God disciplines His sons, much like any earthly father disciplines his children. Why do parents discipline their children? They do it in order to straighten them out. They discipline their children in order to teach them to behave in a way which right and proper and which will profit them in the future. Much more than that, God disciplines his sons so that they may learn to conduct themselves aright and partake in his holiness. What does it mean to partake in his holiness? To partake in his holiness means to share in his consecration, so that they too, will become holy in all that they do, just like their heavenly Father.
Jesus shed his blood outside the city gates in order to sanctify the people who believe in his name. God wants to bring this process of cleansing to completion by bringing his sons under discipline. He wants to straighten out his children by bringing them under discipline when they stray from his instruction and comforting them with His presence when they are in obedience to Him. And although they may not understand the purpose of his instructions, they are expected to obey and begin to make the choices that their heavenly Father would make, were he in that same situation. He wants to form his children into a mould by giving them series of instructions he expects them to obey, thus teaching them a way of life that is beyond their reason and is based strictly on his training.
Now, earthly parents depend on their learning and intuition to train up and discipline their children. They teach them to the best of their own knowledge so that those children begin to live in that manner by default. But God teaches His children as the Omniscient One, knowing all things and being aware of what is best for them. He does not necessarily teach them all what he knows, but he disciplines them according to what he knows so that he can trust them to live in a manner that is best for them. This is the power of discipline and instruction in training up a child to become a son. The son is the one who is now mature enough to take up and responsibility on behalf of the Father, and to whom authority can be delegated on behalf of the Father, knowing well that such a son will execute all things in accordance with the will of the Father. This is what God was able to accomplish in Jesus, and which he wishes to accomplish in the heart of everyone who is his child.
God disciplines his sons by bringing then into discomfort, pain or affliction when they have gone the wrong way. This discomfort or affliction may simply be in His withdrawal from them so that they become distraught (knowing he is far) or sometimes in physical situations where they can find no respite or assurance from God as to why things are happening as such. More often than not, it begins with a conviction by the Holy Spirit who lives within, so that they are restless when they are in disobedience to God. Sometimes, however, God may also bring external situations that are trying or difficult (especially when his children ignore the nudging of the Holy Spirit who tries to correct from within). Hence they begin to search their heart and look within to know why they cannot hear God or sense Him around. At times, they may immediately know the cause of their internal or external pain and suffering (like Jonah the prophet when the storms arose), recognising where they erred or went wrong in their conduct. At such times, true children of God repent and learn not to go that way again, in order to please their father, just like dearly loved and obedient children will do.
When children are disciplined by their earthly parents for going wrong, they learn what their parents do not want them to do. Then they have the choice to change their ways just to please their parents or to rebel and challenge the right of their parents to discipline them or to demand their conformity to a certain pattern. Dearly beloved children always choose the first option. They feel sorry that they have displeased their parents and seek to make things right by repenting. Even if they forget and stray again, the moment they are corrected or disciplined again, they shrink from that path and go the way their parents please again. After a while, they learn the various things that please their parents and the various things that do not please their parents.
What really makes discipline a good source of instruction is the memory of pain and the desire of children to avoid it. But rebellious children may seek to remove themselves from the authority of their parents, so that they can do whatever pleases them, without any sensation of pain, discomfort or any thought of having transgressed. And this is true in spiritual things as well. Some people often desire to remove themselves from the authority of God and his discipline, so that they do not feel wrong for doing things that contradict the holiness of God. This is sometimes demonstrated by deliberately removing or distancing oneself from natural sources of authority (such as parents or pastors), so that such people become their own god, and have no one who can rebuke them. As a result, their conscience becomes hardened as they can no longer feel wrong for doing the things they once felt wrong for doing. When this happens, they just keep going from one kind of sin to another, plunging deeper and deeper with every move and sometimes becoming apostates, outright rebels against God and all that is of God. Sons of God, however, are not rebels. They stay under God and God-ordained leadership as long as is necessary for them to, even if it is a lifetime. They know very well that the best they can get is under the authority of God. They also learn to discern authority and to relate with their God-ordained leaders with honour and respect, as representatives of God over their own lives, which is what they are.
Discipline, we must mention, is not a pleasant thing. It is usually unpleasant while it lasts so that we may remember the way not to go in the future. Sometimes, the discipline of God is so heavy that one may feel as if under punishment by God. It may be the grief of the heart which cannot be assuaged or tempestuous circumstances around which are difficult to weather. But whatever it is, there is always a lesson for the child of God to learn from the discipline of the Father. And that lesson should be our goal in every situation. It is important, however, to clearly distinguish between the afflictions of the enemy and the discipline of God. This is done through spiritual discernment and by consistent prayers to God. True children of God can always tell when the enemy is at work by reason of the word of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit inside of them.
We should note that the extent of discipline that God is willing to subject his children to is a reflection, not only of the matchless love of our heavenly Father but also of the incomparable glory of the holy calling to which he has called us. So he will not stop at any length to bring us into the fullness of that calling, the calling to partake in his own holiness.
Just as God will not stop at any length to discipline his sons, he will not stop at any length to judge sinners. And the judgment of God is again a reflection, both of the righteousness and of the love of our Father in heaven. It is a reflection of his righteousness because he will not tolerate any trace of sin to go unpunished so that men do not indulge in sin and unrighteousness. It is a reflection of his love because his hope in judging the sinner is that the sinner will suffer and perhaps repent and return to his love. So even in judgment and justice, his love is still revealed. When men condemned to judgment in the past have repented and turned to him, he has often turned from destroying them and chosen to show them compassion like the loving and kind Father that he is. The worst of men who comes to true repentance under the slightest punishment will find an amazing fountain of mercy to drink from, all because of the great measure of our Father’s love. The reason that God does this is that men are sometimes steeped in unrighteousness because of ignorance in their hearts of the love of God and of His ways. But one who deliberately rejects the message of God out of self-sufficiency or enjoyment of the pleasures of sin will not easily find mercy in the presence of God. Hence, one cannot take God for granted and hope to ask for mercy at the last moment. God will not take lightly those who take his mercy for granted. It may even be too late for such as the enemy may take them out before they have a chance to plead for their lives, simply because they belong to him by right.
Hence, the sinner should fear and repent. For if God will not spare his own sons and will go so far as to bring them under discipline in order to conform them to his holiness, then neither will he relent to bring judgment to sinners so they may repent. And if they will not hear and obey him, then he will go on to destroy them as an example of his justice and righteousness on the earth, so that others may learn to live in righteousness. For when his judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the earth will learn righteousness. And there is nothing that pleases God as a man who is righteous in his ways upon the face of the earth. For God is a holy God, and every form of unrighteousness insults his holiness; it contradicts the very beauty of the holiness in which he dwells day and night, thereby exalting something other than the holiness of God as being worthy to behold.
The love of God is true, real, boundless and unrelenting. He will pursue and pursue until He has possessed. Then he will go on and on until he is able to transform those he has possessed to his very own holiness. But should they resist his love and discipline at any point in time, they will experience his just judgment, a manifestation of his righteousness. For why should a righteous king tolerate unrighteousness among his subjects? Much more, a righteous Creator will not tolerate unrighteousness forever in His creation. For we are the clay, and He is the potter. Therefore, whether you are a son today, or a sinner, yet unsaved, come under the banner of His love, and subject yourself to his discipline so that you may partake of His holiness, a privilege given only to sons of men among all the creation of God, a way of life that is most profitable for any man who gives himself to it on the surface of the earth. For our God is a loving Father, who gives good gifts to His children, and who wants the best for them, both in their time on earth and in their eternal destiny in the unseen realms!
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