Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Purposeful Discernment

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says you can’t show discernment casually.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You have to be intentional. If you’re not intentional about building yourself up and keeping yourself in the faith and in the love of God, then the world will suck you into its deception.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 6.

We’ve spent a couple of weeks identifying deceiving messages in our day. We’ve also gained a new appreciation for the need to discern truth from error. This needs to be more than a two-week series on the radio. Nancy’s going to help us make it a way of life as we wrap up the series Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.

Nancy: I realize that the series we’ve been in over the last couple of weeks doesn’t have quite as many practical handles as some of the other series that we do. And for some people, they may consider this subject a sleeper.

But I want to tell you that this subject has powerful, practical, and profound implications for so many things in life. I’m thinking not only about the things we read—and I’ve referenced a number of those throughout the course of this series—but when you go and get counseling.

On one of the breaks here in this recording session, I went and checked my email. We had an email from a listener saying,

I’m dealing with this situation of an alcoholic husband, or an addicted husband, and I’m getting referred to certain kinds of counseling groups.

I listen to what they say and I feel like it’s really not lining up with Scripture when it’s telling me how I need to respond to my husband in this situation.”

What this woman is saying is, “I need discernment.” I’m glad she recognizes that. The problem is that so many people would go into a group like that—whether it’s a support group or in a counseling setting, Christian or not—and they would just swallow hook, line, and sinker whatever is being given out, without stopping to think, “How does this line up with Scripture?”

If you think that I sound like a broken record or a one-string banjo on this subject, it’s because I believe so strongly that God exalts His Word very, very highly. The Word of God will outlast all the teachings, philosophies, and books that men could ever put out on this planet. We need to know it, and we need to know how to discern for parenting, for marriage, for how you respond to your husband.

How do you handle it when your kids come home from college and say, “Here’s what I’ve been learning in this Christian school or in this secular state school”? Or when your kids come home from third grade and tell you what they’ve been learning in their Christian school or their state school, do you know how to take them to the Scripture and discern?

Unfortunately, I think a lot of us are lazy Christians. We want someone else to do the work for us; we don’t want to have to think hard. If something is emotionally touching or engaging to us, it’s going to be hard for us to say, “Whoa, wait a minute. There are some concerns here that we need to address.”

So I want to challenge you to develop a lifestyle of learning to discern. It takes a lifetime to do this. But it will affect you in every area of your life.

We’ve been talking over the last couple of sessions about how to grow in discernment so you can recognize truth from error. I want to focus on a few other practical aspects of growing and discernment in this session.

First, we need to become really, really familiar with the truth. That’s how you recognize counterfeits—by being very familiar with the real thing, with the authentic. In order to know what’s wrong with something, you first have to know what the standard is, what is right.

So the role of the Word of God is primary in developing discernment. I’ve said it many times in this series, and I’ll say it as long as you listen to Revive Our Hearts radio: You need to get grounded in the Word of God. Don’t let Christian radio or my books or anybody else’s teaching do for you what only God’s Word can do.

We’ve looked at a number of verses in this series from 2 Timothy chapter 3, where we talked about weak-willed women who were drawn astray by things that are deceptive.

In the context of that passage, the apostle Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3, beginning in verse 14:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (verses 14-17)

Tim Challies—I’ve been referring him to you in this series; he’s written a wonderful book called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. I’m encouraging our listeners to get this book. He deals with the heart of discernment, the will of God in discernment, practicing discernment, developing discernment and a call to discernment. It’s a very outstanding book.

In that book he says, “We discern truth from error and right from wrong by using our minds to search Scripture, to recall Scripture and to compare everything to Scripture. Without the Bible and its objective truths there can be no discernment” (page 69).

The role of the Word is central. Continue in what you have learned. It’s the sacred writings of Scripture that we need. Truth is the most powerful corrective to error. Light dispels darkness.

On Revive Our Hearts I try to spend a lot of time just declaring the truth, shining the light, because it’s the light that expels the darkness. Now, sometimes we have to point out the darkness, and I’ve done some of that in this series. But the most important thing we can do is know the truth so that it will dispel the darkness and the error.

