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Oct 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 11, 2020

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastens every son whom he receives
Hebrews 12:5-6

Intro: I’m going to tell you a secret

The most amazing commentary on this passage,
– is not a commentary at all, a but story written by G. MacDonald
• MacDonald was a 19th century Christian minister and storyteller
• his story is The Gift of the Child Christ – you can find it online
◦ if you read it, have a box of tissue nearby
– the protagonist is a five-year-old girl, Sophy
• her dad is cold towards her and her step-mother is distant
◦ the nanny is uncaring and easily annoyed with Sophy
• coming home from church one Sunday,
◦ Sophy took herself upstairs to her room and sat in her chair to read

MacDonald, “But she did not read far: her thoughts went back to a phrase which had haunted her ever since first she went to church: ‘Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.’ . . . ‘I wish he would chasten me,’ she thought for the hundredth time. . . .The small Christian had no suspicion that her whole life had been a period of chastening–that few children indeed had to live in such a sunless atmosphere as hers. . . . ‘If the Lord would but chasten me!’ said the child to herself, as she rose and laid down her book with a sigh.”

Sophy wanted to be chastised, because she wanted to be loved
– she saw a connection between the two that we are likely to miss
• and perhaps that is because we are not as desperate to be loved

The writer of Hebrews is working with an athletic analogy
– a key Greek word is paideia, discipline, education, the training of athletes
Patrick Gray, “Some form of the Greek word paideia appears in this passage eight times. It can denote the physical discipline of an errant child or, more generally, the process of education in Greek culture.”
• another relevant Greek word, gumnazo appears in verse 11
◦ from it we get our English word, gymnasium
• the place where boys received their education and physical training
– the Christian life is a marathon,
• and the key to running a marathon is endurance
◦ last week we were told to “look to Jesus” – not at, but to:
◦ we look to him for our example, for coaching, for help, for perfecting
• this week we learn that through endurance we develop discipline

This is the first of three questions writer will ask

Have you forgotten the exhortation. . .?
– exhortation is a spoken word to instruct, correct, encourage, or comfort
(the writer refers to entire letter as a word of exhortation, 13:22)
• forgetfulness can cripple our spiritual development
◦ God’s word doesn’t do anything for us if we do not remember it
– the worst case of forgetfulness is fugue state amnesia
• people forget who they are
◦ our identity is the combination of our history and destiny
◦ we are not only defined by our past, but also by the person God made us to be and therefore who we are becoming
• the quote is intended to remind us:
◦ who we are, and in light of that,
◦ the meaning and purpose of hardship in our spiritual formation

addresses you – as always, for the writer scripture is not an ancient relic written for someone else
– through it, God speaks to us in the present
• in this instance, God addresses us as sons
• I’m going to ask you to ignore the gender reference
◦ in the cultures of Greece and Rome, sons enjoyed a privileged status
◦ that privileged status is what the writer sees for all readers,
and for all God’s children

The quote in verses 5 and 6 comes from the Book of Proverbs
– these are presented as lessons from a father and sometimes the mother to a son
• each proverb provides instruction and training in wisdom
• the point the young person toward the best paths through life
– the Proverbs are structured like poems (it makes them easy to remember)
• Hebrew poetry is typically written in parallel lines
◦ the first line makes a statement or asks a question
◦ the second line repeats the first line, adds to it, expands, or intensifies it
• the topic of this proverb is discipline and there are three lessons:
the first two lines tell us how to respond to God’s discipline
the third line tells us why we want to respond in these ways
1. do not regard lightly – a negative way of saying “take seriously”
2. nor be weary – listening to lectures can be exhausting
◦ “reproof” is to show someone his or her fault, error, or mistake
3. the Lord disciplines the one he loves
– not everyone is comfortable with the image of God as Father
• I understand that
• if so, try to imagine the ideal father–the father you wish you had
◦ and then look to God in that role
◦ otherwise, see if Jesus provides you with a better representation of God

The second question
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are let without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Hebrews 12:7-8

The first sentence explains the purpose of God’s discipline
– it is to build endurance in us (the theme of this section)
Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you (De. 8:5)
• the value of enduring rigorous training is a disciplined life
• discipline benefits every important endeavor
◦ it’s what makes the right response our normal response
◦ discipline is how the brain’s neurons wire together to achieve proficiency
– have you heard of the “conscious competence” learning model?
• it identifies four stages of acquiring a new skill:
1. Unconscious incompetence (you’re not skilled but don’t know it)
2. Conscious incompetence (you know that you lack a skill)
3. Conscious competence (you acquire a skill, but must concentrate to perform it)
4. Unconscious competence (you perform a skill without having to think about it)
• discipline and training are the key to competence
◦ the key to becoming proficient, improving – in sports, music, art, etc.

