“Where did you get your information?” I can remember being asked this question on more than one occasion by more than one English teacher. With High School came the introduction of the “Works Cited” page. It wasn’t acceptable just to borrow information from different sources. Those sources needed to be listed so readers could be enlightened to how you came to your thoughts and conclusions. In life, we come to many thoughts and conclusions. These direct the way that we interact with the world around us and with the Lord. Our ideas have been influenced in some way from somewhere. So, what if you were asked, “Where did you get your information?” What would be your source(s)? To conclude the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer tells us in verse 11, that true wisdom comes from One Shepherd. Our sights should be set on the words that He is the source of! The writer then continues with a warning in verse 12, “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” We need to be aware that there are various teachings and ideas that surround us. These things make their way into endless amounts of books, movies, sermons, and songs. They vie for our attention and devotion. If we are going to be able to navigate through life then we need the ability to navigate through these things. Our information for life should ultimately come from the Lord. If what we are taught (whether through story or sermon) does not match up with what He teaches, then it must be thrown out.
In 1 Thess. 5:21-22 Paul gives this command to believers, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” We are called to practice discernment. We should be able to judge what we come across as good or evil and act accordingly. How are we to judge or “examine everything”? The writer of Hebrews says this in 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We do this by knowing “solid food” or as the writer defines this in verse 13, “the word of righteousness.” We train our senses by God’s Word. We “chew” on it which is to think through, search out, examine it carefully (Eccl. 12:9; Acts 17:11) and then “practice” what it says. The writer tells us that when we do this our senses will be trained to discern good and evil. We will be able to tell fact from fiction and good ideas from bad ideas. This practice is extremely important for us especially because we live in a world of “endless books”. There is so much out there pulling us in different directions. Be warned. Go to the Shepherd’s word of righteousness first so that your senses are ready to take on what else is out there.
Discernment isn’t only needed when we walk into the “Non-Christian” section of the library, turn on secular radio, or venture outside of the family section at Redbox. It is needed, even more so, in the areas labeled “Christian.” It is not just enough to bear that tag. Some may shrug off fiction as, “It’s just a story” but every story has been written to influence and inform us in some way or another. For instance, the author of the best-selling book “The Shack” (which has reached Amazon’s list of top-selling books of all time and will soon be released on the big screen) has designed his story in such a way to cause the reader to question the authority of Scripture just as the main character does. There have been many who have left the book resolving to put down their Bibles and seminary teaching to find their own relational experiences with God. This is the last thing that we want to do! We meet with God not in our own “shacks” but in and through His Word! Another popular devotional book that has led to many follow up books for both adults and kids is “Jesus Calling.” In this devotional the author speaks for God and admits that her purpose for writing came out of a desire to hear God outside of the Bible. Again, the conclusion is to put down the Bible to see what God really has to say. If we know our Bibles this is far from the conclusion that John comes to in Rev. 22:18-19.
I give these examples not to start a book burning or to suggest that it would be an unpardonable sin to read either. This is a reminder to do what the writers of Scripture urge us to do: Be warned, practice discernment, and trust the sufficiency of Scripture. We cannot go wrong with the Word God has given to us. As the writer of Ecclesiastes concluded the Word is like “a goad” that sets us straight and “well-driven nails” that secure us. Let’s be a people that draw our wisdom from the words that give life and encourage others to do the same.
Seeking Discernment With You, Pastor Rudy