The 10th Sunday After Trinity July 31, 2005

INI

Rejoice in God’s Discipline

Hebrews 12:3-11

Scripture Readings

Proverbs 3:1-18
John 15:1-8

Hymns

244, 25(1-3,5-6), 517, 54

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

In the name of Christ Jesus, our Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:

Rules can seem rather burdensome, may even seem unfair, and quite likely may seem to crimp our style. Rules such as always wearing a helmet when biking, knowing safe places to play, and how to cross the street may not seem so pleasant, but are vital for safety from cars and other dangers.

The consequences for breaking the rules may not seem too pleasant either. Being grounded for two weeks is tough. Being spanked stings—physically, but also in knowing that mom or dad is disappointed. Similarly, adults’ fines are also quite unpleasant. But consequences are important because our sinful flesh is such that it wants to go against the rules and continue to do what it wants to do.

God’s will for us is laid out in the Ten Commandments and we break them. However, when we break the commandments, we do not face the punishment for those sins, Jesus has already faced the punishment for us on the cross. We may, however, face chastisement for those sins as well as chastisement that is not directly related to the sins at all.

As an example, we turn to the Old Testament story of King David. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. This resulted in the conception of a son. David tried to hide his sin first by trying to make it look like the child was fathered by Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. When that didn’t work, David ordered the indirect murder of Uriah in battle.

God sent the prophet Nathan to David to rebuke him for his sins and to lead him to repentance. David confessed his sins and repented. Nathan told David that God had forgiven him. The punishment for David’s sins of adultery and murder would not be carried out upon David. That would be accomplished when Jesus died on the cross. But, the prophet Nathan continued, because David had given an opportunity for others to see his sin and be led astray by it, the son whom David had conceived would die, another son, Absalom, would rebel against David, and there would be ongoing turmoil in David’s family.

David’s sin was forgiven, but God allowed lasting results to affect David for the rest of his life as a reminder of those sins, and as a reminder for David to remain humble, to submit to the Lord, and to remember the lessons he had learned.

The troubles and hardships that God allows to come into our lives may be discipline and a result of sin, or they may be unrelated to sin but used by God to strengthen us, encourage us, keep us shielded from sin, or whatever other design God may have for us. This chastisement is not always easy to bear. In our sinfulness we want to complain and say, “God this is too much! You are hurting me!” So the writer to the Hebrews reminds us to Rejoice in God’s Discipline. This may seem hard to do but if we keep in mind the purpose of God’s discipline we will find every reason to rejoice. To rejoice in God’s discipline we need to I. See discipline as a mark of love II. Remember discipline has an important purpose III. Accept discipline without discouragement

I.

The writer to the Hebrews uses earthly discipline by parents as an example of God’s discipline. So we need to consider first of all what God desires concerning earthly discipline. For this we turn to the book of Proverbs where there are quite a few passages that deal with this subject. To parents God says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly(Proverbs 13:24). A parent who lets his child do what he pleases and run into all sorts of danger is not exercising love. Discipline is an act of love.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him(Proverbs 22:15). We all have a sinful nature that wants to go against the rules, that wants to push against the boundaries of the Law—God’s Law and others. Correction, God says, will drive that out and provide a road map for the paths of righteousness.

Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from Hell(Proverbs 23:13-14). Discipline has eternal implications and consequences. To allow children to go on in their sins and pursue their sinful ways may very well lead to their ultimate destruction. Discipline the child and he will not die, but he will be saved from those torments. Skip the discipline and he may very well die in his sins. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother(Proverbs 29:15).

Love corrects. Love sets boundaries for protection, for instruction, and for the overall benefit of the child. Love also enforces those rules and boundaries and brings chastisement when there is sin. In our world, the message of discipline is not well received. In our world, there are many who abuse their children by beating them. The difference between abuse and discipline is love. If a parent brings punishment upon a child out of anger and selfishness, such as: “Look what you’ve done to me! You’ve made me late for work!” and then WHACK! It is sinful. If the discipline is administered out of some other parental issue and not out of love for the child, it is sinful; but when discipline is exercised in love for correction and instruction, then it is God pleasing.

It is also sinful not to discipline. Our world is filled with examples of people—adults and children—who were overindulged with no discipline and no boundaries, and their lives show it. No discipline, no boundaries, and no correction means no love. The writer to the Hebrews says, “If you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.[v.8] When a children are treated as genuine and loved by parents, there will be discipline and correction.

Our text says, “You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?[vv.5-7,8-9]

Just as the earthly example of parents disciplining their children is a demonstration of love, so too when God disciplines us it is a demonstration of His love. We need never doubt this. The consequences of sin which David faced were hard, but they were a mark of God’s love. David could rejoice in that discipline because although he knew it was his sin that merited judgment, he also knew and believed that God had put away that sin through the merits of Christ and was allowing the troubles to come for his benefit. David had the confidence that his hardship was allowed to come by His heavenly Father out of love. Whatever hardships and troubles God allows to come into our lives, and whatever consequence of sin He allows to come, these are not punishments or judgment on our sin. The judgment was endured by Christ. These are acts of love to correct us, to strengthen our faith, and increase our trust in Him.

