The Difference Between Discipline and Condemnation

Some who hold to an “error-by-emphasis” concerning grace ignore the fact that Jesus disciplines us and the Father chastens us. Their thinking is, “If Jesus forgave all my sin and I’m not condemned, how could He discipline and chastise me?”

But the Scripture plainly states that He does. Imagine a father who says of his toddler the following:

My daughter will always be my blood-kin. I will always unconditionally accept her and she will always be related to me. I will never disown her, no matter what she does. I’m related to her by blood. That will never change. In fact, I love her so much that she’s already forgiven, despite the wrong things that she will do in life and the mistakes she will make. But when my daughter does something wrong, there are consequences. I discipline her. Why? Because I have a duty to train her to do good and I want her to mend any relationship she damages. It’s the same way with God. He unconditionally accepts us. He is our Father and we are His children. That doesn’t change. In addition, because of Jesus’ shed blood, He has forgiven us long before we ever screwed up. But because He is our Father and He loves us, He will chasten us when repeatedly act contrary to our new nature in Him. And Jesus will discipline us. This isn’t condemnation, it’s loving correction. It may not feel good, but sometimes love doesn’t feel good.

            Point: Just because you and I are forgiven by the blood of Christ for all our sins–past, present, and future–that doesn’t mean there are no consequences to our actions. It doesn’t mean that the Spirit cannot be grieved. It doesn’t mean the Spirit cannot be quenched. And it doesn’t mean that the Lord cannot be displeased with a particular act or attitude we adopt.

God can unconditionally accept us, while disciplining us because we are His much-loved children. Remember, His ultimate goal is to confirm us to the image of Jesus, His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  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!  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. 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. Hebrews 12:7-11, NIV

From Jesus Now by Frank Viola, author

Jesus – Author & Finisher of Our Faith

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …

Hebrew 12:2 KJV

Beyond being our high priest, chief shepherd, and heavenly bridegroom, another aspect of the present-day ministry of Jesus Christ is His ability to complete what He began in us.

This aspect has to do with spiritual growth and transformation. Not only is Christ in heavenly places interceding for us, but He’s also within every believer by His Spirit, forming His character within each of His disciples.

One of the most incredible promises in all of the Bible is Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul was confident: What Jesus Christ began in your life will be completed.

Consequently, when you feel discouraged that you’re not growing like you want to … when you feel depressed that you keep having the same struggles and challenges … when you don’t see any progress in your spiritual life, remember: He who brought you to Himself will eventually perfect you. He will complete the work that He began in you, for He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life. Consider the word “life.” Just which is “life—“ the beginning or the end of it?

Is life more about the birth, growth, or maturing? We need to decide. I say this with a wink and a smile. We would never say that life is any one of those things. Life is all of them, and every point in between. Life is up and down, backwards and forwards, breathing and holding our breath. Life is about stopping and starting, action and reaction, giving and taking.

Life is! And the same can be said of Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end. The A to Z. He is the One at the starting point and at the end, at the same moment.  And His life is deposited within every believer when they repent and believe upon Him. But that’s not the end. That life–His life–grows in us and shapes our characters. If we allow it to.

by Frank Viola Author

A Jesus Response to Suicide

The following article was written by Frank Viola Author. We are publishing it here in its entirely.

Comedian Robin Williams’ recent suicide has once again exposed the different ways that “Christian” people respond to the tragic issue of suicide.

Many people of faith who respected Williams for his talent are bemoaning his loss.

No Christian I’ve ever met believes that suicide is a good thing.

There is a wide consensus among people of faith — as well as people who don’t subscribe to any belief in God — that in many cases, suicide is a selfish act.

Indeed, in many cases, the individual committing suicide isn’t thinking about the unspeakable pain that will be brought upon her or his loved ones for their entire lives.

However, what if a person isn’t in their right mind when they pull the trigger (so to speak)? What if they are so sullen that they can’t see or even think straight? (With regard to Williams, it’s recently been revealed that he was experiencing hallucinations associated with his Parkinson’s disease.)

Surely, every person reading this article has made a hasty decision, a decision based on faulty or screwed thinking.

Surely every person reading this article has done something foolish in a moment of intense despair, intense confusion, intense temptation, intense pain. Only to deeply regret it later.

On that basis, one must extend grace to those who choose to end their lives in a profound moment of despair, temptation, confusion, or pain (Matthew 7:12).

