GRACE AND DISCIPLINE
The concept of grace being a part of discipline is often overlooked and even rejected by many. The best passage on this subject is Hebrews 12:5-11; "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as son: (quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12) 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes (the Greek says, 'Scourges, or skins alive) everyone he accepts as a son. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Proverbs 3:11-12; "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent the Lord's rebuke. Because the Lord disciplines those he loves....."
Christian discipline is God the Father dealing with His children in love. Hebrews 12:6, "Because the Lord disciplines those he loves....." This is a sign of sonship and a reminder that God has not forsaken us. The Bible does not teach "Church discipline." The church has no right to discipline anyone. If a Christian is out of line within the local church, the church can and should remove that one from active membership, but it has no right to administer discipline. That is the Lord's job, and only the Lord's job.
Because God's discipline is accomplished by distress and affliction, it is often confused with punishment. But it should not be confused with punishment. Punishment is God the judge, in justice, carrying out the full penalty of His broken law. In punishment there is no fatherhood of God and there is no expression of love. Punishment is the wrath of God poured out upon all who reject His Son. Punishment is condemnation that shall come upon the unbelieving world. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, he "shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life." (John 5:24). "He is not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14).
Do not think that just because we will not come into condemnation that we can live according to the desires of our sinful nature without suffering. The first thing you should understand is, that every sin carries with it its own consequences. In other words, every sin has with it its own suffering, and that suffering is automatic. God is not actively involved in causing the suffering. All sins have natural consequences. Galatians 6:7; tells us that "....a man reaps what he sows." This refers to natural consequences. In Numbers 32:23 God warned Israel, ".....be sure your sin will find you out." This means that the sins we commit will have their own repercussions. The law of sowing and reaping is not contradicted by the principles of grace. The law of salvation in Jesus Christ is, in fact, the ultimate demonstration of that law. Jesus Christ sowed perfect righteousness and reaped eternal life for all mankind, which He gives only to those who trust in His finished work on the cross. The believer reaps eternal life because, in faith, he is united with Christ and with what Christ has sown and reaped on man's behalf. But the believer is not exempt from all the consequences of his own sowing. He will never reap the ultimate consequences of sin, which are death and judgment, because the Lord Jesus Christ already reaped those consequences for him. But he continues to reap the earthly heartaches, wounds, shame, and pain of his sins and foolishness. God's law of cause and effect still operates in the lives of His children. That basically covers the natural consequences of sin. But if the believer continues to live without confessing his sins, then God steps in with divine discipline. There are three categories of divine discipline:
(1). Warning discipline:
(2). Intensive discipline:
(3). Dying discipline.
When the believer does not confess his sins to God on a regular basis, these three categories of discipline are progressive. Mild discipline gives way to more and more severe discipline if the believer fails to respond.
The believer who refuses to live his life in the filling of the Holy Spirit receives warning discipline, added to the misery that automatically comes with his sin. He has isolated himself from fellowship with God; he has shut Christ out of his thoughts. Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, "I stand at the door and I keep knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door (rebounds, confesses his sins), I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Eating together is a picture of fellowship. Everytime we commit a sin, we place Jesus Christ outside of our lives. We are not in fellowship with Him. That "knock" on the door is warning discipline. As a general rule, warning discipline is in itself less severe than the believer's self-induced misery that comes from the sin itself. However, the combination of warning discipline and the self-induced misery that comes with his own sin adds up to a significant shock. This warning discipline can occur as an illness, an accident, a set back on the job, or a conflict in the home. Warning discipline can occur in many different ways.
If the believer ignores or rejects divine warnings, God eventually moves into intensive discipline. By habitual obstinance the believer has dulled his sensitivity to truth. Warning discipline is no longer effective. God still has a marvelous plan for the negative believer, but God's plan can only be carried out when the believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit. And even though the believer fails to respond to God's warning discipline, God still continues to encourage that hope by continuing His discipline of the believer even after he has insulted and blasphemed God by choosing to ignore God's plan of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and continues his life under the control of his sinful nature and legalism.
Stiffer divine discipline is required to jolt the rebellious believer into objectivity. Intensive discipline alone is worse than self-induced misery that comes from the sin itself. But when these two categories of suffering (self-induced misery and intensive discipline from God) are combined, the total pain from God and from self is extremely severe. This adds up to unbearable suffering for the believer who persists in his life without confessing his sins, and without consistent learning of the Word of God. Intensive discipline can occur as: an incurable disease, extreme depression and mental instability, emotional upheavals in the life, the loss of a job, the loss of all types of human security, loss of all material possessions, like home, automobile and anything else the believer might really enjoy. Intensive discipline can also come in any number of other ways. And it won't be the same for everyone. God deals with each one of us as individuals, and therefore, He has a specific way of dealing with each of us.
