The Hard Work of Discipline

prize

Discipline is a word that brings up the concept of short term pain for long term gain. No pain; no gain the adage goes. Discipline also brings up the idea of how to correct unruly behavior in children. To spank or not to spank? Spare the rod spoil the child. While these two views of discipline are similar they are not the same. And in our relationship with Christ both have implications. The Bible speaks of discipline a great deal. In modern translations like NIV or ESV one can find the word from 40 to 50 times. But in an older translation like the King James version it is only used once. The King James translation liked the word “chasten”. Whatever changes have occurred to the English language over time the idea of discipline has not become any less important.

Discipline #1: The engagement of the believer in Christ to organize life in such a way that the relationship and service to God is more effective.

Living a life that puts Christ and His priorities first is not easy. There are varying degrees of success in this endeavor. Some people have lived amazing miraculous lives that are examples to us all. Some have been called saints and some have died unknown and forgotten to all but God. But others seem to barely understand the Christ that saved them. Their lives seem undistinguished from the rest of the world. What separates these two extremes is discipline in Christ. Those who show Christ have lives marked by life of discipline that maximizes praying, reading, loving, serving, and sharing God with the world. They became intentional as some level and through discipline bent their desires to be subject to Christ. The power of this relationship becomes accelerated through the discipline and self-denial of one who is seeking Christ first.

11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

The author of Hebrews states that in the moment discipline seems painful. The King James translation uses the word “chasten” which means a moderating and restraining effect. This kind of discipline is talking about how adults correct mistakes in their life and how they learn to curb the passions of life. Fasting is not fun. Serving others is a chore. Denying a life of hedonism does not seem all that wonderful to those who are young. But later on, from the other side of chasing Christ is a peace and comfort of a life lived as God intended.

Discipline #2: The act of a perfect Father correcting a child and training a child for the future.

God is no passive Creator that is only now watching his creation evolve. God became a man and died on a cross to reconcile people to Himself. God is actively involved in the life of every single person. For those whom God calls son or daughter he will correct and discipline. God has not left his children without a way or without his love.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 ESV

The loving correction of a Father may produce tears in the child but this kind of correction sets a child on a path to a life well lived. God’s correction will set one to life eternal. God’s correction will draw one closer and will allow one to respect Him and His plans for life more. It is no accident that listed along with the types of sin that will destroy a man are those that are disobedient to their parents.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 ESV

If honoring parents made it into the 10 Commandments how much more so is the obedience of submitting to a heavenly father’s correction and discipline.

These two forms of discipline are vital. First is the loving correction of God to remove and cutout sinful behavior and second the effort and restraint where we choose to organize our lives around prayer, church, fasting, and serving to know him better. Together these disciplines done through Christ will draw us nearer to the prize of life in eternity.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV

Lesson #3: Submission to God in all Things

lesson 3

God is in control, God is all powerful, God is creator of all things, God is all knowing, and God does not make mistakes. We are so independent and so self-involved that it is hard to see where we stand with God. We as Americans love our freedom and independence to the extent that it sometimes clouds our view of who we are in relation to God.

  1. Are you parenting skills and marriage relationship in control?
  2. Is your family life closed off to the outside world so that there is no space for God to work?

To help answer these questions on submission we will deep dive into Satan and if he submits to God. How could Satan be who he is if God did not allow it? We must all understand that we are here to serve and submit to God. Even Satan. While God does not tell Satan to be evil, God does permit and give Satan room to operate. Independent of Satan’s personal preference he serves God and submits to the rules God has put in place for him.  

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 ESV

 Satan when he tempted Jesus shows Jesus all the glory that the world has to offer. The power of army’s and kingdoms all for Jesus to direct. What is interesting to note is that Satan tells Jesus that authority in these kingdoms has been delivered to him. When Satan says the kingdoms of the world have been delivered up to him he uses a word that one might describe as when a judge has delivered a prisoner over to an evil prison warden. Jesus used the same word to describe how he would be “delivered” to the Gentiles for them to put him to death. 

