Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Discipline of the LORD

This is a guess post, by a special brother of mine, Adrian Bateman. He is an excellent teacher of the word and is a Super Moderator of Rapture Forums. Adrian and his lovely wife Andrea are members of First Baptist Church, Springfield Il.

No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.
—Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick

Discipline is a topic we do not like to talk about. The act of discipline itself is unpleasant and usually painful. It was when we were children in our parents’ home. It is as children of the Lord. But, unlike our parents, God’s purposes are never punitive: they are always corrective.

In order to understand God’s hand in our lives and to better be able to cooperate with Him so that He may the more readily bring us to perfection it is worth the time to study His chastening. But first, let’s take a look at the meaning of the word perfection.

Perfection is defined as “the state or quality of becoming or being perfect.” Now, most of us think that being perfect means that we will be without flaw or fault. In fact, the dictionary defines perfect as entirely without
any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.” But that is not what the Bible says. To find out the real meaning, we have to go to the original language in which the New Testament was written.

In the Greek, the word usually translated “perfect” is teleios. It’s an adjective (a word that describes or qualifies a noun in some way.) The verb is teleioo. It’s meaning is to consummate something … or for something to be to be complete in all its parts … in other words to reach the end, the final stage, of some process.

Blogger Wendy Wolf uses an example from nature to explain teleioo— she says an acorn is finally teleios when it becomes a giant oak.

So the word means “to be complete, needing nothing more to accomplish its purpose.” That is similar to the way I personally like to explain it—

To be teleios is to reach the point where one is fully equipped for the purpose for which they were created.

Once we understand the true meaning of this word, we can understand what God meant when he tells us that although Jesus was His Son, “yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)

This passage tells us two things—

1. That if God the Son in human form needed to be brought to the place where he was able to accomplish the purpose for which He was created, how much more we who have sin natures indwelling us alongside our new, godly nature need to be perfected?

2. That God accomplishes this process of growth until we reach teleios through suffering.​

Why suffering?

That is a question that men have struggled with over the millennia. The short answer is that it works! The best answer—an answer borne as much by experience as by the Word— is that during times of affliction and trial we are taught to recognize the weakness of our own abilities, to despair of the help of this world and those in it, and to learn that God Himself will provide for us. It causes us to willingly let go of those things that hinder our walk with Him and places within us a desperate seeking after His Presence, and it draws us into sweeter, stronger fellowship with our God!

But despite all of this, it is not something that God willingly and happily does.

Lamentations 3:33 “God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

God only uses painful experiences because they are actually good for us in accomplishing what is in our best interests. . He uses the same method with which He has instructed us to love and raise our children.

Proverbs 23:13-14 “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 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. “

Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

God is not a God of confusion, nor a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). His principles apply everywhere in His creation. Therefore what is true of His instructions for us as parents is patterned after His discipline of us. And it is designed to bless us ultimately.

Psalm 94:12-13 “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, Until the pit is dug for the wicked.”

The writer of Psalm 94 (we do not know who, in this case, although it may well have been King David) clearly knew, as we can see, that God teaches us for our own good, that we may enjoy the reward of the righteous rather than the fate of the wicked. Thus King Solomon warns us never to despise such precious correction from God. It is proof that He loves us.

Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Deuteronomy 8:5 “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.”

2 Samuel 7:14 “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. “

Further, although the blows may sting greatly and although the chastening may—if necessary—be severe, yet God will not kill us by it. He measures each stroke for its effect and never gives more strokes than is necessary for our own good.

Psalm 118:18 “The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”

Job 5:17-18 “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.”

God lovingly tends the hurts He causes for our good. I am reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) account of shepherds in the ancient Middle East who, when a little lamb would repeatedly wander off to its own harm, would take it and break one of its little legs. Then they would splint and bind the leg and carry the little lamb on their shoulders until it had healed. It is said that when the healing was complete and the shepherd set the lamb down again, it would never wander again.

I was such a lamb. And my Father had to break my figurative leg so that I, too, would learn the closeness of Him, the preciousness of His care, and never again desire to wander. In so being chastened, I learned that I was truly His child!

Hebrews 12:5-11 “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.

