NEEDING TO EXERCISE DISCERNMENT IN ORDER TO REACH OUR GOAL
The central thought of the book of Romans is that God’s salvation makes sinners His sons. Romans begins with sinners (1:18—3:20), but when we come to chapter eight, these sinners have become sons of God (8:14). Furthermore, these sons of God, the brothers of Christ, have been justified, are being sanctified, and will eventually be conformed to the image of the firstborn Son of God (8:29-30). The goal, the aim, of our gospel preaching is that sinners would be fully conformed to the image of Christ.
Based upon this goal, when we go out to visit people, we should exercise to consider people according to the discernment the Spirit gives us. It may be quite easy to get some people saved to become children of God, but for them to grow and become sons of God may not be so easy. In the Bible there is a significant difference between “children of God” and “sons of God.” John 1:12 says that those who believe in the Lord’s name have the authority to become children of God, but in Romans 8 the term “sons” indicates a more advanced stage of growth in the divine life. “Children” are those in the initial stage of regeneration in their human spirit, but “sons” are the children of God who are in the stage of the transformation of their soul. They not only have been regenerated in their spirit and are growing in life, but they also are living and walking by being led by the Spirit (8:14). To help a new one become such a son of God requires much care and labor, and some may not be able to reach this stage of development in this age. Therefore, we must be wise and not waste our time on those who are not that promising.
Although we all must exercise to have the Spirit’s discernment, we should not go out to consciously “measure” or categorize every new one, saying, “This one is good for the building up of the Body, but that one is not.” To practice in this way is too extreme. Actually, no one knows for certain who is good and who is bad. Still, some discernment is needed. Over twenty years ago, I went to downtown Los Angeles to a district where there were many drunkards on the streets. Some Christian missions had been located particularly in that district in order to preach the gospel to those unfortunate people and to feed them with some physical food. Surely the merciful God cares for these people and would save them, but in general, it is difficult for such persons to be that useful for the building up of the Body of Christ. They have serious problems, and with many of them, their human faculties have been damaged. We cannot reach our goal by spending much of our time to gain such persons; we will only waste our time. The Lord will give us the proper discernment, yet we should be careful not to try to “measure” the new ones too quickly.
Your results in going out for the gospel will depend upon your discernment. If no one lets you in, your door-knocking should go quickly. Then if a door opens, and a lady or a gentleman comes out, you should discern whether this one is worthwhile for you to spend your time. If you sense that this one may be quite good, you may spend half an hour or more with him. You should not work according to any set time limits; instead, you must always exercise your discernment and follow your inward leading. To exercise your discernment means that you are praying and seeking the Lord: “Lord, lead me to the right door and even to the right person. Lord, You are with me, and I am with You. I am going into this home with You. Is anyone here for Your purpose?” If you go out in this way, you will not be going out by yourself. You will be going out as a person who is one with the living Christ, who has the proper discernment. In this way you will always be on the alert.
If we are persistent in going out to preach the gospel and endeavor with long-suffering, we will never be disappointed. We should never lose heart or be subdued. Eventually, we will baptize three to make up for the week in which we gained no one. If we mean business with the Lord and have the endurance to go out faithfully and regularly, we can have three or four new ones within a month. Then we must stop knocking on new doors and go back to the ones we have already baptized to have home meetings with them to feed them. We must practice according to these principles, but in our discerning, we should not be too rigid or legal. If we are too preoccupied with evaluating the new ones, we will be distracted. The main thing is for us to mean business with the Lord and be desperate to gain sinners for His purpose.
(The Exercise and Practice of the God-Ordained Way, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)