God's Loving Discipline, Part I
All of us have a dad. It’s sobering to think about that when basically for all intents and purposes, in early childhood our kids view of God lies largely on dad himself. How a father interacts with his children is a beginning place for that child to think about how God is in the real world. When you think about God as our father, given the set of circumstances whatever you were raised in, be it you had a good dad or qualify him as a bad dad, there are two extreme views when you come to think about God as our father. We are going to turn our attention back to Hebrews 12. One is, God is a permissive father. Basically once you get saved and until the end, either you die or Christ returns, you are kind of on your own. You are just getting through life and there’s a strong disconnect because the God that is even offered in much of the gospel today is a very permissive individual, don’t understand him passed that. There is also a view that presents God as being extremely harsh. In this view of God being harsh as the father, it impacts people to distance themselves. One extreme or the other is truly a false view of who God our father is, the father of the church, followers, believers who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior. What we are going to do is return now back to the book of Hebrews to finish this incredible epistle. I want to unpack chapter 12:1-11. We are going to look at God the Father’s love. We are going to look at in two lights. Just so you know this, we are going to look at it today in the sense that God pursues his family, because he loves he will pursue you. We are going to read from the text but we are not necessarily going to move through the text because next week we will dive into the text itself, we are going to see that because God does love, because God does pursue, he disciplines. I wouldn’t say this is an easy passage to understand because often times as we all do as we are all prone to this to one degree or another, we are going to come to the scriptures with our own prejudices and some of that is going to be shaped based upon the relationship perhaps you had with your father. We are going to try to step back and we are going to try to look at how God our father deals with each and every one of us. So whether you had a good father or a bad father even, I want you to know that you have a heavenly father that desperately loves you and he will and does pursue you. He does discipline each and every one of us.
It would be difficult to pull this out without setting the context as to why the pastor-writer introduces this area of topic. So what I want to do is kind of draw us real quickly into the text and help you try to remember some things as to why this particular letter was written. The central theme of the book of Hebrews, if you recall and I trust that you do, is that Jesus is better. In that Jesus is better, the pastor-writer takes him through all of the Old Testament equivalences which were really promises point to the promised one, which was Jesus. Yet there was a specific purpose for the writing that Jesus is better because believers are called upon, as we are, to persevere and to endure. It is our instruction as a follower of Jesus that we are to endure, we are to persevere. We are to continue to follow Jesus all the days of our lives and that is what God expects because we are his child and he is of course our heavenly father.
The examples, if you’ll recall, were many who sought after and chased the promises of God as we walked through each individual in Hebrews 11. The day that the Messiah would come. It is from this text, and dealing with some of the problems and purposed as to why he wrote it, some had turned their eyes off Christ, some had fallen away altogether, and even for some the initial joy of knowing Jesus had cooled. It had cooled based upon persecution coming. The persecution for them were long friendships which had become estranged, even family circumstances and rejection. They were no longer, as followers of Jesus, welcomed into the synagogue. Some had quit following Jesus altogether, which was really a proof that their faith was spurious. Yet even in the text, some had stumbled here and there. The pastor-writer gives us this sweet encouragement based upon God our father lovingly disciplines each and every one of us, all of us who are followers of Jesus.
One of the comforts that you and I have as Christians, is that our eternal life is secure in God. If you have given your life to Jesus by faith, your salvation is completely secure in God. Yet there is this truth, that truth is real and true, that is not a wildcard to sin. “Well I’m saved I know I am going to live forever with God, that is secure, that’s a wildcard that I can just go on to sin.” That is really an oxymoron. There is a tension upon each and every one of us that genuinely know Jesus, to follow Jesus. The pastor-writer is encouraging this group of believers, this small church, that Jesus is better. We can look to Jesus and God’s love will never turn away from his people, ever. God’s love and because our father loves us, he will pursue you no matter where you try to head in life. I will challenge you with this, you really want to be here next week. This is going to shape for us how God our father actually loves us. Know this, he will always pursue you and he will always discipline you, and both of those things are shaped because your heavenly father loves you and you are in relationship with him.
Let’s look at the text, I just want to read this text so that we knowing the circumstance based on this church, will see what the pastor-writer gives them. That’s endurance. We are to follow after, we are to look to Jesus who is the founder and the perfecter of our faith. Jesus was not only persecuted but wicked and evil people desired to kill him for who he was, and ultimately through their foolishness they did kill him not realizing it was the plan of God that he died because we know that Jesus gave up his life. We are to considered Jesus who endured from sinners such hostility against himself. Jesus sacrificed his life and shed his blood. There were no martyrs from this church, rather some of them had been imprisoned. You kind of see this in Hebrews 10:34-35. Some of their property had been stolen from them because they were Christians, they were of the way. The people were remaining in the church were going and ministering to the people who were in prison who were their brothers, who were their sisters, and fellow followers of Christ. Now notice this with me. He is writing clearly to the believers. It is for your discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. He gives an earthly illustration of our heavenly father. In regard to believers, your heavenly has disciplined each and every member of his family. Both then and now, in each and everyone of us. Even if you had a great earthly father, he disciplined you out of his love but he didn’t do it perfectly. Our heavenly father disciplines us for our good. He is shaping us to the image of his son Jesus, that we may share in his holiness. Friends we will share in his holiness because he wants his holiness to be manifested in our lives now. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, and it surely is isn’t it? But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In shaping this this morning, I want to step back from the text, having introduced back to the text why the pastor-writer wrote this. I want to give you five things, and we are going to move around a bit, that shows because your heavenly father loves you, he pursues you. In drawing this to the text, the pastor-writer had turned his attention to the faithful. To the church, he is given a specific instruction to them to encourage their hearts based upon everything that had gone on around them and to the instruction they need to endure, which is literally our instruction. We need to continue to follow Jesus and to endure and walk with him throughout our lives.