That “peacable fruit of righteousness” is the peace that we experience when we are truly walking in righteousness! When all is right between our soul and our Savior, we experience an utter peace. Nothing shakes us, nothing disturbs us, because our communion with Him is so close and continual. There is no sin to hinder it. Thus David could joyously proclaim:

Psalm 119:67, 71, 75 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word …. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes …. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. “

“In faithfulness!” “In faithfulness” You have afflicted me! Oh, that we would humble ourselves under His hand so that we patiently bear the stripes and learn the lesson He desires to teach us, even if we do not understand the reason why we must learn it. Indeed, sometimes we do not even fully understand the intent of the lesson. But I can assure you that if you will just trust Him and assess that what is transpiring is permitted for your good, a great lesson will be learned.

Therefore, let us not faint under chastisement. Let us not be discouraged or disheartened. Let us not rebel against the rod of our Father. Instead, let us buck up and determine to walk aright!

Hebrews 12:12-13 “ Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”

Which brings us to one of the two keys to benefitting from the chastening of the Lord: perseverance.

There was a psychology experiment conducted many years ago. A bass and a minnow were placed in an aquarium together but with a glass panel separating them. The hungry bass swam toward the minnow with its mouth open, but hit the glass. Time and again the bass tried to eat the minnow and time and again he was brought up short, smashing his nose into the glass divider. Eventually he gave up. The researchers then removed the glass panel so that nothing separated the bass from the minnow. But the minnow was safe—never again did the bass attempt to approach it. That big old fish had decided that there was no use. We are quite like that old bass.

So many give up when the goal is just around the corner.

We need perseverance to achieve the end, the purpose, of the discipline— our perfection. And the key that encourages us to keep going is this— truly realizing that God truly loves us. That He really does care about us … and not just at a distance. He is minutely involved in every miniscule aspect and detail of our lives. His relationship with you is as if He had no other person, no other concerns in all Creation, but you and yours. Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they would come to know the love of God in Christ.

“Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:13-19)

And THAT is a prayer that God WILL always answer.

It is understanding and truly believing that God loves us intimately and dearly which carries us through our trials. We understand that ALL that He permits in our lives is for our own good. We may not see it; we may not understand it. But we can trust that He does indeed love us beyond measure, and that He is exactly who He says He is— the Great I AM! The One who can do all things and WILL do all things for His name’s sake!

Glory to God that we can have such confidence in Him!!!

So, now knowing exactly what the discipline of the Lord is—why He allows it in our lives and the purposes for which He uses it—even if we do not understand the why of it we can cooperate with the how. And we can continue to glorify God regardless of what comes upon us: for He is at work in our life to bring us to the place for which He originally created us, the place which He designed for us before the world began!

Yet there is one last thing I feel it necessary to say before we leave this topic. And that is that a lot of our chastening is unnecessary … or at least it would be if we walked as we SHOULD walk— not in self confidence, but in humility and surrender to God.

The Bible is both a picture and a mirror. It is a picture that reveals the beauty and perfection of Christ, and a mirror that reflects the ugly imperfection of ourselves. When we look into the Word and we see ourselves as we are—so distant from where we desire to be, so far short of the image of Christ—it should not drive us to discouragement but to prayer. It should cause us to judge ourselves and submit our failings to God.

“If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. “ (1 Corinthians 11:32)

Therefore let us do what Paul said to do and judge ourselves against the Word and allow God to do His work in us as we recognize and admit to the need. But let us not set out to rectify that lack by ourselves. Nothing that WE do matters in God’s economy, only what Jesus did.

We need to understand that Jesus, once for all, won the victory for us and provided for the possibility of us becoming like Him. Now, we will never reach absolute perfection—not teleios perfection, but the actual state of being without any flaw or blemish whatsoever—when we are glorified and receive our incorruptible, immortal bodies. But we CAN walk in increasing godliness, increasing Christ-likeness, on this earth. As I continually stress in all of my preaching and teaching, it is not something we do, but something God does in us as we live in faith in what Christ did for us at the Cross. Our role is to desire the goal and to rely on God to do that work, and accomplish His perfection in us. He will do it.

Therefore, as we read the Word and see our shortfall, rather than promising to try harder to be better we need to confess our own inability, reaffirm that all we need for victory over the world, the flesh and the devil was won for us by Jesus on the Cross, that the seed of the victory was worked into us at the moment of salvation, and rest in absolute faith that because of these truths, the Holy Spirit WILL work out in us what Jesus provided and what He worked into us at the exact instant we were born again.

Let us, therefore, continually judge ourselves by the Word of God and ask the Holy Spirit to provide that which we lack. Because of what Christ did at the Cross for us, He will do it.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church through Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

I pray this helps someone today.

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