II.

Rejoicing in discipline is also possible as we remember the important purposes of that discipline. “For they [earthly fathers] indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He [God] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.[v.10]

Imagine if there was no consequence, no chastisement, no discipline in our lives for the things we do that are displeasing to God. In that case we might grow rather secure in our sinful ways. We need God’s discipline to rebuke us when we sin, to correct us and humble us, so that day by day we understand that our strength is from Him and not from ourselves.

Fruit growers know they need to prune the branches to train them and keep their growth productive. This necessary cutting actually increases the production! The grower who does not prune the trees and the vines will eventually find very little return in his crop. He might have leafy, sprawling plants, but it will be all fluff and show with little or no fruit. God prunes us so that we produce fruit for Him. He cuts us with the Law in His Word to rebuke and correct, but then also heals with the Gospel to assure us that our sins are forgiven. The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whom You discipline/chasten, O Lord, and teach out of Your instruction(Psalm 94:12).

Our heavenly Father lovingly disciplines us and allows things to come into our lives to instruct us. Remember we are his children. Just as parents instruct their children in so many ways, so God has the important purpose with all that He does in our lives to instruct us and bring us to life everlasting. Again in the Psalms, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes(Psalm 119:71). Paul wrote the Corinthians, “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.(1 Corinthians 11:32). God’s chastisement has the greater goal of preserving us from eternal destruction.

Because of the importance that lies behind all of God’s discipline and chastisement, we ought not despise it. There are many examples of people who despised the chastening of God. Jeremiah, the prophet, lamented about the people of his day when he wrote, “O Lord, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. they have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return.(Jeremiah 5:3) God brought different kinds of chastisement upon His people, but the despised it and did not heed His correction. He had stricken them, but they didn’t grieve for their sins. He consumed them, but they refused to receive correction. They just continued to set themselves against God’s will.

When we see troubles in the world—natural disasters, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, terrorism, or any other trouble and danger—we can rightly view these things as reminders of who we are and how much we need God. God allowed trouble to come to the Israelites in order to rebuke them and lead them to turn away from their sins, but they did not. Do not despise the chastening of God, it has an important purpose. We do well to remember our frailty, remember our sins, and come to the Lord repenting, seeking his forgiveness, and rejoicing that even these troubles serve God’s saving purpose.

III.

When we approach God’s discipline in this way we may still become discouraged. For reasons unknown to us, God may allow great hardship, misery, and sorrow to come into an individual’s life. One discouragement might be: “No one else is suffering like this…why me, God, why me?!” To encourage us in this regard, God says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.(1 Corinthians 10:13).

We are not alone. Each and every one of us faces trials and hardships and struggles that God allows to come for our benefit. On the surface it may appear that one has a much harder path than the other, but God knows the hearts of everyone. He knows what each one can endure. He administers the discipline and correction according to our individual needs and according to the ability He creates in us to endure them. He does this for our benefit. I may not be able to handle much so He doesn’t allow much to come to me, but with what He does allow He still corrects, instructs and strengthens me. Someone else may be able to handle what looks like much more, but until we know as God knows what is in the heart and what that individual needs, we cannot compare. We ought not become discouraged because someone has more and someone has less and it doesn’t seem fair. Rejoice to know that God is administering chastisement in love and wisdom to each according to his needs and his ability to endure them. The writer says in our text, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.[v.11] We can find the cure for discouragement by remembering that God is training us. He is all-knowing and knows what we need. He will administer His chastisement for our blessing according to His will.

The writer to the Hebrews points to Christ who endured suffering and death for us and says: “Consider [Jesus] who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.[3-4]

Another encouragement for discouragement is to keep what we are facing in its proper perspective. There are who have lost their lives in gruesome deaths because of their faith. Not one of us has faced that. We have not resisted to bloodshed. Keeping in perspective what we face leads us to conclude that God’s chastisement is very limited and directed by love.

Above all, we avoid discouragement by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus who did not become discouraged but laid down His life for our sins and then rose again to life everlasting. He suffered the agonies of the cross and the punishment of Hell so that they could be removed from us and we could be counted as God’s children—loved, forgiven, and disciplined for our blessing.

The apostle Peter wrote to the Christians encouraging them against discouragement in their chastisement, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls(1 Peter 1:6-9).

You can rest assured that God’s desire is your eternal salvation. Therefore, you can rejoice in His discipline. He does it in love with an eternal purpose—your salvation. He will encourage you and bless you even in the face of hardship. Amen.

—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt


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