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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting it all out on the table

None of us relishes the idea of being disciplined, do we?  In fact, we'd probably rather avoid it at all cost, especially when we are feeling a little guilt load because of what we have done which really deserves the discipline. When it is hardest is when we don't feel we need the discipline - those are the times we probably resist it the most.  It is during these moments that we begin to feel sorry for ourselves - thinking we don't deserve what we are experiencing - all the while forgetting that discipline is not judgment. Discipline is training which is aimed at improving us - not judging us.  Too many of us equate discipline with judgment - like when we stole cookies from the cookie jar, got caught, and then ended up paying the price by being restricted from watching TV or the like.  We got caught - a price had to be paid for our disobedience - and we get to feeling sorry for ourselves, not because we disobeyed, but more likely because we got caught!  Maybe it is time we change our perspective on discipline away from being a form of judgment for disobedience to being a form of training us in the things which produce stability, grace, and joy within in our lives.

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?  My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either.  It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.  God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.  (Hebrews 12:4-11 MSG)

We are in a "death-match" of sorts on this earth - spirit waging war with flesh until one is declared the victor.  Too many of us struggle with one winning more than the other - most of the time it is the flesh.  Until this battle is declared "over" for good, we continue to "work out" the details of our being made right with God on a daily basis.  In this "work out" period, flesh rises up time and time again to put pressure on us to conform to its demands, trying desperately to squash the influence of the Spirit within.  It isn't that we don't desire to grow in Christ - we just continue to get as close to pleasing our sin nature as we possibly can!  When we begin to see discipline as more than judgment, we begin to realize it is the effective "working out" of our change in position from being subservient to the flesh's demands and listening closer to the still small voice of the Spirit instructing us toward godliness.

In the day-to-day decisions we make, this battle becomes very apparent.  It also becomes very apparent that we need someone who sees a bigger picture than we do to bring oversight into our lives.  In the military, we had various individuals who "out-ranked" others, but it also meant they had a larger influence of authority over our lives.  Sometimes we declare our sin nature as "outranking" God's nature within.  When we do this, we yield authority over to the sin nature time and time again.  One of the important features of "holding rank" in the military was this degree of authority.  Ultimately, there is a Commander in Chief (the US President) - outranking all other authority in the "ranks".  Generals outranked Colonels, who outranked Captains - with the lowest rank being Private.  You didn't get any lower than Private!  Some of us walk around like we are "Privates" in this walk of righteousness - taking orders from anyone who declares they out-rank us.  Truth is - we outrank all other authorities in our lives who proclaim to outrank Christ!

There is but one authority we should submit to - one authority worthy of us listening intently to for instruction in living - Christ.  When we focus on him, we find ourselves embracing his discipline, because we find it not so much a punishment for wrong-doing, but a training in how to focus.  Focus determines direction in our lives - it is quite difficult to look one way and accurately hit the target in the opposite direction.  When we focus on what holds the authority in our lives, we often begin to get the picture of why we are struggling with things we ought to have "outgrown" by now.  Things like doubt, fear, shame, and pride.  When anyone or anything holds more authority in our lives than Christ, we will struggle with these things.  His authority will train us in all manner of godly behavior - overcoming fear, dealing a blow to doubt, putting aside shame, and triumphing over prideful actions and thoughts.

Authority is really the power to settle disputes - to determine direction. When two "factions" don't agree on a matter, someone with "authority" needs to be called to the table.  When our sin nature doesn't agree with our new nature (what we all receive at the point of salvation), we really need the "ultimate authority" to be called to the table - Christ.  He settles the disputes - one at a time, until we get it all out and every detail is under his control.  Discipline which trains us toward godliness does just this - it gets all the disputes between what we ought to do and what we find ourselves repeatedly doing out on the table.  Then he is free to deal with them!  Just sayin!