Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God's Discipline - Loving Teaching and Correction, Not Punishment

In this week's GIGCast Mike and I look at the words "chasten" and "discipline" in Hebrews 12, and discuss how these words don't mean "punish," as the words are often wrongfully taken to mean. As legitimate children of God, He teaches us and corrects us in His love - not impatiently and not fearfully or out of anger - to help us to know His love and to trust Him and to walk as the children of God that we truly are.

It's interesting that the writer of Hebrews, leading up to this, would write so many words to help get people rooted and grounded in Jesus Himself bearing the sin of the world, being the once-for-all perfect sacrifice,that we're not under the wrath of God, that we should hold fast our hope in Him, and that we look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith... and then suddenly, according to various interpretations of this, the writer tells us God is angry and impatient with us, and beats us and punishes us???

If God's "perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us" (1 John 4:18, The Living Bible), then we must know and be encouraged that He never harms us or punishes us. He disciplines us (teaches us, corrects us) in loving ways, for our own good, not as a display of anger or wrath.



  1. Once God asked me,'Don't you think that I know better?' I was immediately chastened (aka subdued) in my thinking. I realized so clearly right then that i had been thinking that I knew better than God and that I was very deceived. . . ha ha ha. What a relief. Yes, it was a rebuke. But oh what a wonderful rebuke it was. There was no condemnation, only freedom from a lie I had been believing. Who is going to complain about having a lie being removed from their thoughts. I love having my thoughts corrected by God. What a privelege and what freedom!

    Funny eh.

  2. let me correct that last word: Privilege

  3. Great words! Including, "...freedom from a lie I had been believing."

    That's really at the core of what I believe loving discipline is. God doesn't try to make us into better people, as He's already perfected us in Christ, but He teaches, corrects, chastens, rebukes (all of those are positive words) to help us live in the freedom for which He has set us free!

  4. Hey Joel,

    I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine. Somehow the discussion led to discipline and he said "yeah you screw up and God will get you". I immediately began to rake him over the coals (graciously). I told him that the Father got Christ and that He doesn't "get us", though He disciplines us with a loving hand on a young child. I went on for about an hour talking to him about the wrath of God being satisfied in Christ, the atonement..... I think this is something that robs the saints of their adoption. Whenever we see God as an angry deity with an iron rod ready to crush us, our relationship with Him will be faulty.

    I visit quite a bit but this is my first time commenting. God bless.

  5. Great thoughts and comments. How we malign God in our wrong thinking!! Great, great, Joel!!

  6. Hi Lionel,

    I've seen you on another blog or two and I remember chatting with you once or twice before. Thanks for your comment here. You're right on! The church has looked at God as mean and stern and angry, waiting to 'get' people when they mess up. So true that this view of Him robs people of walking in His love and grace. I mean, it doesn't stop His love and grace at all, but it keeps them from experiencing it fully.


    Yep indeed, misaligned thinking about God leads to a misaligned experience in our relationship with Him!

  7. ma·lign
    To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about; speak evil of.

    a condition of being badly or improperly aligned

    So, I was totally thinking about alignment when I first read this blog. Such as Jesus being the plumbline from Heaven and the foundation upon which we are placed. And I would say that the deceiver is the maligner of Jesus; and God is in the business of bringing us into alignment with the truth. That is the battle eh. And like so many of these illnesses and defects etc are a result of misalignment. At least that is what a former chiropractor told me :) And our Father, in His great mercy and love for us is transforming our minds to line up with Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life.

    Quite like how wherever Aslan moved there were flowers left behind and winter thawed and essentially all things were made new. . . That is the reality of Christ in us! The same thing happens wherever we walk. And the more clearly we see Him the more clearly the impact around us, which is the opposite of what the deceiver wants to happen (being that he is into death deception and destruction as opposed to new life) So, it makes so much sense that our Father would so kindly set us on the straight path in our mind.

    Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent. . . hee hee hee

  8. Joel - I didn't listen to the podcast, but I will. In the meantime,

    He disciplines us (teaches us, corrects us) in loving ways, for our own good, not as a display of anger or wrath.

    When you say He disciplines us for 'our own good', do you mean 'our on good in our daily life here on earth'? What would be an example of such discipline?

    I recently read that chapter from Hebrews and was kind of confused. BTW, I agree to everything you said here, that discipline is not punishment or afflicting us with sickness or anything. But I am trying to see in our daily life what kind of application does this has.

  9. Lewis fam... no prob on any tangent. :) Those are very good thoughts. I'll hone in on what you said about misalignment and what your former chiropractor said. I've heard exactly the same thing from chiropractors. The lower parts of the vertebrae support the parts above it. If a part is out of alignment, the rest of it is affected, and it can indeed lead to other sicknesses and illnesses. There is a lot involved in all of that. For several years I've had a bulging disk in my lower back. Most of the time it's ok, but I think it's causing a slightly pinched nerve, which is slightly irritating at times. Makes my leg feel a tiny bit numb sometimes when I've been sitting for a while. Also, sometimes if I move my body in the wrong way, I'll be in pain and my whole upper body leans to the right until I can get things back into place. It's weird!

    Anyway, all that to say that the body of Christ is that way as well. If one member is hurting, the whole body hurts, as Paul said. Each 'part' affects the whole. And so when the church teaches about an angry God, it hurts various 'members of the body,' and the whole body is affected. I think we'll deal with this until Jesus comes back. But in the meantime we can all help the church as a whole by knowing how loving and kind and full of grace God is, and how He Himself puts us back into "alignment" when we've been walking according tot he flesh. I DON'T mean that He makes us any more perfect than we already are in Him! Just to say that He is faithful and loving and kind to discipline us (lovingly teach us, correct us) when we've not trusted Him and have gone off acting according to the flesh.

    Many times this is teaching and correction in regards to SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS! - a very fleshly way of living that the church seems to gloss over!

  10. Bino,

    I unintentionally spoke some of my thoughts to what you're asking, in my last response. :)

    Perhaps a specific example would be someone who is habitually fornicating. Their actions, of course, don't affect their righteous standing with God in the slightest. They remain pure and holy and justified, by grace alone.

    But of course their actions are not flowing from who they are in Christ. I think God will interact with each individual in unique ways to 'teach and correct' them, showing them who they are in reality as a new creation, and working to restore them in their thinking in their minds and hearts, which will lead to them living out of who they truly are, and not out of the flesh.

    It's absolutely, positively, not punishment for their actions. A lot of times it may not even deal with the particular actions. As I look back on my life, I see that most of the time God has not addressed my specific actions to me, but rather in loving teaching and correction He has continued to teach me and remind me of my true identity. But I have also had some specific times when He spoke to me through others - who sometimes knew and sometimes didn't know what I was going through - using just the right words that turned the lights on in my head about how my particular behavior was harmful to myself and to the body as a whole (along the lines of my previous comment, as well as the 'practically speaking' posts).

    I don't even mean "harmful" in an obvious way. I just mean that if I'm not living as who I truly am in Christ (whether that means 'sinful actions' or whether that means self-righteousness), then it's not good for me or the body of Christ.

    What's been hard for me is to let go of the ways I was once taught about discipline being something harsh God does because He's angry at the sinful behavior. It's not like that at all! And then, having basically overcome that in the last decade, I was totally turned off by the whole idea presented in Hebrews 12 about the Father's discipline.

    As I've become more solidly secure in my identity, and growing in my understanding of who I am as a legitimate son, and looking back to see what my Father has done in my life, I've come to be thankful for the true, gentle, loving, Fatherly discipline that I've received that has helped me to walk as who I really am.

    I hope this makes sense. If there's any tinge of legalism in here, then I didn't word myself correctly. :) I'm just trying to put into words what I've seen.