What makes this possible? First and foremost because your heavenly father loves you and he will pursue you. He will never stop pursuing you. John writes in John 13 that Jesus loved his disciples even to the end. That wasn’t just a reference to the end of his life, but rather Jesus loves his disciples, you and I. He loves us to the end. Turn to James 1, I am going to give you each of these five, one at a time.
The first thing that comes out of this love, is that you were created for his delight and joy. God, your heavenly father, created us for his delight and joy. Pain comes in this life. The pain, each and every pain that we go through as Christians, is inescapable. Difficulties will always come. Sorrow, suffering, caused by a brokenness that is not only in the world, but a brokenness that is in us, even in our Christian families. It is true that the world is broken, but it is also true for us even in a redeemed state that we are broken. I want you to notice this, God has created us for his delight and joy. Verse 16. Here is the purpose of us being created for his delight and joy. Through our lives, we are sometimes going to bump into providence and that providence is going to be hard, it is going to be difficult. I want you to know this, it is coming from your heavenly father and it is never in vain. Never. Without God, you have a life of no meaning, but being born into the family of God you and I have a whole life that is full of meaning. He has created you. He delights in you. He takes joy in you. He loves you and he gives a language of his own will. He brought us forth by the word of truth. You were born into the family of God through the power of the gospel. To help you identify some of that love you have to think about your own children being born. How you desperately love your children and then you magnify that by a hundredfold, no magnify that by a million fold, no magnify that by Google. Your heavenly father loves you. He created you. He delights in you. He takes joy in you. He loves you. James tells us here that through that birth that all good things come from his hand. His goodness to us is never changing, that is what verse 18 is all about. God is immutable. He will never change in his love towards you, even when we do foolish things. God’s goodness never fluctuates. Don’t ever doubt that.
Here is a good truth to remember, you don’t need to turn there but I will give you the text, Romans 8:28-32. Our failing in this life will never prevent him from having us. Knowing this, we are to reach out to God. We are to humbly seek his face. We are to ask for his mercy and his forgiveness when we stumble along, because he will never deny us his delight and his joy, if we will take refuge in him. There are sometimes when we get into places in our life where God gives us what we want for the sheer reason to see the emptiness of it so we might take joy in the gospel, in the power of the gospel that saved us so that we might take joy in the person of Jesus. God has created us for his delight and joy.
Secondly God pursues us when we fall. God pursues us when we fall. The examples of that in the bible are plenty, we are going to look at several of them next week, but just to give you a picture of some of those. What does he do with Adam and Eve? He pursues them when they fall. What does he do with Lot? He pursues him when he falls. What does he do with David? He pursues him when he falls. What does he do with Noah? He pursues him when he falls. What does he do with Moses? He pursues him when he falls. What does he do to Peter? He pursues him when he falls. The truth is, in this life you are going to stumble from time to time. We certainly pray that by God’s grace we don’t stumble egregiously. I want you to know that even if you do, God will be there to pursue you when you fall. Sometimes in life, we even ask of God and we ask him this, we ask God of our greed. We pray to God and we have this relationship of giving to get. Even in some of our prayers we become inappropriate. It is those times when God doesn’t give us what we wants, he directs us like you have a fence around your home. He puts these parameters out there to protect you. Even sometimes when we are asking wrongly. Why does he do this? Because he loves us. He is looking out over us to not lead us but for our own good. When we fall into temptation, when we want something too much, or someone to find happiness, when we use God for personal gratification yet God knows this and nevertheless he still pursues us. In our folly we sometimes act foolishly. We live out in foolish acts, yet God still has compassion. His father is demonstrating his mercy towards us by sending us Jesus, God’s own son to die for our sins. God pursues us when we are wayward, when we fall again and again. He pursues us as a good good father that we sing about. Why does he pursue us? Because we are a part of his family. God reached down to us in our sin, that is Romans 5:8. He reaches down to us in our sin. Christ died for the ungodly. God introduced to us his love in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He became obedient, Jesus did in humility. Though Jesus did not deserve to die, he did die so that you and I could be united to him. The cross is God’s pursuit of love to save sinners, which is what we are. Christ’s compassionate love is the demonstration of the father’s love, because he died to have his bride.
