God disciplines His children, but His discipline is never punishment. Jesus Christ on the cross bore the punishment for all our sins. When we get out of line, God disciplines us for the sole purpose of getting us back on course.

God hates sin and knows the destructive power that sin wields in our lives. He has a desire to deliver us from that power (Heb 12:1–4), so when we sin He administers corrective discipline in three increasingly intense stages:

  1. Warning discipline. This is often first sensed by loss of inner joy and happiness. Then things will seem to go wrong all around us. Much discernment is needed to distinguish between warning discipline and testing. Only by self-examination (1Co 11:31) can we determine if there are unconfessed sins in our lives. If there are, confession will produce the result for which the discipline was intended (Heb 12:11). Warning discipline can be tough. The author of Hebrews tells us not to faint when we are reproved by God (Heb 12:5). “Reproof” is from elegcho, a word that means “to rebuke, to chew out, to chide.” A parent verbally sets standards before his children and when the child disobeys, the father verbally corrects and reviews the standards. When he backs the child into a corner and tells him in no uncertain terms all the reasons he should not have done what he did and what will happen if he does it again, he sounds tough because he wants to spare the child physical pain—the pain his actions may cause and the pain the father’s wrath will cause. When He has to, our Father will back us into the corner and unleash the reproving power of His Word on us.
  2. Intensive discipline. If we do not respond to God’s warning, He will turn up the heat. This is the scourging stage described in Heb 12:6. Mastigoo means “to whip, to lash, to flay.” A scourging is a painful lashing. This stage may include loss of health, property, or loved ones, and if we do not confess and correct ourselves, it may go on for years. Again, it is important for us to know that though scourging is extremely painful, it is always carried out in love (Rev 3:19). God’s intention is not to punish us, but to cause us to get back into fellowship, back into the place of blessing.
  3. Dying discipline. If we absolutely refuse to recover from our reversionism, God will at some point call us home in the sin unto death (1Jo 5:16). Maximum discipline is removal from earth before we finish our race.

As children of God, we will be subject to discipline all our lives because our Father loves us enough to want to make something great out of us (Heb 12:1–13).

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