No one knows whether or not Williams, upon his last breath or two, said, “God, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I don’t understand it all, but I receive your Son.”

Perhaps he didn’t. But such judgments are staked out by Divinity alone. Only God knows his heart.

Regrettably, some “Christians” are condemning Williams to hell because of the suicide. Last time I checked the Bible, people are judged by God for willfully rejecting Jesus Christ — the Savior of the world — not for a particular sin, mistake, or transgression.

If Williams did — or doesn’t — receive eternal life, it’s not because of any particular sin he committed. Nor is it because he chose to end his life. It will be because he willfully rejected the only One who gives eternal life . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Eternal Life Himself.

Phil Cooke points out that just days after the tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, some “Christians” were coming up with the “answers,” and (surprise) pitching their DVD’s in the process. Some of them were stating, “Robin Williams acknowledged that he had opened himself up to transformative demonic powers that aided him on stage.”

Cooke writes,

“Having worked in Hollywood for more than 30 years, I can tell you the idea Robin’s talking about in the quote isn’t “demon possession” but a common term actors use to fill a character.  I’m sure writer Joe Schimmel is trying to do the right thing, but using that quote as a guide, he would have to (and perhaps does) assume every actor and comedian in Hollywood is demon possessed.

But even more important is the question – did this writer ever actually speak to Robin? Did he counsel him? Did he even have a lengthy personal interview? If not, how can he make such sweeping and insensitive statements – particularly within hours of Robin’s death?

We wonder why Christians are marginalized by the culture and wonder why non-believers aren’t interested in anything we have to say. Well go no further than this article (and I’m sure plenty from others that will be coming.)

There is evil in the world. There is demonic activity in the world.  But there is also mental illness.  Of all the people in the culture, Christians should be more sensitive than anyone during times of tragedy.

And I’ll no doubt get the “But Phil – we must speak the Truth” argument back. That’s true as well. But when that is required, it is a grave and serious responsibility – not an opportunity to pitch our latest DVD. And perhaps more important – when Christians make grand judgements and pronouncements, they should be based on rock solid evidence, not fragments of interviews or our own assumptions.  I’m reminded of the quote from writer Anne Lamott:  “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”

Think about the bigger picture here. Do articles like this really advance the Kingdom? Do they cause readers to be so convicted that they want to turn to God? Or do they simply feed the stereotype that Christians are insensitive jerks, who are more concerned about condemning than caring?

During times like this, our hearts should burn. WE should be consumed with guilt that we haven’t done enough to share the Good News.

Not take an attitude that will simply drive away the very people we are trying to reach.”

I’ve said this numerous time before. But why do so many people not want to have anything to do with Jesus?

It’s because of the cruel, harsh, self-righteous, and judgmental attitude that some professing “Christians” level against people they’ve never met . . . as well as fellow believers.

“Why would I want to be part of that bunch!?” . . . is the common response by so many non-Christians today.

The sentiment is growing among true Jesus followers as well.

Last year, Rick Warren’s youngest son committed suicide. Here’s a short explanation with quotes from Rick himself.

The 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren has taken his own life after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. The internationally known Christian leader at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, made the announcement about his son early Saturday morning in an email sent to his staff.

“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today,” wrote Warren.

“Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us,” began the staff email from him.

Warren described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man,” as those who grew up with him would also say.

“He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them,” he continued. “But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Warren said that he and his wife often marveled at Matthew’s courage “to keep moving in spite of relentless pain.”

“I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade,” he wrote.

If you are a Christian and your heart doesn’t go out to Warren and his family, something is wrong with you spiritually.

I don’t care what you think about Warren’s theology, his books, or how he combs his hair. The fact is, he lost a child. Few things can be more painful and nightmarish in this life.

To add insult to injury, just take a look at some of the comments by fellow “Christians” (professing ones at least) to the news. These are comments that were left on various Christian news websites under the Warren article:

Train up your children in the way, live a godly example with right priorities, care enough to home-school despite the great sacrifice involved, don’t let them date unchaperoned, have daily family devotions, turn off the 1-eyed idiot, TRULY HAVE A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, and your children WILL NOT COMMIT SUICIDE, nor will they be involved in homosexuality, nor fornication.