Hold everything you hear up to the Scripture. That’s what we read in Acts chapter 17 that the Bereans did when Paul went to minister there. It says the Bereans “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (verse 11).

The apostle’s teaching—the Bereans said, “Let’s compare it to the Word of God.” So when we say today, “Be a Berean Christian,” that’s what we mean. Examine the Scripture and make sure that what you’re hearing is so.

Now, Paul says, “From childhood, Timothy, you have been acquainted with these sacred writings.” I want to do just a little parenthesis here about the importance of imparting truth to the next generation, to children. Timothy had been trained and schooled at the knees of a righteous, godly grandmother and mother. He perhaps had an unbelieving father, but his mother and grandmother knew the Word of God and had taught it to him from childhood.

Paul says, “Continue in what you’ve learned, and remember from whom you’ve received it.” Go back. Think about their lives and how they modeled to you the beauty of this truth and God’s way of thinking.

Our culture is working around the clock, 24/7, relentlessly to impart deception and ungodly values to your children and your grandchildren. We have to be intentional as an older generation about speaking the truth into their lives, helping them to develop godly discernment so they recognize wickedness that masquerades as goodness and deception that is cloaked in truth and is widely accepted as being truthful.

So as moms, as grandmoms, or as those who are an influence on children in our churches, we have to be alert and look for teachable moments to impart truth. Be intentional. Be watchful. Be vigilant with your children.

By the way, kids can learn truth in very great quantities if they’re motivated to do so. I was talking with a young man in our church the other day. He’s thirteen years old, in the eighth grade. He started telling me about cars. I was giving him a ride home, and he was sitting in my car and telling me about all these cars that were passing by.

He said, “That’s a such-and-such year, and that’s a such-and-such brand and that’s made by so-and-so.”

I looked at him and said, “How do you know all this?”

He said, “I’m just really interested in cars. I read magazines.” Here’s a thirteen-year-old who had his head filled with all kinds of fascinating stuff about cars.

I said, “Is there any car that you don’t know?”

He said, “Not many.”

Well, I’m thinking, what if our kids were taking that time and effort and investing it in getting to know the Word of God? They really could know the Scripture. I am so, so thankful for the early years of my life in our home—with family devotions, with conversation in our home, with Christian school, with Sunday School (which you hardly hear about anymore), with the day-in and day-out, line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept, training and instruction in the Word of God that I received.

Now, you can get your head filled and not have a personal relationship with God. But when the Spirit of God is in your heart, when He’s making it real to you, and when you have people who are living out the truth they’re proclaiming and who are influencing your life—all these things were a huge influence in my life.

I thank the Lord for pastors, for sitting in church week after week after week under pastors who exposited the Word of God and were pouring it into my life in winsome and Spirit-filled ways.

So it’s important to get your children exposed, protecting them from entertainment and influences that would undermine the truth and getting them saturated with the Word. I love these Bible-quizzing programs that some churches have, and AWANA, getting the kids memorizing Scripture.

But it’s more than that. It’s creating an environment—not just with your own kids, but as you’re around other people’s kids—where you’re talking to them about how the Word relates to all of life so that they develop a sense, a radar, about what’s true.

I was at dinner the other night with some friends of mine, and their college freshman daughter was with us at the table. We were talking about one of these books that I’ve had such concern about. She hadn’t read it herself, but as we began discussing it she started pouring out a lot of wise, insightful things about why people are drawn to this kind of stuff. She’s a teenager. And I’m thinking, “Go!”

These parents, thank the Lord, have indoctrinated her—in the best sense of that word—surrounded her and immersed her in the Word of God. And she’s developed a radar, a sense about truth and error that will only continue to develop as she stays in the Word of God.

You know, ultimately the power of discernment is not based so much on what you know or on your capacity for knowledge as it is based on years and years of saturation in the Word of God. And there are no shortcuts to that. You don’t develop discernment in three weeks or three months or three years.

You can grow in it over that period of time. But it’s years upon years of thinking God’s way, which is why we need to be so intentional about filling our minds with the Word of God.

We should not only be filling our minds with the Word of God, but it’s also important to hang around discerning people, to get around people who have discernment. Let me go back to 2 Timothy 3 for a moment. Paul talks about the importance of godly role models in 2 Timothy 3:10. He says, “You [Timothy], however, have followed”—or you have fully known—“my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness.”

