101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. (Psalm 119:101–102, NKJV)
Self-discipline is essential in keeping the word of God. Discipleship requires discipline, both to order one’s life after the Master’s teachings and to refrain from conduct that is against the Master’s instruction (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 13:13-17). Pride is ever ready to puff up our confidence in ourselves. It deceptively assures us we could never deny our Lord (Matt. 26:35; cf. Prov. 16:18). Therefore, since “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” we must continually “watch and pray, lest (we) enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Utter commitment to God’s judgments (determinations) must governor our choices to refrain from evil and pursue good (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:8-11). When we argue with God’s word to justify our sinful choices and conduct, we have allowed personal judgments to control us instead of the decisions of God. (That’s pride at work.) Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). God does not delight in those whose evil (sin) is called good (Mal. 2:17). Self-disciplined faith in God helps us guard against reversing God’s judgments and calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20-21; Prov. 17:15). God is our teacher, and His word shows us what is evil and what is good. Walking in God’s word is how we “watch” and avoid entering into sin.
6 “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. (Hebrews 12:6–8, NKJV)
The word “chasten” means discipline, and this passage leaves no doubt that properly applied discipline (instruction and correction) includes momentary pain which is intended to yield positive results (Hebrews 12:6, 9-11). The rod of discipline is not a rod of abuse (although that is how the world portrays it). Just as the world resists the Lord’s corrective discipline (although it beneficial), it also resists God’s word that teaches parents to use it as one aspect of training their children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). Children need training to mature properly. To discipline them is a mark of parental love. To withhold needed discipline from a child is not love. The child who refuses and despises parental discipline is rebellious. The Christian who refuses and despises God’s discipline is also rebellious. Thus, we are exhorted to “be in subjection” to our Father’s discipline so we may partake of His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, NKJV)
From time to time the question arises whether a fallen away Christian is, in fact, still a brother or sister in Christ. Today’s passage helps us understand that fallen Christians are still brethren, albeit, brethren in sin in need of discipline and warnings to try to bring about their repentance. Verse 13 refers to “brethren” who are faithful not to grow weary in doing the good things of God. The “anyone” of verse 14 is any Christian who becomes weary of doing good (being faithful) and “walks disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Normal social contact with that person is to cease in a disciplinary attempt to cause him to be ashamed of his sin and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Verse 15 directly says the wayward Christian is “a brother” whom we continue to warn rather than treat as an enemy. Therefore, we conclude that one who falls from the faith is an erring brother or sister – an erring child of God who needs repentance and prayer to be forgiven by God (James 5:19-20; Acts 8:22).
15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17, NKJV)
Matthew 18:15-17 does not address how to deal with the public sins of Christians. Galatians 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 5 give us examples of such public sins, and how to handle them, as we attempt to save the lost and protect the saved. We misapply Matthew 18:15-17 when we demand following its procedure when such public sins occur. This passage is the Lord’s prescription for saving souls when personal, private sin takes place. The Lord’s teaching is not about getting rid of some one, but about saving the soul of the one who has gone astray (Galatians 6:1-2). When we are approached about sinning against a brother or sister in Christ, may we humbly hear the evidence, and repent of every transgression. And, if we are sinned against, may we follow the Lord’s instructions given here, to save one who has gone astray.
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17, NKJV)
The church is to be fully engaged in trying to restore the Christian who has resisted private attempts to call him to repentance. If the Christian continues to refuse the church’s warnings to repent, a separation must occur. The unrepentant Christian is lost, but he is not the enemy of the church. Like other sinners, he must be admonished about his sin, not encouraged in his sin (2 Thessalonians 3:15). Normal social interaction must be ended, to help produce shame for his sin, and the necessary repentance (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14). Thus, he is delivered over to Satan to destroy the flesh and, in this final effort, to save his soul. This social separation by each Christian also protects the church from the impure influences of a Christian who has no remorse for continuing to sin against the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:6-13).
23 O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. 24 O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23–24, NKJV)
God’s prophet declares a singular truth: Human beings do not innately possess the knowledge, wisdom and perception to correctly direct our lives before God. Simply put, we cannot save ourselves. Nevertheless, men and women have tried to do so for millennia. Yet, only by accepting God’s correction and following His discipline are we able to walk in the peace of His eternal blessings. Since we cannot direct our own steps, psychoanalysis will not give people the ultimate answers they are searching for in their lives. Peeling back the layers of one’s own mind and emotions will not adequately provide the answers, the correction, and direction to life that brings peace with God. And, isn’t that the peace we ought to desire the most? The answers to life are not found within oneself. They are found in the word of God. By disciplining our hearts and lives according to the teachings of the Bible, we will not only get to know ourselves, but more importantly, we will get to know God and how to live in His salvation.
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11–12, NKJV)
The parent who loves his or her child will discipline the misbehaving child. Instruction, along with punishment, consistently applied to correct disobedient behavior, works. The Lord God, who made us, knows it does, and He applies His “chastening” (instructive and corrective training) to produce respectful, obedient children. The child-rearing experts who refuse punitive correction do a great disservice to this generation – and the next. It is precisely because the father “delights” in (loves) his child that he corrects his child. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). True, correction is not pleasant when applied, but “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). Parents, teach and correct your children, using consist love, as the Lord does His children. Let us all heed the wise counsel of Solomon not to reject the Lord’s correction of our sins. It is intended for our benefit now, and our eternal salvation by and by.