Friday, January 27, 2017

The Art of Discernment

When I was attending Christ Seminary in South Africa, I had a professor who used to state, "everything preaches." What he meant was, that whatever you're interacting with in life is pushing you toward thinking a certain way. It is informing you of its creator's worldview and asking you to align with it. Today that "everything" is a continually growing category. It entails movies, tv, music, books, video games, teachers, textbooks, billboards, advertisements, magazines, facebook, instagram, and many others forms of media including this very blog post. =)

Typically, as Christians we have two possible responses to this. On the one hand we may recognize this about the movies, music, and many other such things we or our kids listen to and decide it isn't worth the risk and we will simply not partake of those sort of things. On the other hand, we may instead belittle the effects the messages have on us and our thinking and instead take it all in as we like without giving it a second thought.

I would suggest that neither option is fully healthy or biblical. Certainly there are some things not worth giving an ounce of our thought to that are almost purely tainted by sin and would do far more damage to our souls than any benefit they may offer. However, if we are not careful, this thinking can be taken to an extreme where we actually seek to ostracize ourselves from the world and sequester ourselves into a "holy huddle" of only Christians and Christian things. This can be an even greater danger in parenting since kids who grow up in this environment eventually will move out and enter a world filled with media. If they have never learned how to interact with it in a healthy way they will tend to either become self-righteous in not pursuing it, or they will run full bore into it unheading to the danger it presents their souls.

The other option of taking it all in and ignoring the messages being presented is just as bad. Psalm 1 and 1 Cor 15:33 show that what and who we spend time around will affect us negatively if they encourage us in anti-God thinking. Partaking of media freely and without pause, pondering, or thought can very subtly yet quickly lead to a deadening and coldness of our soul to the Lord. We will naturally tend toward sinful thinking of ourselves without the help and encouragement of others toward it, outside of the Holy Spirit's arresting and enabling work (Rom 12:2). Carelessly adding voices into our lives that speak anti-God lies and self-gratifying thoughts into our already battling souls is a recipe for disaster.

Well than what I'm I supposed to do with all this media I and my family are bombarded with daily? I would suggest that discernment is the answer. Phil 1:9-10 states, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Paul adds in 1 Thes 5:21-22, "but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." As Christians we are to run everything we take in through the lens of Scripture and determine whether what is being said is right or wrong. While that sounds easy, it is not and takes great focus and work. The author of Hebrews actually says it takes practice, "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Heb 5:14). It is not something we simply turn on or off. It is a lifestyle we must work to cultivate as we take in all the media from the world around us and as a parent is especially important to cultivate and train your child in before they have to practice out on their own.

The next thought that probably comes to your mind is, "this is completely overwhelming and too hard." In response I would submit two verses to you. First, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (Jam 1:5). God can give you the discernment you feel you lack if you will ask Him for it. Second, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Eph 3:14-16). God enables and empowers you by the Holy Spirit to that which He expects of you. You ARE completely incapable of this in yourself, BUT your God is not. Discernment is both possible and necessary for your Christian life.

All that to say, I recently was asked by a youth student about a topic relating to one of their blogs which lead me to later read it. I was very impressed with her desire to practice discernment as she takes in media. I think her actions set a neat example for us to think through and follow as we too are "preached" at by the many avenues of media today. Here is a copy of her most recent blog post she gave me permission to post here and I wanted to share with you...

Phil Smith
Youth Minister

Sherlock: Why does life have value?

**Warning: Spoilers for the season finale of "Sherlock" are contained in the following post!**

A week ago today Sherlock season 4, and possibly the entire show, came to a riveting close. It was quite the season, filled with mind-bending twists and turns, intriguing character development, and despicable (and I mean it in the true sense of the word) villains. The final episode of the season, appropriately titled "The Final Problem," was an intense, uncomfortably dark story that tested the series' heroes more than any episode so far. In it, we are acquainted with Euros Holmes, Sherlock's brilliant, insane, desperately evil sister. She has been, as we come to find out, the real mind behind the evils that have plagued Sherlock Holmes, even going back to his early childhood. She has had her hand on almost every heartbreak, every terrible, tortuous event that happens to Sherlock during the course of the series, and in this episode we get to see her work  up close.

Euros manages to lure Sherlock, his best friend John, and brilliant older brother Mycroft to the prison in which she has been held (or, as we learn, has come to control) for the majority of her life. Once trapped, she puts them through a series of tests, sadistic games, for reasons not completely clear. Insanity? Yes. Hatred? Probably. Revenge? Maybe. But its also pretty clear that she just enjoys it. She has finally met people who have a chance of standing up to her intellectually, but they are limited by morality, by love for each other, and by a regard for human life. And her goal is to exploit those so-called "weaknesses," and to test the power it gives her over them.

​This episode of Sherlock explored, perhaps more than any other episode up until this point, the fundamental differences between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Never before in this show have we seen so evidently two radically different types of characters and what it looks like when they clash. Their fundamental differences lie, I believe, in one key area: their value of human life.

To Euros, human life is of no value. She sees men as tools, playthings even, to be used until they're worn out. She is, in her own mind, a god--and probably not just a god, but the god. Her intellectual capabilities give her the means to use, abuse, and control; and in her own godless universe, why should that change?

Sherlock and his companions, on the other hand, see human life in a completely different light. When faced with the gut-wrenching choice to shoot one man to save the life of another, neither John nor Mycroft can do it. And when Sherlock must choose which of his companions to murder to get to the next segment of Euros' "game," he threatens, to his sister's shock and dismay, to end his own life instead.

So why does Sherlock, who, in this version of the classic stories, is a self-proclaimed atheist, put such immense value on the life of another human being? Because, from an evolutionary standpoint, shouldn't the life of a human have just as much value as that of a dog, horse, or monkey? What kept John from pulling the trigger, even when he had a man literally begging John to shoot him to save the life of his captive wife? I believe the answer is this: as humans created in the image of God, we are created with a subconscious understanding that human life has value. And, I would argue, the reason it has value is that God gives it value.

One of the earliest decrees given by God in Scripture can be found in Genesis 9:1-7.  In it, the Creator gives humankind dominion over all other creation. He sets them apart, per say. He goes on to declare: "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."

From the beginning, God has chosen to give men value. And, as creatures all created by God, we have engrained in our consciences an understanding, an instinct, that we don't have the right or authority to take something of such incredible value as human life.

So while Sherlock might claim to not believe in a higher power, his actions indicate that he subconsciously answers to one. He recognizes that mankind has a special place in creation, and I doubt that he could provide a solid explanation on why that is. But I believe, as Christians, that we can. Our worth as humans can only be found in one thing, and that's through a loving Creator who has chosen to give us immense value for the glory of His name.

Rebekah's post and others like it can be found at her blog (

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