Discernment: A Matter of Life and Death

by Chip Brogden
Those who live in union with the Vine do not judge a thing by “can I or can’t I, should I or shouldn’t I”. They do not even judge a thing by whether it seems “good or bad.”

“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” (1 Jn 2:27, NLT)

I don’t think anyone has ever made a decision or chosen a thing because they believed it was “bad.” Of course not! We choose what we believe at the time to be good. The trouble with that is we are still confident in the flesh, still believing we are capable of knowing good from evil. That is what Adam was looking for: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

But over against that there is the Tree of Life, and here again is another example of the Christ-Life. Now that I am in Christ, and Christ is in me, I do not have to judge a thing by my own limited knowledge of “Good and Evil.” The issue is not “Good or Evil”, the issue is “Life or Death.” Eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil sounded like a good thing at the time. It was pleasant to look at, and it was desirable. That’s the way sin is. Sin is very desirable; if it wasn’t then no one would be temptable. We need a spiritual compass greater than the limited knowledge of Good or Evil, Right or Wrong, Good or Bad. We need a way to recognize Life and Death.

That may sound very esoteric and ethereal, so let me illustrate it with a practical example. A good friend called me who was concerned about what a particular individual was teaching. My friend had researched the topic, read everything the Scriptures had to say about it, asked the person teaching to more fully explain their position, and consulted with other people who tried to help dissect this teaching. My friend had called me to get my opinion, and began to lay out all the results of this intensive research into the doctrinal position of this person. I must say, it was complicated and very complex.

So I interrupted my friend at this point and said, “I appreciate all the work you’ve done into the doctrinal integrity of this particular person, but I do not need to hear all the reasons why you believe they are in error. I have met the person, and there is no Life in what they are saying. So I do not have to decide whether the teaching is right or wrong, because there is no Life there. If the teaching brings Death then you should avoid it, no matter how intriguing it may be. Even if the teaching is changed to be doctrinally correct, it should still be avoided because there is no Life in it.”

Likewise, I have listened to people speak – not just in a church service or a meeting, but just in conversation – and they can barely put a sentence together, sometimes they don’t seem to be making any sense, they certainly are not trying to teach anyone and they would never call themselves a teacher, preacher, or minister – but they have the Life. The Life is sufficient. How do you know they have the Life? If you have the Life of the Lord then you know when others have it. You know. You just know. The Spirit bears witness. You just know. And there have been times when I didn’t even like what I was hearing and seeing, and I began to judge it according to “Good and Evil”, but down deeper I sensed the Life of the Lord, and at that point you learn not to argue. I may not understand or agree with it, but I sense the Life of the Lord, and that is enough.

For instance, to Peter, the crucifixion of Jesus was a bad thing. He argued with the Lord and tried to prevent Him from doing God’s Will. Jesus rebuked Peter for listening to the devil and loving the things of man more than the things of God. See, Peter was making decisions based on his flesh. He wasn’t being led by the Spirit.

Some people visit my website and the first thing they want to read is our doctrinal statement. I suppose we could write one, or copy one, and get agreement on doctrine and teaching, and then someone could make a judgment along the lines of “Good or Bad”, Agreement or Disagreement. But that would contradict what I have learned by the Spirit: that we should have no confidence in the flesh. A doctrinal statement is a way around trusting in the Life of the Lord to give discernment. I’ve seen people with a perfect doctrinal statement that were dead, dead, dead. It means nothing – yet people put so much value in it.

Here’s what I say to people: read what we write, listen to what we say, and if the Spirit bears witness with you then you can trust the Spirit. Now if you don’t know how to be led of the Spirit then you have another problem. But notice I didn’t say you should trust me. I’m not going to hurt you on purpose, and I hope you won’t hurt me on purpose. Most of the hurt we endure is unintentional anyway. I have no confidence in my flesh, and I would never ask you to put your confidence in me or anyone else. But you can trust the Spirit of Jesus. And that’s what I’m getting at.

You have the Wonderful Counselor, this Mighty Comforter, Who lives in you. Now stop looking to man. Stop looking to yourself. Stop trying to figure it all out with your head. Trust in the Life of the Lord to show you the difference between Life and Death.

About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


You have Successfully Subscribed!