Friday, March 09, 2012

Spiritual Discernment

RR tracks in Valley Forge, PA
At the heart of my Spiritual Formation course is this: how to hear and discern the voice of God.

The biblical Greek word we translate as "discernment" is diakrisis. This is a put-together of the prefix dia- ("through") and krisis, from the verb krino, which means "to cut." To "discern" is, literally, to "cut through." Or, to separate. One separates the voice of God out from other voices.

As we are praying and listening for the voice of God, hHow can we tell if it’s really God speaking to us, or some other voice? How can we discern this?

To grow in discernment I suggest:

1 - Saturate yourself in the Bible. Read it over and over and over… Slow-cook in the Scriptures. If you want to make a strong beginning, read the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) over and over and over… I did that for a few years. I wanted to become much more familiar with the Real words of the Real Jesus. Do this and you will become familiar with His voice. This will help you separate out His voice from other competing voices.

2 - Accompany your reading of the Gospels with N.T. Wright's "For Everyone" commentaries on the 4 Gospels. . In Wright we have a brilliant New Testament scholar who can write so everyone can understand. This will nicely supplement your Scripture reading. Wright's commentaries read well devotionally.

3 - Spend much time (hours and hours and hours) praying, by yourself. What is prayer? Prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together. This involves, necessarily, listening. When God speaks to you, write it down in your journal.

4 - When God calls you to do something, obey.

5 - Be part of a small community of Jesus-followers who do #s 1-2-3-4 above. Ask each other the question: What is God saying to you? Talk about the things God is saying. Disagree or agree. Learn. Linda and I have been in a Home Group every year of our 38+ years of marriage. A Home Group is an exercise in corporate discernment. This is good.

6 - Keep a spiritual journal. A spiritual journal is a record of the voice of God, to you. Among ogther things, the journal aids us in remembering. Remember that “remembering” is huge in the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

7 - Find a spiritual coach to share your journal with. This isn’t for everyone. But it would be very cool if you had someone. This person should be someone who does all of the above. They must have humility. They must not be into controlling other people.

Anyone who lives out 1-6 (if not 7) will grow in spiritual discernment.