TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 11-13
“It is for discipline that you have to endure…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12.7, 10-11)
A father discipline his son. The discipline is done to make the son like the father. Those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed.
How does God discipline us for our good?
In Hebrews 12.1-4, our endurance is compared to Jesus’ endurance. We are to look to him as an example of how to endure. Hebrews 5.8 says, “Although he was son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
What did Jesus suffer?
Hebrews 12.3 says he “endured from sinners such hostility against himself.” Hostility is antilogia, a word against, in Greek. A more literal reading might translate this as he “endured from sinners speaking against in himself. Jesus endured from sinners a denial of who he was in himself. In a sense, we, as sinners, demanded that Jesus be something he was not.
What did this look like?
Matthew 27.39-44 says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests, with scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”‘ And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.”
How difficult is it for us not to defend ourselves, to prove ourselves, in even the most minor of confrontations?
Yet, here is Jesus, the son of God, being crucified on a cross. And he is surrounded by sinners demanding that he prove he is the son of God.
Just come down from the cross.
Just save yourself.
If not, God, whom you say is your father, doesn’t desire you.
Not only did Jesus endure this hostility, this demand to prove who he was, he “endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12.2) He endured to the point of having his own blood shed.
And, Jesus learned obedience from this.
Obedience to what?
The one commandment his Father gave him.
John 12.49-50 says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
Under this withering attack from sinners to prove himself and having his blood shed by these same sinners, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34) Through all that he endured, Jesus obeyed the command of his Father to speak eternal life. For, to speak eternal life, God’s life, is to say “I forgive you even though you are killing me with your words and your actions.”
As I thought about what this must have been like for Jesus, the Holy Spirit brought to me the image of the burning bush in the desert that Moses saw. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3.2) Earlier this year I wrote this in “Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush.”
Jesus is this bush that was continually aflame but never consumed. I felt the Spirit showing me that the continual burning of the bush symbolized the continual purification of Jesus to never say or do anything that his Father did not say or do. Jesus was continually aflame so that he always exhibited the life of his Father.
Hence, when Jesus appeared to Moses as this burning bush, he could to say to Moses his name is “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3.14) Jesus is “I Am.” In other words, “I am life.” As the bush that was continually aflame but never consumed, death was perpetually burned out Jesus. Death never had a place in Jesus. Jesus was perpetually purified from death.
So, how does God discipline us for our good?
This fire purifies us, removing those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed. Every thought and desire that produces death in us needs to be burned out.
Those thoughts are burned out of us as we endure words spoken against us that demand we prove who we are.
Have you ever been in situation where others are demanding you to prove yourself, yet you resisted their demands?
Is there not a burning going on inside of you as you resist the temptation to strike back with words that will contradict what others are saying about you?
When you are being persecuted unjustly and you only speak forgiveness, life, is there not a burning inside of you?
How difficult is this to endure?
James 3.5-6 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
When we let loose with our tongues, we can burn down everything around us. But, when we bite our tongues, not speaking to prove ourselves but only to forgive, then the fire remains in us, burning away all impurities so that only the life of our Father remains.
Proverbs 18.21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
How will you choose to use your tongue?
We endure through this discipline.
We learn obedience to speak life, to speak forgiveness, from what we suffer.
This discipline is for our good. The Greek word for good here is symphero. It literally means bear together.
This discipline we endure is so that we may learn obedience to commandment to speak life. Being disciplined to speak life, to forgive, we are able to bear together with each other.
Bearing with each other is hard in the moment, but it brings life in the end.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”