We wanted to be wise but became fools.
He brought us a spirit of discernment,
that we might see Him as He is.
Man was made with the capacity to know God. The first full day that Man lived was spent with a resting God. God’s spent time with Man, walking with Him during the cool of the day. God gave Man instruction on living life, ruling the creation, naming the animals and living in love. We knew God, and saw Him face to face. We could see goodness written across God’s face.
But despite the love, the care, the attention, the good gifts lavished on Man by God … for some reason Eve wanted a wisdom that did not flow from God. She wanted to be wise.
And so she reached out for the knowledge that would make her wise… resulting in foolishness flooding her soul.
Suddenly, she was filled with a knowledge she had craved. She was filled with a knowledge of evil. But her sense of discernment evaporated. She knew good. And she knew evil. But she could no longer discern what was good and what was evil. Natural man is unable to discern good from evil (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Like a mental disorder
Are you familiar with Alzheimer’s disease?
My Father-in-law suffered from Alzheimer’s. It is a disease that corrupts your brain, so that you lose your ability to remember. With people suffering from Alzheimer’s, their personality often changes. They become irritable, frustrated and often lash out at those they formerly loved. In fact, people with Alzheimer’s often cannot cease to recognise and understand the people around them. When my Father-in-law was in the grip of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know his daughter, or his grand-children, nor his wife.
Sin corrupted Adam and Eve’s brain much like Alzheimer’s does. It caused Adam and Eve to forget their loving, heavenly Father. Instead, they saw Him as a harsh god out to punish them.
So, when the LORD God came walking in the garden in the cool of the day, they hid from Him (Genesis 3:8). They instantly doubted His motives. They could only remember God’s words with harshness. They only heard the words, “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) ringing in their ears.
They’d forgotten the care and attention they’d received as God crafted their bodies (Genesis 2:7). They’d forgotten the fact that God injected Himself into the time of the creation, choosing to rest on the seventh day together with them (Genesis 2:3). They’d forgotten the fact that God’s desire was that they would live (tree of life, Genesis 2:9). They’d forgotten God.
And now they doubted His motives.
They couldn’t see forgiveness, or mercy, or grace. All they could see was harsh judgment coming from a harsh God. And as a result, when spoken to, they lashed out angrily and defensively. Just like a person with Alzheimer’s.
While we no longer knew God, He still knows us. God knows the secrets of a man’s heart heart (Psalm 44:21) because he weighs each man’s heart (Proverbs 21:2). As a result, Jesus says, “I know my sheep, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Jesus knows His sheep. He knows who is His. He knows who is reborn in the Spirit. He knows who has experienced spiritual rebirth. He knows those who are alive in Him. He knows.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:11–13).
God can see right through us, like an X-ray can see our bones. God can see right through us and know the state of our heart. Every intention of our heart is an open book to God. Every craving of the flesh. Even the man of sin seated on the throne of our heart (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
And this is the knowledge God wishes us to have: the ability to look into our hearts and accurately distinguish good from evil.
Natural man cannot understand the things of God. Natural man is proud. Natural man declares man to be sovereign (Ezekiel 28:2). Natural man declares, “There is no god” (Ezekiel 28:2; Psalm 14:1; Isaiah 47:8). Natural man claims to be wise (Ezekiel 28:3, 4), and proves it through his mastery of trade and science (Ezekiel 28:5). Natural man exalts his own power (Genesis 11:6), through violence and cunning and deceit (Ezekiel 28:16).
Natural man believes greed to be good, and so builds an idol to greed in his own heart (Colossians 3:5). Natural man accumulates property (Isaiah 5:8) at the expense of injustice (Jeremiah 22:13), and declares injustice to be good. Natural man seeks for an immortality flowing from his own wisdom.
Natural man seeks for pleasure without restraint (Ecclesiastes 2:1). Natural man says, “Anything I want is permissible, beneficial and justified” (contra 1 Corinthians 10:23). As a result, while natural man claims to be wise, he suppresses the truth and becomes foolish in his thinking (Romans 1:21, 22). So God allows man to reap the results of this foolishness (Romans 1:24-26), becoming enslaved to his passions (Romans 1:26, 27), and being filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife and deceit (Romans 1:28).
In the end, natural man determines that everything is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:1). There is no meaning, therefore nothing matters.
God began to teach us to distinguish good from evil. He outlined precepts of righteousness, and communicated them as commandments, decrees, laws and judgments (Exodus 20:1–23:33). These God gave to humanity to enable us to understand what is good and what is evil (Galatians 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:8–11).
Because of God’s teaching, we know that withholding the property of our neighbour is wrong. Because of God’s teaching, we know that loving one’s neighbour is good. Because of God’s teaching, we know that adultery is wrong. Because of God’s teaching, we know that the practising homosexuality is evil. Because of God’s teaching, we know that greed is evil. Because of God’s teaching, we know accepting bribes is evil.
The Psalmist says,
“Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Your commandments” (Psalm 119:66).
Renewing your mind
But it’s not enough to simply lay down commandments, decrees, laws and judgments. For natural man would simply find loopholes and excuses and definitions to undermine the word of God while seeking to justify the state of his own heart (Mark 7:9).
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
So in order to spiritually discern God’s wisdom, we must be transformed. Our minds must be renewed. Our minds must be spiritually changed. For scripture says,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
When our mind is renewed, we see that God’s teaching does not consist of the letters we read on the page, but consists of the spiritual principles behind those teachings (Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 3:6). For the Spirit of God imprints the spirituality of the law on our hearts and minds, cutting away at the dead flesh that prevents us receiving God’s transformation (Hebrews 8:10; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Romans 2:29).
For we must be transformed, in order to know Him. How can we know God, if we cannot even distinguish good from evil? How can we see God, if we cannot make out the difference between love and hate? God wants to restore our discernment, so that we can discern what is of God, and what is of self. For God wants to restore us to a knowledge of Him. And every step God makes is a step towards restoring you to Himself.
Constant practise leads to maturity
God has acted to restore to us a knowledge of sin, and of righteousness. So let us practise distinguishing good from evil, for we want to see the LORD’s face.
With our minds transformed by the renewing of our spirit, the Spirit of God strengthening our inner being (Ephesians 3:16), the Word of God—living and active—dwelling in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17; Hebrews 4:12), then we can pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) and thus discern good from evil (Ephesians 6:13).
Let us dwell on a knowledge of God, so that our powers of discernment are trained. Let us become mature in the word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:14). For we want to see the LORD’s face.
His abounding love leads us to everything that is good. His abounding love has provided for every need of our soul. His love provides for us, that it may shine from our hearts. His loves provides for us, that it may shine increasingly brighter as the day of Christ approaches.
He who loves you aboundingly, knows you, and wants to be known by you. He empowers you to discern good from evil. And will increasingly do this until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
This message based on Hebrews 4:11–13; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:6.