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You may also purchase the books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or by going to dellyoung.net/book (or clicking the graphic above).
It is also available as an eBook you can download from Kindle.
What If I told you that your Heavenly Father has a promise for you that would transform your life beyond anything you could imagine? A promise that would plunge you into the very presence of the Creator of the universe. A promise where the love and glory of God become more than just words on a page, but where you literally experience His arms being wrapped around you and your eyes are opened to see His splendor. A promise where His love and compassion for you and the world is not just read about but actually tasted of. A promise that would empower you and reveal to you your true identity and purpose. A promise that would cause you to hear God’s voice and know His dream for your life. A promise that is not just for you, but also offered to your children and even grandchildren! Would you want to receive such a promise?
Such a promise seems almost to good to be true! But thankfully, it is not. However, there are a few things the Lord desires we do before we can receive it.
First, we must repent and believe the good news about what Jesus Christ of Nazareth did for us on the cross. To repent means we change the way we think about sin. When we genuinely repent, we make a decision to turn away from our sins and turn towards Jesus. We understand that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but when we turn to Jesus, the Son of the living God, He releases us from the penalty of sin and gives us the gift of eternal life. Eternal life is only available in Jesus Christ and no one else. Those that reject His sacrifice and offer of life will perish. The Father doesn’t wish this for anyone, but earnestly desires that everyone on the earth come to repentance and receive this good news of Jesus and what He did for us. He deeply grieves when someone rejects His Son because He knows the short term and long term outcomes of their decision and the life they could have had.
The message of the good news is remarkably simple: We have sinned, but Jesus took that sin away by shedding His own blood on the cross. He demonstrated His love and grace toward us in that while we rejected and even despised Him, He died for us. When we draw near to Him and believe in our hearts He died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life we are immediately saved and brought into the kingdom of God as a new child in His family. If you haven’t received Him, here’s a simple prayer you can pray to help you to do so:
Jesus, Son of God, I come to you and thank you that you loved me so much that you willingly suffered and shed your blood on the cross to take away my sins. I believe that you were raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven where you are exalted as Lord of all. I make a decision right now to turn away from my sin, and turn to You to receive the complete forgiveness of all my sins and the eternal life you offer to me. Thank you Jesus, my Savior and Lord!
After we repent and believe the Good news about Jesus and receive the forgiveness of our sins, God becomes our Father, we become His child, and we now have direct access to Him and His promises. Although there are many promises for the children of God, one of these promises in particular is very special to the Lord because of the immediate implications it has on the one receiving it. The Promise of the Father, as Jesus called it, is the outpouring of the person of the Holy Spirit upon and in your life. Jesus told His disciples to wait for the promise of the Father. Peter, who had been saved previously (see John 20:22) and was a disciple of Jesus, talked about when he received it for himself on the day of Pentecost:
Acts 2:33 (NIV)
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
When the people who saw and heard the disciples receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they asked what they were supposed to do.
Acts 2:38 (NIV)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
When we express our thirst for this living water, He promises us that He will give it. Not every christian has received this promise, but they can. I received it fourteen years after I had received and believed upon the Lord Jesus. Six months prior to receiving, I had become very hungry and thirsty in my spirit for the Lord, but I did not know what it meant or how this thirst could be quenched. I read volumes and volumes of christian literature, and attended church service after church service, but nothing seemed to help. After reading the Bible intensely for several months, it became clear to me that the Lord had a gift for me that I had yet experienced or received. This gift was the promise of the Father; the water of life. In my spirit I knew this was what I was longing for. The night before I received the gift, I walked outside to a field which was lit with moonlight and knelt before the Lord. I repented of my sin, thanked Him for His righteousness in Me, and surrendered my life to whatever He desired to do in it. I had a deep sense of expectancy for what was coming and about to take place. The next day I received. As I opened up my arms and lifted my face toward Heaven, The Holy Spirit came upon me gently, quickly, and powerfully. He saturated every part of who I was. My physical body, mind,soul, and even my bones and ligaments were consumed with His presence. I experienced His very breath coming in and out of my lungs. At times during my experience it became difficult to breath, although I knew it was His breath sustaining me. I wept inconsolably, but I did not know why. Those around me seemed to have fade away, and I was left face to face with the Creator of the Universe. His overwhelming love for me as His child and His glory became so overwhelming I could no longer stand. I don’t recall falling necessarily, but rather His hand guiding me to the ground gently as He continued to move through me. It went beyond my ability to understand it or describe it. I had heard and read about His love and goodness, but in His manifested presence I was actually tasting it and touching it, like it was a full course meal spread out before me to enjoy. I physically felt what seemed to be like energy and then the Holy Spirit spreading the love of God throughout my mind and my body. I remained on the floor for quite some time, fully yielding to everything He was doing in me. Waves of His love and power flowed through me like waves in the ocean. After I eventually stood up, I felt His power reverberating inside me as I continued to walk back to my room. My body felt lighter. For the rest of the night, I was unable to speak and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. From that day to this day, I regularly sense and experience that same presence and that same voice. Meeting the Holy Spirit and receiving the promise of the Father is just the beginning of the most precious and intimate relationship that anyone can have in this world.
