Discipline of God

Today many Christian's tend to live in a bubble of God’s grace and favour. Consequently they see the apparent blessing and favour in their lives as God’s endorsement that all is ok. Certainly the idea of discipline is furthest from their minds. Discipline is occasionally wrongly believed to be only for the pre messianic dispensation, for rebellious Isreal for example. We see in Leviticus 26 a lot of warnings and chastening going on and if we were to cite that chapter to someone today, they’d say that they were Old Testament conditions, it is all different now in the Holy Spirit era - Theologically called the 'dispensation of grace’.

Oddly people forget that the 'dispensation of grace' is a period of relationship with God through the Holy Spirit only because of Christ's sacrifice; enabling us to approach a mighty holy God. The key factor is ‘relationship’: a two way dialogue and discipleship between God and man. In the 'dispensation of grace' man must be able to hear God or it is all meaningless. We see from the scriptures that man has had a curious relationship with God that can be roughly described as the following:

God rescues man, man worships God, God blesses man, man creates religious, kingly or hierarchical barriers between God and man, this activates curses and demonic oppression, man calls out to God with crying, God blesses man again and the cycle goes on. In and around these events God has watchers and prophets who are on the fringe of peoples lives. They live on the outskirts of cities and only have cursory relationships with the larger body of believers. From the text we see that it is likely that this is because of the emotional pain associate with seeing under the surface of things. The common criticism (seen in the Bible) from the religious body is that these ‘seers' are overly demonstrative, miserable and critical: Jeremiah being one example.

Example: rhythm of blessings, curses and prophetic activity

We can analogise from the diagram above four rhythms over three periods - metaphorically this could illustrate the condition of a nation (grey line) a city (green line) and a person (red line). In the first quarter we see that the grey line represents a nation away from God (dipping below the line). The blue line is the activity of the prophet or seer. This curve represents activity in the picture shouting the warnings of God. The red and green lines might represent a city and a nation. then when a city, nation and the earth turns back to God the prophet is no longer required and moves out of the picture again.

Seeing this line one might be complacent and say that these are cycles so why bother getting upset anyway? This is a dangerous approach to relationship with God, any relationship infact. It is a kind of 'I’ll do it tomorrow scenario’, not really a two way relationship at all. Or it is a ‘well that’s the way it has always been’ approach. Crucially as soon as a person or a people do this they by default exchange relationship grace for law judgement which brings Leviticus 26 back into the frame. Many do not accept this but the Leviticus 26 principle is summarised very clearly and simply in New Testament teaching. The most famous passage is as follows:

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15 ESV)

In Biblical context we must be reminded that sin is violating God's will by doing or not doing something that in turn causes a violation of relationship between an individual and God. Sin is any diversion from the ideal God created order for humanity. Sin is missing the mark. 

It is worth noting that the Bible shows occasions where God has changed his mind in a moment because of someone’s or a people’s heart turning to him. So it is vital that we do not fall in to the deceptive thinking that we are all subject to cycles of discipline for which we have no control.

Other areas of related enquiry include:

Disciple of Christ

Holy Spirit

Fruits of the Spirit

Reprobate mind

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