As a child, did you ever try to be good, I mean really good, the best at being good? I heard a story last week of a young child, who tried his very best to be good. He was the grandson of a pastor and the son of a pastor and he was to sit on a stool through a service. The service was very long and took a break after an hour but in the last minute before the break, the boy got distracted and began playing with his tie. He had been the best at being well behaved for 59 minutes and in the last minute lost the good behaviour badge and was duly punished with a fish slice in the break of service.
I know this can conjure up all kinds of issues for us about children and long services, corporal punishment etc., but the reason I share this tale this morning is because I am focusing on goodness and punishment.
Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.
God is good, God cannot be anything other than good. I heard a worship leader once say God could’ve been bad but he couldn’t. It isn’t possible. Goodness is a character trait of God, it is His personality. He is also the only thing that is good in its purest sense. We use good to describe many things, a meal, a soccer match, the behaviour of our children and the weather to name but a few. Are we wrong to do so?
We are aiming to be Christ-like, so we are aiming to be good. But like the little boy on the stool, we can only maintain goodness for so long before we get distracted. We need our path correcting, how is this achieved? Are we struck down, smote? Perhaps we are, in a way. We are disciplined, corrected or punished appropriately.
Have you ever known someone who seems so tightly coiled; at any moment they could explode or implode? Or someone so hunched over they can barely stand; falling in on themselves? Or someone seemingly average but with a “je ne sais quoi” furtiveness? These people are hiding something, their guilt and shame.
Dealing with guilt and shame from the past is simple… We confess our sin, we are forgiven, we accept that forgiveness, the slate is wiped clean we move on – but in reality, it is so hard because we don’t forgive ourselves, we hold onto the guilt and shame associated with the sin because it is what we know. It pulls us away from God but we are not punished for it, we are guided and encouraged to let it go. It might be a prayer, or a song or a sentence but as soon as begin to explore the forgiveness of self, the bundle of shame and guilt begins to unravel.
Current sin is a different matter, the hidden sin that no one knows about, the cheating wife, the porn obsessed husband, the truanting child. We are to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord, how can we when we have sin in our lives, but we can’t tell anyone because they would judge, but by not telling anyone we are eaten away with guilt. We rationalise the sin, we become more in the world and less of God, ultimately we walk away – unless we are brought to account.
The Spirit convicts us,
Oswald Chambers: “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man [or woman]. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses the conscience and brings him[or her] into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men [and women] that bothers him, but his [or her] relationship with God.”
We deceive ourselves of our sin, but we can’t deceive God:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
We must aim for the cleanliness and goodliness of Christ, and it isn’t about the fifty-nine minutes it is crucial we take care of those stray minutes when we get distracted, we must feel the conviction of the Spirit within our hearts in order to grow in our love, in our faith of the Lord.
Divine discipline is evidence of divine love
Here are what some commentaries say about this discipline, used in verse Hebrews 12:7
The readers also seemed to have forgotten the encouragement found in Proverbs 3:11- 12, which presents divine discipline as an evidence of divine love. Thus they should not lose heart (cf. Heb. 12:3) but should endure hardship hhypomenete, lit., “persevere”; cf. vv. 1- 3) as discipline and regard it as an evidence of sonship, that is, that they are being trained for the glory of the many sons (cf. 2:10 and comments there). All God’s children are subject to His discipline, and in the phrase everyone undergoes discipline the writer for the last time used the Greek metochoi (“companions, sharers”), also used in 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4. (Lit., the Gr. reads, “… discipline, of which all have become sharers.”) In speaking of those who are not disciplined and are thus illegitimate children, he was probably thinking of Christians whose disloyalty to the faith resulted in their loss of inheritance (i. e., reward) which is acquired by the many sons and daughters. (In the Roman world, an “illegitimate child” had no inheritance rights.) What such Christians undergo, the author had shown, is severe judgment. On the other hand believers who undergo God’s “discipline” are being prepared by this educational process hpaideia, “discipline,” lit., “child- training”; cf. Eph. 6:4) for millennial reward.
(BKC) Heb 12:5
12:5- 7. This quotation is from Proverbs 3:11- 12 but has many biblical (e. g., Deut 8:5; Ps 94:12) and postbiblical (e. g., *Psalms of Solomon 3:4; 7:3; 8:26; 10:1- 3; 13:9- 10; 14:1- 2; 18:4 Jewish parallels; Philo and some rabbis used Proverbs 3 similarly. In the context of Jewish wisdom literature, discipline was a sign of a father’s love for his children, his concern that they would go in the right way; Jewish teachers felt that God purged the sins of his children by sufferings designed to atone and to produce repentance. Although this writer would deny that any person’s sufferings could have atoning value, except for those of God in the flesh (7:25- 28; cf. Ps 49:7- 9), he undoubtedly agrees that they can help lead one to repentance or to a deeper relationship with God (Ps 119:67, 71, 75).