How to receive the promise for yourself
In order to receive the promise of the Father after salvation we must ask and thirst for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are to ask Jesus for it. Jesus pours Him out to those which are truly thirsty. He on several occasions called the Holy Spirit ‘living water’. When Jesus pours out His Spirit upon us, that living water also begins to flow out of us from our innermost being and we experience life in its full measure. One of the last things Jesus said in the Bible was “Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires the water of life come and drink freely” (Rev. 22:17). With open arms, He extends the same offer to us today. As you lift your hands toward heaven, here is a simple prayer to help you receive:
Lord Jesus, I believe in your promise to pour out your Spirit on me. I repent of my sins. I confess my thirst and desire to receive this gift you offer to me, which is as You said “the promise of the Father”. I receive it now. I fully surrender my life to you, and allow you right now to do in me and upon me as You please.
Give Him a few minutes to work. Take your time and continue looking to Jesus as you express your desire for the living water of the Spirit, and He will give it to you.
By: Wes Anderson
Matthew 14:14 (NASB)
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
When Jesus walked on the cobblestone streets in Jerusalem and traveled among Galilee, people flocked to Him by the hundreds. They would make every attempt possible just to touch Him or His outer robe, often climbing and stepping over each other out of shear desperation. Others would bring their loved ones to Him, often carrying them on stretchers and on their shoulders. They did all this because they knew, based on the multitude of testimonies from friends and family, that He had the supernatural ability to reverse their condition. These scenes often likened to a crowded emergency room on a Saturday night in a populated city, where dozens of hurting, sick, and diseased stricken people desperately wait to see a doctor that could bring them some healing and relief.
The Messiah walked and lived among them. He listened intently to their needs. His hands, which contained immeasurable power and helped form the heavens and earth, were used with upmost precision and gentleness to touch the problem areas of their bodies. After He ministered to them, He would often embrace them lovingly as a father would his child. For others He simply stood and allowed them touch Him and receive virtue for whatever they needed. When compassion and power flowed out Him healing flowed into them. It was a beautiful exchange. He did this day after day, and week after week for three and a half years.
What does His compassionate approach teach us when it comes to His healing work (whether it be emotional, physical, or spiritual)? What made His healing touch accessible to them? Three primary things:
His Power– Power, infused to its core with Calvary love and grace, flowed out of Him freely and expected nothing in return. Like a divine spark, the moment it touched the point of human need, it would reverse it.
His Presence- Healing began with the actual presence of Messiah in their midst. He was among them and made Himself fully accessible to them. It was His presence, not some intellectual agreement to some doctrine, that brought about healing in the lives of the people.
His Purity- Their needs, no matter how destitute or grotesque they were, in no way repelled or contaminated His purity. On the contrary, He rolled up His sleeves and was willing to plunge His hands into the most filthiest and slimiest of any situation. When He did, His healing touch met their hurting bodies and virtue was released.
Accessible to us today
That was then, but what about today? What about you who are reading this who may be hurting and have real genuine needs? Can He reverse your situation, or was His healing power only reserved for those in the 1st Century? The good news is because He lives, His love and compassion is as constant today as it was then. He didn’t heal people to merely demonstrate His divinity. He did it because He genuinely loved the hurting and sick and wanted to see them well. As it was then, so it is today.
