A Christianís approach to life situations part 18

Discipline

 

Today we will examine how a Christian should deal with discipline. First letís define discipline:

 

1. Train by instruction and practice; esp. to teach self-control

2. Punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience

 

There are several areas we could discuss that involve discipline. There is self-discipline, church discipline and disciplining your children. For todayís lesson, we will be focusing in how Christians discipline one another, which falls into the category of church discipline. We will talk about disciplining children in next weekís lesson.

 

Discipline is not a bad thing. Now nobody likes giving discipline, but it is necessary in order to correct wrong behavior so a person can learn the difference between right and wrong. Discipline is something that we do out of love for another person because we want them to be right with God. The first thing I want to point out is that God disciplines us because He loves us. This is pointed in,

 

Hebrews 12:4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;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.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 

I wish that we were always perfect without sin in our lives, but the truth of matter is that we all fall short and sin from time to time. In our OT lesson, we have seen example after example where the children of Israel would stop obeying God, and when they did, He would discipline them in different ways. No matter how He did it, he did it because He loved them and He wanted them to get their priorities straight. Well, the same thing happens today. Through Godís providence, He can chasten us in various ways. At first, we may feel like the chastening we are experiencing is harsh and nothing good will come from it, but once we get through it, we can reflect back on our experience and see how it humbled us and made us realize how important it is for us to love God and serve Him.

 

When we are disciplined, it trains us not to take things for granted and it instructs us in the way of righteousness. Remember the main motive for discipline is love as Jesus says in,

 

Revelation 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

 

Since God disciplines us, He also wants us to discipline each other in accordance with His Word. However, we need to realize when we discipline others there are both rewards and cost that will come from it as,

 

Proverbs 9:7 " He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

 

Basically, you will get two responses from the discipline that you give. Either they will love you for it or they will hate you for it. Some people donít want to be corrected because they always feel like they are right even when they are wrong. This type of person may hate you for the rest of their life, but that should not deter you from disciplining others.

 

Most Christians should want to be corrected if they are doing wrong, and they will even be thankful that you showed them how they were sinning.

 

Proverbs 15:32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.

 

Proverbs 28:23 He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward Than he who flatters with the tongue.

 

So discipline is more rewarding than a flattering tongue. Paul understood this concept and he did not like to discipline others, but he knew that is was necessary. For instance, he rebuked the church of Corinth for their sinful behavior and he talks about it in 2 Cor. 7:8-10). Unfortunately, some Christians would rather flatter someone than discipline them, but this should not be the case. Other times, entire congregations would rather ignore the sins of others instead of dealing with the problem. We have several examples of congregations in the Bible that did this as well.

 

Our first church that did this was Thyatira. Jesus said this about them,

 

Revelation 2:20 "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.21 "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

 

This church was allowing this woman to deceive its members and causing them engage in sexual immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols. They were not doing anything to prevent this woman sinful ways and this is why Jesus was pointing this out, so that they would do something about it.

 

Another example comes from Jesus rebuke to the Smyrna congregation,

 

Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.15 "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.16 'Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

This congregation was allowing false teachers to remain in their midst and they were not trying do anything to correct them. These men were slowly but surely leading the brethren astray. This exactly what happens when people decided to ignore false teachers, instead of dealing with them.

 

Our next example comes from,

 

3 John 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

 

Here was a man who made himself head over his congregation. He started making the decision of who could attend and who could not. There have certainly been people like this in various congregations and many times it ends being a rich person who does this. They think since they give a large amount of money each week that they should be in control of how the church uses its money and so they will become like Diotrephes. Others become like him, when they think their opinions and ideas are better than everyone else. John said this man and people like him need to disciplined, so they donít think to highly of themselves.

 

Our last example comes from,

 

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles -- that a man has his father's wife!2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.6  Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

 

Here we find that the Corinthians were tolerating sexual immortality including sons that were fornicating with their own mothers. Paul is rebuking them for allowing such people to continue among them. He calling for them to stop ignoring these sinners and discipline them, so they will know what they are doing will not be tolerated. Paul wants them to withdraw fellowship from them so their point will be made. Again, this is to be done out of love, so that person may come to their senses and repent so they can be right with God.

