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Those whom I love I rebuke....

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  (Revelation 3:19-20, NIV)

This was spoken by Jesus to the church of Laodicea—-the “lukewarm church”.

So, if God loves us, He is going to rebuke us and discipline us. Even though we are His own sons and daughters…even though we are sealed, born again and part of the elect?  Yes….He will “take us to task”, so to speak, just as a good father takes his own sons and daughters “to the wood shed”,  ever so often. Salvation is one thing, but becoming His adopted sons and daughters bring with it His expectations for lives and,  behavior within the Christian community that is proper to becoming a member of His family.   And just as children need to be taught and disciplined, so do we.  The Hand of God is going to get our attention from time to time! But the last thing we want to do is to push God to bring about more of it than we need! Since March I have yelled more than I should have threats to my boys in the basement, “Don’t make me come done there!” We do not want to make God come down there to take of our? attitude!

He does rebuke us and He does cause us some pain, at times! That’s the Biblical and my experiential truth. He’s not always the meek, nice, gentle old man with a white beard depicted in paintings or cartoons.  And neither was Jesus always some soft-spoken patsy or effeminate sage or wiseman.  He was a carpenter at a time when there were no power tools or Lowes Hardware.  He could be tough and physical, if needed.  Consider these passages:  “While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father.”( Luke 9:42, NIV). Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.” (Luke 4:41, NIV).  Later, when it came to those who were closest to Him this happened: “But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:33, NIV)

Jesus rebuked the demons, the narcissistic religious leaders of His time, His family and His closest disciples. God is going to rebuke us and discipline us at times. Friends, although folks don’t like to talk about it, we’re receiving a rebuke in our churches and in our nations as we have never witnessed before and never will again in our lifetimes. Listen to what was said earlier to God’s elect: “And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins.” (Leviticus 26:21, NIV). God’s point: Don’t get an attitude and start pouting—-it’s going to make things worse, not better.

So what’s our attitude to this reality?  No one likes to be chastened, but I have to be glad that He loves me enough to do it!  The parent that withholds punishment and discipline from their child isn’t the ideal parent, but a perversion of what a father should be able and willing to do. God’s rebuke means something because He has taken the time and focus and power to express, in clear terms, His unfavorable opinion of the worth or quality of our actions. He doesn’t have to do this—He could just wipe us off the face of creation and start all over—but He loves us and intends for us to make Him proud one day.  So, “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves.  So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Job 5:17 ““My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:3–11). Are we training our sons and daughters to receive discipline and rebuke?

I want to bring your attention to a very scary word in that last passage: “Scourge”.  That’s a dreadful word, to me; it does not merely suggest a verbal rebuke or some sort of spiritual “time-out” by God.  And the word scourge was not mistakenly put there, it’s not a mistranslation, and you can’t ignore it by using the “what the original Greek really means in this verse” kind of  candy-coating.  Scourge refers to punishment of the most severe sort. That kind parenting goest totally counter to what we are taught in college or graduate school to think of in a good father. So either we need to call DSS about our abusive, heavenly Father, or maybe some educators and all the pros have it wrong about what a good father is. Perhaps, just maybe, God, our Father, is a very good—-perhaps the greatest Father in the universe. And maybe this ultimate Father is at times both the epitome of love and tender mercy, and a Father that is prepared to “beat the tar” our of us! Because that’s what scourging means!  He’s a tender father that loves us, but He has no fear of doing whatever it takes to make us pure and holy.

God “scourging” every son He receives references the painful lessons we will receive at times. To be clear,  I don’t like this passage or the suggetion that God is the source of pain sometimes—-but this simultaneously convinces me, all the more, that this is the authentic translation and that the Holy Spirit intended for this truth to be expressed!  God’s Word does not always bring a smile to my face or cause me to get happy!  There are those with psychological disorders that enjoy pain and the thought of being scourged, but no sane  or emotionally healthy person enjoys punishment, pain or “scourging”.  But a true son or daughter of God recognizes the ultimate benefit and dividends of undergoing God’s “hand” when we need it.  It appears we need it as a nation right now!

Each of us have done some gardening, I am guessing, and you know that pruning is painful to the branches, but it’s essential if the vine is to be more productive and to remove the dead weight for the vine!  So if Jesus said that “He is the vine and we are the branches”m it means one of two things of you and me:  We are productive vines of which He is proud or dead weight needing to be pruned?  Prune away God in our lives, in our fat, lazy churches and in our Luke warm fellowships—have your way!

We had many sheep at the first camp I leased before coming the North Carolina. It was very relaxing to watch them graze and wander all over the camp. But we had to remove their wool every year and I recall how they hated to get shorn. The bigger rams and sheep seemed embarrassed to have their wool removed and would scamper away from the one shearing them.

It apparently humiliated them. But if we did not shear them routinely the heat of the heavy wool would kill them or the weight of the wool, when it became wet from the rain,  could literally cause them to be unable to stand up.  Regardless of it they wanted it or not, they got shorn when their wool got too thick.  Our heavenly Father is the very definition of love, and yet His love doe not stop Him from allowing us to suffer at times…. He rebukes us and allows us to to be shorn because He is disciplining us as His own children.

Contrary to what some may say or promote, discipline is something parents must to provide to children regardless of how much the child resists and complains about it. We’re setting up a spiritual standard when we treat our children as God treats us. We are, in effect, preparing them for the life of a spiritual warrior—not that of a religious brat.

And suffering can be one of God’s greatest instruments to lead us to humility.  C.S. Lewis remarked that pain is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. According to Lewis, one way God gets our attention through pain is that we become humbled and less self-sufficient. No longer is everything going right because of our own efforts; suffering and pain leads us to a place where we can find our contentment in God.  And why is humility important?  Lewis said, “If you really get into any kind of touch with God you will, in fact, be humble — delightfully humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.”

“We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full —there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’”