The Call for the Church
Now that He has ascended to the Father’s right hand, He desires the healing work He started 2,000 years ago continue in the world today. As His Body, we are His extension on the earth. He has given us His presence, for it is Christ in us. He offers to us His power, through the promise of the Spirit upon us. He has given to us His purity, through Calvary and the blood shed for us. Just like Peter and John lifted up a lame man at the temple entrance, when we stretch forth our hands to touch human needs on His behalf, He stretches forth His at the same time. With Him in us and His hand upon us, we can continue the work He initiated. However, it must start with a genuine love and compassion for those that are hurting and lost, just as it did with Him. Regardless of the gift, it must be rooted in the love of God for it’s effectual and complete working in the lives of others.
By: Wes Anderson
What if I asked you the following question:
Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?
You might be thinking: what a bizarre question to ask a believer? Anyone who asks such a question is surely in deep theological error, because we all know that when we get born again we received the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it would be an insult to the Lord to ask for something that we have already have…..right?
But what if the Apostle Paul, who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, just met you, thought you were a believer, and proceeded to ask you this question. What would be your answer? This scenario actually took place with some people he met while traveling:
Acts 19:1 (NASB)
It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”3And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
Paul was on one of his missionary journeys. Apollos, a ministry partner and teacher, had stayed behind at Corinth teaching and exhorting the believers there. As Paul passed through the high inland plateau of Asia Minor, he came to Ephesus, a roman province in Asia. Coming across some “disciples”, the first question out of his mouth was the one we just read:
“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed”?
Paul’s question revealed his suspicion that these “disciples”, as born again believers in Christ, had not actually received the Holy Spirit. At least not in the sense that he had defined it. He discerned that the presence of the Spirit of God was missing in their lives and in their interaction with each other. Their response was interesting. “We have never even heard of the name Holy Spirit. Who is he”? Paul, still thinking and assuming they are believers, was thinking surely you had at least heard His name, Holy Spirit, when you were baptized. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? He proceeded to drill deeper and asked, “unto what then were you baptized?” In other words, if you didn’t hear about the Holy Spirit at baptism, you were obviously not baptized in the name of Jesus. It must have been unto someone else. They then stated that they were baptized unto John’s baptism, which revealed that they were actually leftover disciples of John the Baptist. They were not even believers! Paul proclaims the gospel to them, and they get water baptized.
Now that these Ephesians were born again, Paul, with the tenaciousness of a bulldog, goes back full circle to his original question about receiving the Holy Spirit. He then proceeds to lay his hands on them, and as he does the Holy Spirits comes on them. Immediately they begin speaking in tongues and prophesying, just like on the day of Pentecost.
The fact that this was the very first question out of his mouth indicates how important it was to Paul for believers to receive.
Paul, years later wrote to them (the book of Ephesians) and reminded them of their experience of salvation and when the Holy Spirit came upon them:
Ephesians 1:13 (NASB)
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Later on in his letter he instructs them to continue being filled. He did not want them to think that their initial experience with the Holy Spirit after he laid his hands on them was sufficient for their entire Christian walk:
Ephesians 5:18 (ISV)
Stop getting drunk with wine, which leads to wild living, but keep on being filled with the Spirit.
Many translations will say “but be filled with the Spirit”. In the original text however it translates ‘keep on being filled’, or ‘filling to be filled’. Implying an initial filling, and the need to keep it up.
Wait a minute, are you saying that as a believer I need to receive the Holy Spirit? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. However, we must first define ‘receive’ and understand what it means, which we will do a bit later. But first, let’s look at some more examples where people received the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, being the Son of God, modeled aspects of His own life to demonstrate to us how we should live. In many respects, we are to walk as He walked. Below are several significant events which He modeled for us (in chronological order):
Let’s review #2, #3, and #4:
Luke 3:22-23 (NASB)
Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized (#2),and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (#3) in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry (#4).
He then left the Jordan river full of the Spirit of God, ready to begin His ministry and destiny.