 

Now, that we have seen some examples of congregations that failed to discipline its members and the results this brought about lets take a look at some reasons why we should discipline those who are sinning.

 

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

 

Paul is telling us that if we allow sinners to go unchecked, then their sin will spread like leaven throughout the lump of doe. This concept is seen with apples. If you have one rotten apple in barrel of good apples it wonít take long until the other apples become rotten as well. Leaving the sinner alone will lead others to sin because they havenít seen any consequences for sinning.

 

However, when we do take care of the sinner and rebuke them, then the rest of the congregation will learn from this, and will not try and repeat that person sin just as,

 

1 Timothy 5:20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

 

A great example of this is when Paul rebuked Peter in Gal 2 for playing the hypocrite. When the Jews would come around he would not eat with the gentiles and his sin had influenced Barnabus to do the same. So Paul rebuked him so that he would stop sinning is this way. Paul also teaches us in Eph. 5:7 not to be partakers with those who are living in sin because 2 John 1:1l says if we do, we sharing in their evil deeds. So, when we allow a Christian who is living in sin to worship with us, we are telling the world that we approve of their behavior.

 

Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

 

If a sinner like this is allowed to go unchecked, they can divide a congregation by manipulating those who are not studied in the word. When something like this happens, it causes that congregation to be wounded and it will have to focus most its effort on healing and restoring itself. However, if you donít delay in discipline, these kind of things will not happen in the first place.

 

Another reason we discipline the sinner comes from,

2 Thessalonians 3:14 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.

 

When a person is disciplined, it causes them to face their sin and if they really love God, they will be ashamed of themselves of how they were living and this will lead them to repentance. Notice, we are not treat them as an enemy, but we are to continue to warn them as a brother or sister in Christ. Our main goal is to help that person get restored back to the Lord as,

 

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

 

When we try and restore someone, we also need to be careful that they donít persuade us to join in with their sin.

 

Now that we have examine why we should discipline each other, which can including withdrawing fellowship from that person, lets take a look at what it means to withdraw from someone.

 

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

 

Here Paul tells us that we are not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, which would include those Christians are living in sin.

 

1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -- not even to eat with such a person.

 

We are not to keep company with them or even eat with them.

 

We are to note who they are and avoid them Rom. 16:17

Jesus tells us to consider them as heathen or a tax collector Mat. 18:17

John tells us not to greet them or have them come into our house 2 John 1:10.

 

So to withdraw from them means that we donít have fellowship with them in any way. Again, this is not done to be mean to that person it is done out of love so they might return to their senses and repent. It not easy thing to do, but it necessary, otherwise nothing will change.

 

Now that we see what withdrawing means, letís take a look at how Jesus teaches us to discipline a sinner.

 

Matthew 18:15" 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.

 

When someone sins against us, our first responsibility is to go to that person in private and tell them what they have done. If they repent, thatís wonderful, you have helped that person correct their wrong. However, if they will not listen, then you must take 2 or 3 witness to establish every word. This was practice in the OT and it is the practiced in the NT.

 

When the sinner wonít listen to the one person and recognize that they have sinned, many times when they have two or more unbiased people listening to accusation and they all confirm that person did sin, then that sinner is more likely to realize that they sinned and they will repent.

 

However, when this doesnít work, then the matter must be brought before the church, and if that person still wonít recognize their sin and repent then the church must withdraw from them until they recognize their sin and repent.

 

This is not a complicated or drawn out procedure. It is very easy to follow and its make the difference between someone being saved and being lost. So, as Christians we must not neglect our responsibility to discipline others who are living in sin. Sure it might be easier to ignore the problem, but we are not doing anybody any favors when we do so.

 

I hope this lesson has taught you that discipline is not a bad thing because even God disciplines His children from time to time. When we discipline we should do it out of love for that personís soul. We looked at several examples of congregations that tried to ignore their responsibility of disciplining their members and we saw how this affected the other members and caused them to engage in sin as well. Then we looked a several passages that explain why we should discipline. We learned that sometime we must withdraw fellowship from a person and severe all ties, so that they may come to their senses and repent so they can be restored back to the Lord and then finally, we examined Jesusí 3 steps on how we discipline a sinner.