Monday, 18 August 2008

Discipline – The Proof of a Fathers Love

Life is a great teacher – so my father used to say! In many ways it’s true. Seldom does anything substitute for the lessons learned from personal experience. However life’s lesson’s can be unnecessarily hard if we are left to negotiate learning on our own. Fathers, in life and in the church, play a key role in transitioning people through the different stages of growth. This comes under the broad category of discipline – a word closely related to disciple. Biblical discipline is not reactive, the way we often experience discipline from our earthly parents. It is something we do for people, not to people. Heb 12 picks up on this theme by outlining 3 benefits of discipline for the believer.

1. It is proof of Sonship. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens...but if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons”, Heb 12.6-8. No one is excluded! The privilege of Sonship brings with it the responsibility of Sonship. God’s discipline in our lives is His commitment to make us fit for the task. Someone once put it like this, “we are training for reigning”. The biblical author is emphasising God’s love as the filter through which everything must pass. The key issue is how we chose to respond to that discipline. Two roads are open to us.

a) Despise what is happening in our life with the consequence that we become discouraged
b) Respectfully submit to the process with the result that we ‘live’. The implication of this simple word is that life becomes fulfilling – it is life to the full that Jesus promised in John 10.10

2. God’s agenda is not only motivated by His love for us but is intended for our, “profit, that we may be partakers of His Holiness”, Heb 12.10. The path to Holiness involves discipline in order to create self discipline. We say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to children in order that they will learn to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for themselves in the future. The goal is not to give them a set of rules to obey but to create a moral compass within.

We see this clearly when we contrast the giving of the law with the outpouring of the Spirit. The law was external, written on stone. The Spirit is internal, written on the heart. The law defines truth but the Spirit witnesses to truth. The law makes demands about what we should do but the Spirit empowers us to do what is right. The law kills but the Spirit gives life. The law is temporary but the Spirit is eternal.

The danger with trying to be Holy apart from the Spirit is that we can end up like Pharisees, self righteous and judgemental of others. Jesus was not like this. He was accepting of all and had the reputation of being ‘a friend of publicans and sinners’. God’s discipline challenges human pride and self righteousness, humbling us to see the continued need for grace – Heb 12.28.

3. Although the process is not pleasant it has a payoff; “ yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”, Heb 12.11.Discipline yields fruit! But only to those who submit to training. I like this word training. It comes from a Greek word that we now use regularly – Gymnasium. God is in the business of putting us through a workout. Only His agenda is producing spiritual muscle, character that can shoulder the responsibility of leading and discipling others.

Jesus called the twelve and ordained them to ‘bear fruit’, John 15.16. In the context of John 15 Jesus is concerned that the disciples cooperate with the Vinedresser. The pruning is in fact a form of discipline. Something that will benefit the Vine in the long term. Spiritual Fathers have learned this skill. They know when to apply discipline in a way that promotes growth and maturity. They don’t dictate what need to be done but challenge and invite reflection so that the spiritual muscle of discernment becomes the guiding principle for those transitioning into a more mature way of living.

Many of us are at different stages in our personal walk and development as believers. Let me encourage you to use these powerful truths to cultivate a co-operative spirit with God’s discipline in your life. Spiritual maturity is never automatic. It requires us to work with God in His Gymnasium knowing that a payoff is coming.

Once again we had a great weekend in church. John visited us for the first time. He is a local who regularly attends the gym over the road and was drawn to look into church, having noticed how happy people were who gathered outside on a Sunday. John is a Hindu by background, but is clearly seeking for truth. How great that God is drawing these kinds of people into our midst. Pray that he has a clear revelation of the uniqueness of Jesus.

Anna’s testimony was very encouraging. Whilst many were laid off at her place of work she was given a promotion! How awesome it is to know we walk in the favour of God. Times of waiting on Him will be rewarded.

Finally we will be restarting our Connect groups in September. For those not in a Connect group let me encourage you to begin now praying about where you can connect. The corporate meetings on Sunday can achieve a great deal but they must work in tandem with smaller more intimate meetings that take place ‘house to house’. Here we can know and be known. They are the ideal place for us to be helped in our ongoing training in righteousness. Have a great week and stay blessed.