Paul is saying, “You’ve been around me, and that has taught you how to be discerning.” Notice that Paul’s teaching and his conduct matched up. It doesn’t help if your teaching is one thing, but you live a different way. Paul is saying to Timothy, study and follow people whose lives are consistent with sound doctrine. As we do, we get encouraged, and we get an example of what it means to be discerning.

Paul says too,

There have been tribulations in my life; there have been persecutions. [In fact, look at verse 11: You have followed] my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (verses 11-13).

Paul is saying, “If you’re going to stand for the truth in an era when deception is rampant, you’re going to have to suffer. So don’t be surprised when the majority opinion is going the wrong direction. Don’t let it throw you. It’s not easy to stay faithful in the midst of an era that does not value absolute truth.” But Paul says, “You have fully known my teaching, my conduct.”

One of the most powerful means that we have to influence others to believe the truth is our life message. Truth is often communicated in the context of relationships. People see the fruit of sound doctrine in our lives, and that’s the best apologetic for truth.

I remember, years ago, talking with a young man who’d grown up in a Christian home, with godly parents, but he had walked away from the truth. He was kicking against it; he was resisting it. I can remember one time, when he was a college student, we were sitting in my car in my garage; we’d just come back from somewhere. And he was spewing out all this doubt about the Christian faith and whether any of this was real and meant anything.

We kept the relationship; we stayed connected. And I kept going after his heart. You know, my first tendency was to give him things to read, like apologetics books. But they didn’t crack him. He was very smart. He always had answers. He always had rebuttals to that.

What did crack his heart was when those of us who were connected to his life, people who loved him, won his heart to Christ by love, by kindness, by conversation and by confrontation at certain points—saying, “You know what? I don’t believe the issue for you is really an intellectual problem. I think in your heart you know this is true. But you’ve chosen a lifestyle that isn’t compatible with truth, and you don’t want to give up your lifestyle. What’s at the heart of what you’re struggling with is rebellion.”

That wasn’t an easy thing to say. Those weren’t easy conversations. But it was through life-to-life conversations like that, with the Holy Spirit of God supernaturally drawing his heart, that that young man did come to Christ Today he is one of the finest servants of the Lord that I know, wholeheartedly sold out to the Lord.

He was able to look at people who lived out the truth and won his heart by saying, “Let’s do life together. You’ve seen my teaching. You’ve seen my conduct.” And it became a powerful means of influence.

Have the humility to listen, to learn, to ask questions and to ask input and counsel from spiritual leaders. This is one big mistake I think Eve made in the Garden. The Scripture says her husband Adam was there with her when the serpent came to her. The wise thing for her to have done at that point would be to turn to her husband and say, “Honey, is this true? Is this what God said? What should we do about this?”—to get discernment from a spiritual leader that God had put into her life.

But she didn’t do that. She struck out on her own. I find in my life that it’s very important, no matter how grounded you are, to have around you wise and discerning people that you can ask to help safeguard your own thinking.

With any book that I write, I have it go through theological review from godly men who are grounded in the Word. When I have a question about something I’m getting ready to teach or I’m grappling with a particular principle—I’ve done this in the past week—I talk with someone like one of our board members and say, “Help me wrestle through some of these issues and make sure that I’m seeing this from a biblical standpoint.” Be a learner. Be teachable and go to the right kind of people who are biblically grounded to get your input.

Make sure you’re in a church where the Word and sound doctrine are being taught consistently—not just moralizing, not just building your self-esteem, not just giving you how-to’s to have a happy life—but sound biblical teaching. Make sure you’re in that kind of church.

Don’t try to go it alone in this discernment issue. God gives us spiritual leaders, pastors, teachers, and husbands to instruct in sound doctrine, to warn us about deception and to protect us spiritually.

And then you have to keep growing in your faith. This is not a once-for-all thing. There’s never a time in the Christian life when we can afford to coast or to drift when it comes to discernment.

The book of Jude, which as you know is just one chapter long, is a discourse, a treatise, on the characteristics of false teachers. Then Jude says in verse 20, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God” (verses 20-21).