As we are about to see, this model Jesus left us was the very same one the early church used. Those three experiences Jesus modeled (born again, water baptism, and receiving the Holy Spirit) were the apostles’ primary objectives for others (as seen previously from Paul’s experience with the Ephesians). They had been given the authority (the keys of the kingdom) and the command (Matthew 28:20, Acts 1:4-5) from Jesus to help facilitate these experiences for people that desired them. The delivery of specific teachings to believers came after these took place (just like the book of Ephesians was written afterwards). With new believers in the church often doctrine is offered first, and experience is offered second. With the early church, it was the exact opposite; experience was offered first, and doctrine was offered second.
Note: As we will see, sometimes people received the Holy Spirit before water baptism. So, the order between these two experiences can vary.
Example #1: The believers and apostles in Jerusalem
Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance
These were saved disciples receiving a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit. Jesus described this to them in advance as receiving the promise of the Father for power for the ministries they had been given. They received several days (at least 10) after being born again. See John 20:22 for the record of when the apostles got saved. This example is somewhat unique from the others listed below because the Lord waited until the day of Pentecost had fully come before He sent the promise of the Spirit to them (for prophetic implications). This waiting period isn’t required for new believers, as you will shortly see.
Acts 8:14-16 (NASB)
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them…
Philip preached and Samaritans believed. Peter and John from the apostolic community visits them for one sole purpose: To pray for them and lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit, because He had not fallen on any of them. Notice they had already received the word of God (they believed). The most important thing to the apostolic community was ensuring these new believers receive the fullness of Holy Spirit. They received perhaps several days after they believed and were water baptized.
Acts 9:17 (NASB)
Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Saul (Paul) has a visitation by Jesus Christ Himself. He is converted and becomes blind. Ananias receives a vision by night and was sent to Saul (Paul) for two reasons:
Note that Ananias addressed Paul as a “brother” (a believer). Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit three days later at a house in Damascus following his encounter with Jesus on the road.
Acts 10:44 (NASB)
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.
Peter goes to Cornelius’ house to preach by divine coordination. The Spirit of God fell on those that heard and believed. This occurred during their salvation. Peter, a chapter later, describes the event to the Jerusalem Council as the gentiles receiving the baptism of the Spirit just as he himself did (see Acts 11:16-17).
2 Timothy 1:6 (NASB)
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Just like Paul reminded the Ephesians of their experience, he does so again here with Timothy. We know that Paul was talking to Timothy about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and not some specific spiritual gift because in the next verse He says “For God has not given us a Spirit of…”. Making reference that the gift Timothy received was indeed the Spirit Himself.
Here we have five instances in scripture where the Holy Spirit came upon or fell upon believers after they became born again. Only in one instance did it occur during/around the same time the gospel was being preached. This was at Cornelius’ house. From the scriptural examples above, as well as numerous other biblical passages not referenced, we can conclude the following:
What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit as a born-again believer?
Here is the million-dollar question. We do not have to intentionally receive the Holy Spirit or even have knowledge of His existence to be born again. We do however have to willfully and intentionally receive Jesus Christ to be born again. When we believe in Jesus, the Spirit of God automatically does several things for us:
All of these things are automatically done by the work of the Holy Spirit, requiring no effort on our part when we intentionally receive and welcome the person of Jesus into our lives.
On the other hand, when we receive the Holy Spirit we intentionally focus on welcoming Him as another unique person of the Godhead (in addition to Jesus) into our lives. We do not ask Him to take up residence, since He has already done so. Rather, we ask him to take over the residence! We do not ask Him to reside in us. We ask Him to rule over us.
To receive the Spirit of God after being born again is like welcoming someone of royalty into your home. You open the door for them, acknowledge their presence, and humbly welcome them to come and take over your home as they see fit. When we receive Him and He fills us, we partake of a wonderful heavenly gift. This initial receiving or infilling empowers us, allows us to taste of His love in an intimate way, and causes us to walk in an effective manner in the calling and destiny He has for us.
