The Need for Discernment

The Need for Discernment

Matthew 16:5-12

“Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”


            The age of information has also become the age of misinformation.  Today, anyone with a computer and a keyboard can present themselves as experts on any topic.  Type in the search, “Aliens live among us,” and you will find many websites that quote scientists and experts who say they do.  Yet the problem today is not a problem of information overload but a lack of discernment.  The assumption is that we can determine what is true if we search the internet.  But the genuine from the false is not easily distinguishable.  Not all information on the internet is false.  The internet provides a wonder of information ready at one’s fingertips.  We can find information from the cost of a used car to information about the Bible and what it teaches.  Much of it is very good and reliable.  But there is a page of deceitful misinformation for every page of insightful information.  This is why discernment is so critical today. From a biblical standpoint, discernment is recognizing and following God’s will and distinguishing between what is morally and spiritually right or wrong, as revealed in scripture.  

            In this passage, we see Jesus warning the disciples to “watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Jesus was warning them of the importance of being discerning regarding the instruction and teaching of the religious leaders of the day.  However, the disciples missed the point, revealing their lack of discernment.  Thus, Jesus clarifies to them that what he is warning about is not physical but spiritual.  They need to be discerning regarding the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  While these were the “religious teachers” of the day and regarded as experts of the law by the people, Jesus is warning the disciples they were also the purveyors of misinformation.  While they may have taught many things that were true, they also taught many things that were not.          

            Today, we are inundated with books, internet sites, radio, and TV preachers claiming unique insight into the scripture.  Yet when we examine their teaching, we find that many are teaching false doctrine and teaching the very things that scripture warns about.  Christ in Matthew 24::11 warns that in the last days, “many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”  Furthermore, they will be so deceptive that, if possible, even the elect would be misled (Matthew 24:24).  

            So, how do we avoid deception and protect ourselves against the false teachers that are prevalent today?  The answer lies in the Bible itself.  Always examine the teaching of the individual and ask, “Is it in agreement with the Bible, or is the teaching seeking to undermine the Bible.”  In other words, the key to discernment is to adhere to and evaluate everything by what the Bible teaches.  Are the people trying to justify why we should reject the Bible or challenging us to live according to the Bible?  Are they deconstructing the text (i.e., trying to discover the errors of scripture by leaving any objective truth), or do they teach the scriptures to deconstruct the mistake in our thinking and life?  Is it calling us to obey the scriptures or rationalizing why we should disregard biblical truth?  To be discerning is to evaluate what people teach about the Bible by the Bible.  If it is not consistent, we are to avoid them just as the disciples were to prevent the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


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