The Book of Hebrews #61 chapter 12:4-11
The Book of Hebrews
God’s Faithful Discipline
Hebrews 12:4-11
 
Hebrews 12:4-11
 
Church discipline is the subject of the text and it is one of the forgotten responsibilities of the church.  Jesus Himself, in Matthew 18, gives us the pattern for church discipline.  It includes, first of all confronting each other in the church and if necessary, including leadership to try to resolve the issue and sometimes even to put the person out of the church because of the influence that they’re having for evil.
 
And because we’ve gotten so far removed from that, there’s s difficulty in the minds of most to ever even consider doing that.  But it is in that context that Jesus goes on to say, “Remember that where two or three of you are gathered together, there am I in the midst.” And that refers to the two or three witnesses engaged in a discipline situation.  That is perhaps one of the most misapplied and misstated verses in  all the Bible.
 
So when we think about discipline in the church, we need to keep in mind what the Lord desires for His church and this passage lays that out. Actually, we are to do on a one-to-one basis in the life of the church on an open basis what our Lord is doing in a secret way in the lives of all who are His children.
 
This is a very important and a very informative passage and we really need to properly understand it because once we do, it will change our life.
So let me back up a little and give us a running start and we’ll take a couple of weeks to cover these verses.
 
Remember, the letter is written to the Hebrew community, most of which are saved.  Some are still on the fringes; others aren’t interested in Christ, but the majority has become believers.
 
One of the things they have to deal with because of their faith is persecution.  
 
Look back to chapter 10:32
 
When they became believers or even when they associated with the believers, persecution was immediate and severe. Some lost their property. They were pressured to go back to Judaism.  They were ostracized by family and society and it cost them a great deal.
 
In response to that, notice what is said in
 
Chapter 10:35
 
You’ve put your trust in Christ. Don’t throw that away because at the end awaits a great reward.
 
verse 38
 
So here you have people who have made a commitment to Christ, they have come together to assemble with a believing group of Christians, and have been persecuted because of it. And many of them, I am sure are asking why it is, now that I’ve come to Christ, that I am so suffering?
 
The answer is we are called to live by faith and a part of the life of faith is anticipation of something better that awaits us.  And Jesus said there is to be expected difficulty and tribulation in this life, and in response to that, we live by faith.
 
And when we come to chapter 11 we find example after example of exactly that as we see all these great people who illustrate faith in the sense that they lived and died for something they didn’t receive.
They all died looking for the fulfillment of the promise of God.
 
Then as we come to chapter 12, the writer turns to this community of believers and says, “Since we are called to live by faith, I call on you to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race that is set before us. So get your eyes on Jesus and look to Jesus as the perfect model of faith and live the same way He did.  He is calling them to a life of faith and to accept the fact that it’s going to be a challenging life.
 
Having said all of that about the life of faith, living the life of faith, being courageous in the life of faith, he then comes to the question, “Why is it that if we have come into the Kingdom by faith and confessed Jesus as our Lord, that life is so hard?”
 
Why is it that we are going through this? Why is it that we are suffering? Why is it that it’s so hard? Why is it that we lost our property? Lost our homes? Become alienated? Why does this have to happen to us?
 
The answer to that is given in verses 5 to 11
And basically it boils down to this:  “It is the discipline of God.” That’s what it is and that’s how you are to see it. When you have difficulties and challenges in your life, don’t blame it on Satan because he is not responsible. We’re not under his sovereignty. He has nothing to do with it.  In fact, in a very real sense, he’s been placed under our feet.
 
That means the issues that come into our life that challenges us, that call for our courage and our faith to be strong, the struggles, the trials the suffering, the pain is not the work of Satan in the life of a believer, it is the discipline of God.
 
And if you look at this text, you will find that word repeated several times.  It’s obvious the author is talking about discipline.  The word he uses is used to reference the training of children and it speaks of what parents bring into the life of their children to help them become mature and developed.
 
By the way, it’s not about punishment, but training and instruction.  You see that in verse 11 where it speaks of one being trained.  And we expect that of parents, right?  Don’t you expect parents to discipline and instruct and correct their children?
Nobody enjoys an undisciplined child.
 
Parents don’t enjoy them.  They are embarrassed by them.  Spectators don’t enjoy them.  They are frustrated and aggravated by them.  We expect it. We enjoy it. A loving father who cares for his children disciplines his children, even though it is sometimes painful.
 
 
And Scripture is pretty clear about this is to be administered. The discipline is not done by giving your children “time outs.” The discipline is not done by taking away activities. The discipline is done with a rod. Biblically speaking, inflicting pain is the way to train a child.  And that’s what God, our Father, uses in our lives, to train us and get our attention.
 
Because God loves us and doesn’t want to be embarrassed by us or have us be an aggravation to those around us, brings painful discipline into our lives for our good and His glory.
 
Now as you process that thought, be sure you keep in mind the difference between divine punishment and divine discipline. Discipline speaks of training for a good outcome. Punishment speaks of retribution for misbehaving.
 
