Learn to Discern

As my five kids got older they each learned to know those things that made me happy and what would disappoint me. They didn’t know it then but they were learning discernment. As children of God we too need to learn to discern.

One Word –

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses. Leviticus 10:10-11

Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 9, 10, 11; Matthew 24

Big Idea –

As followers of Jesus Paul encourages us to “Walk as children of the light” who “try to discern what pleases the LORD” (Eph. 5:8, 10). The path Jesus has set us upon has ample light to see enabling us to clearly discern the footsteps we take. We should always know if the things we do or say are righteous or evil.

A major theme in the book of Leviticus is holiness, or put another way God waned His people to be righteous walking in the light. To do this the LORD instructed Aaron to distinguish or discern between “the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.” In turn Aaron was to likewise instruct the people so they could walk in the light or obey “all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” 

Today we are taught many good things in our churches through sermons and bible studies. Like Aaron our pastors are teaching us the statues of the LORD or commands of Jesus. But what is missing in many of our churches is learning how to discern.

The discernment the LORD made known to Aaron (and which he taught the people) is foreign to many of us. However, it is critical for us to learn to discern between “the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” if we are truly going to “Walk as children of the light.”

The LORD taught Aaron to distinguish between four things. I confess I have always thought there were really only two thinking that holy was synonymous with clean and the common was just another way of saying unclean. I’m glad I wasn’t set in my ways, but was willing to be taught. You see, God has not called us to live clean lives; I imagine like me you can think of some moral or clean people that are not followers of Jesus. As “children of the light” we are called to be holy just as the LORD is holy (see – 1 Pt 1:15-16).

Everything in creation is common (Hebrew chol) also translated as profane and unholy (as opposed to what is holy). Something is common simply because it is of this world or creation. Everything common (chol) is either unclean (tame’), or clean (tahowr). The unclean (tame’) is defiled or polluted; the clean (tahowr) is pure or unmixed. The unclean and clean may apply either chemically (i.e. pure gold), physically, morally or ceremonially. Therefore, whatever we have in our possession, whatever we see or desire, and whatever we say or do can first be thought of as what is common and clean, or common and unclean.

Those things that are holy (qodesh) refers to that which is set apart, separated, consecrated. As such holiness can be applied to God, people, places or things. Ultimately only the LORD, who alone is completely holy can declare or make someone or something holy. For anything to be made holy it must be common and clean; anything that is unclean cannot be made holy unless it can first be cleansed.

Let’s first see how this works with you and me as “children of the light.” We were all born as common or profane humans; we were of this world. However, spiritually we were also unclean being dead in our sins. By the faithfulness of Jesus who died for our sins everyone who believes and confesses Him as LORD is purified of their sin; they are no longer unclean, but clean. Having been cleansed God then sets us apart as holy.

Now if you’re like me, and I’m sure you are, you too struggle with sin even after your salvation. God has declared us holy, a child of God; nevertheless we stumble and fall into sin. Put simply we remain holy, but our sin has made us unclean. However, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:9); we are again holy and clean.

I remember as a child thinking that when I sinned an angel would erase my name form the Lamb’s Book of Life, then I would ‘get saved’ all over again and the angel would rewrite my name. In time I was sure that the paper was getting thin; if I sinned again, would the angel even be able to rewrite my name? Through the years I’ve learned that God has not only sanctified or declared me holy by faith in Christ, but the Holy Spirit is helping me to live sanctified or free from sin each day becoming more like Jesus. And so today I can discern God has declared me holy and with my sins forgiven I am clean, but when I stumble and fall God’s declaration remains but I am holy and unclean again in need of cleansing.

Now let’s think for a moment about thing and places. While ultimately God alone sets things apart as holy, the LORD has established that His people whom He has set apart as holy can likewise consecrate things as holy to the LORD. Here again we must understand that we can only dedicate those things that are common and clean; nothing unclean can be set apart as holy.

As an example think about money; it is common or profane because it is of this world. The income I receive can be used for common and clean purposes; I can buy groceries, pay my mortgage and utility bills, or buy a gift for someone’s birthday. However, I could choose to use my money for unclean or impure things; I could use it to satisfy an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, or buy sex and/or pyrography to name just a few. And let’s not forget that Jesus identified money as a rival god, so if my use of money is only for self gratification and pleasure then everything I do with it, even buying groceries, is unclean because my heart is likewise defiled (see – Mat. 6:24; Lk. 16:13).

Yet as a follower of Jesus I can choose to consecrate or set apart money as holy. When I give my tithes and offerings, or if I help provide for the poor, or if I help meet the need of my brothers and sisters in Christ, then what I give becomes holy. In this way Jesus said I can lay up treasures in heaven (see Mat. 6:19-21).

Spurgeon was correct; discerning the right and wrong is easy. We need to learn to discern between the right and almost right. I think that’s why the LROD want us to distinguish between “the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.” As we learn to apply such discernment in our daily lives, we can be holy and walk the path before us as children of the light.

Exemplify –

I need to continue to use discernment to recognize those things in my life that would make me unclean separating me from God.

Yes to Yield –

LORD Jesus, thank You for Your grace that has saved me cleansing me from all unrighteousness and making me holy. Holy Spirit give me wisdom to discern between things as You see them, to recognize the difference between the holy and common and between the clean and unclean. Help me to daily discern the steps I need to take to remain holy and clean because I can clearly see those things that are unclean and would lead me astray.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

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