Biblical Foundations 19: God’s Character 7: Discipline (Psalm 103)
Loved ones, we continue to look at the Biblical foundations of this local church:
- Why does God have us attending here?
- What is He doing in us and through us, in this building and outside of it?
Within that we will continue this morning to look at the character of God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as revealed in the Bible. Who is He, what is He like? There is a false cultural caricature of Jesus in the world, but in the Word there is the true character of Christ…we must worship & know God for Who He really is, not Who we think He is/want Him to be. Truly, I could not be more passionate about anything else…that we would all know the LORD for Who He is…worshiping Him in Spirit and in TRUTH.
In the last post we looked at the 1st half of Psalm 103 & we will continue now with the 2nd half…
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
[The reason we can praise God—we can know His character, Who He is and what He has done, through the Bible! He has revealed Himself to us thru His Word!!!]
Matthew 11:27: 22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
[Oh the humbling awesomeness that God would choose to reveal Himself to us…that we would know Him!]
Ephesians 1:17: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Back to Psalm 103
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
[Love that ACTS, UNEARNABLE love, love that OVERFLOWS (not trickles) like Niagara Falls!]
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
[I don’t think God disciplines His people, His children, for even 1% of our total daily sins…amazing grace…but oh He does discipline His people for some of our sins!!!
- He won’t ALWAYS accuse us…but that means that He will SOMETIMES accuse!
- He won’t harbor His anger forever…but He does get angry at us!
We have to know this about the character of God—His anger is PART of His love for us, not separate from His love for us! It’s not that He is angry when He wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and loving when He wakes up on the right side of the bed…God never sleeps, He never changes! He is always loving, and that includes when He is angry at us/accusing us/disciplining us! That’s part of His love for us…
How does God discipline you? How does He put you on “time-out” or ground you when you are sinning, when you are acting & believing wickedly? Most if not all of us would admit that we are sinners in general this morning, but when is the last time you were accused by God of your specific sin, your daily specific rebellion and wickedness?
Hebrews 12:4-11: 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Oh loved ones, is God your Father or grandpa? God has NO grandchildren…but when we just want God to love us in ways that are always immediately encouraging, in ways that make us feel good right away and all the time, we are deep-down really asking God to be our grandpa—just give us some candy, pat us on the head, smile, and send us on our way…spoil us today (w/earthly blessings), with no thought of the consequences tomorrow or of the formation of character blessings! But that is not God…He is Father to those who cry out to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, and as Father He, unlike a grandpa, will discipline us, chastise us, ground us, restrict us, etc. Loved ones, the cultural false-god of modern times is grandpa…the Biblical One True God of all time is Father…which is your God?
He disciplines us to point out our sin, which is horrific, so we can be forgiven and cleansed and made holy & represent Him well. But in a post-modern world where even many church-attenders don’t believe in absolute Truth, we don’t think sin is a big deal (God is LOVE!) and so we don’t seek out God so He can humble us, point out & transform us from our sin!
- Years ago church-attenders said, “WWJD”—what would Jesus do?”
- Nowadays, church-attenders say, “WTBD”—what’s the big deal?” (about sin)
Many say, “What’s the big deal about this sin or that sin? I live in grace, I can act how I want.” Oh how dangerous is such a thought. When we look at God like that, well of course these verses in Psalm 103 or Hebrews 12 about God’s discipline, anger, accusations won’t make sense. If we aren’t grieved over our specific sins, and if God is “so loving” that He doesn’t really care about our sins—then of course we won’t go to Him looking for Him to discipline us!!! The only sin that seems to really bother us today are people who point out the sins of others!!!!
Now some will say, “Hold up. The Bible says my sins—past present & future—are paid for through Jesus’ death & resurrection. Why then would God discipline me on earth for some of them?” GREAT QUESTION!