God is treating you as sons – and then the question,
For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
– another verse that is relevant at this point is one we read in chapter 2:
For it was fitting that he for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10)
– Jesus, God’s firstborn Son, received an education in the same way as we do
• the writer isn’t saying God acts as if he were our father
◦ rather, God is our Father, and so treats us as his children

Years ago I spoke at a men’s retreat for Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Before I began speaking, I asked for men to share something about their dads, the kind of father he was or some special memory. A few men mentioned how their dad worked hard to provide for their family, came to all of their ball games, or took them fishing or camping.
There was one young man there who was in a wheelchair. If you had attended Calvary Chapel in the early seventies you would have recognized him, because he wheel chair was always between the first row and the stage. Cerebral Palsy had put him in the wheelchair. His brain was as intelligent as anyone else, but it could not control the motor functions of his body perfectly, so that his movements were jerky and exaggerated. For the same reason, his speech was not easy to understand.
But that night, everyone could hear clearly what he had to say. Slowly, and in a loud voice he said, “My dad taught me how to tie my shoes.” Immediately I imagined his dad, working with his son’s rebellious limbs, and the patience it would take to repeatedly rehearse tying his shoes until he was able to get the job done. “My dad taught me how to time my shoes,” and went on, “My dad taught me how to button my shirt. My dad taught me how to brush my teeth. My dad taught me everything! And now I can live on my own.”

We have only the vaguest of ideas of how patient a Father our God is
Blessed be the LORD my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle
(Ps. 144:1, necessary skills at the time)

If you are never disciplined, then you’re not a child of God
– otherwise, discipline is something in which all have participated
• no believer is exempt – you are disciplined, and I am disciplined
◦ there is no growth in Jesus without it
Before I was afflicted, I went astray,
but now I keep your word
(Ps. 119:67)
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (1 Pet. 4:1)
– we are like orphans, praying every night,
• that someone nice will show up and want us, and take us home
• Jesus showed up to tell us God is our Abba, our Papa
◦ and he has sent his Spirit to us to adopt us

The third question
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 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 12:9-11

So far, the comparison between God and earthly fathers has been implicit
– now the writer makes it explicit – and he points out the contrasts between them
• first, it makes sense that we have more respect for God our Father
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts (Mal. 1:6)
◦ the writer contrasts earthly fathers, from whom we received our bodies,
◦ to our heavenly Father from whom we received our spirits
• second, our earthly fathers disciplined us for a short time
◦ our heavenly disciplines us so we can share in his holiness,
without which no one will see the Lord (v. 14)
◦ God’s discipline prepares us to live in his presence forever
• third, earthly fathers disciplined us as it seemed best to them
William Barclay, “At the best there is an element of arbitrariness in an earthly father’s discipline.”
◦ we can trust God, that he knows what’s best for us
◦ his discipline is totally oriented toward our eternal good

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant
John Polkinghorne says the writer observes “the significance of the processes of life in this world for the formation of character in all human individuals. Not only is developmental growth recognized as present in the life of Jesus and his followers, but it is the painful process of suffering that is particularly significant.”
Luke T. Johnson, “the final elaboration of the analogy contrasts the pain of the experience with the joy of the result.”
– I don’t believe God purposely brings us suffering
• it comes to us naturally as a condition of living in this world
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Mt. 6:34)
• God does not bring suffering into our lives, but he uses it
◦ he never allows our heartaches and miseries go to waste
– and in this life, we enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness
• when our relationships are healthy, functioning as they should,
◦ we are at peace — even with our enemies (Pr. 16:7)

Conclusion: This week with one of my grandsons,

The challenge of discipline became clear to me

To love him without spoiling him
To discipline him without punishing him

For us, the choice is not whether we will face hardships,
the choice is whether we will take advantage of them
and make good use of the opportunities they bring
Not all suffering is discipline
Not all discipline entails suffering
But all discipline requires endurance

We are not given a lesson in how to avoid discomfort
but how to take advantage of it – and see it through new eyes
Eternity changes our perspective on everything
So when discipline comes,
regardless of whatever form it takes,
dare to praise God,
and thank him for his patient and persistent fatherly love
for his steadfast love endures forever

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