The Peacemaking Church
Discipline Is God’s Gift and Blessing to the Church
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:12-22 1
Purpose: To teach believers to realize that mutual accountability and loving church discipline are a special privilege and blessing that God has given to his church to rescue his people from sin and help them to experience the freedom and joy of godly living.
Key Principle from Small Group Study #6: Discipline is God’s gift and blessing to the church.
Introduction: Excellence requires discipline.
Americans cannot help admiring the benefits of discipline.
One indication of our love for discipline is our ongoing admiration for successful sports coaches. This admiration goes beyond sports events themselves—it results in success for movies that portray great coaches.
For example, in the 1986 hit The Hoosiers, Gene Hackman portrayed Marvin Wood, the coach who led the Milan Indians to the 1954 Indiana High School Basketball Championship.
In Remember the Titans, released in 2000, Denzel Washington played the role of coach Herman Boone, who fought his way through the racial tensions of the early 70’s to lead the grudgingly integrated football team of T.C. Williams High School to the Virginia State Championship.
In 2004, Kurt Russell portrayed coach Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle, which recounts the thrilling story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, which stunned the world by its victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad.
Each of these movies has unique elements, but the one dominant theme in each story is a coach who used intense training to turn his team into champions. These coaches diligently taught their players the right moves, Decades after their victories, we are still recounting and admiring the discipline the coaches used to lead their teams to the heights of excellence.
Americans’ appreciation for discipline is not limited to sports. It also shows itself in our love for the performing arts. Parents and audiences alike appreciate music teachers, dance instructors, and symphony conductors who bring out the best in their students and players by teaching them proper technique so they can perform with excellence.
Most of us also value the discipline of our armed forces. In an increasingly dangerous world, we are more indebted than ever to the men and women who serve in our military. If we understand their mission, we appreciate the fact that their trainers have spared no pains to instill the highest levels of skill and discipline, which may actually save the lives of these soldiers as they risk everything to guard our freedoms.
Wherever we look, we see that discipline is a highly desirable quality. If it is cultivated with humility and consistency, discipline not only can move us toward excellence but also can open the way to a fulfilling, productive, and joyful life.
The Bible clearly teaches that to God, discipline is all about love. Proper discipline originates from God himself and is always presented in Scripture as a sign of genuine love.
“The Lord disciplines those he loves” (Heb. 12:6).
“Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law” (Ps. 94:12).
These two types of discipline—affirmative instruction and remedial correction—are sometimes referred to as “formative discipline” and “restorative discipline.” We know this discipline as the proper application of Law and Gospel, and we receive that instruction from God as the Law shows us our sin and the Gospel equips us to live the Christ life.
Ninety-nine percent of church life involves formative discipline. This process of teaching, modeling, and encouraging is intended to help us mature in our faith and grow to be like Jesus. This stimulating and joyful dimension of the Christian life is beautifully described in Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their
possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
As indicated in this passage and others like it, formative discipline includes many different activities that God has designed to transform our minds, habits, and character. This process begins with evangelism, through which we learn of our sin and the judgment we deserve, and also of the marvelous salvation God has secured for us through the death and resurrection of his precious Son (see Col. 1:19-20).
When we put our trust in Christ, we gain not only eternal life but also the blessings of a life-long process of being conformed to his image through formative discipline. Ways that we are made more like Jesus include:
* Listening to the public preaching and proclamation of God’s Word
* Participating in Bible studies, (Heb. 10:24-25)
* Entering into personal discipling or accountability relationships (Prov. 27:17; 13:20; Eccl. 4:9-12)
* Receiving and giving material aid through acts of l mercy (1 Tim. 5:16; Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-7)
* Supporting or participating in missions work, through which we ourselves grow in faith and character and share the blessings of the gospel with others (Acts 13:1-3; 14:27)
The goal of this formative process is two-fold. First, it is intended to help each of us to mature in our faith and character so that we may “share in [God’s] holiness” (Heb. 12:10) as he enables us to fulfill his command in to be “self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined” (Titus 1:8).
Second, the pleasantness and blessings of this process are designed to attract others to Christ and accelerate the growth of his church. Notice that Acts 2:47b comes immediately after the formative discipline of the early church is described: “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Unfortunately, just as the children in our families do not always obey or get along well, people in the church do not always follow God faithfully or get along with one another. When this happens, God calls us to respond to the problem in a loving and redemptive manner that is intended to lead people to repentance, restore broken relationships, strengthen the church, and bring honor to God.
As I mentioned earlier, this process may be referred to as “corrective” or “restorative” discipline. Jesus himself establishes this process as an essential characteristic of a true church. The vision of a few Bible Verses helps us to form a relationship with Jesus that rules everything in our dealings with members of the body fo Christ. Today, let this vision be the way we care for each other.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren’t tempted.
2 Thessalonians 3:15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but treat them as you would a brother or sister.
2 Corinthians 7-8 so that you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. Practice carrying each other’s burdens
Galatians 5:13-14 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
1 John 1:8 If we claim to be already free from sin, we lead ourselves astray and the truth has no place in our hearts.
James 1:26 If a man thinks that he is scrupulously religious, although he is not curbing his tongue but is deceiving himself, his religious service is worthless.
Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Ephesians 4: I beg you, live the way people should live who have been called by God. Do not be proud at all. Be very humble. Love one another and be patient with each other. The Spirit has made you all one. Try to stay like that. May you be at peace with one another. There is one God and Father of us all. He is over all. He works through all. And he is living in us all. 7 But each one of us has received a blessing, whatever amount Christ has given to each one. These gifts are to make God’s people better able to do their work for him and to make the body of Christ become stronger. The gifts are given so that we will all believe the one way and all know the Son of God. They are given so that we will be really grown-up Christians, like Christ himself. The body of Christ must grow so that we will no longer be like children. We are like children when we are pushed this way and that way. We must say what is true and say it with love. In that way we will grow up in all things to be like Christ, who is the head of this body. The whole body is joined and held together by every joint that it has. It is from Christ that the whole body grows as each different part does its work. It grows so that it becomes stronger in love.
God is the best of all parents! He knows that his family, the Church, needs discipline to survive and thrive. Like football players, concert pianists, elite soldiers, and young
children, we need to be taught what is right and also to be lovingly corrected when we do something contrary to what God teaches us in his Word.
Scripture repeatedly teaches that the vast majority of the formative interactions between members of the church, and especially between members and church leaders, should be positive, encouraging, and comforting. As Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:11; “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (see also 1 Thess. 5:11; 2 Tim. 2:24; 4:2; Heb. 10:25).
Shepherding … forgiveness … reconciliation. These are the hallmarks of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Clearly, we are never to see or approach church discipline as a harsh or vindictive process, but only as a means to imitate the love of a shepherd who is doing everything possible to restore a loving relationship with his children. Church discipline is founded on the love of Jesus Christ, as the way we are shaped in our Christian life. If we treat church discipline as a set of rules, we have missed the love of our Good Shepherd Jesus
How does God want us to respond those who repent of their wrongs, even if they’ve committed them over and over? “Forgive your brother from your heart … seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:21-22; cf. Luke 17:3-4).