Discerning Good and Evil

Our thoughts tonight flow from our lesson this morning. How can we put up our shield of faith and protect ourselves from the darts of Satan?  We considered the importance of the word of God as the basis of our faith, and our obligation to discern what is right and wrong.

  • Heb 5:13-14For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


Consider a couple of preliminary facts:

1)  Our ability to overcome evil or sin, is totally dependent on God. Without the events of the cross we could never win a victory over our own sin.  Jesus’ blood is the only thing that satisfies the justice of God.  Revelation 1:5 – …to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood

2) But even though we have been forgiven, we continue to sin at times.  1 John 1:8-10 – 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.   Satan continues to attack us and try to convince us to sin.

3)  Sin (what is wrong) and righteousness (what is right) is objective by nature, and must be determined through reference to an objective standard. The standard is God’s word.

  • Ps 119:9-11How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
  • Ps 119:68You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
  • Ps 119:104Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
  • Ps 119:114You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
  • Ps 119:142 –  Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.

4)  The goal of the spiritual person is to sin less and less, and thus live closer to God. In order to do this we must be able to properly discern between right and wrong.  How can I discern good and evil?


I.    Is it clearly condemned in the Bible?  Many things are specifically mentioned in the scriptures as being wrong.   One list of such things is found in Galatians 5:19-21 – 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.   A similar list is found in Ephesians 5:3-7 – 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.

A.  The morality of these things are settled forever. There is no room for debate when the Scriptures clearly condemn some practice. Truth is not relative to any time or culture. We cannot hope to defend ourselves and our children from Satan if do not remain steadfast in this matter.

  • Isa 5:20-21 –  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!
  1. But not all sins are specifically condemned in the scriptures. We must strive to discern right form wrong through a consideration of the principles and examples of the scriptures. We need to ask questions that can help us discern.


II.   Is it similar to those things that are condemned?   In Galatians 5, note the phrase, “and such like..”  This implies that there are other things that are no included in this list that are similar in nature. The person who desires to avoid sin will judge these things by the principle involved.

1.   For example, what about smoking marijuana? Is it not like “drunkenness”?  In 1 Cor. 6, while considering his own liberty to act (all things are lawful for me), applied the principle that he would “not be  brought under the power of any”.  Things that may not be specifically mentioned have the same impact as those that are mentioned.  (Gambling greatly resembles the covetousness and greed, where one person takes advantage of another’s loss to increase his own)

2.   Make a chart – put “such like in the middle and see which way it leans.


III. Does it hurt My Conscience?  God has provided us with our own warning system. Our ability to emotionally respond to morality is a trait in the image of God. (animals do not have this – but act on instinct)

A.  We must value our conscience.  1 Timothy 1:5-  Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 1 Timothy 1:18-19 – 18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,  1 Timothy 3:9 – 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

B.  Violating our conscience leads to insensitivity (searing) that breaks down our defense system against further sin.  In 1 Ti 4:1-2 Paul mentions this as a sign of apostasy.

C.  Romans 14:2323 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.  Paul says that when we do that which violates our conscience (not of faith) it is sin!  3. So an act may be good in of itself, but a. If you think it is wrong (because of incorrect knowledge or doubts), then don’t do it!

[Another help…]


IV.  Does it hinder My Influence?   1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

A.   Notice Paul’s concern for how his influence affected the salvation of others.  He then commands to do likewise, in which we are simply imitating the example of Christ!  1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 –31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 11 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.   We are responsible for the example we set before others. The spiritual work of Christ takes precedent over any other activity.

B.   How would you react if I lit up a cigarette?  (conversation with some fellow umpires about hypocrisy among preachers – wine in the refrigerator. But they all think it is OK to drink!) There was a negative influence even among those that did it themselves.

C.  WE can also judge the good of something by its impact on our influence for good.  1 Peter 3:1-2 – 3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  There is power in the influence of our example. We must discern.


V.   Is it Poor Stewardship?   From the Lord’s Parable of the Talents in Mt 25:14-30 we recognize that God expects us to use our resources for spiritual good.

A.  Money and riches:  1 Timothy 6:17-1917 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

B.   Our Time and Energy: some things are not wrong in themselves, but the take us away from the spiritual pursuits that God expects of us. There is no time left for God. Ephesians 5:16 – 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Mt 6:33)


VI.  Would Jesus do it? This may be the most sobering application of all. The goal of discipleship is to be like the teacher.  If you think that Jesus would not join you in the activity, it may be best to not do it.

A.  This means that proper spiritual discernment of my activities and choices requires a diligent study of Jesus’ life. We need to have the mind of Christ Philippians 2:55 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,


CONCLUSION – There is only one standard by which we can judge right and wrong. WE must always strive to know what the will of the Lord is. True diligence in this matter will require us to ask questions about ourselves and the choices that we make. Maybe these suggested questions can be helpful.


The task before us is one of discernment and distinction. We are called to be a sanctified people.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 – 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”  17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”   18 ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”   7 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.



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