In this sermon, Pastor Joe Babij continues looking at the teaching of Jesus in John 15 about becoming a spiritually productive Christian. Pastor Babij explores further the nature of God’s disciplinary pruning in John 15:1-6 by comparing what God also says in the book of Proverbs and in Hebrews 12:1-11. Specifically, Pastor Babij explains the following:
- The Nature and Definition of Divine Discipline (Prov 19:18; 29:17; Heb 12:1)
- The Natural and Wrong Response to Divine Discipline (Prov 3:11; Heb 12:5)
- The Nurture and Encouragement of Divine Discipline (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:5-6)
Let’s bow together in a word of prayer, and then we’ll look at the Word of God in John 15 and other passages this morning.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, You are three yet one. We have gathered this Lord’s Day to worship our triune God. We offer ourselves up as living sacrifices because of Your mercy, Lord, toward us. We know that this is our reasonable service of worship to the One who loves His children with an affectionate and everlasting love.
Make it, Lord, our chiefest joy to learn more about You, to meditate on You, to sit at Your feet like Mary, who chose the best portion, to gaze upon You, Lord. Yes, even to feed upon Your Word. That the eyes of our souls may see more of You each and every day. Lord, rescue us from the pain of a graceless heart, from prayerless days, from sloth in this heavenly race, from wasted hours, from missed opportunities.
Lord, instead, increase us in grace so that in us there may be more development in our character, more resolve in our purpose to develop a Christ-like attitude, more consistency in our devotion and in our zeal to live for You and to serve You. Lord, more discernment in order to be equipped to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics. Lord, we desire to grow in our faith. We want to mature in our faith and bring glory to our great God and Savior because of the spiritual life He has bestowed upon us. He turned the lights on for us. We see His will. We see who He is and what He has done, and where He’s taking us, and for this, Lord, we are extremely grateful.
Thank You that You do this to those who have put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus as Lord. I pray, Lord, anyone who does not know You that You may open their heart and that You may grant them faith and repentance to know You as their Lord and Savior genuinely. Then I pray, Lord, this morning, for us, that we would humble ourselves under Your mighty hand and be ready to receive everything You have for us and to worship You this morning in Spirit and in truth. We pray, Lord, that You would just meet with us today, make us ready to receive, and then not only just be hearers of the Word but also doers of the Word, and we’ll thank You for this. In Christ’s name, I pray it, amen.
Let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to John 15. I am continuing on the second part of the Secrets of a Productive Christian. As you read through this section of Scripture, you will find that it does teach the most important relationships must maintain to be productive. The first important relationship is with Christ Himself and the key term, as I’ve mentioned from verse 1-11, is to abide. The emphasis on union. The second important relationship is with other believers, from verses 12-17, and the key term in those passages is love, and it emphasizes communion. Of course, the third relationship is the believers’ relation to the world, in verses 18-27, and the key term there is hate with an emphasis on disunion.
Union with Christ, which leads to communion with each other, which leads to disunion with the world. We are detaching from the world. Because the first relationship, of course, is the most vital, that is in Christ. That’s where we’re going to focus today. Then, I am going to backtrack a little bit and kind of flesh out what a particular point means in more detail.
As we look at this passage in John 15, I want you to notice that it’s giving us a visual picture of the vine branches that are connected to the vine and then the vinedresser. The vine in John 15:1-2 says,
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
The vine is Jesus, and the imagery of the vine, and the vineyard is a familiar one in the Old Testament. It’s all over the place. But one of the points to His disciples is that He wants them not to be like old Israel because Old Israel was the vine of God, and the Lord had to finally burn that vine and cut it down because they were not the witness that they should have been. The vinedresser is the Father, the Heavenly Father. So, God the Father is pictured as a faithful gardener busily working in the vineyard. Of course, the branches are all of the followers of Christ.
In John 15:5, it says,
5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
The main subject in this section is abiding. Meaning having a vital union with Christ and becoming an effective and productive disciple of Christ. The result of abiding is always fruit-bearing. There are three degrees I’ve already mentioned of fruit-bearing.
