Loving God with Knowledgeable Discernment

Taigen Joos

selective focus photography of man's eyeglasses

In addition to the prayers of our Savior, the prayers of the apostle Paul offer excellent material for the Christian to study if he seeks to grow in his prayer life.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers is no exception. Philippians 1:9–11 is full of theological material for any Christian to pray for himself, for his family, and for his church. Paul prays that our love for God would abound more and more in knowledge and discernment.

Love for God must be expressed in ways that are knowledgeable and discerning. I am closing in on 35 years of being saved and the deeper my knowledge of God is, the more I can express love to him in ways that are truly pleasing to him. We grow in our knowledge of God through saturating our hearts and lives with Scripture. 

Our love for God must also be expressed in discerning ways. Proper knowledge of God leads to better discernment. We must be discerning in our expressions of love for God in worship. We must also be discerning in our love for other things that are attempted expressions of love for God. Not everything is worthy of loving, and not everything should be used in our expressions of love for God.

Knowledge of God leads to discernment for God. For instance, the more my children know me—my tastes, desires, character—the more they will discern what would honor me and what would not. The same holds true with our relationship with God. While we don’t have an exhaustive list of everything about God, nor about everything we should or shouldn’t do in the Christian life. However, we have the sufficient Scriptures, and the more we know God and how he has revealed himself in his Word, the more we will be able to discern what would and would not please God, even if he has not explicitly written it.

This is why a regular, faithful time in the Word of God each day is so important. Apart from the Word of God, we cannot know who the Creator God is and how to love him rightly.

The more we know God, the more discriminatory we will be in our expressions of love for him, and the more we will be able to approve those things around us that are truly excellent and worthy to be loved.

As an application of this, we ought to have a healthy skepticism regarding things in our culture that have the label “Christian” applied to it. We should not automatically take things at face value, but test things, putting them through the sieve of Scripture. 

For instance, don’t automatically believe that every athlete who points to the skies, or who kneels after a touchdown, or who thanks the Lord for winning the game is a Christian.

In recent weeks, there have been events in our broader Christian culture that have led to some debate as to their worthiness to be embraced by Christians. Knowledgeable discernment is what is needed.

It is possible to reject a movement as a whole while at the same time rejoice if, in fact, the gospel is truly given and genuine conversions take place. For instance, the recently released movie Jesus Revolution is about the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. While I reject much about this movement as a whole, I am thankful for any true conversions that took place within it, and I’m sure there were many.

This same kind of kind of thing could be said of many questionable movements or events in Christianity, whether it is the Jesus Movement, the contemporary Praise and Worship movement, ecumenical evangelistic crusades, or other things. Paul rejoiced when the gospel was given, even though he did not support the selfish or envious motives for proclaiming it (Phil. 1:15–18).

Learn to be discerning in what you see, what you hear, and what you read.

Our personal expressions of love for God and our embracing of “Christian” things must be fenced in by the knowledge of God and spiritual discernment. We must learn to love what God loves, and shun what God shuns. Psalm 119:128 is a helpful guide: “Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.” 

May we grow in our knowledge of God and in our moral and theological discrimination based on that right knowledge of God. And in so doing, may we love God with a kind of love that is in keeping with his character and will.

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