What Discernment Actually Looks Like

A few days ago I posted a link from Phil Johnson on the Pyromanics blog regarding Mark Driscoll’s self-proclaimed “gift of discernment”, which sounded more like a man with a dirty mind talking offensively to the sheep under his care. In the post on Driscoll’s madness found HERE , I call attention to why I believe Driscoll has fallen away from the basic pillars and  qualifications of an elder/overseer of the church (I am assuming that he had these qualifications at one point). He is speaking on discernment while demonstrating the lack of discernment in what is appropriate for discussion from the pulpit…or, sadly, the stage as it is in his case.

I now want follow up on this story by sharing what real discernment looks like.

John MacArthur was asked in this video what he thinks may come about in the church in the years to come and MacArthur is quick to comment on the essential component missing from so many churches and pastors today in the reformed faith. In part one he talks about how having reformed soteriology doesn’t give you a pass in regard to the role as a shepherd or with the way you conduct yourself.

Part 1 – Reversal of the Reformed Revival

In part 2 of this interview, MacArthur again challenges us in a wonderful way. Are our pastors involved in the life of the church? Are you attending a church that has a video screen playing the sermon, which MacArthur calls “Flat Screen Preaching”? How can you tell if this man is qualified to be an elder and above reproach if he only exists on a video screen? What sort of church is that? We should not allow a rock-n-roll event on Sunday morning replace the  shepherding care of our souls.

Part 2 – Reversal of the Reformed Revival

Let us not forget how Paul instructs Timothy regarding overseers of the church in his first letter to Timothy. These words are tragically ignored, forgotten, pushed aside, and downplayed way too much today:

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

12 thoughts on “What Discernment Actually Looks Like

  1. atg:

    I do not wish to detract/sidetrack from the thrust of this excellent post, but your statement confuses me and seems very out of place:

    “I call attention to why I believe Driscoll has fallen away from the basic pillars and qualifications of an elder/overseer of the church (I am assuming that he had these qualifications at one point).”

    At what point since 1996 do you assume Driscoll became Biblically qualified to be an elder, and for what reasons? Please clarify.


  2. DavidW,

    My point in that statement was that I do not believe by his words, actions, or personal witness that he is currently above reproach and I call question to his being fit and qualified to be an elder. That is to say that I don’t believe he is above reproach, which is the primary qualification in Paul’s list in 1 Timothy 3. By saying “I assume that he had these qualifications at one point” means that I am assuming that he was above reproach and didn’t represent himself the way he does now back when he was ordained as an elder in his church originally. I can’t imagine a church would promote a guy like him to eldership by the way he acts now and they I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt in saying that I assume he was above reproach when ordained and has over the years has fallen into the guy we see today.

    I hope that helps.


  3. Excellent videos. John Mac has hit the nail on the head, I thought of Paul instructing Timothy, Pastor John is getting on and trying to hand down some Biblical insight and wisdom that he has learned from all his years in the pulpit. The problem is now that most don’t want to listen. Oh the folly of people who can’t be told because they think they know it all


  4. atg:

    Though I strongly believe without any doubt (based upon his continual fruit and testimony from the very beginning) that Driscoll was NEVER qualified to be an elder, I won’t belabor the point. That Driscoll is currently disqualified from being an elder (and has been so disqualified for years) is the bottom line, and so I agree with you there. What we see in him today is the continual manifestations of a still unregenerated man who can “talk the talk” very well when it suits his purposes. Well enough in fact as to deceive not only his thousands of followers, but the likes of John Piper and others who ought to know better (obvious lack of discernment there).

    And when we speak of discernment, recognizing who is my brother and who is a false brother, who is merely immature and gullible, and who is a deceiver, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and who is indwelt/influenced by a seducing spirit masquerading as the Holy Spirit, is where the rubber meets the road. For such discernment is only given by God to His true children who are walking in submissive obedience to His Word. Those who attempt to circumvent such discernment by relying on conversation, “feelings”, or mutual beliefs alone, are fertile ground for being deceived by the clever wiles of Satan.