32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. Luke 18:32 ESV 

The Gentiles were given charge over Jesus and were allowed by God to crucify Jesus. God permitted this crime on His son. In the same way the worldly kingdoms have been given over to Satan. Satan is not free to destroy at will. God has placed boundaries on his authority.  

9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:9-12 ESV 

At the beginning of the book of Job Satan comes before the throne of God and challenges God in regard to Job. He claims that Job serves God only because God has blessed him. What is most interesting in this exchange is that Satan tells God to stretch out his hand to crush Job and that Job will curse God because of it. In response God gives Satan permission to do just as Satan suggested, but God places rules on what Satan can do. God does not bring evil to Job, but he does permit Satan to commit evil acts.

 So now let us turn this back to ourselves, our marriage, and our place with God. Are we dependent or independent? Do we see how powerful and in control God is of everything that is happening in this world and in our lives? Paul in Romans describes humankind as slaves. Slaves of Sin or Slaves of God. Have you ever thought of yourself this way as a slave? Slaves still have free will to choose how they will react to the situation however they are not free to opt out of slavery. I have freedom to jump from a cliff but I do not have the freedom to choose to fly to safety because I am bound by the rules of gravity. 

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 ESV 

Slavery was more common in the past so if Paul were writing to our context today he might choose to say we are either servants to our sins and earthly desires or we are servants of God and his eternal desires for us. Are we here to seek our own ambition or do we see ourselves as servants to God? If you seek your own ambition and cast no concern for God and his role in your life then you are a slave and serve sin. 

  1. What are your ambitions and goals? Are these in line with what God wants for you?
  2. What are you ambitions for your children? Will those ambitions bring glory to you alone or also God?
  3. Does your spouse have a part of your ambitions and goals? Is your spouse on board with that vision?

 

Lesson #2: Conflict in the Home

lesson 2

Have you ever been angry or upset because of the action of others? Is anger a SIN? We sometimes have the idea that anger is not called for and so we do not talk about it or we hide it away from our family. Of course we can also live with our anger so out in the open that it causes conflict in the home. Anger is not a bad thing in and of itself. God is described as “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15). The key here is being slow and justified when allowing anger to be realized. God’s righteous anger is not selfish or a quick tempered lashing out. His anger bears up patiently waiting for us His creation to repent and call on His great mercy.

How do you deal with the anger and conflict that comes to any marriage and family? Do you practice the cold shoulder? Do you yell, scream, and throw stuff? Or do you plot unpleasant difficulties for the target of the anger? Whatever our anger and whatever the source God wants for us to face it head on and reconcile that trouble.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 ESV

What God does not want is for anger to dwell in our hearts because it will eat us up and become bitterness. This bitterness is where the sin dwells and our enemy is more than happy to destroy a marriage with bitterness. He wants for us to get it out in the open and work through it.

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15 ESV

There is another anger that many of us would not want to recognize or admit and that is anger toward God himself. Are you or have you been angry with God? If you said yes then you have much company. God sometimes asks from us and burdens us with requests and situations that make us upset. Jeremiah a prophet of God was given the task to tell the people that they would be conquered by Babylon and exiled away from their homeland. Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks because of the bad news he kept delivering. This was a shoot the messenger kind of situation and he was very upset with God.

7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. Jeremiah 20:7-9 ESV

Job an Old Testament patriarch held more reason to be angry at God than anyone. God had allowed his wealth, workers, and children to be removed in violent occurrences. Job himself was plagued physically with boils all over his body. Job had an expectation to be angry but he has an amazing perspective on the situation.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her… “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 ESV

“It is well with my soul” is one of the greatest hymns ever written. The author, Horatio Spafford, was a business man who had lost much of his wealth and so he sent his family back to London from America. His family of four daughters and a wife were in a boat that sank on the trip. Only his wife survived the tragedy. He knew the ship sank but did not know if his family survived. His wife sent him a telegraph “survived alone”. I personally can’t imagine the grief and possible anger I might have against God in such a situation. Horatio’s response to the tragedy was to write “Whatever my lot thou has taught me to say it is well it is well with my soul”. This man is an example not unlike Job who holds out a perspective that is eternal and gives Glory to God in all things.

