Discerning God’s wisdom amid misleading cultural messages

Written by Josiah Piett

One of our culture’s common sayings is that you cannot love your neighbour until you learn how to love yourself. On the surface, this statement rings true and even sounds like Christ’s own words. But when we look a little closer, we realize that love in this statement is rooted in humanity, not Christ.

When love is rooted in humanity it creates a false sense of control, security, and power. The love we are meant to love ourselves with is not our own, but the love we receive freely from the Father, through the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When love is rooted in and from humanity it is fragile, fluid, and inconsistent and therefore comes at the cost of immense human effort. But when the love is rooted in Christ, it is one of divine intentionality, nourishment, and constancy. This love gives us the ability to slow down, let go, and receive. The love we receive in Christ moulds, matures, and transforms us to love others well.

The spirit of this age wants us to root our lives in a love that is not found in Christ; both those who follow Jesus and those who don’t are susceptible to believing the idea that loving ourselves first is wisdom.

Many people inside and outside the church see the devil’s power as so easily recognizable we don’t have a need to mention or worry about his influences. Many might be surprised to find out the Bible actually describes the devil as an angel of light, not darkness. This is why we need the gift of discernment. How do we discern the difference between the “angel of light” and the Father of Lights?

A professor I once had said, “Our culture wants the blessing of the kingdom without the king.” We want the benefits of adoption in Christ without Christ. In other words, we want to believe we are inherently enough without the necessity of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

For example, many say we can achieve equality for all humanity—a kingdom reality—through our own efforts. As if the problem of inequality is rooted solely in lack of education, distribution of resources, and apathy—not in our inherited human brokenness. This concept is rooted in humanism and not in following Jesus. It’s a counterfeit to the kingdom of God.

One way we can begin to discern the difference between the two lights is through asking: Does what we are pursuing recognize both the King (Jesus) and His Kingdom?

Jesus warns his disciples that the “thief comes to steal kill and destroy.” This reveals the ultimate motive of the angel of light. Part of what makes this spirit so sinister and evil is it manifests itself with the outward appearance of truth, beauty, and love. It provides a sense of acceptance, belonging, and significance, yet below the surface there is a darker motivation.

Here’s an example where discernment is needed. I have friends who’ve described spiritual experiences they had with “the light” and how they received a deep sense of love and contentment through these experiences. My concern with this is whenever there is a story in the Bible where God reveals Himself to someone, He always makes Himself known.

If we have spiritual experiences where God doesn’t make himself known, then these experiences might actually be from the wrong light. What is amazing about the gospel is that what the enemy might use for destruction, Christ can use as an introduction. If someone has an experience with a counterfeit light, we have the opportunity to introduce them to Christ our king. It is through the specificity of Christ’s story that we receive and experience the love of God. But how do I know this?

In the same conversation where Jesus gives His warning about the thief’s intentions, He also says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10, ESV). Although the devil poses a real threat to society and to our souls, there is a greater promise we all can live in. God is seeking to bring life and restore all things through Christ alone.

There is a great opportunity for you and I to both discern the influence of the spirit of this age and then to declare and live in the reality of the King and His kingdom. Where the enemy uses false love to distance, distort, and distract, we through the power of the Holy Spirit can invite, bring clarity, and declare the gospel of Christ Jesus through our words and our deeds—in, through, and for Him.

To conclude, I will leave you with these questions:

  1. How is God’s love transforming you today? Are there things you need to let go of? What might the Holy Spirit want to gift you with today (peace, joy, self-control, comfort)?
  2. What are ways you are allowing Christ to be king over your life and are bearing witness to His kingdom in your midst?
  3. Are there people in your life right now that God may be nudging you to invite so they can receive the love He so desperately desires them to experience?