Discernment vs. Judging: Christians Need to Know Their Huge Difference

By Xiaoran

Hello brothers and sisters of Spiritual Q&A,

I ran into a fellow church member yesterday. She talked with me about many mysteries in the Bible that I had not known before and I gained so much from listening to her fellowshiping. However, when she exposed the actions and conduct of the pastors and elders, and said that they were the Pharisees of the present age, I could not accept it. I thought she was judging the pastors and elders, an action which would be condemned by the Lord, because the Lord Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mat 7:1). But she said doing that was not judging them but was being discerning with them. Drawing upon the words of the Lord Jesus, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat 7:15), she told me that the Lord said, “Beware of false prophets,” because He wants us to learn to discern. Usually, we just look at others’ appearances and are unable to thoroughly understand their essence. After hearing what she said, I felt perplexed. I do not know what is being discerning with people and what is judging people. I would like you to communicate with me about these questions.


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Hello Sister Xiaocao,

I was glad to get your letter. As to what is being discerning with people and what is judging people, I will fellowship a bit of my personal understanding. Let’s learn from each other.

First, we should know that learning to discern is the Lord’s requirement of us. The Lord Jesus said, “Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luk 12:1). Think back to 2000 years ago: Because the Jews were unable to discern the Pharisees, they blindly believed what the Pharisees said and in the end they committed the greatest of sins in nailing the Lord Jesus to the cross. From the lessons of their failures, we can see that without discernment we will only follow and listen to people, and will unknowingly do things that resist God. It is evident that we must guard against the hypocrites on the path of believing in God, and this can provide much help to our life entry. In addition, there are many parables that the Lord Jesus spoke of in the Bible, such as the parables of separating the wheat and tares, and the good and evil servants, which are to help us learn to discern true and false believers, and true and false shepherds. This way, we will not be led astray, manipulated, exploited or controlled by any man or woman, and will truly obey God and heed His words. The Lord Jesus said, “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mat 15:14). It can be seen that if we do not know how to discern between people, it will be easy to follow the wrong road, and we will unknowingly become believers who follow and worship people while believing in God. In the end, we will be led into a ditch and our belief will come to nothing. So, in our faith, to be saved by God it is extremely important that we learn to discern! Just as God’s words say, “Believing in God and pursuing the knowledge of God is no simple matter. They cannot be achieved simply by gathering together and listening to preaching, and you cannot be perfected by passion alone. You must experience, and know, and be principled in your actions, and gain the work of the Holy Spirit. When you have undergone experiences, you will be able to differentiate many things—you will be able to distinguish between good and evil, between righteousness and wickedness, between what is of flesh and blood and what is of the truth. You should be able to distinguish between all these things, and in so doing, no matter the circumstances, you will never be lost. Only this is your real stature.

Well, what does being discerning with people really mean? It means using the truth to dissect one’s state and conduct. And moreover, it means being in conformity with the truth, matching up with the facts, and not having any intention or purpose. This kind of fellowshiping is able to discern people, and can achieve the result of helping believers understand the truth and be unlikely to be fooled. This is completely in accordance with God’s intentions.

The Lord Jesus exposed the Pharisees and said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mat 23:27–28). The Pharisees exhibited some superficially good behaviors, such as giving to the poor and doing many good deeds. And in order to show their reverence for God, they even wrote scriptures on the tassels of their garments. Yet they did not at all seek or investigate the words and work of the Lord Jesus, and when they saw many believers following the Lord Jesus, they thought their positions and livelihoods were threatened. As a result, they turned the Lord Jesus over to the Roman government because His work went beyond the law, and strenuously demanded that they crucify Him. We can see from the actions carried out by the Pharisees that they were undoubtedly hypocritical. Could it be that the Lord Jesus’ exposing the Pharisees was an example of judging people? No, because everything that God reveals is fact, and does not belong to the category of judgment. Let’s look at the pastors and elders of today. They appear on the outside to be very humble. They give to the poor, teach believers to be tolerant and patient, and support weak believers. But when they heard the gospel of the Lord’s return, they did not bother to put the slightest effort into seeking and studying it. And when seeing believers go out to seek and examine the true way, in order to firmly control the believers in their own churches, and to protect their status, they used every means to spread lies to frighten, threaten and prevent believers from seeking and investigating the true way. They even jumped to conclusions about and condemned the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel of the Lord’s return, and some of them united with the CCP government to get the brothers and sisters spreading the gospel arrested, or handed them over to the CCP. Judging from the behaviors of the pastors and elders, how can they be good people in the eyes of God? Can God praise all that they have done? What difference is there between their actions and those of the Pharisees? Therefore, it totally conforms to the Lord Jesus’ words to call the pastors and elders of today the Pharisees, and it is right that we discern them according to God’s words lest we get confused. God’s words are practical, accurate, and appropriate, and there is no part of them that is judging people. So, it is most correct to discern the actions and deeds of people according to God’s words, because the truth is the standard of measurement of all people and things.

Then, what does it mean to judge people? It means that someone speaks with the intention of achieving his or her own contemptible objectives. What they say does not conform to God’s words or the facts. They speak exaggeratedly, criticize others as a matter of principle, use their notions and imaginings to draw conclusions, and even distort the facts and fabricate evidence to frame others, with the result that their attacks bring others pain and harm. For example, when Job was enduring trials, his three friends passed judgment at will before searching for God’s will, as recorded in Job 4:6–9, “Is not this your fear, your confidence, your hope, and the uprightness of your ways? Remember, I pray you, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.” The implication of this statement is that the reason why Job suffered was surely because he sinned and resisted God, and that he needed to hurry and come before God to repent and confess. Because of not understanding God’s will to test and refine mankind, they, using their notions and imaginings to measure God’s work, freely judged and attacked Job so they were detested and rejected by God. In the end, Job came before God and prayed for them, and only then were they forgiven by God. The Bible records, “And it was so, that after Jehovah had spoken these words to Job, Jehovah said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against you, and against your two friends: for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has. Therefore take to you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that you have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (Job 42:7–8).

From this we can see that when we do not understand God’s will we cannot figure out God’s intentions, nor should we arbitrarily condemn others, make blind judgments, or impose our own ideas onto God otherwise we will be detested by God. We should follow the example of Job, who did not sin in anything he said but learned to seek and wait for God’s will to be revealed to him. Since Job had a heart that revered God, he finally stood witness during his trials and received the praise of God.

Now in the last days, we are living in an environment filled with judgment and slander. In order to not offend or resist God, when something befalls us, we must not follow the crowd but instead we must first inspect the facts, understand the matter clearly, and then draw conclusions. Only people like this have reverence for God in their hearts.

Sister Xiaocao, I hope my fellowshiping can help you. If there is anything else you’d like to know, please contact us.

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