Just like receiving Jesus, the promise of the Holy Spirit is received by believing and being fully convinced that the Father desires for us (who are already redeemed) to have this blessing. We simply receive by faith. This is what Paul meant when he said:
He redeemed us so that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Notice that he says so that we who have been redeemed might receive the promise of the Spirit. It is fully contingent on us believing that this promise and blessing is for us today. Paul states this again with an emphasis on receiving the Spirit by faith (note that He is not talking about receiving Jesus by faith here, but the ‘promise’ as referenced in the scripture above):
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
The book of Galatians was clearly written to believers who had already received the Father’s promise, just like many other recipients of Paul’s letters. Once we read the New Testament letters with this in mind, many passages suddenly become very clear.
When the Holy Spirit comes upon us it will result in such a life changing experience that if someone were to ask us if we have received, we would be able to answer without hesitation “Yes!”. Paul understood this in Acts 19 when he asked the question to the disciples in Ephesus. He would not have asked it if the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit was not a profound, real, memorable, and life changing event in their lives. Therefore, if you are not sure if you have received, then it is highly likely they have not. It may or may not result in any outward manifestation, but you will see a dramatic difference in your spiritual life and know that you have indeed tasted and experienced it. And if you have received, continue receiving by stiring up the gift inside you and keep on being filled.
Not that this is some formula, but below is some practical advice which has helped many others in the Body receive:
Have YOU received the Holy Spirit since YOU believed? If not, why wait any longer?
If you are having difficulty with this teaching and need some additional guidance, I am available by email and will be glad to help in any way I can. firstname.lastname@example.org
The scriptures reveal that there is a clear difference between being judged and being disciplined (corrected) by the Lord. Judgment is reserved in the future for those that rejected Christ, but discipline and correction is reserved in the present for the children of God . Just like a father with his children, occasionally discipline must be administered so that the child can grow into all the father desires for him. We are exhorted to esteem highly His discipline because of what it can produce in our lives. This discipline , when we are trained by it, causes us to change our thoughts regarding specific areas of our life which are not growing as the Lord desires. Thus the objectives of His discipline is to grow us, increase us, cause us to mature, protect us, and experience His upmost best for our lives.
What’s the difference between His discipline and His judgment?
The difference between His judgment and His discipline is the difference between a judge declaring a law breaker innocent at the expense of a law keeper willing to take his place and a father disciplining His children for their continuous disobedience.
The first situation is a legal matter where the party is spared and saved from the long term judgment they have been sentenced to for breaking the law. Indeed, it would be injustice for such a judge to not punish and convict someone for a crime committed. Jesus Christ was the substitutionary sacrifice who removed the punishment for us so that those that believe in His name would be declared innocent and free from the penalty of sin. The eternal judgment will never be our portion thanks to the shedding of His blood on our behalf and the price He paid for us. This is what is meant when the scripture says:
Hebrews 10:17 (NASB)
“AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
As believers, it is not that God is somehow incapable of recalling our lawless deeds because of Christ. For Him to fail to recall anything, even one iota of information, is a disturbing concept that would run completely contrary to His omniscient, all-knowing nature. It is however that because of Christ He chooses not to summon them up again (remember them) in the Day of Judgment to our detriment. Therefore, we should rejoice and have full confidence in that day. Since the cross, He refuses to judge the world in any form or fashion for sin. However, His judgment and wrath will be revealed on a certain day in the future where the sins of unbelievers will be remembered:
Romans 2:5 (NIV)
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
The Father has established an age of grace for those in the earth between the time period of Christ’s crucifixion and the Day of Judgment. We are living in this glorious era today and it is completely void of His wrath. He commands us not to take revenge out on anyone because He will do so on that day of judgment. It would be injustice for someone to suffer twice (once at our hands and the other at His) for the same wrong:
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
The second situation is a family matter, where no substitute can be offered, but rather where a son receives discipline to walk in the fullness and best the father has for him. Just like your neighbor cannot discipline your children for their misbehavior because they are not his own, The Lord will not discipline any one which is not His child. Because of this, His discipline in our lives reveal the reality of our sonship:
Hebrews 12:7 (NASB)
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? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Discipline comes from the hand of a selfless and loving Father (not a wrathful one) to grow us up into maturity and the stature we are destined for. In this context, although the Lord is completely mindful of our sin for the purposes of correction, there is no punishment, no eternal judgment, and no condemnation for it. In this context, He actually chooses to remember (recall) them for our ongoing benefit and advantage.
