Matthew 16:1-4


  • When you look up the word “discern” in the Webster’s Dictionary you will find it to mean… 1) to separate (a thing) mentally from another. 2) to recognize as separate 3) to perceive or make out clearly.
  • So, discernment is the act of being able to discern. The ability to be able to realize the difference between right and wrong, to realize when something is not what it is supposed to be. To separate the good from the bad. To understand clearly what is right and wrong.
  • The word discern is located in the KJV Bible 17 times, while the word “discernment” is found 0 times.
  1. Genesis 31:32… Jacob answers Laban and asks him to discern (decide) what belongings are his and what belongs to Jacob.
  2. Genesis 38:25 … Tamar (a harlot) had exposed Judah’s sin when she was accused of immorality and asked her accusers to “discern” as to whether they were doing the right thing or not in their judgment.
  3. II Samuel 14:17…a handmaid of the Lord announced that her king, like an angel of God, knows how to discern between good and bad.  
  • This is vitally important to the Christians (Christ like people) in order for us to live our lives as holy, meaningful, and blessed (happy) as God wants.
  • We must make many choices in our life here on earth and we must be able to clearly discern the choices made available or the incidents, problems or events that arise.
  • A “good choice” that you make will result in good things that are to the benefit of all.
  • A “bad choice” will result in bad things that will come about to bring destruction or ruin.
  • The lack of discernment” is the biggest problem facing the church today.
  • Churches, families, individuals, and even countries today are in peril and ruin because of their lack of discernment.
  • People today accept the wrong things and reject the things that are right.
  • People today accept the wrong theology and wrong teaching.
  • People today follow the wrong people and listen to what they read or believe.
  • A pastor’s son had graduated from college and was signed on to play baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and the son needed his car left at home. He asked his dad to bring the car to him. The team had assigned him to Savannah, Georgia for spring training. So, the dad (pastor) had to drive this little Honda car there from the L.A. area of California. The dad was driving along and noticed a sign by this country road that said “QUILTS” with an arrow on it pointing the direction to take on this road. The pastor thought about his wife and how she liked quilts and along the country road he goes. It was raining pretty hard as he drove down the road and noticed this house that was more like a shack with flapping doors. The pastor ran and jumped on the porch and noticed that it was dark inside the shack and smoke filled the air as he said “Hello…is anybody there?” This voice inside says “What do yew want?” The pastor said I wanna quilt. This lady with a few teeth came to the door and led me inside. It felt like a bad situation and then the pastor noticed a man sitting in a cheap worn out recliner and looked as if he was camping there.
  • To the man’s left was stacked all kinds of magazines and newspapers, and to his right were stacks of video tapes. He was sitting in front of 2 T.V.’s and 2 video machines. He looked at the pastor and said… “My name’s Johnny.” The pastor said “Well Johnny it looks like you have a lot of literature here.” The pastor had looked and noticed that the man had some books by James Dobson, Unity Fellowship, Unitarianism, Book of Mormon, and some Christian Science magazines, and Moody Press stuff and just a vast assortment of literature. The pastor said… “You have quite a mix of things here.” You know what the man said? He replied… “There’s good in all of it.” The pastor thought that this man lacked discernment. You have to know what is good and what is bad. Then the wife comes from the back of the house and brought back the ugliest quilt you could ever see. “I made it myself.” She said. What do you say? Some new mother shows you her new born ugly baby and you can’t just ask “Is that a baby?” The pastor couldn’t just ask her “Is that a quilt?” There was no pattern or border or any sort of color theme or anything. It reminded the pastor of the man’s theology “There’s good in all of it.” The pastor said “Well, it’s not the color I was looking for.” And then the pastor left. It was a whole bunch of nothing all sewn together that made no sense.
  • Some people’s lives are a lot like that. Their lives are just ugly quilts that make no sense, that have no rhyme or reason, just bits and pieces of life all sewn together without any particular pattern.
  • A SIMPLE TRUTH – Two things are available to us in the world… 1) The TRUTH of God and 2) The LIE of the enemy.
  • We live in a world where “truth and lies” are in constant conflict. It is war.
  • The Bible is filled with warnings about LIARS.
  • God hates LIARS.
  • God hates those who tell LIES.
  • God Himself cannot LIE. He always speaks the truth.
  • Satan is a LIAR. He is the father of all LIES.
  • Therefore, we must learn how to “discern” between TRUTH and LIE.
  • We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit who helps us discern between TRUTH and a LIE.

