Discerning Good from Evil

Romans 16:17-19 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

Take Heed Lest You Fall

These are some of Paul’s last words to the Church at Rome. With these words he revealed his Christian love and pastor’s heart for this congregation. After a significant, deep, and vital treatise on Christian doctrine and living, Paul stressed one last time how crucial it was for these Christians to take heed to what he shared with them.

Paul knew there were those wolves in sheep’s clothing (Acts 20) who would creep in among God’s people (from within and without) and cause divisions – some purposefully and others because they themselves had been deceived. Regardless, these wolves would place obstacles before God’s people. They would seek to undo and disrupt sound teaching, the very doctrine Paul took pains to communicate throughout his Letter to the Romans.

Deception, Then Derailment

Paul said to keep away from such trouble-makers. Don’t hang around them. No good can come from getting too close to them. Such people do not represent our Lord, regardless of how smooth their words are. They serve the idol of their own agenda, their own desires and cravings, not Christ’s. The first result of listening to them is deception. Once deception sets in, wandering from the faith is never far behind.

Paul loved the Church at Rome. Because he cared for them he therefore encouraged them and built them up by complimenting their obedience. But he warned them to be wise with regard to what is good and innocent concerning evil. Sticking your head in the sand won’t do here. The discernment Paul spoke of required learning and growing in the sound doctrine he had been teaching them throughout his letter. Their lives and souls were at stake, as well as future generations of Roman Christians. The same is true for you, your children, church, and friends if you wander from the sound, life-giving, life-transforming doctrine of God’s Word.

Walking Points

  • I encourage you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s discernment regarding good and evil. Flee from evil and those who bring it, regardless of whether or not the world calls you judgmental. Cling to what is good and thank God for it.
  • Read through Paul’s Letter to the Romans with some friends and discuss what each chapter teaches you about truth and falsehood, good and evil.
  • How are your observations relevant to today’s world, and your life in particular? Write down those principles and your observations.


All-wise Father, your Word presents to us, from beginning to end, commands and encouragement to take the right path and warnings against taking the wrong one. We are to believe in you and no other. We are to follow you and your Word and nothing else. We are to take the hard and narrow road and not the wide and easy one. Every page of Scripture beckons us to trust you and follow the map you have set before us. Please forgive me for those times when I, as did Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, stray from the path, even a little. Thank you for your abundant grace which shows me my error and your Spirit who enables me to get back on the right path and continue my journey with you. Please help me to serve as a guide for others who are traveling through this world, seemingly unaware of the map and other road signs you have provided. Furthermore, help me lead and protect from false teachers and prophets, those you have entrusted to my care. For it is in the name of the Good Shepherd I pray. Amen.

Just Being Honest

Hit with a Blunt Object

Have you ever met a person who believed they were given the spiritual gift of bludgeoning people over the head with their “honesty?” Are you such a person?

Such people appear to be tuned only to what they “think” their intention is, which is, they’re “just being honest.” They wield their “honesty” like a “Get out of jail free card” to say what they want, when and how they want to say it. They seem to think they can be as offensive as they want, as long as they follow their remarks with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Or, put another way, “I’m just keeping it real.” Upon invoking this magical incantation, in their mind, they should be absolved from all they’ve just said, regardless of how hurtful or insulting it may have been.

Three Helpful Questions

Perhaps you have heard the following questions before, but I wanted to share them because I have found them quite helpful. These are questions I ask myself before I decide to share my own unsolicited “honesty” with others.

1.) Is it true? Obviously, if you’re going to pass on your thoughts to someone else, you should be communicating the truth. Whether it’s objective truth or even the truth of your opinion, it should be true. The 112th question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:

Question: What is required in the ninth commandment?

Answer: I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words,  not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and  unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbor’s honor and reputation.

While this is certainly helpful for us in thinking through our communication with others, this ought not be all there is to it. There’s more for us to consider.

2.) Is it kind? Are your remarks bearing the fruit of Christian kindness? Are they words that will be a blessing and encouragement to the other person? Even if hard words must be spoken, we can still say them in such a way that it will be clear to the person to whom we’re speaking that we have their best interest at heart and not merely our personal agenda.

3.) Is it necessary? Does the person you are “being honest” with need to know you don’t like what they’re wearing, or how they’re raising their children, or how they decorate their house for Christmas? We may desperately want to share our opinions on all those questions and more, but that’s not the same thing as their needing to know it.

As a Christian, truth and honesty should be paramount, yet not for the sake of building ourselves up, but for the sake of the other person. If God is not glorified in the transaction of honesty and truth, and if the purpose of the exchange is not the genuine benefit of the other person, then we’re not doing much more than sharing our opinions for the sake of lifting up ourselves.

Walking Points

  • Do you struggle with the desire to share your opinion with others (“just being honest), regardless of how it makes the other person feel?
  • What do you think the real cause of such a practice is?
  • Which of the three questions is most convicting to you? Why?
  • What other questions would be helpful to you in deciding whether or not you need to pass along your opinion to another person?