Heb 5:14 „But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.“

It is easy to think that discerning good and evil is very simple. We see an example of good and evil when the Lord asked the rich young ruler about five of the ten commandments: do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour your father and your mother. He was able to give a clear answer that he had kept these from his youth. This simplicity is helpful for the young believer, but as we grow in God we realize that things can be much more complicated. Let us consider the example of the temptations the Lord faced in the desert at the beginning of His ministry. They will show us that we must consider things from a deeper perspective, if we are to grow in refusing the evil and choosing the good.

Let us start with the first temptation. The Lord was very, very hungry; what harm could it do to turn a stone into bread to satisfy your hunger? The obvious answer is that He had been driven into the desert by the Spirit, to fast, and so far He had received no instruction to break His fast. No wonder, He said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Perhaps secondly, He was to live the most normal life on earth, to show to us that we too, by His power, could live Godly lives in the most normal way. There would be a time for miracles relating to food and drink (the wedding in Cana and the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000), but the normal was to find food and drink in the way that everyone does. We see that this is what the disciples expected when Judas went out at the last supper; the others presumed he was going to buy things for the meal, they weren’t expecting a miracle.

What about the second temptation. The Lord should want as many people as possible to become disciples. Surely, a dramatic demonstration of power by throwing Himself off the temple and landing safely would draw the crowds. But how long would they last? He would need to constantly be performing dramatic signs of greater and greater majesty to hold their attention. The reality would be that they were ‘disciples’ of the signs, not disciples of the Lord. Later, when many disciples drew back from following Him, He asked the twelve if they too wanted to go away. Peters answered for all of them when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When Peter says ‘to whom’, it shows that they were ‘discipled’ to the Lord, Himself, not to His performance. Thinking of a church, do we hold out the Lord Jesus Christ as the main attraction, or are we getting closer to providing a Hollywood show?

The last temptation seems a little clearer to discern as the Lord’s reply quotes the direct command against worshiping any, but God. But it was still a temptation, to achieve all that the Lord wanted without three years of hard work and without the suffering of the cross. The devil’s tempting offer was rejected!

The fact that the Lord would have to learn these things as He matured on earth was wonderfully prophesied 600 years earlier by Isaiah, Isa 7:14-15 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.  Learning to discern good and evil is much more than rejecting those things that are obviously evil things. This is about learning to live God’s life and to do God’s work in God’s way. This way does not compromise, does not rush ahead when God has not given permission to move, does not use “the dramatic” to win people, but wants those that are truly committed to Jesus Christ out of love. This way is not prepared to take shortcuts to achieve the goals.

How are you doing? Are you maturing by the exercise of your senses so that you can rightly discern good and evil?