While it may not always be true that “Good things come in small packages,” John MacArthur’s article “Discernment” can certainly be said to bear this out. This publication is a good introduction to the subject of discernment and is available here.
Spiritual discernment is defined by MacArthur as “the skill of separating divine truth from error.” Before he fleshes out his definition, he uses the ancient Greek story of the Trojan horse to illustrate how “Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God into destructive error.”
The church today is said to be like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, able to discern only superficial things like whether it will be good or bad weather, but incapable of distinguishing truth from error. This has led to too many churches that “have relinquished biblical ethics and doctrine, a deep reverence and worship of God, repentance over sin, humility toward God and fellow believers, and a profound understanding of God’s character and work.” The result? A “low level commitment to holy living.”
MacArthur acknowledges that it can be challenging to separate truth from error, and he gives multiple reasons for why the church today lacks spiritual discernment. Much spiritual immaturity exists in the church. Many only have a shallow knowledge of God’s Word, trust in personal experiences or emotions as truth, or “chase personal comfort and success as a way of life.” He calls it “Baby Christianity,” and likens the undiscerning Christian with a baby who, crawling on the floor, “will put anything into his mouth since he doesn’t know the difference between good and bad.” Similarly, a spiritually immature individual, because of an inadequate understanding of the Word of God, can’t tell truth from error but will be prone to believe anything.
Finally, MacArthur answers the inevitable question that anyone interested enough to read this booklet is bound to ask: “How Can I Be Spiritually Discerning?” His answers, given in five points, are worth reading and taking to heart. He says, “Spiritual discernment flourishes in an environment of intense, faithful Bible study.”
Only in God’s Word are the principles and truths found that help you discern truth from error. And it is essential that we learn discernment in order to protect the church from error and bring honor to God.
We encourage you not to miss the opportunity to read and benefit from this valuable resource.