This week Dr. Stephen Davey, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church and president of Shepherd’s Theological Seminary, is preaching to the men and women who comprise the IFCA. I have had the privilege of hearing him preach several times and most recently was able to read his book, In Pursuit of Prodigals. In conjunction with his speaking at the national convention, I wanted to elaborate on a simplistic, yet revealing point that came from that very book.
Over the life of this blog I have written much, whether directly or indirectly, about discipline as love. The world has adopted the mindset that discipline is not an act of love and therefore is to be avoided. We see it in churches, in schools, and in families. Admittedly I bought into this mindset as well. It was not until I saw discipline practiced in its biblical form that I learned discipline is an act of love.
I had the great privilege of attending the Shepherd’s Conference in March. Like many of those there, one of the highlights is the impressive bookstore. Church leaders become children in candy store, filling their basket with only those books that fill one’s mind a flavor that is powerful and worth savoring. I am one of those children. It was there that I was introduced to a book called In Pursuit of Prodigals by Dr. Stephen Davey. Because of it’s size (small) and topic (church love and discipline) I decided to pick it up for a quick read. Not only did it add overall value to my understanding of such a topic, but Davey included little tidbits of additional insights that struck me as profound. Previously I have done a review of the book (which you can read at the link above) and not wanting to revisit his major points, I would like to look at one statement he said that struck me. Not only is biblical discipline an act of love, but non-discipline is an act of arrogance.
No doubt for some of you this is not a momentous event. For others this is a strike against your core worldview. Yet to not discipline biblically, whether it be within your family, within your church, or any other circle of influence, is to set aside God’s directive and replace it with your own. It is a matter of pride that says, “My way is better.”
It is important to see that such a failure to follow God’s way for biblical discipline has three results:
- It Supplants God’s Law: This should be the easiest point to see. God has given explained biblical discipline in various contexts within His Word, His law. To avoid obeying those directives is to avoid God’s own law.
- It Supplants God’s Love: We often forget that discipline is an act of love. It’s not about merely getting people to conform our way, but about seeing people in a right relationship with God. Thus, when we exclude biblical discipline in our normal functions, we exclude God’s love and replace it with something of lesser value.
- It Supplants God: Ultimately it is God who works in the process of discipline as we humans obey His directive. To lack follow through in such an area replaces the authority of God with the authority of self (although we of course know that God is always authoritative and His plans will not be thwarted).
In His Word, the Lord has outlined the process of Biblical discipline. We note this especially in Matthew 18 where there is a ‘process’ placed before us. However, the ‘process’ must take into account the whole counsel of God’s Word. So as we work our way through discipline, we do so in a way that displays the fruit of the spirit, the unity of the church, and of course love.
The Lord has also provided instructions for discipline within family. We see the responsibilities of parents outlined in Ephesians 5. The book of Proverbs often revisits the relationship between father and son, while Deuteronomy 6:6-7 discusses the need to instruct your children.
If the Lord’s Word is so clear, why do we find it difficult to practice it in this instance? Because we think we have a better way. I suspect that a piece of figures we are the one fighting the spiritual battle face to face, and with that first hand knowledge it is easy to assume we have a better, and perhaps easier, way to handle the situation. We forget that God is there as well, and ultimately it is His work on the heart of an individual. This combined with a skewed cultural teaching that discipline is unloving has resulted in our failure in obedience.
Instead, we must be humble enough to admit God’s way is better than ours, and strong enough to carry it out. The Lord never said that such a task would be easy. In fact, it is almost always difficult. Yet, it directs one towards repentance and restoration and depicts for us the Lord’s judgment and the Lord’s mercy.