A pastor explains why discernment has disappeared



“You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:3, NKJV)

Why Discernment Has Disappeared    by Pastor Randy White

I am continually frustrated that Christians, even pastors and theologians, seem to have an overwhelming inability to discern the times. The Christian world is continually making false assumptions about reality, then making decisions based upon those assumptions. A continued downward spiral is the only result.

Why is it that discernment has disappeared? I will share three reasons.

An inability to explain basic prophecy

If you don’t know where you’re going, it will be impossible for you to discern what the results of any particular action will be. Not knowing your destination, you have no clue whether or not your left turn will delay you, be a shortcut, or be a dead-end.

For someone with a godless world view, the world isn’t going anywhere. A turn is simply a turn. Christians, however, have a worldview in which the Creator of both time and space is purposeful, and will guide to this world to any intended end.

So why is it that most Christians cannot even give a basic outline of Biblical prophecy? How is it expected that we can interpret history or evaluate current events if we are clueless about the trajectory of history? Given a set of prophetic events, most Christians would have a hard time even putting them into some semblance of order, and couldn’t explain and defend their positions even if they managed to get them in order. I am convinced that a knowledge of the future is a fundamental piece of information for a discernment of the present.

Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most important passages of Scripture for understanding a Bible time-line and order of events. It describes a period of time from Israel’s return from exile to the arrival of Israel’s Messiah, and looks forward to the time in which everlasting righteousness is ushered in. It speaks of the Antichrist, and is the passage from which a seven-year Tribulation is calculated. However, more and more theologians are using the English Standard Version of Scripture (ESV), which I have said is, “allergic to prophecy.”  If one reads Daniel 9:25 in the ESV he would have a completely different time-line than if he read in KJV or any other trustworthy version. The unacceptable translation in the ESV simply adds to the inability of modern believers to understand Biblical prophecy. (For more on the ESV’s allergy to prophecy, click here).

The inability to explain the present age theologically

The Pharisees and Sadducees could tell what the weather was going to be, but had no ability to explain the current activity of God. Such seems to be true of religious leaders of our age as well. The theology from the seminary to the pulpit is a mish-mash of Bible casserole that makes a mockery of a literal reading of the text.

With this inability to explain the present age theologically, several theological screw-ups are prominent in the church today, including—

The “How to Define Israel” screw-up

If a professor of literature or grammar or etymology or linguistics or English read the Bible, they would define Israel as a nation created by God composed of the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But when a professor of Theology reads the Bible, unable to explain what God is doing in the world today, he has multiple definitions of Israel. He will use these at his personal whims. When Israel is disobedient, it is is a nation of Jews. When Israel is blinded and rejected, it is that same Jewish nation. When Israel has promises, it is now redefined to include….me. These redefinitions range from the typical historic replacement theological position of the church as the “new Israel,” to the more recent but ever-popular view of the new Calvinists (like the folks at the ERLC or the Gospel Coalition) who teach that “Jesus is the true Israel.” The bottom line of these definitions is all the same: the nation of Israel and the Jewish people are incidental to anything happening in history today. So much for the ability to discern the times.

The Law and Grace screw-up

Only when one understands God’s current activity and soteriological plan can a clear understanding of the Law and Grace be determined. Without knowing what God is doing today, the theologian (armchair or Seminary variety) will take a few parts law and a few parts grace, mix them together and create a Baptist. The Scripture may say that we are dead to the Law, but since we like certain laws, we create an explanation of why we are still obligated to these particular laws.

Some of my favorite made-up explanations:

  • “Since this practice pre-dates the Law, we are still obligated.”  If this is all that is required, let’s get back to our sacrifices (which go to Genesis 4) and our Sabbath rest (which goes to Genesis 1-2).
  • “Since this is a part of Israel’s moral law and not her ceremonial or civil law, we are still obligated.” And with this, the theologian begins slicing and dicing the Law (again based on their own whims). The sliced and diced Law is the same one of which James says, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10).

The Gospel – Morality screw-up

With no comprehension of God’s activity and plan in today’s world, the theologian confuses morality with the Gospel. It seems like anything moral has now become Gospel.  Consider a few examples from Southern Baptist denominational ethicist Russell Moore:

Until we are able to clarify what God is doing in the world today, we will not have a clear understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel will increasingly become anything good, moral, and lovely. Our proclamation of the Gospel will increasingly be a message of peace, justice, and reform, rather than one that tells of a Savior who provides personal restoration to God.