In verse two, we see that every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes. He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. Then in verse number five, it says, I am the vine, and you are the branches; he abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.
It’s fruit and more fruit and then much fruit. The more that we understand that the command is to abide in Christ then the more fruit we will have in our life. The more fruit God will produce in our life. If there is no fruit, then the branch is taken away. The Father desires Christ’s disciples to bear much fruit. The vinedresser, who is the Father, is not content whatsoever with any kind of mediocre disciples.
There is an element in this passage of scripture of secrecy because Jesus is not addressing a multitude of people but really is intimately speaking with His disciples. Jesus tells His disciples the secret of productive ministry, the secret of being a productive disciple. The first secret that I mentioned already in verses 1 through 3 is the secret of the pruning of the Father. If you notice again in verse two, it says
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit
Then He says in verse three,
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
There are two actions of the vinedresser. The vinedresser does something with the branch that isn’t bearing any fruit at all. Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit, He takes away, it says. Secondly, the vinedresser does something with the branch that isn’t bearing enough fruit. Where He says in verse two, every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, so that it may bear more fruit. Of course, the Greek term for prune means to make clean, to cut away, and to trim unwanted growth. You see, the Father, as the vinedresser, does this. He prunes and cleans away unwanted growth in our Christian life. He does that so the branches that are connected to the true vine will produce more fruit and more fruit and more fruit.
The Word of God set you apart when you received Christ as your Lord and Savior. The Word clears away unwanted growth in that the Word of God is the means used by the Father to perform the work of pruning His disciples. He says in verse three, you are already clean. You are already, in a sense, pruned from the world and connected now to the vine, and now that pruning process will continue the rest of one’s Christian life.
True disciples of Jesus not only receive His word, but they keep His Word. Of course, John 14 tells us that they will keep My word and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Also, in our passage, there are two kinds of branches mentioned. Those who produce fruits and those who lack the production of fruit. Every branch in Me, in verse two, that does not bear fruit, He takes away. Now, saying that, we must consider that we’re really nothing if we’re away from Jesus Christ. We would really then be branches only to wither, fit only to be cast on a pile of other branches that are not bearing fruit to be put into the fire.
We’re not just to come and go as we please in regard to Jesus but are to abide in Jesus. The vine needs the branch as truly as the branch needs the vine. No branch ever bore any fruit except upon being connected to Christ.
If you are a Christian today, then the sharp knife of the Father purging and pruning will be applied to every one of us at different points in our Christian walk. If you are now at this particular point, feeling the pruning process or the discipline process of the Lord, you must not think it is some kind of unusual thing that’s happening to you. God is going to clear away and He is going to cut away everything in our life that is preventing me and you from bearing more fruit of Christlikeness and putting off our sin. More fruit of all those kinds of things.
Take care that, this morning, and every day of your life, you and I ought to abide in Christ, and especially when the Pruner’s blade is cutting closely in our life. We, at the point, should be clinging more to Jesus to endure the trial and never dream of giving up following Christ during the hard times.
The Christian has this inside knowledge that he is a branch connected to the vine, Jesus Christ, and it is the will of God that His disciples bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. Just as in horticulture, pruning could be unusual in some ways and painful, so it is in the Christian experience.
As His Word works in us to transform our minds away from the way we used to think to living for Christ and thinking in a way that honors God that will ultimately bring effective service, can we understand when a hard pruning comes from the Father that produces greater fragrance, beauty, and fruit in the Christian walk? That means that if you want to be a productive Christian, you must be pruned. That is really the first secret.
I’ve mentioned that already, and I want to expand on that a bit this morning. But the second secret, found in verses four and five, of a productive Christian is remaining in the Son. Notice what it says in verse four and five,
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
The secret is that you cannot bear fruit on your own. It is not possible. It is not humanly possible. It is Christ’s work in us. That is what He is doing in us. In fact, that’s the great difference between before you became a believer and now after you became a believer. The Spirit of God now indwells you, and Christ is working in you to bear fruit. To make you different.
