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Scripture rightly assumes that believers will often forget that God disciplines His children. In fact, both primary passages dealing with the discipline of the Lord encourage us to not forget this word of exhortation.
Proverbs 3:1, 11-12 My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; 11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
Hebrews 12:5-6 And 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; 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
Do you disregard God’s discipline? Have you forgotten this simple exhortation? Before you answer this question, can you remember a time in your life that God disciplined you? If you are like me, you may have to think for some time. You may even wonder if God has ever disciplined you. Hebrews 12:8 states that every believer has partaken of the discipline of the Lord.
Hebrews 12:8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
You have either partaken of His discipline or you are not a true believer. Now, consider again the question. Do you disregard God’s discipline? If you cannot think of a time that God has disciplined you, then you are either not one of His children or you have disregarded His discipline. I suspect that many of us have disregarded His discipline just like the believers in Corinth did.
1 Corinthians 11:28-32 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
What does it mean to disregard His discipline? To disregard the discipline of the Lord is to not recognize or to dismiss every trial that we face as being unrelated to God’s discipline. Now, you may rightly argue that not every trial is God’s discipline. We will cover this soon; but, for the moment, I think we ought to wrestle with every trial that God allows us to go through.
We ought to ask, is this trial from God? Or, better yet, we ought to ask, “is there any sin I need to repent of?” Have I sinned against a holy God? Am I living in sin?
At the start of our Sunday morning service, we take time to pray and confess our sin before God. Why do we do this? Because, by nature, we dismiss our sin. We think lightly of the wickedness of our own hearts. I confess, my sins hardly seem egregious to me. But in God’s sight, even the slightest sin is utterly repulsive to a holy God.
Oh, that we would understand the wickedness of our ways. May God open our eyes so that we might see how bad we are.
Until we get a glimpse of our own wicked heart, we can not understand why God would discipline us. If you are still wrestling with the discipline of the Lord, then you are not seeing your sin as God sees it. May God open your heart to the cesspool of your own wickedness and may you recognize that God must discipline you in order to produce any lasting fruit in your life. He does this through discipline.
I. God does discipline His children (v. 9-10).
For some reason, the author of Hebrews assumes that we are going to doubt this truth. We instinctively question the discipline of the Lord. In fact, the primary purpose of Hebrews 12:5-11 is to teach that God does, in fact, discipline His children. In verses 5-6 the author argues from the book of Proverbs. This argument ought to be enough to convince us of God’s discipline for His own children, but the author picks up that question again in verses 9-10.
Hebrews 12:9-10 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? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
The author argues that since our earthly fathers disciplined us, we ought to expect that our heavenly father disciplines us. In fact, we didn’t think it odd that our earthly fathers disciplined us. Look at the text with me. The author says that we respected our fathers for the discipline that they gave us.
Our viewpoint was probably a bit different as children. We may not have respected the way in which our parents disciplined us, but as time passed, we came to appreciate it.
a. We respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us (9).
So, since our earthly fathers disciplined us, we ought to expect that our heavenly father will discipline us.
Let me take a moment and explain a phrase in the text that seems odd in the English language. Look at verse 9 with me. The text says that we submit to the Father of spirits. Notice how the translation does not capitalize the word spirit. This ought to give us a clue. The word spirit is not a reference to the Holy Spirit.
The Greek text is clear on this point. Notice the phrase “earthly fathers” earlier in the verse. This phrase referred to our earthly parents. The Greek text literally says, “fathers of flesh”. So, the NASB translated that phrase as earthly fathers. Later in the verse, we have the phrase “Father of spirits”. That phrase could be translated as heavenly Father. We should be able to see a clear distinction – fathers of flesh and father of spirits. The Father of spirits simply means heavenly Father.
This morning, quite a bit of attention has been given to the legitimacy of God’s discipline. Yet, our heart bucks against this truth. We don’t want to believe it. We don’t want to accept the fact that God disciplines His children. But believe it. It is true.
What does it look like to believe the discipline of the Lord? It starts by reminding ourselves that our current trial may be God’s discipline. We ought to always ask ourselves, “is there any sin that we need to repent of?”.
Now, I said earlier that trials alone do not prove that God is disciplining us. In fact, we need to look no further than Job.
Job 1:8 The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."
In God’s own words Job was a righteous man. Yet, he faced severe trials. Those trials were not God’s discipline. So, trials alone are not an indication of God’s discipline.
Secondly, we should be careful not to assume that trials in another Christian’s life means that they are under God’s discipline. In fact, this is precisely what Job’s friends did. They looked at the trials that he was facing and assumed that God was disciplining Job for some sin. But they were wrong.
We should be careful not to assume that another Christian is under God’s discipline.
We should also ask if we are, in fact, His children. What does it mean to be a child of God? A child of God is a person who believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is both Lord and Savior.
By now, we should be fairly convinced that God does discipline His children. But why? Why does God discipline His children?
b. They disciplined us as seems best to them, but God disciplines us for our good (10).
God’s discipline is not entirely different than our own parent’s discipline. Our parents discipline us as best they can for our good. Certainly, there are examples of horribly bad parents, but for the most part, parents want what’s best for the child. We want our children to succeed. We want them to be good people. We want them to have character.
So, we discipline as good as we can. But God’s discipline is always good. We saw in verse 9 that submitting to God’s discipline brings life. We see in verse 10 that God’s discipline is good.
Now this does not mean that it feels good. Oh no, God’s discipline hurts, but it is effective.
II. God’s discipline is effective (11).
An athlete trains hard for the competition—that training is certainly not fun. But hopefully, that training is good. Hopefully it produces results.
a. At the moment of discipline, it is grievous.
The text tells us that the moment of discipline is painful. It hurts. Maybe it’s emotional pain. Maybe it’s sickness. Whatever the discipline is, it hurts. There is no way around it. No part of it is joyful. But it has a certain effect.
b. But later, discipline produces the fruit of righteousness.
We can endure because the discipline of the Lord produces lasting fruit. No one likes the work and labor involved in farming, but we enjoy the fruit that is produced because of the labor. That is the same with discipline. We don’t like to be under God’s discipline, but the fruit of righteousness is well worth the discipline.
As we take a step back and look at the overall picture, we start to see the point of this passage. Do you remember the main point of this section? The main idea is that we must hold firm to our faith. Well, how do we hold firm? We endure because of God’s discipline. God’s discipline is a catalyst to help us endure.
Now this passage does not address our response to God’s discipline. How should we respond? David’s response to God’s discipline is helpful.
2 Samuel 12:12-23 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'" 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." 15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. 16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. 18 Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, "Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!" 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." 20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22 He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' 23 "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
David repented, then accepted God’s discipline. Jeremiah Burroughs writes that “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of mind that freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” We ought to accept His discipline with contentment.
How will you respond this week? When you are facing trials, will you even acknowledge the possibility that God may be disciplining you. You may need to repent.
Pastor Dan Benitez
A proclaimer of the glories of God.
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