Chapter 7

                                        SEVEN – Discipline

     Most have witnessed a youngster misbehaving in a public place or social setting.  Wanting something, and reasoning his parent is in an awkward situation, the child may whine and cry or throw a tantrum, drawing everyone’s attention as he makes a spectacle of himself.  In these dilemmas parents respond differently.  Some ignore the child, and continue with their business as usual.  Others react with loud threats and scolding.  Still other parents become embarrassed, make excuses for their child’s behavior, and give in to the child’s demands, all the while hoping junior’s anger will cease.  Unfortunately, some lose control of their own passions and feelings, which often lead to physical or emotional abuse.

 

     The wise and loving parent does not ignore or excuse the behavior of his disobedient child.  The fair and gentle parent does not resort to name–calling, empty threats or an arbitrary slap across an ill-suited body part.  Rather, the loving and caring parent properly deals with disobedience as unacceptable and intolerable behavior.  By example, the parent or guardian faithfully teaches his young charge that obedience will produce joy in life’s relationships, while disobedience will reap dire consequences.  However, even loving and caring earthly care givers often foul up and make mistakes due perhaps to stress or a lack of rest.  Their judgment becomes clouded, resulting in poor parenting.  Impropriety is part and parcel of being human—we are not perfect, and we often err. 

 

     So goes life.  Even with the best of intentions, life is full of inconsistency and failure; but not so with our Heavenly Father.  In spite of our sin and willful disobedience, we can always fully rely upon our God to respond flawlessly.  God does not, in a fit of rage, angrily respond to our disobedience.  In spite of our rebellious spirit, He never retaliates with a string of demoralizing names and labels.  When we throw a spiritual tantrum, He never ignores what we are doing; somehow hoping things will work out all right.  Our gracious Heavenly Father loves us too strongly and too deeply to abuse us.  He never mistreats us because the day has not gone well for Him.  Yet, when we are truly rebellious and sinful, our God reacts in a responsible and righteous manner, always doing what is best for us.

 

     Earthly parents frequently explain to their disobedient son or daughter, “Because of your misbehavior, we must punish you.”  God does not punish His children; more accurately, He disciplines.  The punishment and penalty for our sin has been borne at the cross by the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, those who by faith have received God’s free gift of life will never know punishment.  However, those who are never born again will know eternal punishment and penalty for their sin.  Jesus said, “And [the unsaved] will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:16).  In his second epistle Peter wrote the Lord knows how to keep “. . . the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).  Paul taught the unsaved “. . . will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

 

     Punishment and penalty for sin are reserved for those who never trust Christ as Savior, not His born-again children.  Since the Heavenly Father has chosen not to exert punishment upon His sinning, disobedient children, then what is His response?  A simple but accurate answer is discipline.  He seeks to train and correct by teaching us about Himself.  His end desire is we live in the bottom circle environment of light, growth, and blessing.  Into a disobedient, sinful son’s life, our kind and wise Father will bring loving reminders, designed to motivate and encourage confession of sin, resulting in a return to that spiritual environment and a godly walk which honors and pleases Him.

 

 
 
 

     A classic Scripture passage, which deals with the subject of divine discipline, is found in Hebrews 12:

 

You have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.  For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they discipline us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:5 – 11).

 

     Never forget, when an earthly child is disobedient he does not lose his standing in the family—he remains a son.  Likewise, when a child of the Heavenly Father is disobedient, he does not forfeit his sonship.  The top circle of the book’s illustration reminds us we are God’s children forever.  Not even a willful, disobedient, and rebellious spirit can separate us from God and His precious love (Romans 8:38, 39).

 

     Several times in Hebrews 12, the author used nearly the same word to convey and reinforce a particular idea.  The Greek word is “paideia,” and is translated “discipline.”  It means to train, chasten, or correct children; and carries the idea of a mature teacher correcting an immature, untrained child.  In Revelation 3:19, Jesus chose the same word when He wrote to the immature members of one of the Asia Minor churches:  “’Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline . . .’”

 

     Writing to a young pastor, Paul instructed him “not [to] be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition . . .” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25 [italics added]}.  The apostle also told this young servant and his congregation the Scriptures are inspired by God and, therefore, are profitable for “training” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

 

     In order that His born-again children become more like Him, our patient and loving Father disciplines, trains, rears, and corrects (“paideia”).  Solomon wrote, “Train up [or dedicate] a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  Earlier this wise Old Testament king wrote, “My son, do not forget my teaching.  But let your heart keep my commandments” (Proverbs 3:1).  Look at another word of admonition from King Solomon—“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.  But he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).

 

     The king spoke of loving discipline.  That seems like an unusual response.  Even the Hebrews 12 passage concedes this notion—“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful . . .” (verse 11).  It is safe to bet you have never witnessed a child petition his parent for more discipline.  Can you imagine a teenager pleading for another week or two of grounding?

