I don’t do much fishing but I enjoy it when I have the chance to do it. I am not good at fish-catching but there is something about being in a boat on a calm lake surrounded by nature….
One time while fishing, I dropped my pole into the water. I was fishing with a friend in a row boat anchored near the shore of a small lake. While watching my bobber, I dozed and awoke when I felt myself losing my balance. Grabbing the side of the boat to steady myself, I let go of my pole and it dropped into the water beside the boat.
But not to worry since we were anchored, right? It shoulda’ been easy to spot the pole on the nearby lake bottom except for one problem. We were not anchored after all but adrift, dragging the anchor.
When we dropped anchor, we were straight out from a cottage on the shore and now we were 100 yards or so down the lake from that cottage. Disconnected from our mooring, we were unable to determine where the pole went into the lake. It’s probably still there.
That fishing story came back to me years later when I again felt disconnected from a mooring. This time, I wasn’t in a boat but an organization. I was trying to understand and develop a plan for addressing internal disagreement about how things were and where we were going.
When discernment is my intent, the Bible is my mooring.
For disciples of Jesus, the Bible is our most solid foundation for discernment. Whether your context is secular or Christian, God is sovereign over all of life so his principles still apply and work even in contexts where his sovereignty isn’t acknowledged or where he is openly rejected.
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 complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3: 16-17)
As a follower of Jesus, I aspire to be a man of God so I can rely on Scripture to guide me for all my work and life. Furthermore, while the Bible warns about judging unbelievers, it encourages Christians to hold each other accountable to God’s standards.
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Corinthians 5:12)
Among Christians, certain conduct should be obvious. When it’s not, suspect a disconnection from Biblical moorings.
In the apostle John’s first epistle (1 John 4), he provides some great guidance for believers to discern whether the Spirit of God (Capital S) or the spirit of the world (small s) is active in a given situation.
- acknowledging Jesus and that he has come in the flesh (v. 2-3)
- aspiring to, listening to and taking cues from God’s word (v. 6)
- sincere love for fellow believers (v. 7)
- openness, transparency and mutual respect – no fear of judgment or retribution (v. 18)
Awesome list, isn’t it? Most of us move in circles where no open connection to Biblical principles are openly acknowledged. However, I’ve been involved in several “Christian” circles where these filters also didn’t play. This is exactly the situation that John’s advice applies to.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
John’s audience for this letter is fellow believers, the church. The false prophets he’s talking about here are in the church.
I have twice served on a church board where part of the pastor’s orientation of new members was to encourage any person at any time to “interrupt” discussion with a prayer, a word from the Lord or a reading from the Bible. He explained that such an interruption would correct or enhance our perspective regardless of what was being discussed.
Think about this board or you or your company as a little boat cast upon the vast seas of life. To navigate, you need to have a fixed point or a mooring against which to determine where you are and where you are going.
While the members of that board were not in agreement about all the matters before us, we were in agreement about our mooring, our fixed point of reference.
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Psalm 119: 160)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (2 Timothy 2:19)
For life to work, we need a reliable point of reference. Without it, we are adrift without much hope of making sense of whatever life throws our way.
Image source: http://www.northernwildernesscottages.com/