Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Purpose of Discipline from God

When those Christians who do say it, say that God does not punish sin in our lifetimes (or really, at all for the believer), they do so reckoning upon the punishment for our sins Christ took upon himself. No condemnation remains for us to bear as a result. By that reckoning, anything painful experienced in this life which might appear punitive is either not coming from God or is not intended as a punishment. I must admit, there's much to commend in such a thought.

However, our thoughts about what God does or doesn't do must line up with each and every passage of scripture. Whereas it is certainly biblical to say that the Devil is seeking to bring us pain, it is not biblical at all to say that God won't or can't bring us things that are painful or punitive or both. We can say biblically that if God brings us to something painful, whether punitive or not, he does so for our own good and his grace is sufficient to bring us through it. To hold otherwise puts people who hold otherwise in the regrettable position of trying to make excuses for a theology that doesn't work in real life (unscriptural theology never does), or becoming incredibly self-absorbed trying to improve their faith to get a more desirable outcome.
"...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 12:3-12 NASB
Why would a loving father discipline his children through hardship and suffering? I think we have to trust that there is no other way to get us to where he wants us to be. Ultimately, that is by his side in eternity, sharing in all that is in Christ. Between now and then, Christ is our example, suffering can be a teacher, and the humility that goes with it is a boon to faith.

The bottom line in all this is understanding the reasons our forgiving God might use punitive measures in our lifetimes. Let's be clear, God's corrections mean legitimacy and life and are never without purpose. God uses corrective discipline so we do not go off the deep end and lose all we had in Christ. If punishment from God comes to believers, it comes not to write them off but to preserve them.

There's no reason to walk about shivering in fearful anticipation, looking over our shoulder expecting divine retribution for some misstep to overtake us and ruin our lives. God is not like that, he walks softly among us. But understand this: if you're on a path that could lead to your destruction as a believer, God is not above making an effort to stop you in your tracks and correct your course with a big stick.


Pumice said...

I like the first sentence of the last paragraph. I also like the distinction between "losing" our salvation and "being on a path that could lead to your destruction as a believer." We always have the freedom to walk away. At the same time I can't comprehend wanting to.

Grace and peace

SLW said...

Nice to hear from you Pumice. Once a person has bought into the resurrection as historical fact, as faith must, how can he or she rebury Jesus? I think apostasy must be rooted in disappointment that is more meaningful to the apostate than the promise of things to come or the facts that are. It's incomprehensible, perhaps, because it's so personal and emotional and unreasonable.