Aug 21, 2016 Nice Discipline???
A group of 40 Hell’s Angles roared into the parking lot of a church in Concord, California, just before the worship service was to begin. One of the bikers got off his bike, walked into church, and sat down in the back. The whole congregation watched fearfully, wondering what would happen next. But the rest of the bikers just stood by their bikes in the parking lot and smoked their cigarettes, waiting for the service to end. When the service was over, a few brave members talked to the bikers and invited them to stay for coffee. The bikers accepted the offer. Then the members learned why the one biker had sat through worship. He had broken their ‘code’ in some way and, as punishment, had to go to church.
Sitting in church, for that Hell’s Angel, was meant as a correction for some wrong done against the code of that group. He was obliged to go to church as a consequence for his behavior in the group. By going to church he was enduring a type of punishment (not, of course, like any of you!).
His going to church was intended as punishment, though hopefully the sermon gave him the gospel! Punishment and discipline are related, but they’re not the same thing as payment or atonement. That comes out in a couple places in today’s epistle lesson from Hebrews. In one place it actually it comes out of Proverbs chapter 3 originally. The writer of Hebrews is quoting God from the book of Proverbs in verses 5 and 6 today. Look at those verses with me please and read them out loud together.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Now don’t miss that earlier in vs. 5, the writer of Hebrews says that this discipline is a word of encouragement. And it is encouragement direct from God. God is addressing His family, His children, with these words and actions we’re told. That’s great news because that means we’re being told that God’s discipline is meant to benefit us. Can there be such a thing as ‘nice discipline’?
Discipline is meant to teach, to correct wrong behavior, so that a person improves who they are and how they act in the world. It’s about learning to act in helpful ways. It’s meant to teach proper actions. And I can think of no discipline that’s easy to endure or pleasant to get through. Punishment is done to learn that actions have consequences and require justice. But don’t confuse that with atonement. Punishment is not the same thing as atonement – as the payment for the guilt of sin.
That’s important for us as Christians to be sure we’ve got a good handle on. We never want to think that God is demanding atonement from us for our sins. God doesn’t do that. He does not demand that we now pay for the guilt of our sins in any way and so justify ourselves. I heard someone say that when we sin God might ‘punish’ us to make up for it – to make us pay for our sin – by having something bad happen in our lives. That is just not right. If it were, then Jesus died on the cross… for nothing. God may use punishment for our discipline, but never for atonement or justification.
Consider Leland Wangs’ mother. Leland Wang, a Chinese evangelist, tells of an incident in his childhood which vividly illustrates the work of Christ. Once Leland had been very naughty and his mother, with a stick in her hand, called him to her to be punished. But he ran off, taunting his mother because she couldn’t catch him. She had little chance of catching her small, lively son.
So she stood still and said, “I feel ashamed of myself that I have brought up a boy who is not willing to be disciplined by his mother when he does wrong, so I must punish myself,” and she began to whip her bare arm. This so touched Leland’s heart that he ran back to his mother, threw himself into her arms, and pleaded with her not to hurt herself, but to punish him. But no further punishment was necessary.
Mr. Wang says that, as he grew older, this memory helped him to understand the great love of the Lord Jesus Christ who willingly took our place in death on the cross. It was Christ’s work, and His blood that made atonement, that paid the complete price for our sin. His work on the cross, met the demands of God’s justice totally and completely. His innocent blood, shed on the cross in your place, is better than the shedding of your own blood for your own sins. It’s true that blood needs to be shed to obtain forgiveness – atonement – and blood has been shed, just not yours.
The word of God in Hebrews today tells us that Jesus’ blood was shed so ours wouldn’t need to be. Vss 23-24, You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood
When God’s love claims us, we become God’s followers, and we are to live in obedience to Him and His word. To help us in that, God gives us, along with the Holy Spirit and His many various and marvelous gifts, He also gives us His discipline. And in truth God’s discipline is ‘nice’. Oh I don’t mean that the correction we endure is pleasant, but it is ‘nice’ in that God treats us as His children when He disciplines us.
So when it says in verse 6 that we are punished, that is said in the context of discipline and does not stand alone to mean that we are made to pay for or atone for our own sins. If that were true, then Jesus death on the cross would need our effort to help satisfy God’s demand that we be righteous. No, that demand has been met in full when Jesus was put to death in atonement for all sins on the cross.
God’s discipline is something none of us, unfortunately, ever outgrow the need for. It’s one of those things I always hoped I could get past or beyond. But in order to grow as an obedient Christian I need to be corrected by God in how I live. Correction is what comes through discipline and punishment, correction – not payment.
A father sits in his lawn chair, watching his young daughter play in the yard. Her friends are across the street. She steps to the curb and runs, never looking either way, never seeing the on-coming car. Father’s out of his chair like a shot. He grabs her and scolds her, then puts her in her room for an hour despite her many tears and excuses. He explains that he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. Several days later the father again sees his little girl start across the street. This time, though, she stops, looks both ways and crosses. He smiles. The discipline has worked. It was hard on her at the moment of her punishment, but so much better for her welfare in life.
Her actions were changed by the discipline of her father. Her father didn’t punish her in order for her to make-up for some offense to dad. This was correction. For her, for that hour in her room apart from her friends, she perceived her own suffering, but in truth she was learning to correct her behavior to keep herself safe.
God’s correction of us is never meant to replace the suffering of Christ for our sin. We do not make-up for our sin, or pay any of the price for our sin by means of God’s correction – however harsh it may seem to us. It may be hard to endure God’s correction, but it’s important to bear in mind that this discipline is because we are God’s own children and not illegitimate offspring. We are God’s family and as such we get the benefit of ‘Dad’s’ wisdom.
It’s out of His heart of love that His correction is sometimes visited on our backsides. This isn’t done because God’s mad at us, He cannot be. His anger and wrath and vengeance and malice toward our sin have been poured out on, and paid for in, the cross of Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have much to learn in what it means to be His obedient children. And God’s discipline is meant for that reason and for no other. We together here are God’s children and with one heart we care for one another and help one another when we each endure God’s loving affliction that’s for our benefit and growth. We do not get to heaven any easier by what we suffer on earth. And we do not suffer because of God’s anger.
Think about what you’re going through in your life right now. What training and discipline is the Lord taking you through that perhaps not too many other people even know about? What street are you trying to cross that Jesus is holding you back from so you won’t get smacked by the car that you can’t even see coming? Maybe asking God why, “why am I going through this” is not the only question to ask Him. Perhaps in addition you can ask Him; what? “What are you teaching me?” “What training are You giving me in what I’m going through right now?”
Compare what you’re going through with the little girl and with the biker. The biker was being punished and the little girl was being disciplined. They were being trained to act correctly so they would live. What you may be going through might be discipline or punishment that’s meant to correct behavior or perhaps to give you a different form of training in new ways, but never to exact payment.
And also remember Leland Wang’s mother and what she teaches us about Christ, taking our atonement on Himself. Bear in mind, you can never sin and make God angry so that He wants atonement from you. Our sin, all our sin, has been paid in full on the cross. And never doubt that our Father’s correction and discipline will be given to us for our benefit and training in righteousness. Discipline never comes from God in anger… but in love.
His discipline is ‘nice’ because it reminds us that we are His true children. And according to verse 11 only His discipline, for the sake of Christ, produces in us a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. In the name of Jesus, the One who took the guilt of our sin away, we pray, amen.
Sermon #841 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Isaiah 66:18-23 18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.
19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the Lord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.
Epistle Reading Hebrews 12:4-24
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Holy Gospel Luke 13:22-30
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”