Here is the issue: abiding or remaining, which has to do with our continual fellowship with the Lord and fruit-bearing as a result of abiding in Christ. There is an active responsibility, and it’s found in verse four. It’s an imperative, and it’s a command to abide in Me. Of course, the command is given to those who are already branches. This is not a command to come and be saved. This is a command to stay following, stay remaining with, abiding with Jesus. Following Him as a disciple.
The reason for that, in verse four, is that a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine. When we are abiding, fruit comes naturally. When we are communing with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, fruit comes and will be produced in our life. When we are depending in Christ in prayer, that is part of the fruit of growing in the Lord. We’re praying, we’re depending upon Him. We realize we can’t do it all by ourselves. Life is too complicated; the Christian life is impossible without this happening in our life.
Also, submitting to Christ in all things. In other words, separated from Christ, there is no fruit, but connected to Christ, there is fruit. Jesus is the life. In other words, when you become a believer, you know God. That’s the difference. That God is our Father. That we are His children. Isn’t that the point? The point is to know Christ, to get to know Him more and more, to realize that there is so much more to know about the Lord Jesus Christ than just saying I believe in You, or I accept You as Lord and Savior, or receive You as Lord and Savior. It is an ongoing, everyday process by the Spirit of God to bring you and me to a place where we’re obeying that command to abide in Christ.
I read a story of an old Christian woman whose age began to show in her memory. She had once known the Bible by heart. Eventually, only one precious bit stayed with her. It’s the verse, I know whom I’ve believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day. As time went on, she only began to repeat part of that. She started to repeat, that which I’ve committed unto Him. That’s all she could remember.
At last, she came to the point where she was going to pass on to be with the Lord and her loved ones gathered around her. They noticed her lips were moving, so they bent down to see if she needed anything. And she was repeating over and over to herself the one last word of the text. Him, Him, Him. She lost the whole of the Bible but one word. She had the whole Bible in that one word. And that is Jesus Christ.
That is the point of abiding. That every day of our lives, we are going to want more of Him until we are face-to-face with Him in glory. That is the normal and natural progression of all Christians. If you never had that, you may need to question your salvation. It is something that grows in your heart where you come to the point where you know you can’t leave Christ. There’s nowhere to go. Where are we going to go?
That’s the active responsivity, but there is a passive response of bearing fruit. The command is not to produce fruit. The command is to abide. That’s what we are to do. Christ is the One who produces the fruit. In verse five, it says,
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
If we don’t abide in Christ, then disciples cannot produce even a bud of real fruit. Without a vital relationship with Christ, nothing of genuine eternal value can be produced in our life.
But there’s a consequence of not bearing fruit. There’s a consequence of being barren. If you look at verse six, it says this,
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
A disciple can become a barren branch in which they become useless. Useless branches, all leaves no fruit. Of course, I mentioned some of that from last message, so I am not going to go back there. That is about some of the difficulty of that.
When this happens, when the Father comes to prune because He is the vinedresser, He comes in, and He cleans up your life and my life. He does it with a disciplinary hand. It may be that the Father will sanctify you through some circumstance of life, or by some trial, the Father weans us off some worldly thinking, bad habit, or some besetting sin. When He does that, He then draws us to Christ more and more. Then when He does that, He drives us to the Bible, the Word of God. He drives us to the fellowship of believers. He drives us to prayer.
While He shows you and I that, at the same time, He shows us our hearts and what’s really in our hearts and what we need to get rid of from our hearts. That’s what He does.
The Father chastens us, not to harm us, but to make us more fruitful that we may partake of His holiness. Believe me, when you’re producing fruit, then you’re going to be in a place of joy. You’re going to be in a place of happiness. You are going at a pace of God’s peace in your heart. That’s really what the world wants, but they cannot have it. It’s only given to God’s kids. Sometimes God’s kids don’t even necessarily experience it right away because they’re bucking God’s pruning process. They’re actually standing in the way of what the Spirit of God wants to do.
