Motivation for Discipline – Proverbs 13:24

Spoiled Children Are Like Spoiled Food – They Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Worldly Wisdom

Everyone seems to have a word of wisdom.  Time-honored advice that has worked for them, and others who passed it on to them.  Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  And the world, the flesh, and the devil seem to constantly pour out their versions of wisdom.

With children, wisdom from the world and the devil appears to be hands-off parenting.  “Be their friend; give their opinions, no matter how bizarre, the same weight as your own, and let them guide the way; after all, they are the future!”

The world does so at their own peril.  For children learn by observing and doing what pleases them.  The implied morality that human beings supposedly have – that we are inherently good – is believed and embraced.  And any correction to the natural learning cycle of children is no longer the imparting of wisdom, but rather considered an impediment and abuse.  After all, should not the child be able to decide for itself how it should think, act, and respond to the world?

Learning Love

The first fallacy of hands-off child-raising is that children, by their very “innocent nature”, implicitly know love and how to love.  But observe any child left to his/her own devices, and watch just how manipulative, conniving, scheming, self-centered, self-absorbed the child will become.  Rather than Timmy on the classic “Lassie” TV show, the child instead begins to resemble Damian in “The Omen“.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Children need training.  They need to both be trained through instruction and correction, as well as having a solid example of behavior in the form of character that is congruent with what is being said.  Children are natural hypocrisy detectors.  Their “radar” is tuned to check what they hear against what they observe.

Love does not come naturally.  It makes no sense to love anyone else if there is no direct benefit to yourself.  Self-preservation and self-fulfillment are the goals of the untrained, undisciplined mind.  Even in adulthood, the world behaves in the same way:

  • Get as much of the pie as you can, because no one will help you out
  • Be concerned with yourself first and everyone else later (if it is convenient for you and your plans)
  • The strong should rule over the weak

Godly love does none of these things.  Godly (agape) love is

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not proud
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Rejoices with the Truth
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things
  • Doesn’t fail

Children, left to their own devices, will not embrace this type of character.  They must be taught character.  The first part of learning is accepting the correct role of authority in one’s life

Accepting Authority

Correction helps us to accept the rightful authority over our lives.

An old friend of mine had a nephew whose father was wild.  In a stunning, emotional scene where the child’s mother was allowing the father to see his son one last time (she had won full parental responsibility and the court ruled that the father would no longer have any rights [or financial obligations] towards the child), the father’s parting words to his son were astounding.  He basically said, “Son, you don’t have to listen to anyone, not even me.  Be your own man.”  His parting words were calculated to do the maximum damage that he could so that the child’s mother would have the most difficult time raising him up.

Years later, the uncle of that child and two of his friends took this child on their annual pilgrimage to a famous amusement park.  There were three sets of hawk-eyes trained on that young man, now just a little before the teenage span of his life.  Rather than hold the young man’s hand (and embarrass him in front of strangers), these three men kept a watchful eye on the young man.  The child, who had never had the opportunity to visit this amusement park, was in wonder at all of the sights before him.  The three men watching him were diligent in keeping their eyes on this child.

About three hours into the first day of this weekend-long trip, some sound caught the attention of all three men.  They looked away for a mere second or two.  But that was all that was needed.  The child, who was watching the men carefully, realizing his opportunity to be free from the control and authority of these men, bolted into the thick crowds.  Almost an hour later, the young man was found, greatly enjoying the freedom from oversight by those who had been placed in authority over him, unaware of the dangers that his “dash to freedom” placed him in.  Because this young man had the tendency to bolt like this, corrective action needed to be taken.  In this case, the weekend-long trip was cut short, as the risk was just too great.

When we refuse to accept the rightful authority of the ones who have been placed in charge over us (not only men, but also God), we set ourselves up for the opportunity to be placed in a situation where the outcome is less than desirable.  And like the young man’s story above, not every “dash to freedom” results in dire consequences.  But we fail to recognize the danger that we are in, because we are unable to see every aspect of life as it unfolds around us.

Readying for Responsibility

Correction readies us for greater responsibility.  As we accept correction of those who are in lawful authority over us, we begin to be prepared for greater responsibility.  Just as you wouldn’t give the keys of the $500K Ferrari to the 14-year-old wild-child, neither will God give us responsibility when we are not ready.

When God calls us, He then equips us.  But this is after careful preparation:

  • Joseph was prepared as a slave for more than a decade before God called him to save the entire world from famine
  • Moses was prepared for forty years as shepherd before God called him to shepherd his people into the promised land
  • The twelve disciples of Christ were prepared for three years (including Paul, who had his own three-year preparation with Christ in the desert before being released) by Jesus Christ Himself.

We need to be open to correction in order to grow and be prepared for greater responsibility.

Careful Correction

The manner of correction is just as important as its intensity and timing.  The strong-willed child will defiantly say, “I would rather DIE than have to submit to you!”  And the child is truly fully prepared to make good on that statement (it is NOT an idle threat).  What to do?  How do you prepare a child such as this so that they will be ready to be released from your care and supervision and then solely under the supervision of Almighty God?

