Hebrews 12 and Discipline


Last Sunday, Elder Caleb exhorts us to consider the call from Hebrews to regard suffering and pain as part of God’s purposeful discipline in our lives. Here, Joshua Lowe draws on his recent discipline of his child to encourage us to be open and willing to receive discipline from God and our church community.

The other day my oldest child did something very dangerous that deserved discipline. My son crossed the road without holding my hand. I had explicitly told him to hold my hand as we were crossing the street but my son wanted to walk independently and deliberately pulled his hand away and walked across.

Thankfully, it was a side street and there were no cars around, and as we reached the other side of the road, my son knew that he had done something wrong. I told him that when we got home he would be disciplined, but he didn't need to be told, he knew what was going to happen.

When I was a child, I would do anything I could to avoid getting disciplined. However, what happened with my son was surprising. When we did get home, my son didn’t fight me to be disciplined. Knowing that he did something wrong and was going to be disciplined, he quietly went to the toilet by himself (the place where we usually discipline), and stood there waiting for me to join him. I explained to him why I needed to discipline him and that what he did was very dangerous.

After I disciplined him I told him I still loved him very much and that the discipline was because I loved him. After the discipline was done, he confessed his sin and apologised. We reconciled and we were both happy again because the relationship was restored.

I don’t know exactly what was going on in my son’s mind throughout this discipline, but I hope that his willingness to be disciplined was because he understood that discipline from his father is a good thing, and the result at the end is joyful. Proverbs 23:13-14 says,

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Sheol.

We often think of discipline as something to avoid. However, God’s Word tells us that discipline is a good thing. Proverbs 23:13-14 tells us that discipline is important to save our children and guide them to the path that leads to life. I discipline my children for their good, just as God disciplines us for our good.hebrews-12-and-discipline-pullquoteOne of the recurring illustrations that have been coming up in our recent Hebrews studies has been that the Christian life is like a marathon. We have to work hard to make sure we finish the race well and receive the prize God has promised at the end of our race. Hebrews 12:5–11 tells us that God disciplines us in order for us to endure and finish the marathon of the Christian race. 

A life without discipline leads to death. If my son is not disciplined and doesn’t learn that crossing the road is dangerous without being careful, he may one day cross the road carelessly and be hit by a car. In a similar way if we are not disciplined by God, we will not learn how to fight sin and pursue holiness. If we are not disciplined, we will not learn how to endure to finish the race and we may fail to receive the reward of heaven.

There are different ways God may discipline us, but one of the ways that trains us towards holiness is through the local church: our brothers and sisters of the local body. If we understand that discipline is for our good, we must also be open and willing to receive this discipline from our church community.

The first step is confessing our sin and the areas of our life that may require discipline. When we have sinned or done wrong, we need to be open about our personal sins and confess to our brothers and sisters of our church. We then need to ask them to keep us accountable in our repentance as a way for us to receive God’s discipline towards our sins. This is one of the ways God can discipline and grow us towards holiness.

Confessing our sins is not easy. It can be emotionally painful being vulnerable and open to rebuke, but Hebrews 12 tells us that even though discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, it later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11).

When we confess our sins we need to have faith that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9). It is by the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed. Therefore, as we confess and repent, let us look to Jesus and cling to the gospel as the only cure for our sins. Our confession and repentance is a part of God’s discipline that leads us to look at Jesus and have life by believing in the gospel.

I hope that the members of GBC will be able to see God's discipline as a good thing. Let us welcome discipline from one another by confessing our sins while asking others to help us be accountable in our repentance.hebrews-12-and-discipline-pullquote-2