So, as a Judge He refuses to dredge up our sins again against us for eternal judgment, but as a Father He is fully aware of them so discipline and correction can be exercised if or when He chooses to do so. This is what Paul meant when he said:
1 Corinthians 11:32 (NASB)
“But when we (as believers) are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined (by undergoing His correction) so that we will not be condemned (to eternal punishment/judgment) along with the world”.
This is probably the clearest place in scripture where both the eternal judgment and discipline of the Lord are distinguished from each other. Below is a table showing the major differences between the judgment and discipline of the Lord:
Judgment and Punishment
|Discipline and Correction|
|God’s righteous anger against sin revealed||God’s radical love for us revealed|
|Judiciary context||Family context|
|The penalty produces death||The pain produces growth and life|
|Convicts a lawbreaker||Corrects a son|
|Involves God as Judge||Involves God as Father|
|Required by God’s Justice||Required only when He sees fit|
|Happens after death for those that did not receive the sacrifice of the Lamb||
Happens during this life for those that did receive the sacrifice of the Lamb
|Removed by blood and believing||Removed by repentance|
|Takes place on a certain day (for believers took place on the day of Calvary, for unbelievers will take place on a certain day in the future)||Takes place over a period of time|
The author of Hebrews goes into extensive detail regarding the subject of God’s discipline, using Proverbs 3:11-12 as scriptural reference. The Spirit of the Lord desires that we refresh our minds and not forget this exhortation:
Hebrews 12:5-6 (NASB)
And have you completely forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “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.”
To regard lightly the discipline of the Lord means to not esteem as highly as it should be or to take little thought of it when it occurs.
Why does He Discipline Us?
He disciplines us so that we may live and walk in His holiness:
Hebrews 12:8 (NASB)
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
It is important for us to understand that we avoid His eternal judgment by being holy and righteous, but we avoid his discipline and correction by living holy and righteous. Let’s explore the difference.
We suddenly become holy in our innermost being by receiving and believing in Jesus Christ. By believing, our spirit is immediately perfected and reflects the image and nature of the eternal Father. This is being holy, or holiness in our being. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ allowed this to happen:
Hebrews 10:10 (NASB)
We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
As a result, we are not to fear eternal judgment, but have confidence on that day since Christ’s righteousness has been imparted to us. Just like in the temple where the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the law dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jesus Christ, in whom the law is fulfilled in, dwells on inside of us so that we, by virtue of His presence in us and without any effort on our part, are able to fully keep the righteousness requirements of the law in our spirit.
On the other hand, to live holy is the process of our thoughts, intents, and behaviors progressively reflecting the same glory of the hidden and holy nature that is on the inside of us. In this regard, we grow in holiness. That is, we become on the outside what we already are on the inside. This is what Jesus meant when He said:
Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
“First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also”.
Living holy is an ongoing process which requires a regular change in our behavior and thinking:
1 Peter 1:15 (NASB)
But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
With this in mind, the primary purpose of His discipline is not to correct or change our spirit or our identity in Him (because it is perfect), but rather our thinking and behavior (because they are imperfect) so that how we live our lives reflect His holiness and the maturity He desires. We cannot live and walk in holiness in our own power. Holy living is a result of partnering with and yielding to the desires and power of the Spirit of the Lord:
Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
Examples of Discipline in the Scriptures
I’d like to now explore several difficult New Testament examples of the Lord’s discipline in the lives of believers. Unfortunately these examples have been used for centuries as proof texts to falsely teach that when a person sins God will punish them with sickness, disease, and even death. Such dogmatic statements are erroneous. Since we have such warnings recorded, we should understand that it is not His desire to regularly use such disciplinary methods in the church today.
The primary reason the Spirit of the Lord wanted these examples recorded thousands of years ago was to warn the church (both present and future state) of the seriousness of sin inside the body of Christ. The author of Hebrews understood this when he wrote about how the children of Israel suffered in the wilderness:
1 Corinthians 10:11 (NASB)
Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
The Lord’s discipline to the Israelites included:
He states that these happened to the Israelites as examples to warn the church yet to come (these accounts were recorded by Moses in Numbers Chapter 25 around the year 1450 B.C.). Does this mean every time we act immorally, test the Lord, or grumble, that we will suffer the same consequences? No. If that were the case, half of the church (including myself) would be in the grave. It simply means that the Lord takes these things very seriously and may choose to discipline us for them (however He wants) if we refuse His repeated warnings.