The inability to give Biblical explanation to current events

We have swallowed two pills which have robbed us of the ability to analyze current events.

First, we don’t know right from wrong because we’ve clouded the issues with post-modern thinking, which removes absolutes. When an issue arrises, one needing a moral judgment, we say, “let me gather the evidence.” From there, we look at the myriad of circumstances that led to the actual issue. After we know causes and effects and motivations and experiences and ad infinitum, then we can determine whether the action itself was right or wrong. Meanwhile, those who are able to discern the times look at the action, compare it to the character of God as revealed in the pages of Scripture, and are able to quickly make a judgment.

When you were a child and got caught doing something you knew you were not supposed to do, your mother scolded you. Likely, your response was something like, “But Timmy did it first,” or “Timmy did this so I did that.” Your mother’s response was simple: “I don’t care what Timmy did.” She didn’t accept your moral equivalence arguments nor did she care about the events that led up to the wrongdoing. Your mother had a worldview that was based on absolute truths, not moral relativism.

Second, we cannot analyze current events because peaceful co-existence has been prioritized over serious debate. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told, “If you say that, you’ll really take some heat.” Why are we so concerned about speaking the truth? It is because we’ve been conditioned to believe that disruption of unity is worse than the current ill, even though the unity is dependent on a disconnect from reality.


The religious leaders of Jesus’ day could take opinion polls and jump in front of the crowd. They were good enough observers to be able to know the trends. What they could not do was discern the signs of the times. Hebrews 5:14 speaks of those who “have their senses trained to discern” (NASB). I can think of few other areas of training more needed for our day.

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12 Responses to A pastor explains why discernment has disappeared

  1. Pépe Cabréra December 3, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    Hi Amy & Mike, this is Pepe your Filipino podcast listener from Saudi Arabia. I know that discerning and judging are kinda same. Could it be that one of the reasons why most Christians do not have discernment is that they are afraid to 'JUDGE' (taking Matthew 7:1 out of context)? or because the Bible says we are all sinners and they don't want to sound hypocrites if they judge others? God bless!

    • standupwi December 3, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Sounds like a good theory to me.

  2. Quentin December 3, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Has Randy White repented for his false teachings?

    • standupwi December 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

      LOL! You must be thinking of the former megachurch pastor of the same name. Or the NFL football player. But this Randy White I assure you is neither of them. He explains it on his website.

  3. Robyn December 3, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    When we discern truth from error we are not judging people but rather "judging" what they say when compared to what the Bible says. Very important to make the distinction, we are not to judge the person but we are told to inspect the fruit. Seems like many Christians know the verse "Judge not lest you be judged" but very few know we are also told to "test all things"

  4. Dianne December 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Excellent comments … I am new to your site …. definitely tuning in to other posts. Thank you very much for the balance I see here … one I need myself.

  5. victoriadiagnello December 3, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    There has been so much misinformation (false teaching) given to the church by the wolves that actually discourages them from any type of discerning, simply because they twist verses around like these. We are told to judge in many places of the bible. We are just not to judge as a self righteous hypocrite, they like to look down on others as it makes them feel more elevated, and condemn them before God had a chance. There is a difference, but the wolves make it look like any judgment is 'unloving', which of course, is dead wrong, we are to judge and discern just as the bible dictates. They spread this deception because it advances their own agendas of further deception and apostasy and their other 'goals.'

    ( :
    God bless you all!

    • Larry December 8, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      It is true that there is one truth and Jesus is it. It is also true that most Christians do not seem to want to take responsibility for knowing the truth about God as it is revealed in the Bible. There is much we can say about the Bible, at a minimum we can say it is a profound opportunity and resource that we too often pass over. We export the job of studying to show ourselves approved to a class of 'professionals' who very often simply fill in gray areas with their own opinions as we ourselves are tempted to do. Now it makes sense biblically that it must be possible to abuse the Bible, to be deceived using it. We stand up for the truth but we cannot rescue anyone from their own willful deception. Only God can part those clouds.

  6. Christine Erikson December 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    If you strip obedience to Jesus' morality that Paul taught from The Gospel, and believe and teach the lie that works means anything but the works of the covenant of Moses, circumcision food restrictions and sabbath keeping etc., external works, not righteousness not moral code which Paul reiterates and Jesus warns that only those who do the will of The Father will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven

    then you are doing the same wolf work as the ones you criticize. It is not a matter of keeping laws we like out of OT it is a matter of keeping the moral code in it that Paul reiterates over and over and Jesus warns about. The ritual code and moral code ARE distinct, and if you a right heart you will instinctively agree with the moral code, if you don't you will resist it and need to work harder to be holy.