With that thought, I’d like you to turn to the scripture that was read this morning in Hebrews. I want to look now at some things in Hebrews and some things in Proverbs.
In Hebrews 12:10-11, the Bible says that the Father chastises us. Notice what it says. It says in Hebrews 12:10,
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.
Now notice verse 11,
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Our Heavenly Father, who is the vinedresser, will not spare His pruning knife if He sees we need it. That also means that God may not prune you like He prunes someone else. It’s just like when we have children. If you have children, you know that all of your children are completely different. One is active and aggressive; one is passive and quiet. One has one bent to be creative, and another has a bent to be mechanical. Our kids are different, so we have to deal with our kids according to the bent that they have in their life.
Our kids are also going to have a bent to sin. Some kids are going to be bent to sin where they lie all of the time. Some kids are going to be bent to sin where they are angry very quickly all of the time. So it’s part of the parent’s job to take that particular bent in their life and sanctify it by giving them the Word of God and teaching them what God requires in their life about how to handle those things. Of course, apart from conversion, we are not miracle workers are parents. Nonetheless, that is what we’re called to do.
At this particular point, I want to really draw your attention to what the Scripture teaches about divine discipline. It’s not only helpful for the Christian life, but it’s also helpful for parenting. I want you to notice that in Hebrews 12:1, we have a passage that says, in the middle,
Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
The first thing is that there is a nature and definition of divine discipline. I must make it clear to you that the pruning and the disciplining process is different than punishment. It is not punishment. The word punishment means retribution from God, which is really intended to do sometimes harm. Discipline means the disciplining and chastening process in which God intends to do us good.
It’s like what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, where he views this disciplining process, not as a result of condemnation, where he says: for this reason, many of you are weak and sick and a number asleep. Now, that’s in the context of the Lord’s table, which we’re going to have this morning. But if we judge ourselves rightly, then we should not be judged, but when we are judged, then we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Here the Hebrew word in the Old Testament for discipline really means correction or instruction. It even has the verb, which means to train or to bring training of an individual, especially in areas where he or she is ignorant, unruly, or does not want to be told at all.
The Greek word is often mentioned and used in the same way to train, teach, discipline, and correct. It is a word that is used to take one into the school. Of course, to do that, you would have to teach them something.
One definition has been suggested as whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help develop and mature them.
If you just peruse the book of Proverbs, which is the wisdom book, you’re going to find passages in Scriptures like this. Like Proverbs 19:18,
Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.
Here is a command for the parent to discipline their son. Then Proverbs 29:17,
Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul.
It was Arthur Pink, an old preacher from days gone by, who said divine discipline is God correcting you in love and not smiting you in wrath. Proverbs views discipline as a necessary feature of the educational process, which helps really form a child’s character and sharpen a child’s listening skills. While discipline is not always for disobedience or rebellion, it’s always for the good of the recipient.
Let’s look at some biblical examples and see that God uses divine discipline in, which I’m just going to use, three ways.
The first way is really found in Hebrews 12:1, in which I read part of the passage. He does it first for correction. God used, and uses, discipline for personal transgression. If you notice what it says here in Hebrews, it talks about weights that impede performance and sin that easily entangles us in running the Christian race.
There are two general areas which we may pay close attention to and then be deliberate about being responsible for laying those things aside. The first one, in verse one, says to let us lay aside every encumbrance. Why is that? Let us run with endurance the race set before us. It’s the picture of running in a race, and that’s really the Christian life. We’re running in a race.
In running the race, there are weights that need to be laid aside. The weights are not necessarily sinful. But they are just as an athlete would strip action both in the removal of extra body weight through rigorous training and also the removal of all kinds of restrictive clothing. It’s the same for a believer. If you’re running a race, you’re not going to be suited up to be a middle linebacker with the pads and all the gear and the helmet to run a race. No, you’re going to take it all off.