Turn to Philippians 1. God pursues us when we fall, God still loves us when we fall. I want you to notice this with me. Paul as he does in an introductory way in his epistles, he is opening up this epistle and he gives them this in verses 5 and 6. This is ultimately the resurrection because when we die in part, as the church leaves to go be with Jesus in a kingly reign currently in heaven that is not the final spot, it is the day of Jesus Christ when he returns. God still loves us when we fall. Though we continually fail, God still loves us. The good work that he describes here is when we were in the condition as sinners God made us righteous and we are justified by faith. He says God will complete the good work so that there isn’t a disconnect from the time you became a Christian to the time of the day of Jesus Christ and we are left on our own. It is our heavenly father’s love who will perform the good work in us who is actively involved in our work, in our lives. God is telling us he will finalize the restoration. He will complete the perfection. He will make us more like his son.
1 John 3:1-2. When we see Jesus when he first returns, we will be like him for we will see him as he is, in that translation to a life of resurrection. We will never enter into his judgment. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus and that centers because our heavenly father loves us even when we fall. He loves you. He pursues you.
Fourthly, this is why this is true, when you believe the gospel God gives us himself in the gospel. He gives us himself in the gospel. Turn to Revelation 21. What do you mean by that Kev? That God gives us himself in the gospel? Here is a wrong view to look at our salvation. Sometimes people think of our salvation in this way, “Salvation is our religion. It is how we deal with God. We go to a place and we call it the house of worship, just so we know he has housed you.” Even though it is a beautiful thing where his church meets it is not confined to these walls. It could be in the field as it will be in just a few short moments. We think of salvation as our religion where we deal with God, yet we think our happiness is radically different than that. So you got to go through life and perform and do certain things that will make yourself happy. What ends up happening in this disillusionment of a wrong view of salvation is we look for happiness everywhere else and we cannot find happiness so people ultimately get mad at God for their circumstance. I want you to know friends, this is all wrong it is a wrong view of salvation. Listen friends, grace is not a something, grace is someone. When you believe the gospel you enter into relationship with God himself. God saves us for an eternity as we looked at in Philippians 1. He is performing the good work in us. It is at work in us. That is why we have this tension in this life as part of his family that I need to follow Jesus. I need to rest in Jesus but I need to follow Jesus. I don’t want to abuse his grace, I want to live in his grace. God saves us for an eternity. This relationship is with God himself, the father, the son, the spirit. When you believe the gospel you exchange your life, not for something but for someone. You entered into an eternal relationship where God himself is active in your mind and heart and he is bringing this good work to pass where you will ultimately bask in his presence in this face to face relationship. I want to read this to you, chapter 21 verse 3 - 5. Look at chapter 22. When you believe the gospel, grace is found that you enter into relationship with someone. Verse 3. Dear friends, when you believed the gospel you entered into a relationship with God. With God! What a comfort it is to know that I am secure in that.
Listen to me, there is nothing you can do to run from God. Jonah tried! Jonah gets this mission and he is frustrated with God. He is angry with God, so he sets off to Tarsus and the Heavenly Father’s love pursues him and he works him to that spot and he cries out in Jonah 2:10, “Salvation is from YHWH.” We can’t run from God. Here is the reason you can’t run from God: because you’re Heavenly Father loves you. God could not love you anymore than he does. He could not love you any greater. Dear friends, if you think about Heaven and Heaven doesn’t have Jesus there, Heaven is not Heaven without God. The gospel is not the gospel without God. What we look forward to are not the streets of gold and all this and that and the glitter, and that is going to be spectacular in the new creation, but what is going to make it incredible is that Jesus is going to be there. The one who has forgiven you all your sins and who would never let you go, even when our hearts are prone to wander.
Why is this true? Because God gave you himself in the gospel. Heaven is where God is. It is where his grace exists. Man that is where Heaven is. Now don’t get that wrong, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. They will be real and they are incredible, but what makes them special is that we are going to do Revelation 21 and 22. We will be in relationship with God. We are going to see Jesus face to face. It is not just going to be about seeing Uncle Will or Aunt Betty, even though that is good and wonderful. That comforts our hearts filled with hope. What makes Heaven? Heaven is Jesus. It is Jesus.
Lastly, God provides us with a new delight in him if we can get a hold of that. If we understand that God gives us himself. If we understand that God pursues us no matter what happens in our life when we fall or we become wayward. God gives himself again to us over and over. He is giving us an opportunity to enjoy in this life a new delight in him. Friends, there is no chasm of sin, no doubt to deep, that God cannot deliver us from. We have been reconciled back to God by and through Jesus Christ. We have a redeemer who delights in us, who takes joy in us, so that we will delight in him. God is never going to let you go, and I trust that truth will encourage your heart. His love will pursue you no matter the circumstance that you find yourself in this life. Now undoubtedly when you hear something like that it can still get distorted because this is not the end-all. Because God loves us he disciplines, to which in this little church there were varied reactions to it. We will get to that next week.