  11. Joel, Thank you for taking time to address this! I get what you are saying and no, there is no legalism in there.

    You know, my struggle is to differentiate between the natural consequence of sin and the discipline of the Father. If we take the same example, fornication, there is a natural consequence for that sin. For example, it might ruin some other valuable relationships. If we get into such mess as a result of fornication, is that a discipline from God?

    Another example, gluttony is a sin and there is a natural consequence to it (bad health), is that considered a discipline?

    How do we know what is God's discipline and what is not?

  12. Bino,

    I would tend to separate the natural consequences for our actions from God's discipline. In other words, I personally think they are completely different things.

    I think discipline is more of a teaching/correcting thing than a consequences for our actions thing. The same actions in different people can have different natural consequences. For example, one gluttonous person can eat like a pig and still be pretty healthy, while another one eats exactly the sme way and has a heart attack. Or one person who fornicates may get an STD or have unhealthy relationships, while another may have no obvious bad effects of his actions.

    But each person is not acting as who he truly is. More importantly, his actions are the result of living by the flesh and not walking by the Spirit. Again, this doesn't affect their righteous, holy standing at all. They remain pure and holy.

    But I think God will interact with them all, each in a unique way, teaching them who they truly are and correcting their thoughts and attitudes with love and grace. It's, of course, not an improving of the flesh that God is working towards, but I think it's a matter of teaching and correcting that will lead to walking by faith, not by sight or by the flesh.

    Walking by the flesh is not who we are, and therefore is harmful to the Body... even if the actual consequences vary.

    I feel I'm not doing an adequate job in conveying my thoughts. :) I think the main thing that I'm saying is that God meets us right where we're at, and His teaching and correction (discipline) is always for the purpose of edification, and growing us in maturity, etc. It's never to cause us harm, and I personally don't believe He causes harmful consequences in order to teach us.

    As I look back on my life, it seems as if I've never actually known I'm being disciplined at the time when He is actually at work in that way. It's usually in retrospect that I see how various things have worked together to help me to have grown to where I am now.

    I keep feeling like I'm digging myself a hole that I can't get out of. :) I think this issue is pretty huge, and it's so different for everyone. I pretty much know what I've seen in my life, and I can barely even explain it myself... LOL

    Any thoughts from anyone?

  13. Hi Joel. I'm just thinking a small thought here, and that's that the discipline/child-training in Hebrews is described in the context of persecution, too. Those folks had a rough time on account of believing or associating themselves with those who believed something of the new covenant gospel of grace...reminds me of Rom8's talking about partaking of Christ's sufferings. That's the same stuff. I guess that is suffering that leads one to rest more on Christ and the sufficiency of his grace and redemption. And that's part of the growth in grace. What do you think?

  14. I guess as I wide principle then, 'discipline' will lead you to deeper rest in the sufficiency of God's grace and your adequacy in him. Otherwise, it's not from God.

  15. Phil,

    I agree with the whole "context" thing. I think discipline is widely varied... and I agree that the purpose is to lead us to deeper rest in the sufficiency of God's grace and our adequacy in Him.

    As a former (and recovering) legalist, I truly was disciplined (taught and corrected) in such a way as to stop my dependence upon the flesh and to trust more and more in God's grace. As someone who sins sometimes (always as a result of walking after the flesh), I've seen God discipline me (teach and correct) in much the same way... getting away from a flesh dependency and towards a Spirit dependency.

  16. Joel,

    As I look back on my life, it seems as if I've never actually known I'm being disciplined at the time when He is actually at work in that way. It's usually in retrospect that I see how various things have worked together to help me to have grown to where I am now.

    I think I know exactly what you are saying here. I have had several of such experiences in life and it's kind of hard to explain because usually it's not tied to a particular incident or anything. But as I try to put the pieces together (much later), I can see how God amazingly worked in all those. It's a God thing! I can't give a lecture on it...

    Thanks Joel! I enjoyed the post and the discussions.