God Himself will provide the manner, attitude, words, and consequences for training such a child if we allow Him to and invite Him to do so.  Some children appear completely compliant.  Those are the dangerous ones.  They seem OK, but what is really going on inside?  Are they compliant to get their way, or are they compliant because they desire to accept the authority over them?

God sees our hearts as they truly are.  And He is more than capable of applying the “rod of correction” to each of us in such a way that we will not soon forget it.  What works for you wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on me.  And what works on me might just irritate and turn you away from God rather than have the desired effect.

In any case, correction is necessary, for if we are permitted to continue on in our ways, we will surely pass the point where our consciences are seared, and we won’t even realize the deep depths of darkness that our lives slip quietly into until the terrible moment when circumstances reveal the true depravity of our souls.

Properly Prepared

God is the one who knows best how to guide, correct, and instruct each and every one of us at any age or stage in our lives.  We need to go before Him to receive instruction and correction.   The hyper-grace community of believers may be just as surprised as the legalists when they go before Almighty God saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  And our Lord Jesus Christ will reply, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

God disciplines us as His childrenAnyone who is not disciplined by God is NOT one of His.  Surely, if God disciplines us, should we not then discipline our children as well?  And what then shall we say of our motivation behind discipline?  Is it truly “child abuse”, as culture tell us, or is it loving care as we use it as a preparatory method for bringing about the fruit of righteousness?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I accept discipline properly?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may Your holy name be praised.  Thank You for disciplining me so that I would not bring dishonor to Your name.  Thank You for showing me, through Your discipline, that I am one of Yours.  Thank You for the opportunity to grow in truth and righteousness.  Thank You for the opportunity to bear fruit in accordance with righteousness rather than selfishness.  Thank You, Father, for Your many lessons, painful as they are.  And I pray, Lord God Almighty, that should I be in the position of administering these lessons to others in a parental, governmental, judicial, and/or business environment, that You would guide me as to the best way to do so.  Help me to adhere to Your word, and to reject culture where culture conflicts with the truth.  Give me courage, resources, and assistance where necessary to defend Your tried and true methods against the rebellion of society towards You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Carnal Christianity – Genesis 13:12-13

We Are To Pitch Our Tents Towards God, Not Towards Sodom

12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Choose Carefully

Each of us will eventually be faced with a choice.  When we reach that fork in the road, we will have to choose which way we should go.  And though there may be more than two choices, there is usually one good choice, and not-so-good choice.

Lot was given first pick of where he would like to go.  Rather than choose the land as far from sin as possible, he chose the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah.  In itself, choosing this direction is not evil.  However, we must be very careful when we choose to dwell near evil, because constant exposure to wickedness can deaden our revulsion to it.

In today world, in Western Culture, we have reports where people are being raped and murdered, and rather than help the innocent victims, like the Good Samaritan, people turn the cameras of their smartphones on and, in wonder, record the wickedness of men, only to later post the videos of the encounter on such file-sharing services as YouTube, hoping that it will “go viral.”  In a world where people would willingly allow unspeakable evil happen to their neighbor to generate ratings on their YouTube channel, they have become inured to the effects of evil.

The path to desensitization is a slow and insidious process.  Once we become desensitized to something, we can properly justify its existence, and if we are not careful, embrace it as normal, natural, socially acceptable, and then preferable.  Let’s look to the life of Lot to see how “pitching our tents towards Sodom” can lead a person from revulsion to acceptance and “tolerance.”

Parked in the Periphery

When the groups of men of Abram and his relative Lot became so large that there was quarreling between the two group, Abram told Lot to choose a direction and he would go in the other.  Lot chose the fertile plains towards Sodom, and “pitched his tents towards Sodom.”

When we intentionally head towards wickedness, we need to be particularly careful that we are not influenced by our situation.  We are called to be light and salt.  But we must not be deceived:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Lot, in choosing what appeared to be the more verdant land that promised to greatly prosper his family, chose an area near a people who participated in great wickedness.  This would eventually lead to his family’s downfall.

Gathered at the Gates

After Lot had been captured and later rescued by Abram, we later see that he was sitting in the city gates.  This was the prominent position where the elders of the city would gather.  Lot, as a believer in the Lord God Almighty, should have been of great influence in the land.  He was now a part of the city elders, the equivalent of being on City Council.  He had every opportunity to talk to the people, but as we will see, the people did not heed his example, and later would threaten him for even suggesting that they abstain from abject wickedness.

