Recently, there’s been a lot of news about ChatGPT and whether we should fear Artificial Intelligence (AI). Are we creating a robotic device that one day might become a monster to destroy us? For now, it’s fascinating to see what it can do. You might have already tried it and seen some fantastic outcomes.
The last time I asked ChatGPT to write a sermon for me, it couldn’t do that. Since the release of a new version, I tried it out again and discovered it could write a pretty nice sermon for me; even though it’s not my style because it’s a little touchy-feely and fuzzy-wuzzy, it’s quite usable.
I don’t preach fuzzy-wuzzy sermons; I like to push the envelope and challenge people. However, AI is getting smarter every day. Soon, you will be able to ask AI to write a sermon in Sam Stone’s style, John Piper’s style, or Rick Warren’s style. Furthermore, it will be able to preach in my voice and might do an even better job impersonating me.
My avatar will be able to preach better than I do. I am glad I am approaching retirement age. Actually, that’s the good part of AI. The world can always use many good sermons.
The downside is that people could use AI to impersonate your relative and scam you. They will appear on your video chat, such as Facetime, looking and sounding precisely like your son or daughter asking you to transfer a thousand dollars to their bank urgently.
That’s scary, you might say. That’s right, and that’s why Elon Musk and a bunch of technology leaders ask Congress to halt the development of AI and come up with regulations. Whenever we have a breakthrough in science and technology, we encounter a confusing and chaotic moment.
Our world is changing faster than ever. How do you navigate the chaotic world? The answer is discernment. Discernment is the number one leadership skill. Every one of you is a leader in this world because Jesus trained his followers to be leaders in this world.
Whether you are a parent or president, you are a leader; you either lead a family, a company, a community, or a country. Leaders have to make many decisions. The more decision you make, the more mistakes you make. Some mistakes could be extremely costly. The only way to make better decisions is through discernment.
I have discovered that every leader rises and falls on discernment. The dictionary definition of discernment is “the ability to judge well.” In Christianity, it’s the wisdom of knowing God’s will. Charles Spergeon said,
“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” ~C.H. Spurgeon
It’s easy to know what’s right or wrong, but it’s not easy to know what’s right and what’s almost right. Good leaders have this ability. You can lead a good life in this chaotic world if you have it. The good news is Jesus has taught us repeatedly.
There are three levels of discernment: personal, social, and spiritual.
Personal discernment is knowing why you do what you do—why did I make this choice; what do I crave sugar; why I am angry, etc. Knowing yourself is a giant leap in discernment because most people don’t know themselves.
Social discernment is the ability to read people—who is a good friend; who is a bad influence; who is being honest; what is their motive; etc. Our success and failure depend significantly on how well we can read people. We often read about Jesus’ outstanding ability to read people.
Spiritual discernment is the ability to know God’s will. In fact, if you have spiritual discernment, you know yourself better and people better. If you know the Creator, you understand how the creation functions. So, if you cultivate spiritual discernment, you hit three birds with one stone. Paul said,
“Those who are spiritual discern all things.” (1 Co 2:15).
That means you can make better decisions. Then how do we develop this spiritual discernment? Paul said by having the mind of Christ. In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus imparts his discernment process to us. Instead of making decisions for us, Jesus taught us how to make decisions through discernment. It’s like teaching us how to fish instead of giving us fish. So, now let’s go fishing!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today—the Third Sunday of Easter—is from the Gospel According to Luke 24:16. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13–35).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Is there any verse from this passage that puzzles you? I used to be puzzled by verse 16.
“but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:16).
Don’t you think this is strange? Why would Jesus hide from these disciples, knowing they were upset and distressed due to the news of the crucifixion of their master? Now, their lives are in chaos. Jesus’ tomb was empty. It was hard for them to believe in the resurrection even though some other disciples had told them. The whole thing didn’t make sense to them.
Now, Jesus came and walked with them. Would it be nice to comfort them by revealing himself to them? Sometimes when we are distressed, we feel God is hidden from us. If you understand this verse, you will have a different perspective on life. This verse can be interpreted together with what Jesus said at the resurrection,
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (Jn 20:28–29).
Seeing, touching, and sensing can cripple our ability to develop discernment. Not seeing and believing can tone our muscles for discernment. What do you need to believe without seeing God? We will look at three components of developing discernment.
