Tag Archives: discipline

Drastic Measures

Aron Ralston cut his arm off.  Breaking the bones of his forearm and then cutting through the muscle with a dull knife made sense but only because, if he did not do so, he would die.  His arm was pinned under a rock, he was alone in the wilderness, and rapidly running out of time.  It was worth it.

Jesus was exaggerating when He said:

“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9)

He was exaggerating about what to do, but not about the consequences.  It took five days for Aron to realize he had to take drastic action.  But if you understand what Jesus said, you don’t need five days; you know it now.

Jesus didn’t really mean to cut your hand off or pluck your eye out.  The fact is, those two organs do not cause sin; the brain does. If you pulled out one eye, your other eye would simply take up the slack.   Jesus wanted to startle us and convince us that it is worth it to do whatever it takes to pull ourselves away from habitual sin.  Drastic measures are appropriate.

It’s important to understand that these warnings were given to us because Jesus loves us.  He is passionate that we not hurt one another or destroy ourselves.  Jesus had been explaining how precious it is whenever anyone places receives Him with childlike faith (See: Hand in Hand).  He takes it personally when someone causes such a person to sin (See: It’s Personal).  And then He looked each of us in the eye, so to speak, and said, “Also, make sure you don’t hurt yourself, because you are precious to Me, too!  Do whatever it takes!  Trust Me on this: the consequences are horrific and final.”  Jesus was talking with the urgency and seriousness that you would use if you saw toddlers playing with hand grenades.

But, if cutting off body parts is not intended, then what kind of drastic measures?  A friend of mine signed up for a service that would notify a trusted friend if he looked at internet pornography.  I canceled the free premium cable channels that showed sleaze at night.  Another friend attends AA every week and meets regularly with his sponsor.  Some set themselves strict, modest limits in casinos.  Others don’t go anywhere near a casino.  Of course, sex, drinking and gambling are not the only areas that cause people to fall. Maybe you struggle with gossip, overeating, or lack of compassion.  No matter what it is that drags you down, do whatever it takes; it’s worth it.

To illustrate God’s personal love and concern, Jesus continued on with a parable about a lost sheep.  Stay tuned…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Keep the Faith – Good Question

Somebody who has been reading these posts on faith asked a good question: “What if my suffering is God punishing me?” When we are tempted to turn back from our faith, is it always because we are experiencing some kind of attack? What if God is doing it to us? Let’s sort this out.

The last post, about keeping our eye on Jesus (See “Keep the Faith – Part 5“) did not go far enough. Here’s the next line from Hebrews:

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:3)

Much of the suffering one experiences in following Jesus, comes from opposition from sinful men. Jesus clearly said:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18)

But there is another Source of some of the hardship we face as followers of Jesus. Some of it comes from God. But it’s not punishment, it’s discipline. Punishment is a penalty that is due for something wrong. Jesus took the punishment for all our sins; there is no further punishment due. Discipline, on the other hand, is correction for a tendency we have formed that is wrong. Discipline shapes us and steers us in a positive direction.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

Discipline is given to encourage us because we are loved. True, he uses the word, punishes, in that quote from Proverbs, but does so with the meaning of working to produce good in us. This whole passage is well worth chewing over, but here is another quote from it that makes the same point:

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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. (Hebrews 12:10-11)

See the difference? Hope that helps. My sense is that this is a question we all ask ourselves from time to time and it is good to get the truth of it, stated clearly, right from Scripture.