Discerning Good From Evil
by Alex D. Ogden

Just as we are concerned about growth in the physical realm, we need to be concerned about spiritual growth. One way in which we can see if we have matured as a Christian is to look at our ability to discern between good and evil. The writer of Hebrews said, "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Heb.5:12-14). After a reasonable period of time has passed, we should have grown to be able to partake of the meat of God's word. He went on to say such individuals should be able to "discern good and evil," seeing they have had their senses exercised by the continual use of God's word. If we will continually use God's word, we will develop the ability to discern between good and evil.

Every day we are called upon to make decisions. Therefore, the ability to discern between that which is good and that which is evil is important to the child of God. As we read the pages of God's word, we see principles set forth which can guide us when making these decisions. Learn these principles well and you too will be able to "discern good and evil."

Does it Protect Your Identity as a Christian?

When trying to decide if something is right or wrong, first ask yourself these questions: Does it destroy my identity as a Christian by causing me to be regarded as of the world? Does it classify me with Satan's realm of sin instead of Christ and the church? God has always required His people to maintain a separation from Satan's realm.

We can see this principle taught in 2 Corinthians 6:17: "Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you." Paul also taught this principle in Romans 12:2: "And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Whenever I become so much like the world people cannot tell by the way I live and by what I do whether I am a Christian or not, then God will not accept me as His child. Our life must always be a living demonstration of the will of God, rather than a living demonstration of the will of Satan. Therefore, any activity which would cause us to be considered of the world is wrong since it destroys our separation to the world.

This principle alone would show us such practices as social drinking or the modern dances are activities we should not participate in, since those are activities associated with living for ourselves rather than living for Christ.

So the first question to ask when trying to determine whether an activity is right or wrong is: "Does it destroy my identity as a Christian?"

Does it Violate Your Conscience?

Note Paul's words in Romans 14: "14 I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. ... 20 Overthrow not for meat's sake the work of God. All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. ... 23 But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

In Paul's day some believed it was wrong to eat meats which had previously been offered in sacrifice to idols. Paul showed it was not wrong (cf.1 Cor.8:8). However, it was wrong if that is how they viewed it in their own heart. Likewise today there may be many things which fall into the same category.

When we have a question about a particular activity, rather than asking someone else what they think about it, ask yourself what you think about it. If it is an activity which you believe in your heart to be wrong, then you cannot engage in that activity without violating your conscience and thus committing sin.

Does it Lead Others to Sin?

Notice this principle in 1 Corinthians 10: "24 Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good. ... 28 But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: 29 conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other's; for why is my liberty judged by another conscience? ... 32 Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God: 33 even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved." Also note 1 Corinthians 8:13: "Wherefore, if meat causeth my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I cause not my brother to stumble."

If we are a child of God and we care what is right, we cannot have the attitude we don't care what effect our actions have on others. If we do anything which would cause another to violate their conscience, we sin.

Does it Harm Your Body?

If we have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, our bodies belong to the Lord. Paul said, "Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body" (1 Cor.6:19,20). We should use our bodies to God's glory rather than His reproach. Paul also said, "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye" (1 Cor.3:16,17). We cannot engage in any activity which will prove destructive to our bodies.

By this principle we can quickly see what is wrong with smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs. They are destructive to our bodies and, therefore, things we should not participate in.

Does it Conflict with Your Duties as a Christian?

We do not have the right to put ourselves under any circumstance, form any kind of alliance, put ourselves into any sort of a position where anyone or anything can interfere with our duty to God, because our service to the Lord must come first.

Jesus said, "But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt.6:33). Nothing is to come before our service to the Lord.

Paul said, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier" (2 Tim.2:3,4). A soldier in the United States military must put his service to his country first and all other interest and business must be placed second. Nothing less is expected of those who are soldiers of Christ. We must have our mind focused on His service at all times (cf.Col.3:1,2).

Therefore, any activity or situation which prevents us from fulfilling our responsibilities as a Christian, is an activity or situation we cannot participate in.

Does it Create an Excessive Appetite for Things of this World?

We are not to live our lives after the flesh, seeking only to satisfy the appetites of the flesh. We are to live on a spiritual basis, focusing on things above. That's what Paul said in Colossians 3:1,2: "If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth." In Titus 2:12 Paul tells us to deny ungodliness and "worldly lusts." This would include not only lusts of a sensual nature, but lusts for material things in general.

Some years ago a sister in Christ told my wife everyone has a right to, and deserves, a nice carpeted house, a new car, and lots of nice cloths to wear. It was apparent she had an excessive appetite for worldly things.

If we want to please the Lord, we will avoid anything which will cultivate in us an excessive desire for things of this world.

Does it Place You under the Evil Influence of Others?

The apostle Paul said, "Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals" (1 Cor.15:33). We need to be careful about the influences which are being brought to bear upon our heart and life, careful we are not submitting ourselves to influences and associations which will destroy us and bring us into captivity to sin. Our children are often under many pressures to do wrong because of their choice in friends. We as adults are often in similar situations with those we choose to associate with. In such situations it is not a question of whether they will have a negative influence on us, it is only a matter of how quickly their evil influence will bear its evil fruit in our own lives.

If the activity or relationship we are contemplating will put us under the influence of those who are evil, then we should choose not to participate.

If we will read and study God's word daily, these principles will become a part of us. The daily choices we face will then be much easier to make.

This page is Copyright 1998 by Alex Ogden, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 04, 1998.

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