It is impossible for the natural man to choose a holy and righteous life, or essentially the things that will make him healthy and wholesome. The health I am speaking of is not necessarily physical although many of us have a very difficult time making the right choices in that area. I am speaking of choosing health for the soul—the ability to come to Christ in salvation and to begin a course of living for God.
Righteousness eludes every person who does not know Christ. Our fallen nature prevents us from choosing godliness which is the reason we need the Lord to change our hearts. Jesus said we must be born again. This infers the old life must be replaced with the new life that only He can give. Until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to this truth, we remain carnally minded and cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8).
In regeneration, God changes the disposition of the mind and gives the ability to choose the right path instead of repeating the frequent failures of the past. However, this new capability does not mean we possess immediate wisdom to use it. As we well know, there is a sanctifying process in which good choices are cultivated by prayer, study, and practical experience. Wisdom in this case is not a sudden miraculous endowment as God gave Solomon. This wisdom is best described as discernment achieved through repetitive training. In fact, it is wisdom that will never show itself unless great care is taken to work on it daily. When we indulge sin on a regular basis without being cautious to protect ourselves from it, the heart grows cold and calloused and strongly resists correction. The spiritual man can become a couch potato that never heeds the call to work out our salvation (work out your own salvation—Phil. 2:12).
The first way the Bible tells us to discern properly is in our moral choices. Because the moral character of a Christian is changed, it is possible to choose ways of living that are consistent with the Bible’s commandments. Many of these ways we never thought of before and were never bothered because we did the opposite. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, comes the ability to see sin differently, and rather than enjoy its pleasures, we are grieved in our heart and broken by it.
The second area of discernment concerns doctrinal distinctions. All right choices whether moral or theological are governed by our doctrine. For example, the Gnosticism of the first century led to very immoral lifestyles because the doctrine of the body/soul relationship was wrong. We should recognize that every false doctrine leads to unbiblical thinking. Wrong thinking leads to wrong practice and to compromise which in turn becomes bad lifestyle choices.
There are moral and doctrinal distinctions that must be made. We do not have the option of ignoring them. The best place you can learn how to make right choices is to attend church and sit under good doctrinal preaching. Living in wisdom is not mystical. It is to follow the objective truth of God’s word.
Pastor V. Mark Smith