By Paige Hunt
Jesus wants his blood to mean something and to do something once more; for us to be a people wonderstruck by his wonder-working power and manifesting Kingdom culture. Unfortunately, believers everywhere have lost what it means to have a personal, caring Father who loves us, whose blood flows in our veins and whose creative passion causes our hearts to beat with his energy. Some believers, through immaturity, regard Christianity as a mere ‘get out of jail free card’, rather than a declaration of heaven on earth in the here and now. These people reject the discipline of the Lord, and ‘conform to the pattern of the world’ (Romans 12:12), because they have not understood that the Spirit of Christ flows within them, so they are no longer ‘of the flesh’, and no longer ‘of the world’ (John 17:16; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 8:9)
Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 4, stating that because believers no longer allow the Lord’s judgement in their lives, they have ‘gone beyond what is written’, and see themselves as wise, strong, and honoured in the courts of the world (see also Revelation 3:17). These people judge and discern and discipline themselves via the flesh and the culture around them, rather than through the Spirit of Jesus Christ and his finished work on their behalf. They are unbelieving believers, in the sense that the finished work of Jesus has become of no effect in their lives, and has been drowned out through the noise of this world. These people have forgotten who their father is, reflected in their unruly and pretentious behaviour (Matthew 5:16). 1 John 2:15-17 articulates this by stating that ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world’. (NIV)
This is why Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 4 by saying:
“I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. Even if you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. That is why I have sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which is exactly what I teach everywhere in every church. Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only what these arrogant people are saying, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:14-21 NIV, emphasis mine)
Paul expresses to the believers here that to change their lifestyle, they first need to be put back into the correct mind, which is the mind-set of a ‘beloved child’. One who does not simply have ‘ten thousand guardians/instructors’, but through the Gospel, a Father. This is relevant because a tutor in those days was a dependable slave that supervised morality and lifestyle until a child was mature. This is the same word used in Scripture to refer to the law (Galatians 3:24-25), and Paul states clearly in Galatians 3:25 we ‘are no longer under a law’. These people do not need to shape their lives after the mosaic law or fashion their lives after the laws and ideals of the culture around them, because they recognise that their very breath is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). They are under a different system of discipline, which is the revelation of the finished work of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16).
Paul outlines that a disciplined lifestyle does not come through cultural patterns and ideals, belonging to an earthly kingdom, but it is given to us through having a relationship with the Father; it is the effortless result of enjoying grace. Not through rules, but through relationship. Paul speaks of being a father through use of the Greek word ‘pater’ which refers to one who is the originator, who has ‘infused his own spirit into others, governing their minds’. Thus, Paul desires that these people quit their immature ways and enter into a lifestyle of walking in the Holy Spirit, recognising that they are filled to the brim with grace and truth, and composed of its wisdom, able to flow with the pattern of God’s design. Paul asks the question ‘shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?’ – For the discipline of the law (whether the principles of this world or of religious systems within it) is as a painful rod, but the discipline of the Spirit is ‘in love and with gentleness’.
So it is time to speak about a simultaneously much abused, and much neglected topic: God’s discipline…
Please note, when I refer to discipline I am referring to one of two things: 1) the realm of discipline; this is the realm of effortless holiness that we get to enjoy by grace through faith. 2) God’s active discipline in our lives, which as we will talk about (in the remainder of this article and part two), is not his confrontation of sin, nor his reminder that we ‘can do better’, but is him lovingly pointing to the provision in us, to our identity. His discipline is him showering us with love and pointing us to our inheritance! It is him teaching us about grace, about this New Covenant in which we stand!
So, as already clearly noted by Paul, God’s discipline does not enter our lives through rules and regulations – these are not, and never will be, the path to perfection. Secondly, God’s discipline is not to be feared, because it is not a harsh rod, but it is always ‘in love with gentleness’, because we are ‘beloved children’. In other words, if a good parent would not discipline a child with illness, natural disasters, difficult circumstances, then neither will God, who is not simply a good parent, but a really great one – the best, in fact! Therefore, how much more will God’s discipline be good, kind, perfect, and wise! God’s goodness can be understood in human terms, as it is very real and practical. It is impossible to over-exaggerate the kindness of his wisdom or the beauty of his goodness and grace. His discipline can be seen in exactly the same way, as it is an expression of his goodness. Jesus expresses this clearly in Luke 11:
‘What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit (i.e. the spirit of holiness) to those who ask Him!’ (Luke 11:11-13 NIV)
Jesus desires for us to know that he is good, kind, and generous in everything he does, and that in giving us the spirit of holiness so that we can live disciplined lives, he is also a good father, and will not harm or hurt us.
As we begin to recognise God as a good Father, we understand that His Spirit, his very nature, has been imprinted upon our hearts. This has transformed us into grace-filled, holy, spiritual people. People whose hearts beat to the passionate, inspirational rhythm of God’s drum. We no longer need to conform ourselves externally to rules, expectations, or demands. As Romans 8:15 clearly highlights:
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.”
As children, we have received the spirit of grace and holiness, our precious Holy Spirit, and this effortlessly enables us to live in ways fitting to the children of the Divine. Titus emphasises this, stating that grace appears to ‘teach us’, both to say no to sin, and to live self-controlled, upright, and Godly lives (Titus 2:12). Many think that grace must teach us through the framework of external rules, demands and pressures (the law), but grace appears in our hearts, through the Gospel message (Matthew 13:1-23). This is an internal resonance, in the same way that genetics naturally shape a person’s appearance after that of their family.
John 14:26 states that the beloved children of heaven receive the Holy Spirit as a gift, one which makes walking in the Spirit and living disciplined, holy lives easy and accessible for us all.
“But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor – Counsellor, Strengthener), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name (to represent Me and act on My behalf), He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you” (AMP)
Jesus refers to his wisdom, our discipline to live a Holy life, as comforting Presence of love. Paul Ellis (www.escapetoreality.org) has explained that:
‘The Holy Spirit isn’t your personal sin manager but your Helper, your Comforter, your Counselor. And in that role he will guide you (Joh 16:13), correct you (2 Tim 3:16), and, if necessary, rebuke or admonish you (Heb 12:5). He does none of this in reaction to your sin, per se. He does it because he loves you, he cares for you, and he doesn’t want you to wreck your life on some harebrained death-dealing decision.’
The Holy Spirit enables us to live ‘in Christ’, within the power and glory of this Kingdom of grace and love (Colossians 1:13). He provides us with such loving care that opposition and contradictions to heaven on earth are silenced, as we resonate with the reality that we rule and reign as Father’s children.
‘You dear children, are from God, and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4 NIV)
This is a personal walk of faith, walking in the discipline and holiness of God. The realm of discipline is the realm of holiness, and it doesn’t necessarily look like the world’s definition, no it’s better – much better! And, the discipline of God is him lovingly pointing us to his Spirit in us! This is a grace gift, a personal grace-gift that we get to walk in and enjoy! Discipline floods and fills us with power and wisdom. As Jesus said in Luke 21:15, ‘I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict’. (NIV)