First I want to say I am honored that Carissa asked me to be featured on her blog. Hopefully I can be as eloquent and encouraging as she is as I talk about a topic that is currently on my heart––accepting God's discipline.
Not sure about you, but I don't often think about the discipline of God when I am walking in sin. Of course I know God disciplines us because the Bible says so, but when I am about to do something I know is wrong, I tend to focus wrongly on God's grace.
I think, "Oh, He'll forgive me,” “Everyone messes up in this area,” and "It's not a big deal.”
Oftentimes I forget that my disobedience has consequences and when they hit, I am tempted to act like a victim.
"How could God let this happen?”
"Why is God so hard on me?"
"Why can't things be easier?"
In reality, a lot of times I bring these unfortunate events upon myself. Of course there are trials and tests God puts us through that have nothing to do with our disobedience, but I think it would be good for us to reflect on the times that it does.
Having a proper view of God's discipline should give us a proper fear of the Lord.
“The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” Proverbs 19:23
This fear and reverence should make us reconsider the sin we are tempted to commit. If we are to properly fear God’s discipline, we need to first be able to recognize when God is disciplining us in the first place.
How do we do that?
Well, by acknowledging the cognitive dissonance in our lives. The definition of cognitive dissonance is: The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
If our identity is in Christ, yet we are living in sin, we can begin to feel as David does in Psalm 38:3-9 after he sinned with Bathsheba.
“Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.”
When we are living in sin, we can literally become sick to our bones. We can feel physically, mentally, emotionally drained.
That clash of our flesh doing what it wants and the Holy Spirit convicting us is one of the ways God shows us we are not right with Him. He takes away our peace.
In times like this, we don't even want to approach the throne room of God in prayer. We don't want to read. We feel in a lot of ways separated from Him, like God is somehow targeting us.
But this response is wrong because it forgets the gospel.
It forgets that whatever sin we've committed was already paid for––that in our darkest moments of sin, we shouldn't run from God, but to God for His abundant grace.
However, the balance between accepting God's grace after committing sin and abusing it is a thin line. Sometimes it's hard to know if we are giving ourselves a false peace when our heart isn't truly repentant.
John Owen talks about this in his book The Mortification of Sin.
“When peace is spoken, if it not be attended with the detestation and abhorrency of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God’s creating, but of our own purchasing.”
What he is saying is if we nurture the sins in our lives instead of mortifying them out of an absolute hatred for sin, we are not truly repentant and the peace we have with God is strained. This will affect our relationship with God, our prayer life, and our overall being.
This doesn’t mean that these sins aren’t forgiven––because of course God forgives all of our sins, even the ones we are unrepentant of. But there are consequences that come with giving ourselves false peace.
What we should be doing instead is following steps to accepting God’s discipline.
1. True repentance rooted in the hatred of sin
We must truly recognize that we have affronted a Holy God and that thought should break our hearts like it did David’s heart in Psalm 51:17.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
John Owen puts this in words in a way that I can’t quite do justice to, so instead I will just quote him again.
“Bring thy lust to the gospel, not for relief, but for further conviction of its guilt; look upon Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, “What have I done? What love, what mercy what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace?
Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit has chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust’s sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart?
How shall I escape if I neglect so great a salvation? In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation… I have despised them all and esteemed them as a thing of nought, that I might harbor a lust in my heart.
Have I obtained a view of God’s fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements? Shall I endeavor to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?”
Entertain thy conscience daily with this treaty. See if it can stand before this aggravation of its guilt. If this make it not sink in some measure and melt, I fear thy case is dangerous.”
The first time I read this, I cried.
It is so often that we forget the gospel in the mundane, that we let sin slip into our hearts without a second thought.
We don’t hate our sin enough, because if we did, we would be doing everything we could to turn from it. Not perfectly, but with all of our strength we would be striving for holiness.
Once we have truly repented, then comes the second step.
2. Accept whatever consequences follow
If you're a glutton, you will have to live with the outward, superficial consequences of being overweight.
If you're addicted to pornography, you will have to accept that those images will likely never leave your head, and will to some degree taint and influence your proper view of sex.
If you've constantly lied in the past, you will probably have to regain the trust of whomever you lied to, and that might take time.
In times like these, I realize that God says no for my benefit. That sin truly hurts me and others around me. That its effects are long-lasting, and can even be carried down generationally.
Even so, God is gracious. The more I fill my mind with things of God, the more quiet the echoes of sin sound. While once they were blaring in my ear, with His healing they are a faint whisper in a far away place, and some days I don't hear anything at all.
Either way, I am certain it is far better to deal with the temporal consequences of sin than the eternal consequences.
The discipline of the Lord hurts, but He does this from a place of love. Even though it doesn't feel like it at the time, His discipline is for our benefit and isn't without instruction.
"Blessed is the man You discipline, O LORD, and teach from your law." Psalm 94:12
"I know, O LORD that Your judgments are righteous, and that in your faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75
"Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent." Revelation 3:19
These truths should humble us. It should make us realize that without Christ we would be lost in our ways, enslaved to our desires.
Knowing this should affect how we love others who are also struggling. It should make us less judgmental of other believers' sins. This humility is what sows seeds of change in our lives so that we can grow.
"For The Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to his heart and cherishes." Hebrews 12:6
God uses our newfound dependence on Him to bring us back into His fellowship and into fellowship with others.
As the saying goes, if we feel far from God it wasn't because He moved, but because we did. And that lasso He throws around us to reel us back to him isn't pleasant, but it is a sign we are His sheep, and it is far better than the judgment that was due us. So don't fight the pull, go with it. The harder you fight, the tighter the strain of the rope.
Learn to accept God’s discipline––it is another form of God's love.