The Lost Art of Godly Discernment

Set Apart Girl
Leslie Ludy

Protecting Your Soul from the Enemy’s Subtle Lies

Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Acts 20:30-31

A dusky haze settled over the muggy summer evening as the scent of bug spray and concession food wafted through the air. Busloads of church groups unloaded their giddy passengers while an enormous sound system boomed out pulsating music, setting the tone for the concert that was about to begin. Thousands of people spread blankets and lawn chairs on the ground of the enormous field, anticipating an exciting evening of music from a well-known Christian band.

Eric (my future husband, who was then a young teenager), sat with some of his family members, unsure what to expect. They had come to the event because it had been promoted by many local churches and ministries. His parents, no doubt, thought it would be edifying to gather with so many fellow Christians for a night of worship. They had no way of knowing how wrong that assumption was.

A hush of anticipation settled over the crowd as the pulsating music abruptly stopped and the enormous stage became illuminated with futuristic lights. Four leather-clad musicians swaggered onto the stage amid a haze of smoke, wielding their instruments like weapons. A deafening sound shocked through the atmosphere as they began their first song. The lead singer screeched unintelligible words into the microphone in a high-pitched, maniacal tone, while the other musicians’ bodies contorted crazily as they hammered violently on their drums and electric guitars. The scene was identical to that of any secular hard rock concert, with absolutely nothing to identify it as “Christian” in any way.

Eric’s mom turned to her family in dismay. “We need to leave!” she said firmly, grave concern in her voice. Everyone else quickly agreed. They gathered up their lawn chairs and made their way through the distracted crowd toward the parking lot, confused and disturbed that such behavior was being touted under the banner of a “Christian gathering.”

Later, they learned that a well-known evangelist who’d been at the concert had started running through the audience not long after they had left, trying to warn people of the dangerous activity they were participating in. In a grieved and despairing voice, he’d cried out the words “Ichabod! Ichabod!” to anyone within earshot. (“Ichabod,” from 1 Samuel 4:21, means “The glory of the Lord has departed!”)

Yet, most of the Christians attending the concert didn’t hear him. Those who did hear him dismissed the warning as the words of an extremist “kook.” Nearly every believer at the event was too enamored by the smoke, lights, and noise to recognize that “the glory of the Lord had departed.”

Looking Beyond the Smoke & Lights
Just like that concert, there is a lot of “smoke, lights, and noise” taking place under a Christian banner today. Megachurches, Christian “celebrities,” and trendy Christian messages often dazzle us with impressive bells and whistles that distract the eye and deceive the heart. Like those concert-goers, it’s easy to naively accept anything that is labeled as “Christian,” especially when our fellow believers are enthusiastically participating in it. Add enough glamour and hype to anything “Christian,” and we can quickly become blind to the fact that the glory of the Lord has departed.

Early in my spiritual walk, I used to assume that every Christian book and album that hit the bookstores had somehow been spiritually directed and biblically tested by a committee of trusted, honorable, godly Christian elders. I had observed the fact that pastors often looked to the newest Christian books to shape the direction of their churches and that music leaders usually followed the trends of the latest Christian artists to shape their church’s worship services. It only seemed reasonable that the messages which were so influential in molding our churches would have first gone through a careful vetting and evaluation process to make sure they were in alignment with God’s pattern, nature, and Word.

It wasn’t until Eric and I became closely involved with the Christian publishing and music world that we realized how far from reality this assumption was.

I vividly remember sitting across the table with the president of one of the largest Christian publishing companies as he bluntly told us that Christian publishing was an industry, not a ministry, and that making money, not making disciples, was their ultimate goal.

Another time, the CEO of a well-known Christian record label told us plainly that most of the new artists their company signed were teenagers who didn’t care much about God but just wanted to be famous. “It’s kind of sad,” he admitted, “but in the end we have to make money, so we sign them anyway.”

This widespread mindset in the Christian “industry” has provided an inroads for all kinds of flawed messages to enter the church and influence Christian thinking. Many fame-and-money-driven artists and authors have wreaked havoc upon the hearts of unsuspecting believers who assume that their messages must be healthy since they bear a Christian label.

And then there is the incredible phenomenon of the Internet; a platform that can enable you to “make yourself famous” if you know how to wield it. These days, you don’t need much knowledge of Scripture or proven godly character to influence modern Christianity. If you have talent, likability, marketing skills, and a strong social media platform you can become the “next big thing” to hit the Christian world.

For example, the other day I received a letter from a Christian publisher who was attempting to garner my support for an up-and-coming new author. The letter did not mention anything about this author’s message, her walk with God, or her spiritual background. It only talked about how many followers she had on Instagram and how many likes she had on Facebook. Her credibility as a minister of the Gospel came solely from the fact that she had gained popularity online.

It’s no wonder that there is so much confusion within Christianity today. We live in a day and age where “righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, and honesty cannot enter,” (Is. 59:14 NIV). Truth-centered, Christ-focused, biblically-sound believers are no longer commonplace; they have become the exception.

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