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The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

Today’s post is a book review written by my wife, Deidre, for our church’s women’s ministry newsletter (here it is on pdf). I too recommend the book, and hope this post spurs more people to read it. You can order it from Amazon or Westminster Books (its the same price both places).

The Discipline of Spiritual DiscernmentA successful counterfeiter needs to overcome two obstacles. First, he needs to design a forgery that looks plausible. Second, he needs to figure out how to get the counterfeit into circulation.

Tim Challies uses the dynamic of counterfeiting money to illustrate the necessity of the biblical mandate for discernment. His book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, argues that true wisdom is contained in Scripture. Yet the world is filled with false wisdom, cheap counterfeits that only barely look like the real thing. The goal of this false wisdom, Challies writes, is to get passed off into the church so that it is accepted by Christians.  

Challies’ concern is that this task is proving to be too easy. Like a busy person receiving change from a store, our Christian culture has grown accustomed to receiving books/resources/counsel/teaching that come in pre-packaged forms, and thus we accept them uncritically. We quickly elevate “authenticity” to a virtue while calling discernment pride. This essentially makes it easy for counterfeit wisdom to enter circulation.

He defines discernment as, “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.” This discernment is based on a knowledge of scripture, because “we can only judge between right and wrong when we know what God says to be true” (p 47).

The main point of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is that God wants Christians to be discerning. We are supposed to examine all things, and hold fast to what is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Discernment is a skill, cultivated through practice and training (Hebrews 5:14). As we train our minds to think biblically, counterfeit wisdom becomes easier to identify.

This book aims to do just that. Helpfully illustrated, Challies explains how discernment is supposed to work in the lives of believers. He begins with a theology of discernment, and moves from there to the practice of it.

This book will help you become like a Berean, able to examine everything put forward as wisdom, while learning from what is true (Acts 17:10).  It has encouraged me in my daily walk with the Lord, as it has challenged me to view all things through a lens of discernment. Reading it has made me more aware of the world around me, and provoked me to be more active in judging what is spiritually healthy. I highly recommend it.

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