This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Hebrews 12 preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday August 4-5, 2012.
The author of Hebrews starts chapter twelve by calling the reader to “lay aside every weight and sin (v. 1).” There are things that unnecessarily interfere with life (wisdom issues – folly) and things that are wrong (moral issues – sin). This distinction is important for understanding the description of God’s fatherly actions in the coming verses.
Before we get to that, it is important to differentiate five terms that we often view as synonyms, or at least highly overlapping in meaning.
- Punishment – Extra negative consequences applied by a moral authority for the purpose of opening blind eyes or softening a hard heart (i.e., spanking, time out, or financial penalty).
- Consequences – Natural implications of bad decisions of sin or folly (i.e., failing a test after neglecting to study or have a rusted bike after leaving it in the rain).
- Discipline – The structures of life that are implemented to make wisdom and righteousness easier to see and obtain (i.e., daily and weekly routine that is balanced and reasonable).
- Training – The actions and practices required in order to make wisdom and righteousness a more natural “habit” (i.e., chores, family devotions)
- Instruction – The verbal explanations that put into words the principles and values which under gird discipline and training (i.e., conversations after foolish or sinful choices).
What does God do when His children fail to “lay aside every weight and sin”? Hebrews 12:6 says that God disciplines those He loves. But that word encompasses each of the corrective techniques referenced above. We hear elements of each in how God calls us to care for one another in I Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
God is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter methodology parent. God would not say of His upbringing (if He had one), “If it was good enough for me, then I guess its good enough for my kids” as an excuse for a lazy, reactionary parental response.
God knows that the shaping of a child requires a home environment that models wisdom by example and system (discipline). God knows that shaping a child requires the regular requirement to actively participate in the habits of wisdom and righteousness (training).
God knows his children will fail regardless of the system He creates. Therefore God allows his children to experience the impact of their failure as a learning experience (consequences). If we are willfully committed to our sin or folly, God will leverage additional consequences as an act of grace to rescue us from ourselves (punishment).
God knows that a child’s heart will not fully understand discipline, training, and consequences without explanation that is calm and clear (instruction). Yet God’s interaction with His children never creates the fear of abandonment, because the wrath our sin deserves was applied to Christ on our behalf. Therefore we are safe even as God deals with our sin.
This is hard work. Every parent who tries to model this for his/her children can testify to this. The fact that God would do this for us shows us that He values us as His “legitimate children” (v. 8). Our calling as parents is to study the pattern of God and model it for our children. As you read through the Bible, look for these five types of interaction by God with His people. Use that to remind you of God’s fatherly involvement in your life and shape your interaction with your own children.