November 2, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
If you want to discern God’s ways, you need to be formed in mind and heart by the Spirit of God. The more you are shaped by God’s own Spirit, the more you will be able to grasp what God is doing in your life.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians
In this week’s Life for Leaders devotions, I have been focusing on the imperative found in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test everything.” As you may recall, the Greek verb translated here as “test” is dokimazō, which means “test, examine, discern, demonstrate, prove.” Though we are to be open to all that the Holy Spirit would do in and through us, we also need to “test” everything so that we can embrace what is good and reject that which is evil.
In recent devotions I have noted that such testing is usually a function of a Christian community. As Christians, we don’t have to discern things on our own, nor should we. In this activity we receive invaluable help from our sisters and brothers in Christ.
How does our Christian community participate in testing all things? One way is through stewarding gifts of discernment that come from the Holy Spirit. If we are going to test everything wisely, then we need God’s help. That help comes from the Spirit who dwells in each of us and among us as the body of Christ. That help comes in various ways, including gifts of discernment that enable us to hold fast to what is true.
In today’s devotion I’d like to examine another passage in one of Paul’s letters. This passage teaches us something profound about spiritual discernment. In Romans 12:2 we read, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Greek verb translated here as “discern” is dokimazō, the same verb that appears in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 as “test” in the phrase “test everything.” Thus Romans helps us understand more about the testing commended in 1 Thessalonians.
Romans 12:2 gives us additional insights into how we can test everything. The verse begins, “Do not be conformed to this world.” The broken-by-sin world in which we live will presume to teach us how to test things. Sometimes what we learn from the world can be helpful. We’re all better off because of the sciences of engineering and medicine, for example. But there is much in our world that is fundamentally opposed to God and God’s ways. Thus, while we might learn some things of value from the world, we mustn’t be conformed to the world and its values. We must not let our fundamental ways of thinking and feeling be shaped by a world that refuses to recognize God and God’s kingdom.
Instead of being conformed to this world, Romans 12:2 calls us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” As we live in relationship with God and God’s people, we will experience inner renewal. We will learn to think and feel differently. We will adopt new values and priorities. We will experience new loves and passions. This work of inner renewal is first and foremost an activity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit renews us in various ways as we study the Scriptures, engage in Christian community, participate in God’s mission in the world, and devote time to regular spiritual practices such as prayer, silence, biblical meditation, and worship.
As the Spirit of God renews us inside, we will be able to “discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Or, to use the language of 1 Thessalonians, when we are open to the transforming work of the Spirit within us, we will be able to “test everything.” We will “hold fast to what is good” and “abstain from every form of evil.”
The transformation described in Romans 12:2, which leads to wise spiritual discernment, is often referred to these days as spiritual formation. When we live as active disciples of Jesus, when we are open to the power of the Spirit, when we allow our minds and hearts to be shaped by Scripture, when we engage in classical disciplines for spiritual growth, then our spirits will be formed, both reformed and transformed, by the power of God’s Spirit. As this happens, we become more and more like Jesus in our thinking, feeling, acting, and discernment.
Thus, the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to test everything is something we can endeavor to do no matter our spiritual maturity. But if we want to be able to test everything wisely, if we want to know what is good and what is evil, then we need to enter into a process of spiritual formation that will, in time, enable us to test everything rightly. Or, to use the language of Romans, we will be able to “discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In what ways are you tempted to be conformed to this world?
Can you think of a way (or ways) that the Holy Spirit has been transforming you?
What things do you do to participate in God’s work of renewing your mind?
Talk with a wise friend or your small group about ways that you are tempted to conform to this world and its values.
Gracious God, thank you for the presence of your Spirit in my life. Thank you for what you are doing to transform me so that I might become more and more like Jesus. As that transformation happens, help me to discern your will, what is good, acceptable, and perfect. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Minds (Romans 12:1–3).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.