Charles Haddon Spurgeon, affectionately known as the “Prince of Preachers,” remains one of the most influential Christian leaders in modern history. His vast collection of sermons, writings, and theological teachings continue to inspire believers and shape the Christian faith even today. One particular area where Spurgeon left a lasting legacy is with is his deep commitment to the practice of discernment. Spurgeon famously said that discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”
Born on June 19, 1834, in Kelvedon, Essex, England, Charles Spurgeon was raised in a devout Christian family, with both of his grandfathers serving as pastors. At the age of fifteen, Spurgeon experienced a profound conversion to Christianity, which sparked a passion for preaching that lasted the entirety of his life. By the time he was nineteen, Spurgeon became the pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Chapel, which later became the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Spurgeon’s magnetic personality and eloquence in preaching drew massive crowds, with many traveling great distances to hear him speak. He was known for his captivating use of language and illustrations, which made complex theological concepts accessible to ordinary people. Spurgeon’s sermons were so popular that they were printed and sold by the thousands, reaching millions of people worldwide.
Despite his popularity, Spurgeon never wavered in his commitment to biblical truth. He had a unique ability to discern the truth from falsehood, leading to his unwavering commitment to sound doctrine. This commitment laid the foundation for Spurgeon’s theology and practice of discernment.
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In an age where spiritual confusion and false teachings were rampant, Spurgeon’s theology of discernment offered a beacon of clarity to believers. Spurgeon relentlessly taught the importance of testing all teachings and beliefs against the ultimate standard: the Word of God. Spurgeon’s keen understanding of the Scriptures allowed him to identify and refute false teachings, while also equipping his congregation with the tools necessary to discern truth from error.
For Spurgeon, discernment was not an optional aspect of the Christian faith, but rather an essential practice for spiritual growth and maturity. He believed that all believers must be diligent in studying the Scriptures and cultivating a deep understanding of God’s Word. This, in turn, would empower them to recognize truth and reject falsehood.
The role of the Holy Spirit was central to Spurgeon’s theology as he believed that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate guide for believers in their quest for truth. While diligent study and knowledge of the Scriptures are essential, Spurgeon was firm in his belief that true discernment could only come through reliance on the illumination of the Holy Spirit, rather than through self-motivation.
In his sermon, A Great Mistake and the Way to Rectify It, Spurgeon addressed the deception in the church in Laodicea, which he describes as a community that appeared to be wealthy, strong, and knowledgeable but was, in fact, spiritually impoverished, weak, and ignorant. Spurgeon noted that the members of this church believed they had great discernment and could judge others based on their faith and sincerity. However, Jesus Christ saw them as blind and lacking true discernment.
Spurgeon warned against self-flattery and the danger of mistaking outward appearances for genuine spiritual substance and he noted that the church in Laodicea was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ but in their own conceit, leaving them spiritually naked and vulnerable. His point was to urge believers to examine themselves and their churches carefully and to cultivate true discernment based on the teachings of Christ rather than relying on their own perceptions or the opinions of others.
Spurgeon’s teachings on the Holy Spirit’s role in discernment encouraged believers to develop a deep, personal relationship with God, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate their understanding of Scripture and guide them in their everyday lives.
Charles Spurgeon’s urgent and serious call to discernment holds enduring relevance in today’s world, which is rife with conflicting messages and beliefs. As believers strive to maintain a solid foundation in their faith, the modern church grapples with a multitude of challenges at the complex crossroads of faith and culture. Unfortunately, many churches have inadvertently allowed contemporary culture to shape their doctrines and practices, instead of relying solely on the Scriptures for guidance.
The growing trend of churches adopting a more permissive attitude toward sexual ethics reflects the influence of shifting societal norms. While society increasingly accepts diverse expressions of sexuality and relationships that are opposed to God’s natural, created order, it is vital for us to remain anchored in the teachings of the Bible, which uphold the sanctity of marriage and the importance of sexual purity.
In the same way, many modern churches have embraced religious relativism, where all beliefs and spiritual paths are considered equally valid. This perspective starkly contrasts with the exclusivity of the Christian message, which proclaims that salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ. In their efforts to be “inclusive” and avoid offending others by conforming to cultural standards, churches that adopt this perspective on theology undermine Christianity’s unique claims.
Navigating this cultural landscape demands that believers draw upon the wisdom of Christ to discern the truth. Echoing Spurgeon’s insights, true discernment arises from a profound understanding of Scripture and dependence on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. By immersing themselves in the Bible and fostering an intimate relationship with God, Christians can cultivate the discernment needed to tackle the challenges posed by modern culture.