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 many mysteries in the Bible that I had not known before with me and I gained so much from listening to her fellowship. However, when she exposed the actions and conduct of pastors and elders and said that they were the Pharisees of the present age, I could not accept it. I thought she was judging pastors and elders, 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 to do that was not judging people but was being discerning with people. 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 wants us to learn to discern by saying, “Beware of false prophets,” because we just look at others’ appearance and are unable to thoroughly understand their essences. 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’m glad to get your letter. As to what is being discerning with people and judging people, I will fellowship a bit of my personal understanding. Let’s learn from each other.

First, we should know 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 they were unable to discern the Pharisees, the Jews 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 their lessons of failures, we can see that without discernment, we will only follow man, listen to man, and 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 make 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 man, and can 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 ones who follow man and worship man in 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 is being discerning with people really? It means using the truth to dissect one’s state and conduct. And moreover, it is in conformity with the truth, matches up with the facts, and has no intention or purpose. This kind of fellowship is discerning people, which can achieve the result of making people understand the truth and 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, giving to the poor and doing many good deeds; 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; when seeing many believers followed the Lord Jesus, they thought their position and livelihood were threatened, and as a result, they turned the Lord Jesus over to the Roman government because of His work going beyond the law and strenuously demanded to crucify Him. We can see from the actions carried out by the Pharisees that they are hypocritical, which is entirely true. Could it be that the Lord Jesus’ exposing the Pharisees is judging people? Everything that God reveals is fact, and it 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, 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 believers in their own hands, and to protect their status, they spread lies to frighten, threaten and prevent believers in every means from seeking and investigating the true way; they even jumped to conclusion about and condemned the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel of the Lord’s return; besides, some of them united with the CCP government to get brothers and sisters spreading the gospel arrested, and handed over them to the CCP. Judging from the behaviors of the pastors and elders, how can they be the good people in the eyes of God? Can God praise all that they have done? What difference is there between their actions and that of the Pharisees? Therefore, it totally conforms to the Lord Jesus’ words to call them 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 intentions in order to achieve his own contemptible objectives. What he says does not conform to God’s words or the facts. He speaks exaggeratedly, criticizes others as a matter of principle, uses his notions and imaginations to draw conclusions, and even distorts the facts and fabricates evidence to frame others, with the result that he causes them pain, harm and attack. For example, when Job was enduring trials, his three friends passed judgments 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 was 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 of testing and refining man, they, using their notions and imaginations to measure God’s work, freely judged and attacked Job, so that 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 arbitrarily condemn others, nor make blind judgments, nor 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, 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 in the 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 this kind of person has reverence for God in his heart.

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

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