In addition to Israel’s example, the Spirit of the Lord thought it fit to record other examples of the Lord’s discipline toward believers under the new covenant. These examples are not much different than what happened to Israel, just on a much smaller scale. And just like Israel, most examples recorded occurred when a particular sin was being practiced and embraced by multiple believers together within the local church. These acts of discipline were more preventive in nature.
Example 1: The Church in Corinth
1 Corinthians 11:9-32 (NASB)
For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
In this situation, a group of believers in Corinth were partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily and were being judged (disciplined) by the Lord for their behavior. As the scripture states, His judgment (discipline) upon these believers were to correct, not to condemn them. The various stages of His discipline in this example (weakness, sickness, then eventually death) indicate a progressive approach the Lord took. Some businesses and organizations use a similar tactic toward problem employees when they give a 1st, 2nd, and final warning where each subsequent warning contains a more severe consequence than the previous one (the 1st warning usually being verbal). Unfortunately, some of those in Corinth disregarded His discipline and were unwilling to change, eventually suffering harsher and harsher consequences. Does this mean that everyone who partakes of the Lord’s Supper unworthily will suffer and get sick and die? No. However, could we be corrected for it in some form or fashion? Maybe so.
Example 2: The Church in Thyatira
A very similar situation is recorded in Revelation 2, where Jesus Christ gives a message to the primary leader at the church in Thyatira. A woman attending the Church was teaching that immorality was acceptable while at the same time deceiving several men in the church to have adulterous relations with her. The grace of the Lord was clearly demonstrated, giving her time to repent. After she refused to change the Lord issued her and those that were in adultery with her a warning:
Revelations 2:20-22 (NASB)
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
The Lord’s warning of discipline included:
These were the same disciplinary methods He used with the Church in Corinth. Note that it does not say that these things actually happened to them in Thyatira, but that He would cause them to happen if those involved did not repent of their ways. Jesus issued such harsh warnings to this Church so that all other churches would know that He is fully aware of all activities which take place and that nothing is hidden from His sight. Does this mean that everyone who commits adultery in the church will become sick or die? No. Would the Lord discipline such behavior if someone refused to change? Perhaps, but it would be to prevent such acts from getting worse and becoming widespread.
Example 3: Ananias and Saphira in the Church
Another New Testament example is found in the book of Acts when a man named Ananias and his wife lied about the amount of money they gave to the church. They had sold land and withheld some of the money for themselves while claiming they were giving all of it to the church:
Acts 5:4-5 (NASB)
While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.
His wife arrived three hours later and lied in the same way her husband did. Her outcome became the same as his:
Acts: 5-9b (NASB)
“Then Peter said to her, why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last.
In this example, the Lord’s discipline included the death of two individuals that lied in the face of the God and the early apostolic community. There is no other explanation for this incident other than that the Lord did this. But why such harsh discipline? He was sending a message to His church, as He did to the church in Thyatira, that we are to take our actions seriously:
Acts 5:11 (NASB)
And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
Does this mean that anytime someone lies about money in the church they will die? Again, not likely at all. Even in these extreme examples recorded, they are not accounts of Christians being judged or experiencing the wrath of God, but rather receiving correction and to serve as a general warning for the entire church at large. Each saint involved in these situations before ever receiving such correction had already been perfected in holiness in their spirit. Those that died at the hand of God’s discipline simply fell asleep in Him with the same promise of heaven that we have today.
Didn’t Jesus heal all who came to Him?
After reading such extreme examples where Jesus caused sickness and even death within the Church, on the surface there appears to be a contradiction in the way He operated on the earth before He ascended as recorded in the four gospels and the way He does now. Before He ascended, the scripture says that He healed all who came to Him. After His ascension, as the examples above demonstrate, sickness and even death were the work of the same hands He healed with. Why is there no mention of Jesus disciplining others the same way in the gospels?