Lot was no longer in the periphery, he was an active part of the community, and actually making decisions for the community.  On the surface this would appear to be an ideal situation.  But let’s look at how much the people actually respected and revered his position of authority with them:

Total Toleration

Lot’s place was now at the city gate.  He was in the thick of things.  He could either be an influence for good, or “go with the flow” and  “go along to get along” so that he wouldn’t rock the boat and possibly damage the economic benefits that came with such a position and influence.  Let’s see exactly how much he had influenced the culture:

4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

We can see that they, in their wicked and insatiable desires, immediately classified him as a foreigner, and an obstacle to their carnal desires.  They actually threatened to do worse to Lot than they had planned to do to the angels.  It is interesting to note that they are making a comment about Lot’s attitude towards their behavior.  Note that they say, …”and now he wants to play the judge!” (emphasis mine).  He apparently had not said a thing to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah about their wickedness.  He would have been soundly trounced and driven out of there had he said a single word that offended them.  Their reaction conclusively shows that he remained quiet about their lifestyle until now.  We can only speculate as to why.  But the Bible does say:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But now let’s look at Lot’s reaction.  While protecting visitors was of utmost importance in the culture regarding hospitality at the time, rather than rebuking them, he offered his two daughter’s to them to be ravaged with their peculiar predilections.  While it is true that in Lot’s time women were not thought of as highly as they are today in Western culture, this was an abomination – to sacrifice your own children.  Would it not be better to protect your family, and go down swinging?  Lot compromised by potentially harming his innocent family in order to try to maintain peace and the hope of still living among people who might very well have done unspeakable horrors to his innocent children.

Lot had been influenced by the culture rather than influencing the culture.  There is always the danger that, when living in the midst of cultural decay, we adopt the attitudes of what we see around us as acceptable, and don’t even realize how deeply we have been affected by wickedness until a time of desperation and great trial comes upon us.  It is only then that we will see how we will respond.  Which training and beliefs will win through the trial – the teachings and beliefs in Almighty God, or the Godless beliefs of the culture we have CHOSEN to live in?

Paul indicated that we are to separate ourselves from the world.  This is not to separate us physically from the world, but rather to separate our values, beliefs, morals, and actions from what the world system teaches.  As we go about our ways, we must constantly be in communication and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and walk yielded to the Holy Spirit of God, lest we find ourselves slowly being sucked into culture, and eventually, indistinguishable from it.

When we reach this stage – where the way we act is indistinguishable from the world around us – that we find that we have become carnal Christians.  We are no longer disciples of Christ, but rather holding on to a semblance of piety, spouting belief in the holy word of God, and perhaps even memorizing the word, but not allowing its power to transform our lives into the character and caliber of people as befits us as image-bearers of God:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Final Forbearance

When we get to this stage, we are confronted by a holy, almighty God:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I influencing culture, or is culture influencing me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy God, and cannot stand sin in Your presence.  Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me.  Show me my transgressions, and expose any inroads that the enemy has purchased in my soul.  Help me to see how egregious this is to You, and to be shocked again at the vileness of sin.  Give me a right perspective that aligns completely with Your heart and Your word.  Let me not go my own way, but rather purchase gold refined by Your fire, so that I may be restored to You.  Help me to be a powerhouse influence in culture.  And if that costs me dearly, so be it.  I would rather be hated by men and near to You than to be loved by men and spewed out of Your mouth.  Help me to fight the emotional battles that need to be fought, and provide me with the strength to have solid footing when there are consequences for speaking up for You.  I announce to the world this day that my allegiance is with Almighty God, and not culture.  Do with me what You will, I already know my eternal future.  Let me say to the world, “come with me that you may have life, and have it super-abundantly”, and know in my heart that You are sovereign over all, Lord God.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Salt, during the time of Jesus’ ministry, was of far greater value than it is today.  Communities were often formed around areas where salt was found, or could be traded.  It was literally worth its weight in gold.  Because Roman legions were paid in it, we get our word “salary”.  We also get the phrase, “worth his salt,” from it.  It was so valuable, wars were fought over it.

Besides being valuable as currency, salt served two very important functions at that time:

  • Salt brought out flavor
  • Salt preserved
    • Prior to modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  Meats would often go bad in hot, humid environments, but salt helped to extend the time that food would still be edible.
    • Our words and actions should have a preservative effect on culture, to retard the spread and decay of sin and unrighteousness, keeping life palatable for a much longer period of time.

Jesus gives us a caveat, however.  If salt loses its saltiness, or no longer has its intended effect, what good it is anymore?   He warns that it would be thrown out, to be trampled.  Inedible salt was practically worthless.  This is what the Christian Church in the United States of America has become.  No one seems to care anymore for the flavor of Christ, and we have certainly failed in preventing the rapid spread of spiritual decay here.

Who really wants to eat mashed potatoes without a little salt on it?  Would you really want to eat meat with mold on it?  That is what our culture is eating today, because we have failed one of our most important callings – displaying Jesus for all to see.  But God can change that.  Let us live our lives for Jesus, that our words and actions would have the same effect that Jesus had on the culture 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth with His disciples.

So, let’s ask the question:  Am I the salt of the Earth?  Or am I salt thrown out on top of the Earth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a very high calling, to preserve, display, and enhance righteousness in this world.  We are grateful that You desire to bring glory to Your name through us.  Father, help me today to be salt in this wicked generation.  Remember me – act divinely upon my half – that in everything that I say and do, Jesus would be reflected.  Strengthen me through the trials of today, and may my words and actions have the intended effect that You desire of me.  Guard me against all unrighteousness, and I pray for the opportunity to bring You to a people who are feeding on the rotting trash of culture.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?