 

     However, when the Heavenly Father brings correction and training into the life of one of His children, His ultimate purpose is that “we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).  Again we are reminded the Father is continually looking at His own in order to see more and more family resemblance.

 

     The discipline is also a sign of His deep and abiding love—“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6).  The author used a special Greek word for love, it is “agapé,” and it speaks of a divinely passionate, selfless love.  It is a love, which originates with God.  In John 10:17, Jesus said the Father loved, or “agape” Him.  This is the same kind of love, which God expressed to mankind at Calvary.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “’God so loved [“agapaó”] the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . .’” (John 3:16).  Paul wrote, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [“agapaó”] with which He loved [“agapaó”] us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ . . .” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).  In Hebrews 12:6, the author used this exact word to describe the love God has for His children.  Because He loves so strongly and selflessly, He will faithfully and carefully discipline His dear ones.

 

     The Father’s training is also an indication of possession--we belong to Him:  “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).  Those who are genuinely born again may rely upon the fact of His watch care and discipline.  Bare in mind, He never ignores us nor treats us in a cavalier fashion.  He does not idly threaten us.  He is not waiting for us to foul up so He might slap us with a devastating disease or crisis.  Rather, the Heavenly Father possesses perfect parenting skills.  Speaking to the Hebrews of old, the Lord said, “. . . I will chasten (or discipline) you justly . . .” (Jeremiah 30:1).  This also assures us anger or disgust never motivates God when He disciplines; He is never unjust.  God’s faithful and loving fatherly reminders are never too severe or harsh.  In light of this truth surfaces the question asked by mankind through all the ages:  why do “bad things” happen to good people?  Why does God apparently allow hard times to invade a born-again believer’s life?  We will take up these and other important questions and issues in chapter nine.

 

     At one time or another, while discipline is being administered, we have all heard a parent say to his child, “This hurts me more than it does you.”  To the Ephesian Christians Paul explained that sinful disobedience grieves our Heavenly Father (Ephesians 4:30).  This is certainly true.  I recall several times when I was called upon to sit alongside a grieving parent whose heart was broken because of a child’s rebellious spirit.  We can well imagine how the Heavenly Father feels because of our willful disobedience.  However, proper response to His loving hand of correction will result in His blessing and joy.  “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).  “Blessed is the man who Thou dost chasten, O Lord, and dost teach out of Thy law” (Psalm 94:12).

 

     If obedience to God brings joy and His blessing, disobedience produces sorrow and dreadful consequences.  By now this is becoming a familiar axiom.  When one chooses to submit to God’s truth and principles he is rewarded with an abiding satisfaction and contentment—a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment.  Obedience brings His protection and provision.  A disobedient and rebellious spirit leads believers into the realm and abuse of the enemy.  Living in a state of disobedience is similar to living under the leadership of Satan, and that is reminiscent of life before salvation.  Take note of Paul’s wise counsel in Ephesians 4:17 and 18:  “Let me say this, then, speaking for the Lord; live no longer as the unsaved do, for they are blinded and confused.  Their closed hearts are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds against Him, and they cannot understand His ways” (TLB).

 

     Disobedient sons continue to be sons, because our relationship with God is a settled issue.  However, life for the disobedient son becomes not much more than mere existence, hollow, and veneer.  The devil’s pledges are piecrust promises—easily made and easily broken.  He will say and pledge anything trying to persuade the believer to abandon the truth and providence of God.  When we fall for the adversary’s line, we put ourselves under his authority, and our lives become much like the lives of unsaved, unregenerated persons; how tragic—the joy is sapped.  What happens in the life of a believer who consistently rejects the Father’s loving reminders to confess sin?

 

     First, I hasten to reiterate the biblical fact of eternal sonship and position.  When we receive Christ as Savior, we are eternally placed in Christ and forever secure in Him.

 

     Second, the Lord remains faithful and patient with His children.  Because we are important to Him, the Heavenly Father never gives up on His children.  Jesus’ promise of an abundant, full life (John 10:10) is true and, therefore, the Lord will go to great lengths to achieve its fulfillment.  He is serious and means business.  However, the Lord is not a dictator or tyrant; rather, He offers Himself to us in order that we might have a loving and tender relationship with Him.  Our Savior longs that we choose His leadership for our lives.  He created us with volition, the ability to choose.  Since He is sovereign (the highest ruler of all), the Lord could have fashioned us as programmed robotics equipped to accomplish His every desire; instead He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26).  While we were still sinful, He lovingly died for us and chose us to be His (Romans 5:8).  A cross of love was constructed on Mount Calvary.  Jesus was fastened to the cross with harsh and ugly spikes, but His love for mankind held Him to the cross.  Because He loves us, He wants us to choose to serve Him motivated by our love for Him.  This explains why God never gives up on us—His investment in us is eternal.  So, even when there is consistent disobedience and regular rejection of the loving fatherly reminders of correction, He wisely continues to faithfully work in us.  God expertly knows how to effectively gain the attention of and reach His disobedient child.  Hence, when we choose to ignore God’s discipline, He will try something else.  He will continue this action because of His great love and desire for us.