When we are a runner, then we want to take off everything that is going to impede our performance, our forward movement. That’s what we must do. We must strip off everything that impedes our performance. This is part of the responsibility of a believer, that if you are to travel far, then you must travel light.
Before you were a Christian, then these are the things that you did. They didn’t really hinder you then, but now that you are in the race, now that you’re abiding in Christ, these things must be discarded.
A hindrance is something otherwise good that weighs you down spiritually. It’s just not profitable for fruit bearing. It’s not profitable for Christlikeness.
Things that you may want to discard are things like bad habits, seeking earthly pleasures as one of your main goals in life, just living your life to have leisurely fun. It could be that you’re spending way too much time on Facebook, on blogging on the internet, and you’re wasting good time you could be doing other things with.
Not only that, but you may be feeding your mind with a lot of negative things that should not be there. You may need to lay those things aside.
It could be entertainment. You crave entertainment. You may be the kind of person who wants to follow everybody on Facebook, wanting to find out what’s going on in everybody’s life. I guess it’s the Kardashian mindset that has infected our culture, right? And people are really into these things that they spend hours and hours on it, and yet it is no profit.
These kinds of things could be the very things that you need to lay aside. Worldly ease, the desire to take the path of least resistance, certain associations you may have with groups of people and friends, even sports and the time you gave to sports needs to be limited, because now you are a believer, and it has no profit at all in your life. Eternally, it really doesn’t have any profit at all.
Now, these are good things that need to be adjusted in your life and discarded. You may know what they are already because as soon as you plan to do something for the Lord, they seem to get in the way. They seem to entangle you where you just can’t get out and run the race and be freed from those things.
A second thing in that passage of scripture is sin. It says, specifically, the sin that easily entangles you. It’s failing to hit the mark in this case. It easily surrounds you. Maybe it consumes your thinking. It prevents you from running. It retards your running. These could be any particular sins that you get easily entangled with.
You could ask yourself a simple question, what are the sins that easily ensnare me? Some of those sins could be things that you’re thinking in your mind. Maybe it’s anger. Maybe it’s hatred. Maybe it’s criticism, always criticizing. Maybe it’s being lazy or coveting something that God is never going to give you.
Maybe it’s lust or envy, or maybe you have a complaining or a grumbling spirit. You like to slander people. Maybe it’s hypocrisy; you’re saying one thing, and you’re doing another. You are giving one promise, but you’re not keeping your promises.
It could be pride; you’re looking down on people all of the time. It could be greed; you have a secret desire to be wealthy and to put all of your trust in what money can do. It could be, and probably the greatest sin of all, unbelief; I am a believer, and yet I don’t believe because I am not living out what the Bible is talking about abiding in Christ. It could be bitterness.
It could be a multitude of things that are going on in your life, that when the Father comes, He’s going to correct us. He is going to correct us with the goal of personal transgression, personal sin in the heart that needs to be discarded and get out of your life.
The example, of course, I would use, would be King David when he sinned with Bathsheba and committed adultery. Then, of course, he ended up being a cohort to murdering her husband so he could have her. When the prophet came to tell David what he did, David got angry and then realized the prophet, Nathan, pointed and said: you’re the man David, you did this. Then David was deeply convicted.
In the Old Testament, if you committed murder and adultery, the penalty was being stoned to death. That’s not what happened with David. The discipline for David was corrective, not judgmental. If it was judgmental then David would’ve lost his life. Yet his sin was not without consequences, and that’s possibly where the judgment of God came in. He lost an infant son by Bathsheba, several of his son caused many serious problems in his life, and the sword never departed from David’s house.
Sometimes sin in our life could have effects later on. Even though you’re forgiven of that sin, the consequences because of that sin will be there in your life, and you have to deal with them in the right way. So, God uses the pruning and the discipline process for personal transgression.
