Do we have something to teach others when we are stuck in bad habits? If we find ourselves still harassed by former bad habits and are teaching others should we stop teaching? We might have something of value to share but we should not have authority. We might get put to shame by our words and eventually begin to practice what we teach.
When we fail to practice what we teach and struggle to free ourselves from the “law of the flesh” (Romans 7:14-25) and live “according to the Spirit” can we be helpful to others with similar conflicts?
Can it seem after many years we find ourselves still struggling with the same problems? Can we still be restless, fearful, intense, distracted, driven by impulse, or the task list? We are grateful the learn the Apostle Paul had the same struggle. We see his conflict in Romans 7:15-25 “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
We are all touched by evil and limitation. We all need grace and mercy. Discernment is not about judging people’s motives. It is about knowing the difference between good and bad messages. It is about knowing the voice of the Holy Spirit from the voice of the enemy. It is for our protection not for judging others.
Discernment is a gift and a spiritual discipline. The concept is found in Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 1:19, 4:4, 11:29, 11:31, and 12:10. The phrase “discernment of spirits” occurs in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as one of the gifts of the Spirit; in Hebrews 5:14 as an exercise of spiritually mature “whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.”
In Romans 14:1 as a reminder to accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. In essence discernment is the spiritual capacity for distinguishing between opposing forces. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.”
Being able to practice discernment is to be able to distinguish whether an action or message is from the Holy Spirit or if it is someone speaking a falsehood. Discernment is a lifelong task. To become discerning, we must commit ourselves to prayer and study of the Word so we can have a deep communion with the Holy Spirit. Knowing Jesus, reading the Word, and praying increase our clarity about good and evil, sin and grace, and Satan and God. This is the path of clarity that calls us to choose the way to the light fearlessly and straightforwardly. This is the way of life where the heart, mind, and emotions are unified in choosing what is right. What are the roadblocks that keep you from choosing discernment?