Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why We Tend to Misinterpret God's Discipline in Our Lives

This post deals with God's discipline in the life of the Christian. God disciplines us because He loves us and because we are His beloved children. It is part of His program for helping us to grow, mature, and be what He desires us to be. It is an aspect of grace, a manifestation of the love and wisdom of God in dealing with human nature, and is always for our good. It corrects (makes right) those who need to be adjusted and punishes those who refuse the correction.

Discipline is a necessity because of the fall of man and the resulting weakness of  his fallen nature. It is God's means of helping His children to appropriate grace to obey in areas where they would otherwise be unable to overcome.  ("Weakness" refers to man's proclivity to sin and to his lack of capacity to restrain corrupt desires. It has broader aspects to its definition, but which are not pertinent to this study). Romans 6:19, Hebrews 4:15-16; 5: 2.

Discipline is a subject that especially needs to be studied from a  positive and redemptive perspective. When God is correcting us we tend to see it in a very negative light and fail to see God's love and redemptive purpose in it. We see it as rejection, hate, lack of love or a displeasure that would lay us aside. This hinders us from receiving the fullness of its intended blessings and benefits.  There are a number of reasons why Christians have difficulty receiving correction and interpreting it properly:

1. Chastisement is associated with some deficiency, failure, flaw, disobedience, or sin. Therefore, we are prone to condemnation rather than conviction. Condemnation produces guilt which discourages people and hinders faith. The Holy Spirit, however, comes to convict (convince) of  sin and short-coming in order to bring repentance and change. He draws us to Himself  rather than turning us away (John 3: 17-20; 16:18). God's displeasure does not necessarily mean anger and rejection. It is difficult for people to realize that discipline is an act of love and not rejection.

2. Our perverse nature (Luke 9: 41), inherited from Adam, causes the tendency to see things twisted. It causes us to see God as "a hard man" (Matthew 25: 24). Often our perception of  God is a reflection of our own hearts (Psalm 18: 25-26).  As a result, we project onto God our own carnal reactions and attitudes. Thus we fear Him in the wrong way and think He is "out to get us."

3. The enemy accuses us in our sin and failure. He accuses us to ourselves, to one another, and to God. The purpose of his slander is to discourage us and to cause us to quit. He even tries, though futilely, to move God to reject us (Revelation 12: 10;  Zechariah 3: 1-5).

4. There is a certain stubbornness in us that sometimes finds it easier to quit than to obey.  We would rather quit than change (Hebrews 12: 6 "faint"). This is one aspect of a rebellious heart. Stubbornness will cause one to enfeeble himself and grow weary through the exhaustion that comes from clinging to his own way and  continuing to resist God, rather than changing. We dislike discipline because we want our own way.

5. Often we project onto God the nature of our earthly fathers who failed to exemplify godly discipline. Depending upon the disposition of your earthly father, you could see  God as either harsh and abusive or permissive and "letting you by with murder." Either could produce a wrong response to discipline.

6. A rebellious and unrepentant heart will by its very nature reject discipline.

A person is especially tested under discipline, and his character is revealed in how he conducts himself therein. Facing discipline redemptively leads to strength, peace, righteousness, maturity, and many other positive aspects of God's grace. Refusing discipline, or failing to break and submit to the Lord in it, can lead to spiritual disability, spiritual blindness, and failure to accomplish God's purpose. When we see God's loving hand behind it and surrender obediently to Him in it, it becomes a means of healing and growth.  Even during God's rebuke and correction, it is possible to have His presence and to know His mercy and grace. When God uses "the rod," He concludes the session the way many of us do with our own children; He sits us on his lap and loves us. However, those who resist and rebel against God's reproof and correction face serious consequences and pain that does not heal until they break and turn.

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