After the church was birthed following His passion on the cross (see John 20:22), it brought about sonship. This sonship opened the door for the church to be a partaker of His discipline:
Hebrews 12:7 (NASB)
God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Before the cross the Holy Spirit had not yet taken up residence in anyone and none had been born again as a child of the Father. Anyone disciplined before the new covenant initiated would have been disciplined as an orphan which would have completely contradicted the scripture above.
As previously stated, it is unlikely that the Lord will repeat such methods of discipline in the church today because He recorded them as examples in scripture for us to learn from.
When His discipline is not required
First of all, discipline is not always necessary because the consequences of our actions, or the attractive nature of His grace and patience, are sufficient enough to cause us to repent. This was the case with the prodigal son who left his father’s house and found himself in a pig sty with no money and no friends. Such consequences and circumstances were sufficient to cause a change of mind. Also, the nature of his father, his patience and lovingkindness, suddenly became appealing to him again.
An earthly father may not choose to discipline his son when he is instructed to not touch a hot stove and he does anyway because the consequences of disobedience is clearly evident to the child.
When His discipline may be required
However, discipline may be required when the consequences of our sin are not sufficient enough and when the grace of God is not appealing enough to us to repent. This was the case with the children of Israel and the Church in Thyatira. In the natural, an earthly father may decide to exercise discipline when that child slaps his little sister across the face several times because in this situation the consequences to him are not as evident, no discomfort is felt on his behalf, and another individual is hurt in the process. Discipline in the life of a child of God never comes by the gavel of an angry Judge, but from the heart of a loving and graceful heavenly Father.
The primary motivation behind the Lord’s correction and discipline is His love toward us. He wants us to have a revelation and understanding of this truth so it can be the motivator behind why we repent:
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
How does the Father discipline us today?
We are not to live introspectively, constantly scrutinizing and examining ourselves with feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy. Our main focus should be Christ. However, we must remain open to the Lord’s discipline and understand what it looks like when it comes to us. Just like the progressive discipline approach discussed earlier, He will first correct and discipline us in the form of a verbal or written correction. He normally will use scripture for this:
2 Timothy 3:16 (NNT)
All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness;
The phrase ‘discipline in righteousness’ is often translated ‘instruction in righteousness’ in other versions. The Greek word for ‘instruction’ however is paideia, which means to chasten or discipline with correction. Therefore, the scriptures are the main tool He uses to correct us with and to call to account those specific faults in our lives He desires for us to repent of. We can be sure that if a particular message comes to us multiple times within a short period of time, either by scripture or by someone with spiritual authority over us, it is Him seeking to correct us. Such messages will cause our conscious to be pierced. This piercing is not always pleasant and will often cause us to feel sorrowful, but if we respond to it properly it will produce the righteousness He is looking for:
Hebrews 12:9 (NASB)
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
What if we ignore His word of correction?
If we continue in the sin without heeding His word of correction, He will continue to give us ample time to repent. If we choose not to change, the discipline may become progressively worse, shifting away from a word of correction to causing us to suffer in some form or fashion temporarily. Just like a father who spanks his child, the purpose of this temporary suffering is so we are able to feel pain and discomfort as a direct result of the sin in hopes that we will not continue in it or repeat it. It is important to note however that not all suffering we experience is a direct result of His discipline in our lives, sometimes it is because of the fallen world around us or our own actions.
However, if it is the discipline of the Lord, through prayer He will help our conscious to establish a connection between the suffering and the sin. If we repent, we can be confident that any and all discipline He has administered will immediately be removed and that we will be fully restored to the condition we were in before the discipline took place. If we simply choose to not repent in the long term, The Lord may simply turn us over to our own ways, allowing us to reap the full consequences of our rebellion (whatever physical, emotional, or relational disadvantages that may result).
When we learn to be trained by His discipline, and understand that it is an expression of His Love toward us, it causes us to walk in greater levels of maturity, life, and peace with Him which is His ultimate desire.
Note that believers are judged after death also. However, this is a judgment for rewards for the quality of work we did on the earth, and not for any sin we have committed. This can be likened to an Olympic judge awarding the runners of a race with various medals of Honor (gold, silver, bronze, etc.). Refer to 1 Thes. 1, Rev. 4.