1. Believe Jesus is With Me
When encountering BAD (Burnout, Anxiety, and Distress), remember that Jesus is by your side even though you can’t see him. Why? It’s because adversity cultivates discernment. The Book of Job is the most important in wisdom literature because it reveals how a person grows through adversity. That’s the way our Creator programmed us.
According to Greg Brockman, cofounder of ChatGPT, they programmed the AI with the ability to learn by feedback. An AI software or robot is programmed like a child that can learn and become smarter and smarter through feedback. They don’t input data into the robot because it’s impossible to keep inputting the ever-growing database from the world. The best way is to program them to learn by themselves.
That’s a good illustration of how our Creator created us. We are programmed to grow through adversity. Paul said,
“We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Rom 5:3-4).
Paul had gone through a great deal of adversity, and this is his testimony about how he grew through suffering. It’s like our growing muscles; we must suffer the pain of endurance training to grow muscles. That’s the way our muscles are programmed to develop. In the same way, our discernment grows through adversity.
Jesus could immediately pull us out of adversity by revealing Himself to us, but it would stifle the development of discernment.
If you believe Jesus is with you through adversity, you can listen to him. He is teaching you as he taught these two disciples on the way. If He reveals Himself to you, you might end up talking to Him. Sometimes, God wants us to listen instead of talk. When our senses are shut, our spirit begins to listen. Confucius also talked about listening with your spirit, but it happens only when our senses are shut.
So, believe Jesus is with you and listen with your spirit. That will increase your discernment. Then Jesus taught us to discern by believing what the Bible has said.
2. Believe in God’s Word
During adversity, always read the Bible, and you will find out that what you encounter is already written there; as King Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Verse 27 says,
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Lk 24:27).
Jesus is not only by your side through adversity, but also teaching you to understand the scriptures. You realize why things happen the way they happen.
Without relying on the scriptures, we often have misconceptions about certain things in life. These two disciples thought Jesus was there to liberate Israel and the world, but his crucifixion puzzled them. Verse 21 says,
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Lk 24:21).
It implies that they had lost faith in Jesus. He was not the kind of Messiah they expected. He couldn’t even save himself, far from saving Israel. However, now we know that saving Israel is like giving them fish. Jesus wants them to learn fishing. Jesus wanted them to have discernment so no one could enslave them. It’s a weak and lazy ethos to expect God to liberate them without effort.
Jesus was disappointed at their unbelief and said,
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25–26).
The word “foolish” here is translated from Greek ἀνόητος (anóētos), meaning “not using one’s intellect” or “undiscerning.” It doesn’t mean they are stupid, but they are not using their ability to discern. They are taking an easy route. Our brain is often lazy; we are to think as little as possible.
Just as we don’t like exercising our body muscles, we don’t like exercising our brain and spiritual muscles. The truth is revealed in the Scriptures. All we need to do is read the Bible regularly, and our discernment grows. The Bible is a book of truth, and the truth will set us free.
3. Believe in Hospitality
Hospitality is a hidden commandment in the Bible. When you practice hospitality, you end up entertaining angels and even God. These two disciples did the right thing.
But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. (Lk 24:29).
Notice it says, “they urged him strongly;” They insisted on providing hospitality to the stranger. It’s sad that the pandemic has kept people apart, preventing them from providing hospitality and others from being guests. Despite the sadness, these two insisted on having dinner with the unknown teacher.
To their surprise, they witnessed the risen Christ themselves.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (Lk 24:30-31).
When you practice hospitality, you discern God’s presence. In Genesis 18, Abraham saw three travelers passing by in the heat of the day. He rushed out to invite them for a moment of rest, giving them water, food, and refreshments. They happened to be God and two angels. That’s where the saying “Entertaining Angels” come from. Because of this hospitality, Abraham saved his nephew, Lot, to escape the disaster.
How do you know God is with you? Verse 32 says,
They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32).
That’s how we know the Holy Spirit is present with us—our hearts are burning within. When I don’t have the Holy Spirit, my heart feels cold. Maybe that’s why Luke describes the Holy Spirit as flames of fire on the heads of the disciples during Pentecost.
Jesus hid Himself so that we can cultivate discernment on our own rather than relying on spoon-feeding. We can learn to fish instead of getting the fish. That’s how we develop resilience and maturity until we reach a point Paul described as,
“We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Co 2:16b)
There we have it: three beliefs to cultivate the discernment to live a fruitful life in a chaotic time.
1. Believe Jesus is With Me
2. Believe in God’s Word
3. Believe in Hospitality
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.