Friday, September 09, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 50

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Carrot and Stick

The Writer tells us to "keep our eyes on Jesus." That is the carrot. To become like Him and have His approval is a great reward. To be with Him is a great reward. But if we take ours eyes off Him, what then? Here is what the Writer says about that:

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 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; 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 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.

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 12:4-11, NASB 95)

We may take our eyes off Jesus, but God does not take His eyes off us. If we have faith, then we are His children and good fathers raise children to be functioning and fruitful adults.

I believe that it is a mistake to equate the word "discipline" in this passage with the word "punishment." It is not that punishment cannot be a part of discipline, but it is only a part. To be sure punishment is painful, but so is being held to a task that you do not want to do. Consider these words from Timothy:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Here is a more complete view of discipline:

  • Teaching--One must first know what is expected before punishment is even warranted. God teaches us through His word, His Holy Spirit, and through other men and women of faith. "You must always tell the truth." is instruction.
  • Reproof--This is a rebuke for doing something wrong. The word has strong connotations of verbal instruction. "You have told a lie and I have instructed you to always tell the truth."
  • Correction--This is in a response to a good effort that left something to be desired. "You have told the truth, but you left out certain things. Effectively you have still lied."
  • Training in Righteousness--Moving the student into areas where your teaching, reproof, and correction can be practiced. Each training exercise will be followed by more teaching, reproof, and correction.

Which of us has not found lectures, and study, and practice, and reproof painful. Which of us have not found painful being held to a task until we have done it well. And yet the results are surely to our benefit.

Punishment is the means by which resistance to teaching, reproof, correction, and training is broken. The reason that such punishment does not lead to rebellion is that the attitude of the parent reveals the goals behind the inflicted pain. Only arbitrary punishment wielded because some selfish desire of the one in power yields rebellion.

So it is our task to submit to the Lord's teaching, reproof, correction, and training (aka testing). We are to be glad to see evidence of His hand in our lives here. To know we under the hand of His discipline is know that we are truly His sons and daughters. The end or goal of His work is our being conformed to the character of His Son. Life has no better end than that.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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