Because of the Lord Jesus, discipline in the life of a believer is not punitive in nature, it is developmental. Jesus received the punitive consequences of sin so that we could experience sonship and be trained in righteousness by the Father to serve as joint heirs with Christ. Embracing hardship as discipline is key to joyful living and growth. Points of resistance or difficulty always bring strength in the midst of pain. Grief, sadness, mourning, and heaviness can be natural emotional responses to times of discipline, especially when that discipline reveals our shortcomings, sins, and any attitude of sin. We must not however give into despair in discipline…or despair while being disciplined. Despair carries with it hopelessness. Discipline brings great hope.
Discipline often brings us to points of repentance that goes beyond just confessing “sins” but gets at the deeper heart attitudes and conditions. Discipline pushes us deeper to a more substantial shift of heart. A purely punitive view of discipline just deals with the “sins” – whether small or large. Charles Spurgeon noted that,
“Evangelical repentance is a repentance from sin as opposed to sins.”
At first glance this is seems like a nuance of difference. But, it truly is the crux of repentance as the next paragraph will demonstrate.
Spurgeon went on to say,
“The saints (of Revelation 12 who overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony) used the doctrine of the atonement not as a pillow to rest their weariness, but as a weapon to subdue sin.”
The Cross was never meant to just comfort us, but to strike at the root of independence and rebellion in the heart of man. Our hope is that Christ was “made sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.” It was never just about “sins,” it has always been about indwelling sin at a core level of our personality. The atonement is a weapon to “subdue sin.”
Why all this? We can get caught up in confessing sins, perhaps even grieving over sins, but miss the point of the redeeming life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Receiving “the garment of praise for heaviness, the oil of joy for mourning, and a crown of beauty instead of ashes” is about becoming “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” Jesus wants to display His splendor in and through us. That happens in a repentant heart that is humble and contrite before its Savior.
How have you experienced God’s loving presence in the midst of discipline? Leave your thoughts on the comments below.
Dan Brokke is President of Bethany International