The second thing God uses for the pruning and the disciplining process is for that of prevention. He prevents us from doing things. In fact, God disciplines in order to prevent sin. I think a great example of that is the Apostle Paul, where it says in 2 Corinthians 12:7,
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,
Remember, Paul was caught up to the third heaven, and when he was caught up to the third heaven, he was forbidden to talk about what he saw and heard there. Now, of course, that could really puff your head up. To say, well, I must be somebody real special if God did that. Well, it says in scripture,
for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep from exalting myself!
The Apostle Paul was given the discipline not because he was proud but to prevent him from becoming proud. Sometimes the Lord does that in our life. He will put something in our life that we can pray about until the cows come home, and it’s not going to be removed. Why? Because it’s there to prevent you from sinning. It’s there to keep a hedge around you.
In fact, it never left Paul. He prayed three times, and it never left him because it acted like a fence around him. The result of the thorn made the Apostle Paul more conscious of his weakness and of God’s strength. For he even penned these words: For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When I am weak in the flesh, then I know that God is going to work mightily through me. But if I am depending on myself, my gifts, abilities, knowledge, wealth, influence, well, you know what, God is not in that. You’re in that. It’s when you feel your weakness and vulnerability, but at the same time, you’re trusting and abiding in Christ. That’s what the Lord does when he prunes us. He prunes us to often prevent us from sinning.
Aren’t you glad when He does that? Don’t you have joy when God prevented you from sin when you could’ve sinned, and He kept you from it? It didn’t work out. Your plans fell apart. Do you think that was you? You better be thankful when God prevents you from sinning because that’s Him pruning you. That’s from keeping you from a lot of trouble in your life, a lot of heartache in your life when God does that. So, we should all be thankful that He prunes us in that way.
There is a third way that God prunes and disciplines. That’s just in order to instruct, so we are directed towards wise behavior. We learn to move from being foolish and naïve to being wise. To really examining our life and seeing what God is teaching us at that point. Instruction often means discipline.
Even right now, in preaching, this is preventative discipline. When you’re hearing the Word of God, thinking about it, and applying it to yourself, you’re doing discipline on yourself. If you do that on a regular basis, you’ll never be brought up on church discipline. You’ll never be brought up on corporal discipline. Do you know why? Because you’re taking care of it, and that’s what we ought to do as Christians. That’s our responsibility.
We take care of dealing with the things that are impeding running this race, sins that are hindering us from moving forward and producing fruit in our life. This instruction that the Lord instructs us in is always towards wise behavior, maturity, and fruit-bearing.
I just think of Job in the Old Testament. Job tasted every kind of suffering that could’ve fallen on any one person. In fact, it was family bereavement, loss of property, and grievous bodily infection, and they all came fast, one after another. But there in that suffering, in that affliction, God used that discipline and pruning to instruct Job in the ways and the character of the Lord God almighty.
That’s what He does. He instructs us to pay attention to who He is so we can live in a pleasing manner before the Lord. That means that God uses discipline to instruct toward more fruitfulness and spiritual maturity.
But there is a problem. If you look at Hebrews 12:5, he’s actually bringing this in from Proverbs 11. Here’s the problem, how do we respond to God’s pruning and discipline? Is there a problem when we respond the wrong way? There is a natural and a wrong response to divine discipline. What is that wrong response? There are two warnings given in the Word of God in Hebrews, and coming from Proverbs, it says: do not reject the discipline of the Lord. The word reject means to despise or to refuse.
It was the old Puritan William Arnold who had an insightful definition of the words used in Proverbs and also in Hebrews. He said that it means to make light of anything, to cast it aside as if it had no meaning or no power. If you look at Hebrews 12:5, it says,
And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “my son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the lord
The correction of the Lord, the prevention of the Lord, the instruction of the Lord in any manner of where He wants to bring you from one place of growth to another place of growth. Arnold went on to say the affliction comes on, and the sufferer looks to the immediate cause only, he refuses to look up higher in the links of the chain, and he refuses to make it the occasion to have communion with God. In other words, in the midst of discipline and being pruned, God has a higher purpose for that.