I. The Ability To Be Able To Distinguish Between False and True

  A) The first example (Pharisees)

  • The Pharisees an Sadducees could never get along. Their only tie together was the fact they hated Jesus. They agreed together to try and rid their world of this Jesus fellow.
  • The Pharisees were strict fundamentalists while the Sadducees were the religious liberals. They decide to become partners in crime when it came to testing Jesus.
  • They both were so full of pride that they let it clouded their vision to see the truth.
  • Go to our text of Matthew 16:1…The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
  • Verse 2) He (Jesus) answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3) And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.
  • Jesus is telling them basically that they seem to be able to discern for yourselves about the weather and what is going to happen the next day by what you seen the day before.
  • Verse 3b…O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
  • Jesus (as he often did) called these religious leaders “hypocrites.” Now you see, this is why Jesus was on their black list of those they hated.
  • Why did Jesus call them hypocrites? He called them hypocrites because they were pretending to be something they are not. What were they pretending to be? Weathermen for one. The other was being so full of wisdom concerning the things of God. The third thing was they pretended to be wise discerners of the truths of God.
  • Jesus tells them “You can discern the weather but then you can’t discern what is happening around you. You are religious authorities with primitive ways to discern the weather and that is better than your ways of discerning the truths that stand right in front of you (The Messiah, the Son of God)
  • Sometimes folks, we are just as bad as these religious leaders in that we can discern the weather based on our limited knowledge of it, but yet we fail at knowing about the Kingdom of God (which is far more important).
  • 4) A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

B) Two Scriptures That help us

  • Every pastor’s concern is for his people to be able to discern the truth from a lie and many fail in this area. I personally am concerned because many of our people are deceived and they have no idea of what the Kingdom of God is all about.
  • Go to II Corinthians 11:1…Paul has continued struggles with the Corinthian church because of their lack of discernment in worshipping idols, immorality, and rampant sinful patterns that were ruining the work that Paul is trying to revive.
  • II Corinthians 11:1…Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
  • Here is Paul’s concern in verse 2) For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  • Paul says that I have a relationship with you that is like a marriage. I love you and want to see you be the best bride (church) that a husband can have when you meet your groom (Jesus Christ).
  • Do you know what a Godly man’s expectations of his daughter should be towards her future husband? That she remain a virgin (Pure without sin) until the marriage.
  • Paul wanted these church members to remain pure and be able to discern between TRUTH and LIE.
  • Now Paul shares his concern of this simple fact mentioned in verse 3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
  • Paul basically said… “I am afraid that satan is going to deceive you like he did Eve and lead you astray into believing things that are not true.”
  • God gives pastors a love for a specific group of people. This love is like a marital love in that they are bonded together in “one body.” The body of Christ. Does not the word of God tell us that in a marriage the two are to become one flesh? (see 2:24)
  • Paul continues in his concerns about their discernment in verse 4…For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
  • We all know that there is one “Jesus.” What Paul means here is that he is concerned that this group will follow anyone who is false to mislead them into a false gospel full of false hope, false faith and false happiness.
  • Look at the “Basics of Christian Living” that Paul points out here in I Thessalonians 5…
  1. Verse 16… Rejoice always
  2. Verse 17…Pray without ceasing
  3. Verse 18…In everything give thanks
  4. Verse 19…Quench not the Spirit
  5. Verses 20, 21, 22…Do not downgrade any revelation from God by His preachers, but examine it to see if it is true or not true, Stand up for those things that you know are fact, and keep away from anything that even looks evil.
  • Paul here is teaching the Thessalonians to discern TRUTH from LIE.
  • Do you know how many people in church today do not listen to the words of a preacher? BILLIONS!
  • Do you know why people do not listen or obey the preacher?
  1. They lack discernment.
  2. Preachers have failed in their study of scripture.
  3. People are weak spiritually and fall into Satan’s trap.
  4. People believe what they want to believe
  • You go to a pastor for spiritual advice. You go to a doctor for physical advice. You go to a mechanic for mechanical issues.
  • A person usually gets several different opinions of these specialists but then they believe whichever one that they want to believe.
  • Some people are lousy discerners of the truth. They continually follow the wrong people and do the wrong things.
  • Look at what was said of King David… II Samuel 14:17…Then thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable: for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad: therefore the LORD thy God will be with thee.
  • David’s handmaid had said of him… 1) his word gives her comfort 2) like an angel of God, he discerns good and bad 3) God is with him because of his ability to discern good from bad.


II. Why The Church Lacks Discernment

  A) Worthiness in the Kingdom of God

  • Your worth or value in the Kingdom of God is based on how well you are able to discern regarding the truth.
  • You will be useless to God in His Kingdom if you cannot discern properly.
  • If you cannot discern the truth from a lie, how in the world can you show or lead someone else to the truth of God.
  • Lies bring trouble. Trouble ensues bad judgment upon its person. Bad judgment brings pain and suffering.
  • God’s desire is to see His children “blessed” (happy).
  • Good discernment leads to good choices. Making good choices is the key to happiness.
  • Do you want to be a blessing to others and help them go through life being happy? Quit trying to “wing it” and learn proper discernment.