 

     What happens when the born-again child of God refuses to submit and obey?  That course of action may possibly mean an early home going.  At this point, it is vitally important we handle this subject with accuracy and sensitivity.  We must never forget our great God is sovereign and wise, along with being loving and merciful.  We must keep a balanced picture.  After the Lord God has faithfully and patiently worked to discipline and correct His child, and there is little or no response, He may select to call His child home.  Emphasis must be made—God may choose this option—it is His call.  Scripture teaches our time is in His hands (Psalm 139:16).  His love for us is everlasting—His patience with us is not.  After continual resistance, in His wisdom, He may say to an unruly and indifferent child, “Come home.”

 

     Paul made this clear to the Christians living in Corinth.  These ancient believers were willful, carnal, and self-centered.  In 1 Corinthians Paul addressed several issues, dealing with their sin.  That local church was plagued with self-inflicted problems of sin such as factions, misuse of spiritual gifts, pride, sexual misconduct, and Christian brothers taking one another to courts, to name just a few.  In chapter eleven, the apostle discussed the flagrant abuse of the Lord’s table.  Paul said they had made a mockery of this Church ordinance and because of that, God had dealt with them in discipline:  “. . . a number sleep . . . “(1 Corinthians 11:30).  In other words several Corinthian Christians had died.  Resulting from their continued disobedience and resistance to the Holy Spirit, in effect God the Father had said to some, “Come home.”

 

     Another biblical example of this sort of discipline is found in the Jerusalem church and is recorded in Acts 5.  In His wisdom and love, God purged the early Church by taking home Ananias and Sapphira.  We know our God never disciplines in haste or in a capricious manner, therefore, we may confidently reason this couple’s early demise came only after the patience of God was exhausted.  Their deception and spiritual pride prompted God to action.

 

     Yet another example of this divine option is Saul, Israel’s first king (1 Chronicles 10:14).  There is not another person in the Scriptures who is more self-indulgent, willful, and carnal.  The Lord cannot be faulted for He tried in every conceivable way to get Saul’s attention.  Over and over again, Saul resisted the loving discipline of God.  As God’s tool of discipline, one day the godly prophet Samuel came to Saul and reported God had chosen another (David) to replace him on the throne of Israel.  Even having this information Saul, continued defying God by relentlessly seeking to kill David.  Eventually, God called Saul home.

 

     This option belongs exclusively to God—He is the rightful Judge.  Believers are not called, nor equipped, to pass judgment upon other believers.  We must not jump to conclusions about others, reasoning they are experiencing difficulty as a result of God’s discipline.  Jesus taught we must not look at someone who is suffering devastating calamity and automatically decide they must be living in sin.  John 9:1 – 3, is a prime example:

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.   And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents, but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”

 

     Then, as today, many mechanically decide all sickness, suffering, and personal difficult is a result of personal sin.  Displaying a lack of sensitivity and with a caviler fashion they dismiss hurting people as sinners awaiting the judgment of God.  There is no love or compassion in this action.  Immature Christians and unfeeling individuals often take this track.

 

     At the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey, while on his way to Rome as a prisoner, he and his mates were shipwrecked on the island of Malta.  In Acts 28 we read while Paul was gathering firewood, suddenly a viper bit him.  It latched itself to Paul’s arm, and everyone was sure he would die as a result.  Verse four relates their feelings--”When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, ‘undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’”

 

     Paul, the great and humble servant of God, was not under divine condemnation.  This incident was not a result of sin; rather, it became another evidence of God’s hand upon Paul and to these people, authenticated his message.

 

     Finally, in Luke 13, we find another example of this sort of unloving, curt, self-righteous judgment.  “. . .  Some present . . . reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that the Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no . . .’” (13:1 – 4a).

 

     While some Galileans were offering sacrifices at the temple, apparently Pilate’s Roman soldiers killed some of these people.  Jesus said this did not happen because they were worse sinners than other Galileans.  Hence, He used this report to explain His point:  all need to turn to God for grace and forgiveness.  “’. . . Don’t you realize that you also will perish unless you leaven your evil ways and turn to God?’” (Luke 13:4b TLB).

 

     Therefore, we must not assume every “bad thing” is the result of personal sin.  To do so is not only error, but also an evidence of spiritual immaturity, arrogance, and pride.  Nevertheless, His children may rest in His discipline because it is a sign of His watch care, love, and justness.  It is designed by God to motivate the maturing and perfecting of His character in our lives.  His loving fatherly reminders assure us we belong to Him for all eternity.

 

 

Copyright J 2010 by J. Michael Fox

 
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