Building yourself up, doing it all the time, continue growing, continue maturing in your insight and your discernment—that’s the greatest antidote to false teaching coming into your life. But it doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional.

If you’re not intentional about building yourself up and keeping yourself in the faith and in the love of God, then the world will suck you into its deception. You can’t just sit still. You’ve got to be maturing. You’ve got to be making progress and growing. And there are no shortcuts. Have I told you that already? Discernment is the fruit of a lifetime of intentional effort to know God, His Word and His ways.

And then stay connected to Christ. Colossians chapter 2 says,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority (verses 8-10).

Keep going back to Christ. He is the center. He is the glue. He is the core. He is the heart. He is the epitome, the paragon, of all virtue and truth. He is the truth. He is the Bread. He is the Water. He is the Life. He is the Way.

Go to Christ. Get to Christ. For everything you’re reading in the Scripture, ask, “How does this point me to Christ?” Stay connected to Him, and you will be protected from error.

Paul says in Philippians chapter 1,

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (verses 9-10).

That’s my burden for you. I don’t want you just to love listening to Christian radio. I want you to know God’s Word and love applying it to everything that comes across your path—filled with discernment, approving what is excellent.

And we have this confidence that one day the deceiver who is out to deceive the whole world, Satan himself, will be defeated by Christ who is the truth. If you don’t know that story, go to the last book of the Bible, Revelation chapter 20, and other passages in Revelation.

And you see that when the devil is captured, he is bound for 1,000 years, and then he is loosed. In the little bit of time he’s loosed, he’ll rise once again to deceive the nations. But then he is captured again. He is thrown into the lake of fire. He is tormented day and night, forever and ever. He will not win.

And Christ who is the truth will reign and rule forever and ever, hallelujah, amen. To encourage the believers in Rome, the apostle Paul says at the end of his great theological treatise, the book of Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20).

So when it seems like the whole world is turning to deception and there’s such a slim minority of people, such a slim remnant of people who are going with God’s truth, lift up your head. Take courage and know that soon, according to God’s Word, the God of peace will crush Satan the deceiver under your feet.

And in the meantime, the Lord is able to protect and preserve us, no matter what the flow around us is doing. Yes, we have to swim against the flow. We have to be salmon swimming upstream. We’ve said that many times on Revive Our Hearts. But God is able to protect us.

I love the way that Jude closes his little epistle after this whole treatise warning about false teachers and false teaching, telling us we’re to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, keeping ourselves in the love of God.

Here’s what it comes down to in Jude 24-25: “Now to him who is able to keep you . . .” We’re to keep ourselves in the love of God, but He’s the one who keeps us. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Nancy: Well, as we bring this current series to a close today, Discerning Truth in a World of Deception, I have to tell you that the response over the last couple of weeks has been “off the charts.” I want you to know how grateful I am to the many people who have posted comments on the comment blog, they’ve emailed us and they’ve sent us questions and comments. I’m so encouraged by your desire to understand the importance of filtering the messages that bombard us every day through the lens of Scripture.

Now, many of our listeners have affirmed that you whole-heartedly agree with the concerns I’ve expressed and the things I’ve shared. And then there are those who have expressed some pretty strong disagreement. I just want to say to you that it’s not been my intent to be harsh or unkind or ungracious in any way, but just to encourage you to filter everything through the grid of Scripture.

Some of you have raised some very honest and legitimate questions about how to apply these concepts to issues that you are facing in your church or your family or among your friends. I wish we had time to address all of those questions.

A lot of the comments we received just highlight the fact that there is a lot of confusion out there today. So my hope is that you’ve been motivated to be intentional about cultivating biblical discernment. We need to know how to discern between what is true and what is false.

Although this series is ending today, I want to encourage you to continue to hone your discernment skills with Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. I found this book to be a great resource as I was preparing this series and I know it will help answer some of the questions you have in a more thorough way than we’ve been able to do over these past couple of weeks.

We’ll be glad to send you that book by Tim Challies’, The Disciplines of Spiritual Discernment, when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just ask for the book when you call us at 1-800-569-5959. Or look for the offer of Tim Challies’ book when you go to

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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