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Some friends find it hard to understand why we are not impressed by letters from people claiming to be fellow-Christians, who say nice things about us and use lots of religious words and phrases.

Sometimes our replies to these "fellow-Christians" are quite abrupt. But that is because we have learned to discern the 'bottom line" in what is being said under all the trivia, clichés, and flattery.

It may sound like mind-reading, or just a good excuse for telling someone off, but the "gift of discernment" (1 Corinthians 12:10) rarely comes from anything so mysterious as visions or vibes; instead it comes from learning to listen sensitively, honestly, and un-emotionally to what is actually being said.

If someone says, "I want to stay friends and keep in touch, but I want to break off the engagement," the important bit is the last half of the statement, not the first. "But" is often a key word in locating where the real message begins!

Now let's see how it works:

We are asking people everywhere to forsake all and live by faith in obedience to Jesus. Clear. Simple. No beating around the bush.

Some people don't even believe in Jesus, and they say so. That, too, is pretty straight-forward.

But most professing Christians cannot put themselves in either camp. So they waffle. They flatter. They make excuses. They change the subject. They seek refuge in religious jargon and clichés. (e.g. God knows my heart. It's not money, but the love of it that is evil. I'm born again and spirit-filled. I'm covered by the blood of the Lamb. You can't work your way to heaven. I don't want to talk doctrine. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! God bless you!)

Some simply forget to reply for 6-8 months until they dare write again without mentioning where we left off in the conversation.

It doesn't take much supernatural assistance to discern where they are coming from, does it?

Meanwhile, these people can discern something in our spirit pretty quickly too. What is it? It's that we don't use religious jargon. Words like "born again" are valid terms, but in church circles they are used like a Mason's handshake to get yourself recognised as one of the in-crowd. It doesn't matter if you know what they really mean or not.

We get upset at this kind of game-playing. It's blasphemous, coming as it does from the mouths of people who have every intention of going to their graves before they will forsake all and live by faith in obedience to Jesus.

Yet these same people tell us that it is their Christian duty to give us a heresy test, to make sure we are worthy of their endorsements. What they don't realise is that their questions tell us more about where they are at than our answers tell them about where we are at. When you've got the real thing, you don't need some counterfeiter to tell you whether or not it's a good imitation, do you?

(See also Born Again.)

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