Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Look at Hebrews

Just to let you know that I haven't died, I thought I'd post something on here that I've been working on for about a year. It's a verse by verse "Sunday School" study of the book of Hebrews. I started this because I didn't like much of what was out there, but I'm not certain that mine is terribly better. Here's last week's lesson. You be the judge.

Hebrews 12:3-11
The Privilege of Discipline

Introduction:

Must of us have witnessed behavior in other people’s children that has caused us to roll our eyes. Perhaps you have even watched with a small measure of satisfaction as a parent corrected such bad behavior. But most likely, unless you are a close friend of the family, you do not discipline other people’s children.

Neither does the Lord. He only chastens those whom He loves as children, and if one is a child of God, then he or she will, without doubt, be disciplined by God. Even the Only-Begotten Son endured the discipline of the Father, as we have previously seen (see Heb. 2:10.

For what reason, then, does the Father discipline His children? The context of this section is crucial to the understanding of heavenly discipline. If not understood correctly, this text could distort our image of God into a rigid Being, always looking to punish for the slightest infraction. This is not what is pictured in this section. Rather, God brings difficulty into the lives of His children in order to teach them to depend upon Him.

Verse 3 - 6
Looking to Jesus

In the context of discipline, why would the author of Hebrews encourage us to look to Christ? Did the Father have to chasten Jesus? Much of how we understand this section depends upon how we understand the term “chastening” and “discipline.”

It is true that Jesus endured discipline if you consider the sufferings that perfected Christ as such. The Holy Spirit sent Christ out into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan, He allowed Christ to be rejected and scorned by men, and beyond this, who knows how many trials that Jesus had to endure? Each of these trials were designed by God to make Jesus the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.

Note closely that our “striving against sin” is closely connected here with our looking to Jesus as our example. This does not mean that Jesus strove against His own sin. Jesus never sinned. Rather, this refers to Jesus, and our, striving against a sinful world. In our case, this does entail overcoming our own sin by faith. As we rub against the world, and as we fight temptation by faith, we are slowly molded into the image of Christ that God desires. The discipline that God brings into our life is not punitive, but corrective and formative.

Verses 7 – 11
God’s Purpose in Discipline

In our age, it is quite often the case that children are raised without a father in the home, and in many homes, the father does not discipline his children as he ought. Certainly, no father is perfect, but a consistent, godly discipline is exceedingly rare. This being the case, verses 7-11 need to be carefully explained lest the reader think that the Heavenly Father disciplines like their earthly one.

Unfortunately, when we think of fatherly discipline we all too often think of some time of corporal punishment. This makes the discussion of God’s discipline far more difficult for people who come from abusive homes. While godly discipline will at times include such discipline, this should not be the most common, and it is probably not even the most effective.

For example, many of us had fathers who forced us to work. They made certain that we made our beds, picked up after ourselves, mowed the lawn, and took out the trash. Some fathers even force their children to get a job to help earn money towards a car and education. This is discipline, and a father does this to prepare his children for life. A father teaches his children that certain behaviors, such as laziness, are unacceptable, and they teach their children an ethic to overcome this natural human tendency.

The goal of this type of discipline is to turn dependant children into functional adults. God’s discipline functions in the same way. Notice verse 10 teaches that God disciplines us “for our profit.” It is not capricious, and it is not to “give us what we deserve.” Christ already bore the punishment for our sins. It is to impart a new character in us.

Hopefully, all of us have asked the Father to make us more like Christ. It is His delight to answer that prayer. To that end, God examines our heart to find places that are not conformed to His image, things of which we may not be aware. He then places us in situations that will rub that place out and sanctify it. He brings conviction to cleanse so that we may have the thing which delights His heart and ours. If someone desires to be a virtuoso on the violin, it is not going to happen without thorough practice and tremendous discipline. And most likely, it will not happen without encouragement. God is making masterpieces out of us, and He disciplines us to bring us to this glorious end.

Questions:

1. What does this section do to the saying that we are “all God’s children”? Are we? Explain.
2. What is the encouragement God gives us to endure discipline? What is the goal?
3. Why would God have to discipline every child He has? What are the dangers of misunderstanding this text? How do you view discipline?
4. Are there are self-disciplines that you practice that are not fun while you are doing them? Why do you continue? What is the point?

2 comments:

Even So... said...

Thanks, Brad, good stuff, looking forward to more when you can, hope NOBTS is going well...

Lisa said...

On question 4 concerning self-discipline (a term, by the way, rankles just a bit to one who has broken free from legalism, until I remember I am called to "work out" what God has "worked in", Phil. 2:12-13)...someone told me once that discipline leads to desire which leads to delight. Making the hard choice today (discipline) will change my "want to" (desire) and will ultimately lead to delight!

"I delight to do your will, O my God" (Ps. 40:8)