While we’re going through it, it seems sorrowful and even painful, but in the end, it produces peaceable fruit. The fruit that God wants to produce in our life. So, we are not to reject it. That would be an improper attitude toward discipline.
Also, it says in Hebrews 12:5, also coming from Proverbs 3:11, that says: Or loathe His reproof. Here it says,
Nor faint when you are reproved by him
The Hebrew word means to be grieved or to feel a sickening dread while going through God’s hand of pruning and discipline. The reason why we would feel that way is that we’re not yet understanding who God is. God is good. He’s full of tender mercy and compassion. He will always do good to His children. Always. That’s who God is.
He’s dealing with us as children. We’re in His family. We’re born again into His family, so He will deal with us in that way. That means that our attitude is extremely important when we’re going through suffering, discipline, and pruning.
What are the things that can be suggested on responding to God’s discipline in the wrong way? It could just be that you’re callous, having a lack of regard for God’s admonitions and instructions. The Heavenly Father has some special design in them, but you don’t see it. The discipline hardens the heart instead of melting it and humbling the heart.
A second way is that you’re just complaining through it. You’re grumbling through it. Grumbling, murmuring, bellyaching, under-the-breath remarks. Nobody hears it, but God hears it. If you ever go into the Old Testament and you see what God thinks about grumbling, then you would change your attitude.
All of these things show that you don’t understand who God is. See, that’s the point. The discipline may be at that point for you to see who God is and how He deals with you as children.
In complaining, you may ask, what have I done to deserve this? A person may become envious because others around them seem to be carrying a lighter load. Christians, we really need to take heed because God does not go lightly with those who murmur and grumble under their breath. He hears everything.
It could be that you’re just careless, a failure to mend your ways to lay aside the things that are preventing you from running the race, and fail to lay aside the sin that so easily besets you. You’re still entertaining that one sin that drags you away from Christ.
Or it could be, finally, that you just, as it says here, nor faint when you’re reproved by Him. Fainting just means that you say: I give up, it’s too much to bear, I didn’t sign up for this when I became a Christian. Some people even conclude by saying, I’m not a child of God, I just quit, and it seems like my life back when I was an unbeliever was simpler than now. People do that. People have done that in the Old Testament. See, that’s the wrong conclusion. That’s how we loathe God’s correction.
In man’s every rejection, they fail to see God. They failed to see God, the love of the Father, lovingly at work in the vineyard on His children, so they abide in Christ, and bear fruit. They will reap the results of that, which I’m not getting to today. It’s going to be another message.
They take their eyes off the goal. And what is the goal? What is God’s will and the goal in our life? What is the goal of pruning and discipline? It’s the verse that we all know if you’ve been a Christian for a while.
We know that God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become, here’s the goal, conformed to the image of His son so that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:28-29).
That is the goal. That is what God’s going to do in our life. Even the Psalmist when he wrote: many are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34:19). Why would we think otherwise that we’re going to escape this? We don’t want to escape it. It also says, but the Lord delivers them out of all of them (Psalm 34:19).
Left to ourselves, we all tend to suppress the God-given knowledge and wisdom learned and run after our own evil imaginations that conform more to our liking. Whenever one tends to respond to the way of the good Father’s wisdom reluctantly or defiantly, or they give a good show of external compliance, which veils an unsubordinated heart, it’s that kind of heart disposition that is to be avoided at all costs.
We should humbly come before the Lord, and we should submit to Him because He is good, and He is only doing it for our good. Today you may need to pull some weeds so that your attitude toward God’s reprove would be that of humility and teachability. And look at trials and pruning as proof that God loves you. God loves to purge and prune and purify you.
Job said this: Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves (Job 5:17). Isn’t that odd? We would never think that the case. Then he said, do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17).