Romans 8:1 reminds us that as Christians, we receive no condemnation.  There is no punishment for the child of God.  It was all absorbed and taken by our big Brother, Jesus Christ.  Don’t use the word punishment when you’re talking about Christians.  The truth is, He punished Christ for us.  So we’re not talking about condemnation kind of punishment. This is something very different.
 
Punishment has one purpose, discipline another. The purpose of punishment is to inflict vengeance. And punishment from God is eternal. The purpose of discipline is to produce virtue and the discipline is temporary.  In punishment, God is the judge. In discipline, God is the father. In punishment, the objects are His enemies. In discipline, the objects are His children. In punishment, condemnation is the goal. In discipline, righteousness is the goal.
Now, having said that, let’s spend the rest of our time looking at the concept of discipline and break it into three parts, just to help us understand the idea.  There are three aspects of discipline the Lord uses to cause us to develop spiritually and every one of them can cause us to struggle or suffer or brings us pain.
 
Reason number is
 
1. Correction
 
God is in the business of correction and we see that in Scripture quite often.  For instance, Jesus said, “He prunes branches to make them productive.”  That’s a painful process.  But sometimes we have things in our life that need to be removed.  So God brings the discipline of correction.
 
Sometimes this correction involves some very serious actions.  1 Corinthians 11 mentions people who were seriously ill and others who died because of the way they came to the Lord’s Table.  They became more trouble than they were worth and the Lord actually took them to heaven because of it.
 
And the corrective from that was for the rest of the church as Paul reminds them that it is possible to be sick because of sin.  You might want to start there when things go wrong in your life. That’s what Job’s friends did.  They said, “You’re having all this trouble because of sin in your life.”  They were wrong, but it’s a good place to begin the inventory.
 
God just may be at work in your life to bring you to a place of maturity and development in your Christian life.
And remember, this isn’t punishment, but correction.  This is not God smiting you in wrath. He is correcting you in love. Always keep that in mind.
 
First Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered a while, the Lord make you perfect.” It’s going to take some suffering. It’s going to take some pain to knock off the carnal aspects of your life.
 
There’s a second reason for discipline and that’s
 
2. Prevention
 
Sometimes God’s discipline is to prevent sin. The Lord fences you in and tells you to put a guard on your mouth and a guard on your eyes, and a guard on your ears and be careful what you expose yourself to. The Lord demands that you stay away from evil company because evil company corrupts good morals. The scriptures are full of things that are the barriers that the Lord puts into our lives to shelter us, to separate us from the things that corrupt us.
 
I think any father knows that, any good parent understands that you put into the life of your child restrictions. If you don’t, if you allow your children to be overexposed to the things that corrupt them, they’ll wind up being corrupt.  They need preventative discipline.
 
For example, false teachers were causing all kinds of grief in the Corinthian church.  It is so severe that Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 12 as being like a sharp stake driven through his flesh. It’s described as a messenger of Satan.  That means it is demonic activity.
And unfortunately, many in the church are buying in to the teaching of these false teachers and it’s like running a spear right through him. So he goes to the Lord and prays to have it removed. Three times he asks the Lord to remove them from the church but the Lord didn’t do it. The Lord said this, ‘I’m allowing this to happen to keep you from exalting yourself, to protect you from pride, to protect you from self-glory, to protect you from feeling too confident about the greatness of your accomplishments.’”
 
The Lord will do some amazing things, even turn loose demons in a church to make life miserable for the pastor of that church in order to keep that man humble. So sometimes discipline comes from God for correction, and sometimes it comes for prevention. You who have suffered greatly in life know that it draws you to the Lord and away from the world.
 
There’s a third reason for God’s discipline, that’s
 
3. Education
 
God’s discipline is designed to teach you the experiences of life that lead to deeper fellowship with God. There are things that come that just educate you.
 
Think of Peter and what the Lord says to him in Luke 22.  Jesus says, “Satan’s desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat.” But Jesus says, I’ve prayed for you and here is the goal of my prayer.  After you’ve returned to Me you will strengthen the brethren.”
 
 
You can’t become an educator to strengthen others unless you’ve been through the lessons they’ve been through. Part of the discipline of God is to raise the level of your sympathy and comfort.
 
In the introduction to 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says, “Look, I suffer all the time.” And then he says this, “I have had all these sufferings that I might be comforted by God so that I might comfort you.”
 
So, some suffering is corrective. Some suffering is designed to simply prevent us from going down paths into sin and some suffering is designed to educate us. Think about Job.  What was the purpose in Job’s suffering, as far as Job was concerned? I know God was trying to prove a point to Satan, but as far as Job was concerned, what was the purpose of his suffering?
 
Was it correction? No. Was it prevention? No, because he was not a man who was walking near the edge of the world. It was education. And he understands that. At the very end, this is what he says, chapter 42 verse 6, “I had heard of you with my ear, now my eye sees you.” The end result of what happened to Job was a clearer vision of God and four verses later in verse 10 of chapter 42 he says, “And now I pray for others.” He had been educated to the place where he saw God like he had never seen Him before, which made him a better man and a better teacher of others.
 
Well, that’s the background of discipline and why it happens.  Next week we’ll get to the text.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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