In the Greek world, the term translated “discipline” (NIV, NASB) was the most basic term for “education” (although this usually included corporal discipline), so the term naturally conveyed the concept of moral instruction. Some philosophers like Seneca also used the image of God disciplining his children for their good, just as Jewish writers did.
(IVP BBC NT) Heb 12:5
We might paraphrase this section: “Do not treat lightly the training of the Lord.” The Greek word for “despise” means “to treat lightly, to disregard” or “to think unimportant.” All too many Christians both then and now, have a blasé attitude about the discipline of the spiritual life. We consider it a holdover from a pietism that we have rejected as narrow and stifling. We are too often like a football team that considers blocking and tackling already learned and unimportant, only to find themselves coming apart in a tough ball game and the score mounting against them with shocking rapidity.
The word translated “chastening,” paideia, has a wider meaning than “chastening” or “punishment.” It also means the training up of a child, teaching, preparation for life, art or science, or an instruction. The main emphasis is upon preparation for life. Chastening or punishment is only a small part of preparation.
In scholarly circles, we ask the question “What is your discipline?” We are not asking, “What is your punishment?” Rather, we want to know, “What field of study or what art are you studying?” The emphasis is upon the learning of a skill, the preparation for a given profession. The same word is used in athletics. Discipline is that process by which we are taught and by which we learn. In flying, we speak of an “air discipline” which stands for an attitude of care and professionalism that refuses to accept sloppy or careless procedures. Instructors inculcate this discipline into their students, knowing that their safety and the safety of their passengers is going to depend on it. In a similar fashion, the writer of this epistle is convinced that his readers’ future solidarity in faith is going to depend upon this teaching of the Lord. Therefore, he is urging them, “Do not treat lightly this training of the Lord. To disregard or look upon it as unimportant is foolish and dangerous. Do you not understand how critical His discipline is?”
God’s motivation for this discipline is His love—love for His people and love for His kingdom. Every believer is a child of God. With that child, God has made a covenant of intimacy. He longs for a full relationship with that child as any good earthly father longs for a full and loving relationship with his child. For a child to fall or fail is agony for the Father. Out of His love, He wishes to ward off such tragedy.
The same is true for His kingdom. He loves His kingdom, and, knowing it is the salvation of all peoples, He wishes it to move ahead toward its goal without dissipation or frustration. Every member of the kingdom who is not performing up to par is a loss for the kingdom.
Not to be disciplined by a father is an indication of a lack of love. It takes energy to discipline. The task is fatiguing. Many a father does not discipline because of the cost. Not to pay that cost is to say to the child, “You are not that important to me. You are not worth it.” He may use busyness as an excuse; he may plead even the demands of the kingdom of God. The result is the same—loveless neglect.
7 NIV takes the verb “endure” as imperative. This may well be correct, though it could be an indicative. The important thing here is the emphatic position of the words “as discipline” in the Greek sentence. It is not as misery, accident, or the like that Christians should understand suffering but as discipline. God uses it to teach important lessons. It shows that “God is treating you as sons.” The rhetorical question appeals to the universality of fatherly discipline. It was unthinkable to the writer and his readers that a father would not discipline his sons. Perhaps we should notice in passing that while the author clearly sees believers as children of God, he does not specifically call God father (except in a quotation in 1:5; cf. also “the Father of spirits,” v. 9).
(ExBibComm) Heb 12:7
The quotation from Proverbs 3:11- 12 is Solomon’s words to his own son, helping him to handle the troubles and hardships which will come to him. The Septuagint version quoted here speaks of both rebuke and punishment coming from the Lord. Rebuke is verbal correction; punishment (scourging) is designed to make the rebuke unforgettable. Scourging is severe punishment, symbolized by the Roman scourge, a leather whip with metal pieces embedded on the end.
An incident from the Old Testament illustrates this. David was rebuked by the Lord for numbering Israel and was given the choice of three punishments. He wisely let the Lord decide, and undoubtedly experienced the least hurtful of the three, but in the plague God sent, 70,000 Israelites died! (2 Sam 24). That was a lesson David never forgot! But it is important to note that our author insists that such discipline comes from God’s love for those sons he is bringing to glory. Severe discipline only comes to those who have violated great responsibility or who are being trained for tough assignments. Many Christians today have testified that God got their attention only after some severe trial or circumstance came upon them!
(IVPNT) Heb 12:4