There’s one last thing here, and that is the nurture and encouragement of a divine discipline. If you notice there in Hebrews, it tells us in verse 6, it says, for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines and scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12:6). That is the encouragement that we get in scripture. For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:12).
It is hard to see discipline to be good. That’s the hard part of it. But God intervenes because He loves us and wants us to grow in maturity, faith, and trust.
Even the Apostle John in Revelation 3:19 says this,
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
That is talking about the Church. He says in verse 20,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
That’s restored fellowship. That means that discipline should be accepted as part of God’s mysterious educational purposes because His discipline is always for our good and His glory and for bearing fruit. Always. No matter how clearly God marks out the path of righteousness, some miss it by wandering from the path of wisdom. Careless on the path of wisdom. Stubborn in the process of leaving things behind they should and pursuing and submitting to the discipline of God.
See, the Lord would need then, as a caring Father, to discipline us and to point out our mistakes, and return us to the right road. That’s what a loving Father does. That’s what an earthly loving Father does. That’s what a Heavenly loving Father does, and He always does it.
Love is always the motivation for any correction, any prevention. If we take it correctly, and that’s what we ought to do, we’ll be well-pleasing to the Lord because He delights in us. We also discover that He loves us. I’ve learned this, that sometimes pruning and discipline is you don’t really believe God loves you after you become a Christian. You talk about it, you say it, but you don’t live it. God wants us to know that He loves us.
You know what? When you’re sinning, does He love you less? No. When you fall off the wagon, does He love you less? No! His love is consistent, and that’s what we don’t often believe. We think, oh, my life has not been what God wants me to do, and He must be far from me, and I might as well just give up. No, He loves you then because He died for us while we were yet sinners. That’s the greatest demonstration of love.
The reward for the patient and grateful acceptance of reproof is the deepening awareness of one’s affectionate relation to God. Finding God at the center of your life, so when you and I die, we can whisper under our breath: Him, Him, Him—my life was lived for Him. That’s where we ought to be. He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Proverbs 13:24).
This morning He speaks to us as children. He wants us to live a Christian life that is joy-filled and peaceful in our hearts and is filled with fruit. He wants us to see that He’s doing something that you didn’t have in your life before.
Suffering is God’s means of discipline and of pruning branches on the ground and branches still on the tree. On one, of course, it has no effect, and on the other, it produces fruitfulness. Pruning proves God’s Fatherly love. If you look at Hebrews 12:8, it says,
But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
You may want to pray this: Lord, please discipline me, please prune me because I know it’ll be for my good. And you know what, often we realize we do need it because we can get very sloppy as Christians. We can ignore the things that are the most important in our Christian walk and life, and we don’t want to do that.
Discipline, suffering, and pruning also reveals what’s in your heart. Sometimes that’s an ugly movie when God finally pulls up the screen of your heart, and I say: Wow, I did not think that I was like that, I did not think that I acted like that. When He does, you fall on your knees in repentance and say: Lord, please change me and make me like You. I don’t want to be the person I used to be. I want to be this new person that You promised in the Word of God and make me ready for Your presence. That should be the end of what we see God doing in our life.
When we submit to the loving pruning discipline of an all-wise, all-directing Father, Proverbs would call that wisdom. God wants us to be wise children, not foolish.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You this morning for the Word of God. Lord, You have been to us a kind God. Full of mercy, full of compassion, ready to forgive, ready to answer prayer, ready to show us every day your ability to provide for us, both on the earthly level and on the spiritual level.
Lord, I pray this morning as we consider the Word of God, and Lord, where the Word of God is going, I pray that You would just use this message to grab ahold of our hearts so we are ready and willing to submit to You if You decide You need to use the pruning knife in our life. Let us clearly see our own encumbrances, our own sin. Let us see clearly, whether you need to correct us or prevent us or instruct us from sinning.
Lord, I pray that all the instruction would lead us only to understand You more and give You more glory and honor so that we can worship You from the bottom of our hearts and we would know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I pray this in the name of my Lord and Savior, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.