Discernment as a Fruit of Spiritual Disciplines

August 20, 2011

The ability to discern God’s will amid the clamor of the world, the flesh, and the devil is something that can be cultivated through spiritual disciplines. In an earlier post (https://wordtolife.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/the-spiritual-gift-of-discernment/) I observed that “the discerning of spirits” is a spiritual gift, and it is given by the Holy Spirit as God wills. But the Church as a whole relies not only on the particularly gifted, who are much needed, but also on the entire Body learning discernment as a discipline of its life together. This corporate practice emerges out of the faithful submission of its individuals to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, made known to us in the Scriptures, and their full participation as members of one Body. Among the disciplines, the following are particularly foundational for developing a biblical conscience and a true sense of God’s leading.

Personal/Individual disciplines:

1. Silence and solitude (retreat into true silence and a quiet soul, detachment from the world, flesh, and devil)—Is your Quiet Time actually quiet? [just checking . . .]

2. The Bible—general context and specific passages (knowledge of God’s Word)—Have you read the Bible in its entirety yet? Do you have a plan? Have you learned how to use a concordance and Bible study helps?

3. Examination of Conscience (a spirit of repentance)—The Ten Commandments, Colossians 3, Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, are all good places to start.

4. Quiet contemplation  (reflecting on Scripture, confessions, etc.)—Do you take the time to reflect on what you are reading and hearing?

5. Prayer and Submission to God (open to God’s leading)—If God were to instruct, correct, admonish, or discipline you today through steps 1-4, would you be willing to agree and do what he says?

When groups get together for any reason, but especially when seeking God’s will in a situation, the two-or-three-gathered in Christ’s name can expect God’s presence, power, and wisdom. Groups set the context for this to happen by engaging in corporate disciplines that facilitate unity in Christ and openness to his leading.

 Corporate disciplines:

1. Trinitarian Worship for grounding and focus—Are you acknowledging and relying upon God’s sovereignty in this process?

2. Corporate “silence” during meetings—Who’s doing all the talking? Are you allowing God an opportunity to get a word in edge-wise?

3. Truth-telling (facts about the situation)—Are you working with the true facts of the case? Is anything untrue? Missing from the mix?

4. Listening to input from God’s people, past (the saints and councils) and present—The Spirit leading the Body into all truth will not go rogue in order to invent some new doctrine. How does your (pending) decision square with the communion of saints?

5. Prayer (calling upon God for help, guidance, power)—Don’t just talk about asking God, do it! And then listen!

6. Practice (equipping of the saints for faith as a way of life)—To what extent is your church family intentional about equipping members with Scripture study and theological reflection?

 Monday: two ideas (models) for practicing the discipline of discernment in groups.

 Next week:

The Discernment Process in action: what actually happens when people meet for the purpose of discernment? Observations and reflections on the Fellowship of Presbyterians meeting in Minneapolis.

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One Response to “Discernment as a Fruit of Spiritual Disciplines”


  1. Guess, it’s Sunday. Bummer

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