Yes, all who cry out to Jesus in repentant faith for the forgiveness of sins, ALL of their sins are paid for by Jesus. But imagine you had an unlimited bank account that could pay for all of the damages of one of your children, one of your kids who is constantly punching holes in the wall, wrecking the car through reckless driving, breaking windows daily, lamps, etc. Even if you had all the money to pay for those damages, in addition to paying for the damages you would also do everything you could to improve your child’s behavior, to help them to stop constantly breaking stuff! Same with God and our sinful behavior–though yes it is purchased/paid for through Christ, the Father still aims to transform our character through Christ to sin less and less. He wants to forgive us AND make us clean:
1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
But how can He forgive and transform us, how can we confess to Him, if we never go to Him to be convicted of our sins, for God to point out our specific sins?
Many of us love the song that says, “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” But do you know where that line comes from in the Bible, and do you know what that verse is actually talking about? What does God’s Word say?
Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
What is the weeping/pain that the psalmist is writing about, that God will bring us through? Please look at the first half of that same verse: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.”
It’s the weeping that comes through His discipline, through the ways that He corrects and punishes His people when we sin, through His anger at our wickedness! There will be an eventual end to that kind of suffering, and it is suffering, loved ones, when God disciplines us. But it is still God loving us. We must know and believe this about the character of God.
Psalm 119:67,71: Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word…It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
WOW! The character of God to afflict us in the short-run in order to bless us in the long-run!!! Sometimes the only way for God to teach us to read, believe and live out the Bible is to cause us to suffer, to point out our sins and humble us! Affliction is one of the LORD’s Bible-study helps! Oh loved ones how we need His discipline in our daily lives:
Deuteronomy 4:34-37: Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength…
Job 5:17: “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”
Job, who understands true suffering like few of us ever will, could say that verse above, could still worship the LORD and His character right after all ten of Job’s children were killed at the same time. Oh to have faith in the LORD like that!
Proverbs 5:11-14, 21-23: At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.”
For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. 23 For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.”
This not wanting discipline from God and not seeing all sin as horrific is not just a symptom of this generation; it goes all the way back to Cain in Genesis.
Genesis 4:3-7: In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
[God disciplined Cain by not accepting his sacrifice & Cain was angry that God wasn’t happy with him, that his brother got a trophy and Cain didn’t even get a ribbon!]
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Sin wants to have and destroy us and enslave us—so it is out of LOVE that God disciplines us to teach us not to sin. It would be unloving for Him to do nothing as we believe sinful things and do sinful actions, to just pat us on the head and shoo us along when we sin against Him!
We love to chant the slogan to others: “Don’t judge me!” But if we’re honest we extend that even to God…we don’t even let GOD judge us. We want Him to be our grandpa, but we often don’t want Him to be our Papa, our Father…
He mainly disciplines us through the Bible & the Holy Spirit:
John 16:5-9: None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove [CONVICT] the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me;
Hebrews 4:12-13: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Psalm 94:12: Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law;
This is one of the reasons why so many of us don’t read the Bible…we don’t want God to discipline us, to chastise us, to get all up in our grill. But what does it say if we don’t want that, don’t ask God for it, and don’t ever receive it from Him? Are we really His children?
Loved ones, throughout the Church in the U.S., there is a serious lack of maturity, a serious lack of character-growth, a serious lack of holiness! We act very much like our non-Christian neighbors! Watch much of the same shows, spend our money on much of the same stuff, believe a lot of what non-Christians believe, support many of the causes that non-Christians support, etc.! We don’t know the Bible, we aren’t using our words to introduce others to Jesus, we don’t have the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing & ripening in our lives, we aren’t in sacrificial relationships with other Christians the way the early Church was in Acts!!!
Part of this is because we don’t want God to discipline us! We focus so much on, “God loves me just the way I am, God loves me just the way I am” that we stay just the way we are!!!