He killed himself, it’s much worse than fornication or homosexuality or Onanism or eating pork. He denied himself a chance to get better. If your kids need a chaperone to date, why do you let them date? They shouldn’t be dating if they are not mature enough to control themselves.

Suicide happens soon after your stupid enough to read “The Purpose Driven Life”.

Poor Matthew denies God’s Love with suicide.

He could not save his own because Mr. Warren does not truly understand how his own heart works, how it is broken and the mechanism by which Jesus laid out the example of how to fix it. Matthew killed himself because he did not understand either. He was a victim of his own ignorance and the ignorance of his family, friends, society and Christians around him — presently!

Sisters and Brothers, we have not so learned Jesus Christ!

There were more comments like these, unfortunately. And they made me want to vomit.

“If Christians cannot extend grace through faithful presence within the body of believers, they will not be able to extend grace to those outside.”

~ James Davison Hunter

I remember reading a book by Watchman Nee in my youth. In it, Nee made the remark that he observed a certain pattern throughout his life. Every time someone judged another person harshly for a mistake they made or because of something that went wrong in their lives, sometime later, the person who made those harsh judgments had something far worse happen to them.

Having been a Christian for over 30 years now, I’ve observed the same pattern.

Consequently, I fear for those who made these deplorable remarks. The Scriptures clearly teach that how we treat others is how the Lord will treat us. And if we have the knife out for one of His children, we will eventually end up falling on it ourselves.

Paul said you will reap what you sow. That’s written in the heavens.

So be very, very careful how you respond to someone else’s tragedy, mistakes, pain, or loss.

I read the New Testament once 🙂 and Jesus taught that the entire Law and the Prophets is fulfilled in this one statement: Treat others the way you want to be treated in every circumstance.

Ergo, how would YOU want to be treated if you lost a child, a friend, a spouse, a parent, etc.?

How we respond to bad things that happen to others (be they tragedies, failures, or pain) is a barometer that reveals how well we know our Lord.

In fact, there may be no greater test.

So it seems to me anyway . . .

Update: Opposing Views references this article and quotes Viola.

Sitting, Walking, and Standing

The New Testament repeatedly says that since His ascension, Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heavenly realms (Acts 2:33; 5:31; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22).

The “right hand” is a metaphor that speaks of the authority, power, and universal rule emanating from God’s throne.

Yet when Stephen was being stoned, he peered into the heavens and saw Jesus standing—not sitting—at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55–56). This, to me, indicates that Jesus was cheering for Stephen, awaiting his arrival in heavenly places.

From the book of Revelation, we learn that Jesus also “walks” in the midst of His churches, typified by golden lampstands (Rev. 2:1). So Christ sits, Christ stands, and Christ walks in His present-day ministry.

Interestingly, Paul told us in the book of Ephesians that the Christian sits in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 1:20; 2:6), walks in the world (Eph. 4:1, 17), and stands against the Enemy (Eph. 6:11, 13). Thus we mirror the same three postures our Lord uses.

Because Jesus is our great high priest, we have a friend in high places. We have connections with the Creator. So we can always come to the throne of grace and pour out our hearts to the Lord, and we will not be turned away.

Jesus Christ is a perfect high priest, a perfect advocate, a perfect intercessor, and a perfect mediator who has given us a perfect covenant with God.

As such, He saves us from the wrath to come. He saves us from guilt and condemnation. He saves us from ourselves. As we saw in Hebrews 7:25, Jesus “saves us to the uttermost” (ESV).

He is also a priest after the order of Melchizedek, which means His priesthood is eternal, universal, and perfect (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6–10; 6:20; 7:1–26).

Like Melchizedek, Jesus is both priest and king. He is a mediator who is both God and man, one person in two natures.

Hebrews 13:20 speaks of the eternal covenant. Jesus has no successor as high priest because His once-and-for-all sacrifice obtained eternal redemption for us. In other words, the eternal Son gives us eternal salvation in which we can be secure forever. There’s nothing that can be added to it.

Remember: There’s a throne of grace waiting for you. Consequently, don’t run away from Jesus when you sin. Run to Him.

The Christ we live with daily is a practical high priest! He has invested in us, moment by moment. It’s not about a ritual, or some sort of useless head knowledge that doesn’t effect our everyday lives.  It’s about reality and experience. Because Jesus is your high priest, you cannot lose. Get ahold of these realities and believe them. They will change your life.

by Frank Viola author of Jesus Now.