Discipline Applied in Christian Experience:
v. 12 “Therefore,” takes us to the preceding verses 4-11 and our previous study. The author, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, is teaching that our holy and loving God does discipline us as a means to get us in step with His will for us “in Christ.” More specifically, discipline for the genuinely transformed brings about change toward righteousness. Through discipline God is exercising us and as we understand and experience discipline as training toward holiness, we are empowered to resist the flesh and stay in step with the Spirit/Christ dwelling in our being.
Therefore, it is essential and extremely important that we fulfill our calling to live as God’s people in our everyday lives in every context.
How is your process? Are you putting forth a strenuous effort to live “in Christ” or just casually living the way of the flesh: selfishness, self-centered, bitter, arrogance, “me” “I” etc.,?
How do we progress past the “self” life? Will we ever overcome our sin and live in harmony with the Spirit? Are we really “new” “in Christ?” Every thought captive to Christ?
“Strengthen” may also mean “make upright” or “straight.” The author seems to be admonishing here: in light of God’s discipline, straighten up! We need to engage and co-participate with God in order to please God and mature in our “Christ life.” The inspired writer is urging us to put things right and grow/mature in God’s grace. (cf. chp. 5).
Moreover, in some instances, “follower of Christ”, if you want the pain of the discipline to stop, repent, confess, and engage with God that forgiveness can be experienced and joy/blessings restored. Many times our circumstances will not change, but how we experience them: cope, process, manage, learn, mature, is determined by our “in Christ” position.
The imagery may have been taken from Isa 35:1-5. Hands and knees that are out of action, but need to be put right. “The exhortation implies that the readers are acting as though spiritually paralyzed. They are urged to put things right and get moving” (Morris, pg. 139).
v. 13 (cf. Prov. 4:26) As Christians, we belong together and need each other. We want to make paths straight or level to help other followers move forward “in Christ.” It appears that the author is demonstrating concern for the weak among us, i.e., “lame.” In the family of God, we need to take care of hurting members in our fellowship.
Morris (1981) said, “Where the Christian life is in any way “out of joint.” steps should be taken to revitalize it.”
Do you know someone who is currently “weak” and hurting in the family of God? May the Holy Spirit compel me/us to pray and ask God how Christ in me can be a revitalizing agent for that person.
v. 14 “Make every effort…” How much effort have I made to live at peace with others and be holy? More often than not it is easier to be selfish and abrasive, yet I know this is not consistent with “Christ in me.” Then I feel bad and regret my thoughts and words. Maybe the “feel bad” is the discipline that will eventually cause me to “anticipate” this fleshly process and truly yield to the Spirit within me. Do I need more intense discipline to recognize how serious giving into the flesh is to our holy God, especially as it relates to my holiness training? Do you?
What does “be holy” look like? We are called to be different from the norm of this world. We are separate unto God. However, we are still in the world, yet not “of the world.” Do you find yourself wanting to be different? Do you understand that it is “Christ in you” that makes this possible? Therefore, without Christ, hence holiness, no such person will see the Lord.
v. 15 “See to it…” This phrase conveys the idea of oversight. We as believers must care for one another. There are 3 things the readers are to avoid:
We are to avoid coming short of God’s grace–in other words we must avoid failure to live up to our calling and not make use of opportunities.
Secondly, we are called to guard against the springing up of a “bitter root”. As growing and maturing followers of Christ, we want to protect our Christian community from bitter poison (cf. Deut. 29:16-20). Obviously, if we are not yielding to the Spirit, seeds of bitterness can be planted. The imagery is of a rooted slow growing plant, once grown causes trouble and defiles many.
May our God humble us and give us discernment to abolish any type of bitter seed in every context of our lives.
v. 16 Thirdly, we are warned to avoid sexual sin and godlessness, especially as followers of Christ.
As Spirit led followers of Christ: sexual sin has no place in our lives. (pornos, fornicator) “See that no one…” Again, we are called to be accountable to each other and call sin when we see it and warn, admonish, encourage, confess, re-direct for the sake of the community and the individual follower of Christ.
“godless like Esau…” A person not walking in the Spirit, but allowing flesh to prevail.
v. 17 “Afterward…” sin has lasting consequences. Esau knew he made a mistake. However, our behaviors have long term consequences. Many of us live everyday knowing we can’t change certain things, people, circumstances which had their beginnings in choices we made early on. However, we continue to live and make choices.
Therefore, we should ask and really examine, how then should we live, especially “in Christ?”
We see the emotional state of Esau. And, I am sure many of us have cried and cried over choices made. God’s love doesn’t change. The comfort of brothers and sisters continues to be available. Forgiveness is not an issue for the repentant. However, some things just can’t be changed or reversed. Thank God for Romans 8:28!
Are there things you are learning to “give to God” and move forward in Christ? Do you believe you are forgiven for fleshly choices made in the past that caused a snowball of destructive consequences?
May we adhere the exhortation to the Christian life. Discipline is applied in Christian experience and it is okay, especially as we understand the purpose and learn to yield to the Spirit every moment of everyday.
Be encouraged that our life “in Christ” is supernatural, therefore we are empowered as we yield.
2 Cor 10:4-5 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, F.E. Gaebelein (Ed) 1981.
NIV Study Bible (1984).