some weak brother or unsaved individual. The whole purpose in doctrine should always be to point out error. As Christians, we are not to blend in with the world but to be separate from the world.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better.” If that statement was true over 100 years ago, it is even more true today. My call is for a re-examination of our lives to see if we may have become dull of hearing. If so, ask God for forgiveness and ask Him again to fill you with His power.