The Assurance of Discipline
by Burk Parsons
The older I get, the more I wish my father had disciplined me more than he did, and the more I grow in Christ, the more I pray for my heavenly Father’s loving discipline. When we’re immature we see discipline as a negative thing, but as we grow we begin to see it as one of the most enduring blessings of life. Discipline assures us that we’re loved and cared for. It shows us to whom we belong. It demonstrates we are worth another’s time and energy. It makes us confront, confess, and repent of our sins. It humbles us, brings us to our knees to weep over our sin, and draws us close into the embracing arms of our loving protector. Discipline is a blessing.
Those without discipline are orphans. Parents who don’t discipline their children are emotionally and spiritually abusing their children, and are setting them on a path of self-destruction. Pastors who don’t discipline their people by preaching the unvarnished Word of God in season and out of season are not good shepherds but masked thieves. Churches that do not consistently practice church discipline are not churches at all. And if we do not receive the discipline of God, it means we are not his children and that He is not our Father. For “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Heb. 12:6–8). The Lord disciplines those He loves—those He adores and has adopted into His family. Discipline is one of the surest signs of our adoption—that we belong to God and are loved by God in a special, saving way. Without it, we are illegitimate—children of the devil, not children of God (John 8:44).
Without sin, discipline would not be necessary. And to be made aware that we are sinners—to be awakened to the reality of our deadness in sin—is the first stage of discipline. Our conversion to Christ is God’s first gracious act of discipline in our lives—bringing us to repentance and faith in the One who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon whom was the Father’s ultimate discipline that brought us peace, and by whose wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5).
Although discipline is painful for a moment, it leads to lasting, restorative joy. As members of the church, we are all under church discipline in that we have submitted ourselves to the discipline of the church and attend weekly to the discipline of the preached Word. The first step of discipline is admonition, and we come each week because we know how desperately we need to be admonished, to repent of our sins, to reaffirm our confession of Christ, and to receive our Father’s assurance of pardon and benediction that carries us through the week, reminding us that our loving Father lifts up the light of His countenance upon us and makes His face to shine upon us that we might be blessed and kept to live coram Deo, before His smiling face.