One of my favorite verses is in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” We often think that the burdens He talks about are the difficulties that we face in general, and in some ways this is true. But in this passage I believe Jesus is talking about our burdens that come from our SIN…not just our sin in general, but our sin in particular! Look at the verses before in verses 20-24: Jesus says woe to all those who have seen & heard Him but have not repented of their sin…He warns them that the Judgment Day is coming. So when Jesus tells us to come to Him with our burdens, He is telling us to come to Him with our sin so that He can discipline us, help us to grieve & repent over (turn away from) our individual sins, and thus receive the rest and comfort from Jesus by being forgiven, cleansed of our unrighteousness, reborn through faith in Jesus as Savior and transformed by confession and learning how to sin less!!! Remember, He wants us to be HOLY, like Him, not unholy like everyone else! And as we learn to voluntarily come to God for discipline, He will teach us to fear Him in a beautiful way, in a holy way, with awe & reverance for Him that is so lacking in a “Jesus is my homeboy” church culture. Oh how foundational this is to our our lives as Christians, and how I have missed out on it over the last 16+ years…
Back to Psalm 103
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
[Some might say, “Ah this just sounds like the Old Testament…you’re preaching from the Old Testament and the Law so of course there is this fear of God, this discipline from God. But we live in grace now.”
Yes, we DO live in grace now…but that doesn’t mean that God is different, that His character changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament, that He doesn’t discipline His people now, that sin is any less offensive to Him and rebellious against Him! He is the same, yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)…and that’s in the New Testament!
- Look at Ananias & Sapphira in Acts 5—New Testament believers killed by God (judgment, discipline) because they lied! Great fear seized the church, and this was a GIFT from God to teach the rest of the Church!
- Then please consider 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, where the LORD disciplined some of His people with sickness and death because they were flippant/non-chalant about participating in communion! This is the New Testament! 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
Oh friends I know this is a lot to take in, and I know that many of us might be thinking: I’m tired each week, m.j. I’m exhausted with life…I just want God to encourage me, not discipline me! I can barely make it through each week…how can you ask me to seek out God’s discipline? Just give me some encouragement right now! Just tell me things to make me smile!
I hear you, I really do, but please remember: Though many subconsciously think that the pastor who loves you is the pastor who tells you what will make you smile, the pastor who truly loves you is the pastor who will tell you what God has said in the Bible, whether it makes you smile immediately or not…
Also, I’m not asking you to do this, to seek out the discipline of God through the Bible & the Holy Spirit…God is asking you to do this through the Bible. My friends, if you’re too exhausted to seek God’s discipline, I really think we’re too exhausted NOT to seek His discipline:
- How can we get to the joy in the morning if we don’t go through the pain in the night of God’s discipline (Psalm 30)? Maybe we are missing out on the joy of the LORD–which is our STRENGTH! (Nehemiah 8:10)–because we avoid HIs discipline…
- Please also consider Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me, Your ROD and your staff, they comfort me…The rod of a shepherd is for discipline, and David says God’s discipline COMFORTS him even when he is walking through the valley of death. If we don’t seek God’s discipline through the Bible we will miss out on joy and comfort from Him…
Back to Psalm 103
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Isaiah 29:13: “These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
May God help us to truly worship Him through actions & words that line up throughout the week…
Back to Psalm 103
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
David ends as he started—reminding himself, from his very soul, to praise the Lord, even during and after the LORD’s discipline…may God help us to do the same today and every day, for He is good and His love endures forever!
Closing Challenge: Loved ones, please do not be surprised that the love of God also has discipline and earthly punishment for us His children…the greatest act of love ever was an act of divine discipline/punishment:
1 John 3:16: THIS is how we know what love is…Jesus Christ laid down His life for us…
Isaiah 53: He was pierced for our transgressions, CRUSHED for our sins, the PUNISHMENT (judgment/discipline) that brought us peace was upon HIM…and by His wounds we are healed…
The greatest act of love was divine judgment/discipline/punishment from God the Father against God the Son…so may it not surprise us that God loving us His children is God disciplining and punishing us in an earthly sense…
Don’t run from God’s discipline run TOWARD IT, run toward His love…if He never disciplines you you aren’t one of His children, if you have no room for a God Who disciplines you then you have no room for God’s love…may God in HIs grace help us all in this every moment of every day…