What does it mean to be a disciple?
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.
This is something we surely fall short on. I want to interject another related bible passage that you may have not thought is related before. In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, He tells us in Matthew 5:48
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This is a tough thing to be told, let alone to actually carry out. Just before this verse, Jesus talks about loving our neighbors unconditionally; He is telling us to be perfected in love. This concept is repeated in John 17:23 and Romans 12:2. One thing I realized in studying the bible is that this perfection in love holds a very important detail that we tend to overlook or brush off as inconsequential: our response to sin. To be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ we are to follow and emulate Him, are we not? When Jesus gives us the individual call to “follow me,” we have an opportunity to experience the freedom of God. Every moment we have an opportunity to ponder, “what would Jesus do?”
The basis of discipleship is to have discipline. If we can learn to have discipline, then we can be good disciples. The author here speaks of being disciplined by loving fathers on earth and how this compares to the discipline of our heavenly father. The problem we encounter is that as our society evolves, we receive less and less discipline from our fathers and even other authority figures around the world. If you are a parent today and are concerned about your children being Disciples of Christ, recognize your duty to instill in them obedience and discipline while you have the opportunity. We have developed the reflex of fighting back against charges instead of accepting responsibility for our actions. We react by making excuses, justifying our actions and pointing out the flaws of others instead of recognizing where we went wrong and working on not making the same mistakes. We get upset when we must endure the consequences of what we have done.
The opening verse to this passage is powerful. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Seriously, how hard do we fight against sinfulness in our lives? We might fight against the sin of others, but personally we tend to ignore our own shortcomings because we are too afraid. We fight sinfulness with the tools God has given us through faith in Him. In limiting our faith, we saw how we fall short of realizing the fullness of God because of letting our fears take control of us. We become disciples of fear instead of hope, love, and righteousness. This is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace… This echoes something the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Against these things there is no law. You can’t be (rightfully) punished for exemplifying these characteristics. The only way to obtain these qualities is by having a closer relationship with God. By being His disciple, we get to experience the freedom that these things bring. We can harness the power to fight sinfulness and the desire to do so to the point of shedding blood. In the Marine Corps, we were taught, discipline is the immediate obedience to all orders without questioning.
This doesn’t mean that later we couldn’t look into why we were told what we were told so as to gain a better understanding. However, it meant that we listened and were obedient to what our superiors told us because sometimes it was a matter of life or death and our questioning could be deadly to ourselves and others. We must learn what this implies for our spiritual growth. If we read in the scriptures that we shouldn’t be doing something because it is sinful, let us stop it immediately in obedience and then put in the work to understand it better. Wouldn’t you rather be obedient and protected instead of disobedient and in a place where you can’t even have the opportunity to learn why you should be obedient?
A child getting ready to run out into traffic doesn’t have the luxury of learning for themselves why it is a bad idea. Rather, they should be obedient to the parent telling them not to do it and afterwards they can learn why it was a bad idea. As we learn the importance of obeying what we have been told we can actually look forward to the discipline of our heavenly father because we will begin to experience righteousness and peace (unity with God). Discipline is a rarity these days instead of being the norm.
When someone loses a good amount of weight and becomes healthier, their family and friends are surprised and impressed. When someone works hard through a difficult area of study and they put in the work needed to accomplish the goal, even the person who did it is surprised they made it through. When a child immediately listens to their parents instead of running off disobediently, surrounding parents are impressed and wonder, “how can I get my child to do that?” It simply takes discipline to be obedient. It takes obedience to be a disciple. It takes breaking through the societal norm and understanding the importance of being obedient to what our Heavenly Father tells us in order to experience His fullness in our lives and be blessed with a life full of peace and righteousness.
How can you be more obedient to Christ this New Year?