Posts : 287
Points : 631
Join date : 2010-09-30
Location : Cleveland, OH
|Subject: God's Discipline (Part 2) Sat Nov 23, 2019 11:52 am|| |
God's Discipline (Part 2)
[This is a direct continuation of Part 1. I tried posting the entire Discipline lesson as one, but the site said that my post was too long.]
Another question one might ask is: To what extent does God discipline? And to what extent does He punish? The answer to these might be unexpected, so I want to go through this delicately, yet without withholding Truth. Many Christians shy away from discussing the passages we are about to look at. As I said at the outset, one must not fear any Truth, for the sum total of it is a marvelous picture even though some discoveries might initially offend us. The sum total of it gives us a fuller understanding of our awesome God. Before we take this perusal, I have to remind the Reader that we have already concluded that God is love.
Let’s start with how God punishes in general (both to the Christian and non-Christian alike). God is not bashful to admit that some devastation comes from Him. We cannot make the argument that a loving God cannot bring or cause disaster. God Himself says in Amos 3:6b, “When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” This type of punishment befalls both God’s people and non-Christians. However, not all disaster is an act of judgment of sin. Some devastation occurs just because God allows it as this is a fallen world. There are tsunamis that devastate entire communities for example. In the context of this verse here in Amos 3, this is regarding punishment for the people’s sins. And not only that, it is specifically referring to the sin of God’s own people, Israel. Just prior to this verse, in Amos 3:2, God says, “You [Israel] only have I chosen of all the families of the Earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” Although this is the case sometimes, the New Testament makes it clear that disaster is not always the result of sin. Jesus says in Luke 13:4, “...Or those 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” And again, John 9:2 says, “His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned...but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” In this case God allowed suffering so that His greater glory would be revealed. In other cases, God just doesn’t tell us the reason for our suffering in this life, but we are still called to live by faith in the midst of suffering with a hope and mindset of God’s eternal good purpose in the end. In our suffering, we should always remind ourselves of Romans 8:28.
When the wicked and righteous are mixed together, sometimes God allows the righteous to sanctify the wicked so long as the righteous are not themselves rebelling against God. God told Abraham that if he could find 50 who are righteous in Sodom, then God will spare the cities Sodom and Gomorrah. Please note here that God was going to allow the 50 to sanctify Sodom and Gomorrah in spite of their sin. Because of the 50 righteous, he was going to spare them all. Not only that, but God was going to allow the city of Sodom to sanctify both Sodom and Gomorrah. All Abraham had to do was to search Sodom, which would have been good enough for both cities. But Abraham did not find enough righteous people for God to allow the sanctification. Through pleading with the Lord, Abraham convinced God to lower the number from 50 eventually down to just 10 righteous, but Abraham still was not able to meet that quota. God wasn’t going lower than 10. Even if there were 9 righteous (which there weren’t), that would not have been enough to spare the 2 cities. At most, there were 6 who may have been considered righteous: Lot, his wife, his 2 daughters, and the 2 guys who were engaged to Lot’s two daughters. Of them, only Lot and his 2 daughters survived the ordeal.
God says in Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Daniel 9:14 says, “The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him.” This verse is insightful. It tells us that God maintains His righteousness when He brings His disaster. It is often (but not always) because of our sin and His holiness that He brings disaster. Mankind should never look at disaster and shakes his fist at the Holy Creator. People often ignore their sin and evil when they do that. God must respond to evil and rebellion because of His justice, righteous and holy character. If He doesn’t respond to it in this lifetime, He is only deferring it until the next. Thankfully, God has created a proviso or provision which is able to bypass or propitiate His wrath. He has provided the Cross and repentance to give us an opportunity to absolve ourselves of our sin. Sometimes God completely forgives and sets the person free after the person has repented. Jesus told a lady that He forgave her and to go and sin no more (John 8:11). There are many other New Testament examples of this. But other times God forgives, but the person still must face the consequences of their sin. God forgave David of killing Uriah and having an affair with Uriah’s wife, but as a consequence, God took the life of David’s firstborn to Bathsheba. And please also confer with John 5:14.
The next several verses we will look at do not necessarily fall under the category of God’s “punishment” or “discipline,” but they do show God’s prerogative to do as He wills as a Sovereign God. 1 Samuel 2:6-7 says, “The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts.” Everyone dies: both the wicked and the righteous, so it is not always due to a person’s sin that they died (it is due to Adam’s sin). But we see here that God has the Sovereign prerogative to call someone home. It is appointed for a person once to die, and after that face the judgement (Hebrews 9:27). He makes that appointment. God can, if He wills, do it as a punishment as Exodus 13:15 says that the LORD killed every firstborn baby in Egypt. He did this because of Pharaoh’s sin. This verse in 1 Samuel also says that God “sends poverty.” Some falsely argue that poverty is a result of the person’s sin. Some Gospel of Prosperity preachers teach that if a Christian is not obtaining the wealth that they aspire to achieve then it is likely due to their sin. This verse tells us that it is God’s prerogative to send poverty and wealth to whomever He pleases. There are many poor Christian righteous saints, and there are many rich evil wicked sinners. See also a similar verse in Deuteronomy 32:39.