B) Why is there a lack of discernment?

  • A WEAKENING OF DOCTRINAL CLARITY – Churches today (Which is “the people”) do not have a clear picture of what is TRUE DOCTRINE.
  • Do we know why they lack the knowledge of the true doctrines of Jesus Christ? I believe that it is because they are trying to make the Bible fit their lifestyle rather than their lifestyle fit the Bible.
  • I believe that the real reason people lack discernment today is because they are afraid of hurting people’ s feelings or afraid to make enemies of friends.
  • There is a huge lack of people that take a stand on something without wavering.
  • The big thing today is “You must be flexible.” Oh, I couldn’t agree more. But not to the point where it jeopardizes my faith, or compromises God’s word. If it is not biblical, then I can’t stand for it.
  • John MacArthur was on the Larry King Show recently and they were interviewing John and a Muslim leader. John said he would never forget the question of Larry King to the Deepak Chopra (Muslim leader)… “Is God a Christian?” Deepak said “No.” Deepak went on to say… “He is the God of everybody.”
  • God is Christ, and Christ is God. Of course He is a Christian.
  • God is not the God of everybody! He is not the God of those who worship idols, or satan, or the world. God is only God to those who believe in His Son.
  • The problem lies in people not having any discernment…God of everybody, what a crackpot!
  • Here is another truth… Are you familiar with the dying “Vineyard Movement?” Let me enlighten you. This movement believes in “relativism.”
  • Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures.
  1. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral;
  2. Meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong;
  3. Normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.
  • The leader of the Vineyard Movement is John Wimber who partnered up with the Church of England leader David Watson.
  • David Watson said… ““The reason I travel with a team (music praise team)…gifted as they are in the performing arts is that they are able to communicate the gospel much more effectively than I could with mere words.”
  • So I guess the deaf are left out, since they can’t be affected by the music.
  • God didn’t give us a musical video. He gave us His Book (the Bible).
  • Music comes and goes and certain kinds fade away. I used to listen to “country music.” Have you listened to it lately? It’s not what I would call country. It’s rock/jazz/mumbo jumbo all rolled into one.
  • Discernment is lacking! No one stands their ground.
  • The Bible is authoritative, gives us definitive character, and direction. The Bible is a printed copy of God’s word that needs to be preached, read, and shared with others.
  • I will share one more thing that this ignorantamos David Watson said…“Most churches rely heavily on the written Word and then they wonder why so few people find the Christian faith to be relevant.”

III. Knowing What You Believe

  A) I Believe There is One God (The Trinity)

  • I John 5:7 (KJV)…For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
  • This is why I do not worship idols. I don’t believe in Buddah, or Allah, or any other form of a god.
  • This is discernment. Knowing what you believe and stick with it and do not allow some half-brained wing-nut tell you any different.

  B) I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God

  • The Centurion soldier at the cross recognized Jesus as the son of God in Matthew 27:54 (KJV) … “Truly this was the Son of God.”
  • Mark (the apostle) recognized Him in Mark 1:1…The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
  • The demons of satan’s world recognized Him in Mark 3:11 (KJV) …And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
  • There are so many more people that recognize Jesus as the Son of God because the have discernment in being able to know what is right and what is wrong, what is true and untrue. Even the demons of Satan have discernment. They know what is right and wrong but they choose the wrong, they choose sin, they choose separation from God.
  • You want to see discernment? Look at Luke 22:66…(Peter had already denied Christ 3 times, Jesus now is on trial by the Sanhedrin) And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, 67) Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
  • Jesus told them that If he told them who he was they wouldn’t believe. And you know what…they didn’t. Because they lacked discernment.
  • 68) And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me 69) Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. 70) Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. 71) And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
  • They didn’t believe in Christ as being the Son of God. They do not recognize the truth when it is literally standing right in front of them.

  C) I believe in the doctrine of “justification”

  • To be “justified” is to be treated as if you had never done anything wrong to begin with. After we ask forgiveness of our sin and try to live as God wants us to live, He treats us as if we had never sinned.
  • Jesus tells us here in Matthew 12:36…But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Do not misunderstand this term “in the day of judgment.” It means in the day for which you will bring the judgment of God upon you for the sin you have committed or the right that you have done.
  • Verse 37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
  • Your words can allow God to treat you as if you never sinned, and your words can also bring God’s condemnation upon you.
  • Romans 3:23…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
  • I could go on and on about what doctrines I believe and what I do not believe, but it means nothing if I lack discernment. My religion is vain if I lack discernment.
  • If you are going to be discerning, you must be convicted (by the Holy Spirit) about doctrine.

How good are you at discerning?