Text: Hebrews 12:5-13 June 23, 2013.
1) Discipline in social life: The way of practicing discipline may be different in cultural and time, but almost all cultures and time, societies value discipline. The two Chinese characters translated discipline ¡°guan jiao¡± means to exercise authority in teaching, in training, correcting and supervision. This includes setting limits and goals, requires respect and obedience to the superior. Many areas of life such as sports, academic pursuit or even in personal growth, discipline is essential to achieve higher goals. Life without discipline either by higher authority or self-imposed, won¡¯t go too far in potential of success.
2) Discipline in spiritual life: The Bible has much to say about the need and value of discipline. God as the Father of mankind, is very good in exercising the art of discipline to bring out the best of his believers. In his infinite wisdom God applied discipline on his children to mode them, refine them, upgrade them to be better witnesses of God and to accomplish his noble purposes.
MAJOR PURPOSES OF DISCIPLINE: There are many examples of discipline in the Bible including teaching and actions. Purposes of discipline varied from person to purpose in different setting. We may focus on three major purposes God exercises discipline on his people, you and me are included.
1) Discipline for prevention: This is difficult to understand in real life. Let¡¯s look at the life of Apostle Paul in the Bible time. All of us would agree that there are few, if any, in Bible time or Christian history, could compare or compete with Paul in terms of dedication, fervency, sacrifices, courage and success in mission endeavor? Instead of honoring Paul with a golden crown for all his achievements, God disciplined him by planting a thorn in his fresh to make him suffer and keep him humble as an act of preventive discipline so he won¡¯t feel too proud to boast his accomplishment. (2 Cor 12:7) This is God¡¯s wisdom in restricting us, prevent us from follow the desires of the fresh. Different people may need different kind of ¡°thorns¡± to hold them back from falling into the snare of pride that had led many from great success to complete destruction.
2) Discipline for correction: Some may call this kind of discipline as punishment for the wrong or sin we commit. The purpose is to stop us from continue in doing wrong so we may come back to do right. God, in his total measure of love for man cannot and will not allow his children continue to live their life in sin that would certainly bring disastrous effect on themselves. SO, God must applies the ¡°brake¡± in the course of our life to stop us from continue the downhill path. These acts of discipline applied on Adam, King Solomon, King David, the people of Israel and many others both in ancient and modern time. This is to give us a clear picture of a righteous God. When God exercises his authority in discipline to bring us back on track, we can see that we will reap the consequences of our acts. We are responsible for our words and actions, and if we sin against God, we need to know we will be disciplined.
3) Discipline for purification: In 2 Timothy 2:21, God says, ¡°If a man cleanses himself, he will be an instrument for noble purpose, made holy and useful to the Master.¡± When God has his eyes on someone special for his glorious use, he will apply measure of purification to make him clean and holy so he can use him for some glorious purposes. This is like if you are chosen to be in the US Olympic team, you will be put under the vigorous training and discipline the coach will place on you. You must change your life style, get rid of the old and wrong ways of practice and to reframe your mindset, etc. So you may be fit to compete and win at the glorious Olympic Games.
MAJOR REASONS WE HATE DISCIPLINE:
1) Because it exposes our sin: When we hide our sins from people around us (we can never hide it from God), no one knows we have sinned or done terrible wrongs. But once our sin is exposed in public and discipline applied on us, we get angry and want to fight back. This is the common reaction to discipline of God on us and is the worst response man can do. Instead of sincerely confess our sin to God and people and ask for forgiveness, some would get angry on God and people for acts of discipline they deserve. The story of Cain is the best warning of wrong reaction of discipline. (Genesis 4:6-15)
2) Because it inflicts pain and shame: Most people won¡¯t feel shame and pain on sins in their life, but they will feel shame and pain of discipline God and society applies on them. Some times, they will feel the hurt of shame and pain of discipline more than the sins in their life and that is why they hate discipline. People suppose to feel shame and pain for their sins, instead many of them hate the discipline applied on them for their sins.
3) Because it jeopardizes our sinful life: In most cases, when sin is exposed and discipline is applied, we cannot continue to live in sin as we used to and we hate that change. That is why we will try hard to cover up, to explain it away, to make excuses or just run away from God or people we will face discipline. We hate that because we intend to continue live in the same sinful life style. In today¡¯s world, some even try to make sin became right or no-sin through change of moral code of life through human legislation so they can continue to live in the same sinful life. But man cannot make real moral codes, only God can do that.
PROPER RESPONSE TO DISCIPLINE: Different people respond to discipline in different ways. Some may complain it is not fair. Others may question if God is righteous. Still others may harden their hearts and become more stiffened neck, and some become depressed and collapsed. In order to receive the most benefits from discipline, our attitude id very important. Here are some biblical guidelines for your consideration:
1) Never forget God always loves: ¡°My son do not make light of the Lord¡¯s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, for the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.¡± (Proverbs 3:11-12) During the process of God¡¯s discipline, we need to be reassured of God¡¯s love. God will never discipline us because he hates us but because he loves us. He loves us like a Father loves his children and wants to see the best for his children.
2) Never forget God knows the best: ¡°Even though you are evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!¡± (Matt 7:11) Never doubt the wisdom of God in the method he uses to discipline us. No one knows us more or better than God on what we need and can take in discipline. God will use the best appropriate means and the right level of pressure to help us get us straighten up and not broken down. Trust him.
3) Never forget God always forgives: ¡°If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.¡± (1 John 1:9) There are 3 simple steps to receive the benefits of discipline: We repent of our sins with the utmost sincere heart and soul. We receive forgiveness of our sins from God. And we will be completely purified from all the filthiness of our past so we are able to live a new life. God will never give up on us. He has good plans for our future. So, let us not fall into the scheme of Satan to quit God, God¡¯s church or God¡¯s people. God, his church and his people want to welcome us back and we need to come back to start a new life again.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) It¡¯s time to be humble: In the process of being disciplined, we need to be humble, sorrowful and remorseful of the sins in our life. It isn¡¯t a time to be arrogant or defensive. Thousands years ago, King Solomon advised us: ¡°He who ignores discipline in fact despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains under-standing.¡± (Prov. 15:32) Therefore we should be humble before God and ask him, ¡°Lord show me the lessons you want me to learn in all this. Help me to stand up, live a new life for you.¡±
2) Don¡¯t wait for discipline: Discipline is the last resort God uses to bring us back to him from our sins and failures. God is always patient waiting for us to come to him in repentance of the sins and failures in which we live so he can forgive us without discipline. So, the time is now for us to repent our sin ask God to forgive, and make a commitment not to sin again. It is not always necessary to face discipline of God if we can just turn around our life style today. God has given us enough mercy in waiting for us to go to him and ask for forgiveness. Today is the day to do that. Remember this warning in Hebrews 10:26, 31, ¡°If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but fearful expectation of judgment. It is a dreadful thing to fall into hands of the living God.¡±