  7. Larry December 8, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    The discernment Jesus was talking about had to do with a relationship with God as its source. They had the Scriptures but did not rightly interpret them. And some of the prophecies were not 'linear' they were only going to be revealed by the Spirit when the times had fully come. I realize this idea is also the root of much deception but it is nevertheless the biblical truth. Many theologians of Christ's day failed to recognize Him and even persecuted Him. By faith Anna and Simeon recognized the Christ as a baby, it was not by biblical exegesis. And it is the Bible which confirms these truths. A paradox? No, but a distinction that many still miss today.

  8. redroksaz December 18, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Israeli Messianic leader, Joseph Shulam, tells the story of a famous Jewish rabbi who came to faith in Yeshua and who explained the faith-based relationship between Israel and the Church as being like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

    “The Jewish people have 70 percent of the pieces, but the Church has the centerpiece,” the rabbi was said to have taught, concluding that “we can never finish the puzzle without the Church, and the Church can never finish the puzzle without Israel.”

    "For just as the new heavens and the new earth…will endure before Me..it shall be from new moon to new moon and Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come bow down before Me, says the Lord." (Isaiah 66:23)

    According to God, the observance of the Sabbath (seventh day) and new moons will be observed as long as the new heavens and the new earth last.

    Starting with Ezekiel chapter 43, we read about the Lord returning, entering the Temple and sitting down on the throne to rule forever. (Ezekiel 43:1-7) With this setting in place, the rest of the chapters in Ezekiel go on to describe details of His kingdom. We read numerous scriptures about observing the Sabbath, new moons and all the appointed feasts, as well as burnt offerings in the (third) Temple. ( Ezekiel 44:11,24; Ezekiel 45:17-21; Ezekiel 46:1-15)

  9. Sharon Peterson July 26, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    Another good article that needed to be brought up. The question of discernment is a good one. I’ve been studying for months and asked G-d to teach me discernment.

    In the days when I was growing up and learning the Bible I think a lot more of it could have been understood better if we had also been taught back then what was going on historically or politically. That would have been a tremendous help. A little bit more of Bible geography would have been helpful.

    Be that as it may…..today it’s the various “new” versions of the Bible which mistranslate and take many things from one context to a different one to change the meaning. Too many Christians are into the “politically correct” versions which further complicates Christians from discerning, and also the many churches that are also falling in line with the one world religion.

    What is coming to be even more harmful are these ancient and Gnostic teachings that are appealing to people who don’t clearly understand the Bible, and also to people who have no knowledge of church or Christianity at all. Those poor people are so lost and confused and they themselves say it over and over again.

    There are numerous sites now teaching that the” Gnostic” Sumerian and other ancient texts are correct and that the Bible and Jesus are pure made up fantasy and that Jesus is really the devil and the devil is really G-d. I’ve been on some of these sites as have a few other Christians and believe me, we sock it right back at them. All we can do is pray that some of these individuals will decide to read the Bible and not just depend on all these confusing false teachings. But we do try to get the words and misinformation corrected.

    The problem there with part of it is so much of those teachings sound like teachings from the Bible and until you can “catch” the one or two changed words in this false stuff it’s really hard to even see where the lie is twisting itself ever so sneakily in. And some of it lies in genealogy. While I know many may not want to hear this but it was a big help for me. The book of 1st Enoch written by the Enoch who was 7th from Adam. In the book Enoch there is a very complete genealogy of Cain that is given. When you really study it…..many in Cains line had names similar to those in Adams line. But the spellings are sometimes only 1 or 2 letters different indicating they are different entities, but until you know even that 1(one) thing it’s easy to get the people in the ancient texts confused with them being from the line of Adam. .

    So as another answer to the original question on discernment: the devil has revved up his massive deceit and making it even harder for Christians to discern the truth and adequately convey it to these who are believing these many ancient texts. People who need to ask Jesus into their hearts and follow G-d’s word. Indeed many who don’t know and have never heard the gospel of Jesus.

    And sad to say I’ve had to read some of these ancient texts in order to see what’s “going on.” And I’ve had to make sure that I stay fully grounded in the True word of the Bible.