As with our spouse and so it is with God we must keep an eternal perspective. We must love one another and bear up with each other in love just as God has loved us. Do not be upset with God when you see others who seem to have a better life or circumstances. We have what we need from God.

The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, Isaiah 14:24 ESV

Review with the small group the take home worksheet and discuss the questions together. Here are the small group discussion questions and a link to the take home worksheet…

  1. Are there any “open loops” that need to be resolved with your spouse or with God?
  2. Have you kept a safe distance from God because of a “no” or circumstance you do not like?
  3. Do you need to check-in with your spouse to lovingly confront any open issues?
  4. Do you need to apologize for a recent or long standing conflict?

Click here for a PDF copy of the take home worksheet

Lesson #1: Spiritual Transparency in the Home

lesson1

Lesson #1 is the first step in a discipleship program. This program about the need to minister to the entire family and is part of a longer term conversation that all families should maintain on marriage, family, and child discipleship. What this lesson is not is a self-help series that simply contains basic cause and effect solutions to the routine conflict that all of us face each day as we work at our marriages and families. This is a discipleship program and should be executed inside of a small group to have a conversation with Christians who want to go deeper into their relationship with Christ and their families.

The goal of this program would be to draw closer to a spouse through Christ. The goal of this program would be to know that as parents we are discipling our children into a love for Christ that will set them on a path to serve Him for His glory. I pray and hope we all will hear from the Holy Spirit and take away meaningful upgrades to our knowledge of Him and how that impacts our relationship with family.

The first lesson will start with “Transparency” and focusing on our relationship with Christ in a corporate way with our spouse and children.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1 ESV

Satan seeks to isolate. By cutting us off from each other inside the family and in turn from the church he has a better chance of speaking lies into our heart. In this isolation he also has a better chance of encouraging us to continue in our sins that will lead to death. One of the major lies that many families accept and many churches accept is that we should remain quiet in the public square, that our faith is personal, and that we pray only in the closest. The only acceptable conversations for public would be sports, politics, our children’s activities, and where we are headed on our next vacation, but almost never does our conversation go to Christ and his work in our family.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Compare Satan who is shown as a Lion prowling for someone to consume looking for an opportunity to cut some unfortunate soul off from the group to Christ who is shown as a Shepherd seeking the one to bring back to the 99. God intended us to be in community within a group, not isolated and alone.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 ESV

Our testimony of what God is doing is encouragement to others and it is a lie from Satan that we keep our religion and relationship with Christ to ourselves. We need to be intentional about our dialog with others and intentional about bringing Christ into the conversation with our family. I love this introduction from Paul to the Romans.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV

Do you long to see your spouse talk about what Christ is speaking into his/her life? Do you long to know what God is talking to your family about? Speak about these things with your spouse so that you may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. What an awesome spiritual gift that we might be missing in our lives.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 6:25-28 ESV

Paul seems to be asking Husbands to be like Christ by washing the marriage in the word of God so that both who are one flesh would be holy. Now husband and wife should follow Paul’s example. We need to prioritize the eternal of God over the temporary of self. In order to prioritize the eternal things of God we need to create a dialog between husband, wife, and children that is a comfortable natural outflow of our family’s cadence.

Here are the small group discussion questions and a link to the take home worksheet…

  1. Do you talk with your spouse about the spiritual and eternal burdens that you wrestle with God over?
  2. Do you ask your spouse to pray for you for the core struggles and the things that defeat you each day?
  3. If we asked your spouse would they know what you are currently reading or thinking about in regard to God? Is your relationship with Christ before the family or is it nonexistent to them?
  4. Do you keep a front up not sharing the burdens together because someone in the family must be the strong one?

Click here for a PDF copy of the take home worksheet