"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.'" Hebrews 12:4-6
There are certain words and phrases that many of us like: peace...joy...victory...you have been cured...you are being promoted...you are getting a pay raise...cotton candy...Chick-fil-A (ok, that one was for me). However, there are certain words and phrases that many of us don't like: conflict...defeat...illness...jobless...bankruptcy...diet (in other words, you can't eat what you want to eat). Another word that many of us cringe uncontrollably upon hearing is the word "discipline." I can think back at the times my parents had to discipline me. I remember the mistakes; I remember the discipline; I remember the pain. In those moments, I didn't like it; I questioned it; I tried to avoid it; I was hurt; I was embarrassed. As I have grown older, I understand discipline from both sides now, both as the child and as the parent. No...it is not any easier. However, I understand it from a godly perspective. I understand it in ways today that I never understood it as a child.
In Hebrews 12:1-2a, we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Many times the things that are hindering us in our faith race and the things that we need to throw off are things that we desire and hold on to, things that we have made idols in our lives. We chase and tightly grab hold of popularity, position, prominence, habits, and hobbies that slow us down, even stop us, in our faith race. We feel entitled and privileged and believe it is our right to have whatever we want, whenever we want, and however we want. I call this the "Burger King Complex." Their slogan is "have it your way, right away." As Christ followers, we must remember the words found in Isaiah 43:1, where God says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; YOU ARE MINE." As Christ followers, we don't belong to ourselves. We belong to God. Paul says in Galatians 3:26-29, "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. We like the word "heir" that Paul uses in his letters to the church. We like to be know as "children of God," as Paul puts it many times in his letters to the churches. We like know that as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ that we have the awesome power of God and the amazing love of God at our disposal. But we need to understand and we need to embrace that as Christ followers and children of God and heirs of God that we are also surrendered to the authority of God's awesome yet loving discipline. Even as Christ followers, and maybe even more so, we struggle with sin. In our struggle with sin, we get entangled, and yes, we sometimes fall. In those times, we must remember God's Word in Hebrews 12. We must remember that "the Lord disciplines the one he loves." We must remember that "he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." Hebrews 12:7-11 says, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined - and everyone undergoes discipline - then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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 spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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." We must remember that discipline isn't supposed to be easy. It isn't supposed to be pleasant. We must remember that for the Christ follower it is necessary. We need to keep in mind the goal for us as Christ followers is simple, and it is the goal God has for us, too. It is found in Romans 8:28-29, where Paul says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." God, through His grace, mercy, love, and discipline, is transforming us into the image of Jesus. So even though we may not like and even though it may be very painful, as Christ followers we need to embrace godly discipline and be thankful for it.
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" GODLY DISCIPLINE LEADS TO HOLINESS. We have been called out of the darkness and into the light. We have been called to holiness. May we BELIEVE His Word today. May we CLAIM His Word today. May we LIVE His Word out loud today. Amen.