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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spiritual Understanding

5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
(2 Peter 1:5-9)

We explored the specifics of good character yesterday.  Peter reminded us of the importance of allowing the moral foundation of our lives to be rebuilt / reformed by the hand of God, in order to affect the choices that form our reputation.  Today, we look at adding to that the attribute of spiritual understanding.  This is more than a personal interpretation of the things contained in the Word of God. It involves our intellectual faculties, but it also involves the power to discern.

Discernment is the ability to recognize something for what it is - in other words, it is the application of knowledge (what we know) to what it is we are interpreting.  If we are using "natural" discernment, we are relying on the past experiences we have had and what we have amassed in our years of learning (education, exposure to research, etc.) to "interpret" the new information or experience we are encountering.  The problem with this type of discernment is that it is limited by our experiences and exposure to things in life.  

Spiritual discernment involves the process of taking what we are exposed to and running it through a series of "testing" filters to ensure that we are interpreting it correctly.  These include the Word of God, the direction of the Holy Spirit, and our own conscience.  If what we are interpreting "checks out" through these filters (lines up with the Word, doesn't get us a "check" in our spirit, etc.), we are usually safe to embrace the learning, tackle the project, or pursue the path before us.  If it does not, we need to step back and "regroup" with God on the matter.

Discernment involves the ability to distinguish between two or more "criteria" and find the truth in it, know the direction we are to take, etc.  As we grow in our understanding of the Word of God, for instance, we find it takes less time to distinguish truth when we are hearing it.  The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance what we have previously studied, allowing it to deny or confirm what it is that we are being exposed to today.

Spiritual understanding grows as we are exposed to the things God has given us for our development - the Word, solid teaching, etc.  Understanding is never a stagnant thing - it develops over time, constantly being expanded and renewed.  I know that things I had been exposed to in the Word a long time ago can come alive in a new way when I am exposed to those same things today.  Why is this?  It is simply that we have grown in our understanding by little bits here and there.  We have allowed the Word to affect us - giving us new "filtering" capacity.  What we "filtered" one way in the youth of our Christian walk may have a totally different application to us today.  

If we are to develop a solid moral foundation, we need our spiritual understanding to be developed.  Development is always a process - it is one foot in front of the other.  To this small iota of knowledge about how God works we see added another iota of knowledge.  This is repeated over and over again, until our knowledge of God's ways of working in our lives is increased.  In time, this serves as a basis of "interpreting" how we respond to what circumstances life brings our way.

Tomorrow, we will consider the next trait that Peter reminds us is important for our spiritual development:  Alert Discipline!