God is exceedingly patient with His children. He extends to the believer every possible opportunity to confess his sins and to regain his fellowship and to fulfill the plan that God has laid out for him. But everytime the believer says "no!" to God he renders himself less capable of making a positive decision to God. Everytime the believer says "no!" to God, it becomes easier the next time. This is called "hardness of heart," or "scar tissue of the soul." Hardness of heart, or scar tissue of the soul, locks the believer's free will in negative gear (Hebrews 4:7; 6:6). Having passed the point of no return, the believer arrives at the third and final stage of divine discipline, the sin unto death (I John 5:16). Dying discipline, or the sin unto death, is a horrible departure from time into eternity. The Christian involved has no inner resources for meeting death. In ignorance of Bible doctrine, death becomes a terrifying plunge into the unknown. I should point out here, that it isn't the type of death the believer dies that reveals divine discipline, it's how the believer handles his death that can reveal the reason for his death.
God's work of salvation can never be cancelled; even the most hardened, self-righteous Christian is immediately "absent from the body and at home face-to-face with the Lord" when removed from life on this earth (II Corinthians 5:8). Such a negative believer will enjoy complete happiness in heaven (Revelation 21:4), but he receives no eternal rewards with which to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ forever (I Corinthians 3:15). The believer who refuses to learn the Word of God on a daily basis, and fails to apply it on a daily basis is a loser in life; his tailor-made blessings for time and eternity are never delivered to him but remain permanently in the heavenly museum as a memorial to his lost opportunity and to God's magnificent irrevocable grace (Ephesians 1:3; I Peter 1:4).
Therefore, we should understand that "....our God is a consuming fire." And that He will burn out everything that is unpleasing to Him. God's discipline is to correct and purify. Gold is heated and melts into a liquid thereby separating it from all impurities. A diamond is formed from a piece of coal under extreme pressure for millions of years. Discipline in the Christian's life is through the Father's love. It is designed to purify and remove all that is unpleasing to Him. This answers the question, "Why do the righteous suffer?" The question often comes up, "what is impure and unpleasing to God in the Christian life?" Everything in the Christian's life that is not in dependence upon God is impure. Many admirable things. as well as sins require the disciplining work of God. Anything done apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit is impure in God's eyes.
Therefore, when God allows pressures, and afflictions to come upon us, they are designed for our benefit and our spiritual growth. James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything." Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." Therefore, everytime you see a Christian suffer, don't think that it is because of divine discipline. Because many times God allows the positive, growing believer to suffer in order to test what he has learned. The same is true in dying. Just because you see a Christian dying a long painful death does not mean that he is dying the sin unto death. It is not the manner of death that counts, it is how you handle whatever way God has designed for you to die.
Let's look at King Saul, the first king over Israel. He was a born again believer and he was anointed by God as king over His people. Saul was a very moral man. He only had one wife, and there is no record of him ever being unfaithful to her. He was a family man and very upright humanly speaking. But Saul turned negative toward the Word of God. And when Saul turned negative to the Word of God, God turned negative toward Saul. In I Samuel 15:26 the prophet Samuel tells us, ".......you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel." I Chronicles 10:13, "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord, he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse." Saul died the sin unto death as a believer. He is in heaven today, but he got there a little sooner than he expected because he refused to learn and follow the teachings of the Word of God.
This same principle is also found in the New Testament, in the Church Age, as it was in the Age of Israel. In I Corinthians chapter five, Paul speaks about a man who was living with his father's wife as his own wife. He tells them that they should be saddened about this event, and if this believer did not change his attitude he should be excommunicated from the church. But then he explains how this excommunication is to take place. Paul says in I Corinthians 5:5, "To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (physical death, the sin unto death) in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." Christians are suffering the sin unto death today just as they have in the past, and as they will in the future. And there is only one way to avoid the sin unto death. Do not turn your back on the filling of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Word of God. Everytime you fail to confess a sin, you have turned your back on the filling of the Holy Spirit. And everytime you fail to learn a little Bible doctrine each day, you have turned your back on the teaching of the Word of God. Everytime you do something like that, you are moving one step closer to the sin unto death which is the worst way for any believer to die.
According to the Bible, good parents discipline their children firmly and consistently. Also according to the Bible, any parent who doesn't discipline his child firmly and consistently does not truly love his child. Today we see an emphasis on what is called "Positive discipline." Positive discipline simply means that you avoid anything negative. For example, if a child intentionally breaks a valuable piece of china, you should explain to him in a calm collected manner that he should be more careful because something like that is very expensive. Thinking the child is going to have the same value system the parent possesses is absurd. This type of training is totally ridiculous, and one of the most insane ideas existing today. Positive discipline in itself is a curse on the human race, and it is totally against the true Christian principles found in the Bible. It is a slap in God's face. Even common logic tells us that the things in life need both a positive and a negative in order to operate effectively. To produce electrical power, you must have both positive and negative poles. Positive by itself has no power, and negative by itself has no power. Power requires both the positive and negative. The same principle is true in the training of children. And God uses both positive and negative concepts in training His children.
Proverbs 6:23, "....the corrections of discipline are the way to life."
Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."
Proverbs 13:18, "He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored."
Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."
Proverbs 22:15, "Folly (stupidity) is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."
Proverbs 23:13-14, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and deliver his soul from hell." God disciplines His children in grace. This does not mean that He does not cause us to suffer, because He does. But in the suffering God is also expressing His extreme concern, and amazing love. Oh, the fantastic greatness of the Grace of God. CONTINUED AND COMPLETED IN GRACE TEACHING PART 5:
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Copyright 1999 by Robert H. Kreger. All rights reserved. Anyone may reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.