    Too many foolishly take mutual beliefs as “proof” or “solid evidence” of one’s right spiritual standing with God. If they quote all the “essentials of the faith”, if they defend all the right doctrines top to bottom, if they also perform good works, then, well, it’s a no brainer that they’re right with God and therefore my brother in Christ. Right? No! That’s not what Jesus said. He never said we would know them (either of God, or not of God) by their words, nor by their actions, but by their fruit. A good tree CANNOT bear bad fruit. Preaching a sound, solid Gospel message, yet ALSO preaching that which is contrary to the Scriptures, or continually displaying unregenerate behavior, is fruit that is NOT consistent with THE VINE.

    The girl with the spirit of divination of Acts 16 is a great example. She followed around after Paul, even saying “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” Now, we know the whole story, because we are told she had a spirit of divination. But at the time, by her words, did she sound like a believer? Was she a child of God bearing testimony and good fruit in what she was saying? Was she helping to further the Gospel in telling others to listen to Paul? Not according to God’s Word. Paul discerned (by the Holy Spirit) that she was possessed by an EVIL spirit, even though her words would seem to indicate the very opposite. THAT is discernment.

    By the sheer volume of church people falling over themselves to follow the likes of Driscoll, Warren, and so many other false teachers today, it is apparent that there is a deplorable dearth of discernment among those professing to be Christians today. And that stems from the equally deplorable lack of obedient submission to God’s Word.


  5. DavidW,

    Well said. I know nothing of Driscroll’s roots, so I’ve been as charitable as possible to him in my comments of his past. The display of offensiveness over the last few years is enough though for me to find him discredited and dangerous.

    I think all of 1 Corinthians 9 is relevant as well.



  6. I saw these videos a couple days back on Ken Silva’s blog. When I heard Mac’s comments on flat screen preachers, I thought of Ross King’s song, Happy, from his album “Perhaps I’ve said too much” http://rosskingmusic.com/home_buy.htm

    My church has a short video telling a bit about us, with this song as the background music: http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/GFBC2/

    Happy – Ross King
    Fourteen thousand members and me
    Watch the preacher up on the screen
    I have never shaken his hand
    My two-dimensional pastor man
    Welcome to America

    Doesn’t matter if I am here
    In this crowd I could disappear
    Pastor man is all that we need
    Preaching via satellite feed
    I can watch it all from my pew
    Until the presentation is through

    You will have to pardon me
    But this cannot be all there is
    I can’t imagine God would be
    Happy about this

    Smiling people up on the stage
    Everyone prefers it that way
    Smiling people out in the crowd
    No questioning or doubting allowed
    This is our America

    Where everyone is pretty and clean
    Where everything’s rehearsed and routine

    You will have to pardon me
    But this cannot be all there is
    I can’t imagine God would be
    Happy about this

    What if Jesus disagrees
    With how you measure your success
    Would you find a way to still believe
    He’s happy about this?
    What if He’s not happy about this?

    The Church is now the Body of Christ
    And every part is equally prized
    The eye can never say to the hand
    “All we need is this preacher man”
    Would you notice if I was gone?
    How easy would it be to move on?

    You will have to pardon me
    But this cannot be all there is
    I can’t imagine God would be
    Happy about this

    ‘Cause the crowds don’t necessarily
    Mean that God is truly blessed
    I think there is a chance He’s not
    happy about this
    What if He’s not happy about this?
    What if He’s not happy about this?


  7. Just a request, beloved friends:
    Is there a chance to get John MacArthurs Interview as text-only (pdf?)?
    Serving in Indonesia it is very, very hard to get the videos because of the phone lines in our area….
    Just a question, however.


  8. People follow false teachers and doctrines because they don’t know the correct doctrine to begin with…I used to be one of those people who blindly followed a false (abhorent) teacher and their false interpretation of the Word…the key is to get your doctrine right in the beginning…so you can discern what is false and what is the truth of the Word…I finally found out (by Gods grace) by taking a (free) on line theology course…my eyes were opened, my dead and rotting spirit was awakened and embrace the teacing of the fore fathers of the apostolic succession…Praise God I am no longer in the ditch and up on the hiway……


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