Ladies, be sure you don’t skip this introductory lesson to our study!
Welcome to our new study, Choose What is Right: A Study in Discernment!
Discernment has various connotations in various contexts, but for the purposes of this study, we’re going to keep the focus narrow and define discernment as being able to tell the difference – from rightly handled, in context Scripture – between sound, biblical doctrine and false doctrine.
What does the Bible say about discerning between true and false doctrine? How does God regard false teachers, and how are we to deal with them in our personal lives and families, and as the church?
Have you ever read the book of Job? When we think about Job’s story, our minds usually turn to the theme of suffering, and how to suffer well as Christians, but did you realize another major theme of the book of Job is discernment? Job’s three friends come to him in his suffering and comfort him with … false doctrine. Job is well on his way to believing them when his true friend, Elihu, steps in and, though he’s not perfect, does his level best to correct them.
The theme verse for this topical study in discernment comes from Elihu’s speech in Job 34:
Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.Job 34:2-4
This 11-15 lesson study will help us to be wise women who pay attention to what God says about discernment and how to avoid false doctrine. It will show us how to test words as the palate tastes food. It will teach us to know what is good, so we can choose what is right.
The striking title image for our study was designed by Jodi Alderson. To me the doors represent the idea that we are often presented with several options of teachers or doctrines that all appear, on the surface, to be equally good and biblical. We must use our discernment skills to find out which ones actually match up with Scripture.
Another aspect of the image I like is the use of light and darkness. We live in a world of darkness. Some of the doors we’re presented with are obviously dark and will only lead to more darkness. But some of the doors appear to shine forth the light of truth. (It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, which is a verse we’ll tackle later in this study.) Which ones really lead to truth? We have to know what is good so we can choose the ones that are right. Great job, Jodi!
Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard on your entries for our title pic contest. You ladies were very creative and did some outstanding work!
There were too many entries to share all of them with you, but here are a few “honorable mentions”:
(I need to apologize for creating some confusion in the article announcing the title pic contest about whether the title was supposed to be “Choose What is Right” or “Choose What is Good“. I think what happened is that I have a teaching session for my speaking engagements on Titus 2:3-5 entitled “Teach What Is Good” and that title kept getting mixed up in my brain with the title and key verse for this study. Thank you so much to those who brought this error to my attention. I promise my mix up did not affect the contest in any way. I was judging images and design, not wording.)
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Choose What Is Right: A Study in Discernment
Part of my philosophy of Bible study is that our main “diet” should be systematic, expositional study of the text. In other words: pick a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and study it through to the end. Then, pick another book and start again. This method of studying helps us understand passages in their context and correctly apply them to our lives, and helps us avoid eisegesis, taking passages out of context, and incorrectly applying them.
However, there is a place for the study of a biblical topic such as peace, sin, the family, God’s wrath, or biblical womanhood. For example: if you’re struggling to trust God because of a sudden circumstance in your life, you don’t have time to study through every book of the Bible to learn what the Bible says about trusting God. You may need to spend some time in focused study on passages from various books that deal specifically with the topic of trusting God, and that’s OK. My goal with this study is not only that you learn what the Bible has to say about the topic of discernment, but also to demonstrate how to do a topical study properly so you can do topical studies on your own when the need arises.
Normally, in the introductory lesson to my studies, we take a look at the author of the book of the Bible we’re studying, the audience he wrote it to, the historical setting of the book, and other “backstory” issues. But because this is a topical study, and we’ll be examining passages from various books of the Bible, we’ll have to briefly address those issues as needed in each lesson.
So in the introduction to this study, I’d like to address two items in your “backstory.”
If you’re not saved, this study isn’t going to be very helpful to you, because, as we’ll soon learn, lost people are naturally drawn to false teachers and false doctrine, and are incapable of truly embracing the things of God.
This week, before we tackle discernment, I’d like everyone – even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re saved – to work through the Scriptures and materials at the What Must I Do to Be Saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page (and while you’re there, let’s do a little social media evangelism – share the link for that page around to your friends and followers!).
Do you understand the biblical gospel? Have you truly repented of your sin and trusted Christ as Savior? Spend some time alone with God examining your heart and life against these Scriptures. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re genuinely saved, I would encourage you to put this study aside and work through my study Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up first. You cannot be discerning if you don’t belong to God.
Expectations and Presuppositions
What do you expect out of this study? What kinds of ideas or preconceived notions are you carrying into this study? Take some time to answer the following questions.
1. When you hear the word “discernment,” what do you think of?
2. Without looking in your Bible, jot down five or ten things you think the Bible teaches about discernment.
3. What does your church teach about discernment? Is your church careful about its doctrine and the materials it uses? Is there someone in your church that you look up to as a good example of discernment?
4. What Scriptures come to mind when you think about discernment?
5. Why are you interested in a study about discernment, and what do you hope to get out of this study?
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to discernment? What are some things you’d like to improve on?
Take some time in prayer between now and our next lesson to begin preparing your heart for this study. If there’s a specific issue you struggle with when it comes to discernment, ask God to teach you the truth of His Word about that issue and strengthen you in that area. Write down your prayer and review it when the study is over to see how God answered you through the study of His Word. I’m excited to have you join me in this journey of discovering what God’s Word has to say about discernment!
Our next lesson will be two weeks from today.