Exodus 4:11 says, “The LORD said to him [Moses], “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”” Who is blind, deaf, or mute is decided by God, through His will which He does not disclose to us why in this lifetime. We will learn more about Him and His will when we are with Him during Eternity and at that time we will see the fullness of Romans 8:28. It is God’s prerogative to choose to use blindness, muteness, or anything else as a punishment or discipline for sin if He chooses to do so. Recall in Luke 1:20 that God made Zechariah mute for a while because he did not believe the angel’s message that his wife Elizabeth (who was old in age) was pregnant with his baby (John the Baptist). Recall also, that Israel’s king, Zedekiah, had both of his eyes put out by the king of Babylon, but the true reason that Scripture gives is it was because of his sin against the Lord. Again, Jesus taught in John 9:2-3 that not everyone’s blindness is the result of any particular sin. So it goes both ways: God can choose to use blindness (and muteness) as a punishment and other times, He may allow a person to be blind (or mute), but not related to any sin.
Here are just a few more similar, notable verses: Isaiah 42:24 says, “Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey His law.” Isaiah 66:16 says, “For with fire and with His sword the LORD will execute judgement upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD.” Isaiah 54:16 says, “...And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc.” God created the tsunami, hurricane, volcanic eruption, tornado, forest fire, lightning, flood, and etcetera. The purpose of each of these is not for serenity and peace. In the context of Isaiah 54:16, the “destroyer” is specifically referring to nations such as Assyria and Babylon, who God raised up to destroy other nations that He wanted to rebuke; in this case, His own nation, Israel, for rejecting Him.
Revelation 22:18 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” The reason I quote this is just to say that here, we are in the New Testament. Even though Revelation has been attached as the last book of the Bible, the “this book” clause refers exclusively to the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation includes nearly all of the plagues of the Old Testament. God’s 2 Witnesses in Revelation had at their power and disposal, all of the plagues of the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Despite Israel’s constant rebellion and disobedience, God disciplined, even slained many, but always left a remnant because of His love for the nation. And Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” This is interesting because Jesus often showed up in the Old Testament as “The Angel of the LORD.” The Angel of the LORD often showed up in the Old Testament to dispense God’s most destructive judgment. Jesus came to Earth as a humbled servant in the New Testament so that He can serve mankind as the Sacrificial Lamb for our sins. He will return in the end times, according to the Book of Revelation as one holding the seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp double edged sword coming out of His mouth, which He will use to slay His enemies (Rev. 1:16; 19:21). Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Again, this is New Testament.
God sometimes uses death to punish His own children because He sees “death” differently than how we view death. Before we discuss this, let’s look at a few examples of Him using death to punish His own people. Please note firstly, that whenever God uses death to punish His own people, they are still eternally saved; they are just called home early because of their sin. God says in Amos 4:10, “‘I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the LORD.”
“But that’s the Old Testament,” one might again retort. Here is the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 says, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep.” To “fall asleep” here means that these people have died. These people who have passed are saved believers. However, because they did not take the Communion table seriously—maybe they ate to fill hunger pains, or ate without considering the purpose of the occasion—God not only punished or disciplined some by making them sick, but others, He caused to die, bringing them to Heaven early. Another New Testament example is Ananias and Sapphira. I’m sure that the Reader is familiar with the story. They were both saved. They were not killed by the Holy Spirit for not being Christian. They were Christian. They were killed by the Holy Spirit because their greed and desire for worldly wealth caused them to deceptively withhold vital promised monies that would have helped jump start the growth of some early developing new churches that were in need. Today there are many Christians in the Church who are like-minded as Ananias and Sapphira who value money over the needs of their fellow Saints and who are willing to lie to keep for themselves and deprive their brothers and sisters in Christ. My point here is that God is not above using even death to discipline His own children. There are many such examples in the Old Testament as well.
Here, some reading might retort, “But how can a loving God kill His own children?” The true answer to that question lies in the true definition of “death.” God is able to punish His own children with death because His view of death is much different than ours. In at least 2 ways God sees death differently than most people, even Christians: 1.) God sees death in light of eternity. 2.) God sees what we see as life as really death, and what we see as death as really life.
Let’s first discuss number one. This lifetime is extremely miniscule compared to the length of eternity. Billions of years from now, a Christian who died yesterday will have at that time lived billions of years on the New Earth. At that time, will what you did on Earth in this temporary body really come to mind? Life is very precious, but comparatively speaking, which is greater—life today or eternity? God sent Jesus to die for us on the Cross because He was much concerned about our eternal life. My point for number one is that God’s perspective of life is much different than ours because He is an Eternal being and sees all things from eternity. We just see from the perspective of our lives here on Earth while in this current body. Even babies die, but they live forever in eternity on the New Earth. If an adult’s life is cut short by 10 years because of their disobedience, they were still blessed to live much longer many babies who have died. God sees those babies as blessed and loved. He calls some home early to a better place than this. Do you realize that the Rapture will “cut short” the lives of Christians who are alive on Earth at the time? A Christian teenager during the Rapture will be swept away to Heaven because God knows that life on the other side, in Heaven with Christ is greater than this side on this current Earth.
Isaiah 57:1 says, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” This verse shows that Eternity is the better option than this current life. It reveals that death is the more beneficial option. However, suicide should never be an option because life is a blessing from the Lord and to commit suicide would be to scoff at God’s wonderful gift of life to you. But just give it some time: for all Christians will eventually discover firsthand, and will all concur that life on the other side is better than their life here on Earth in this body of flesh. Please note in Isaiah 57:1 that it is God’s choice to call someone home early—this should never be our choice through suicide. This verse explains why He calls the righteous home early. It says that He cuts short the life of some to spare them from evil. God decides to take some babies and infants early to spare them from a life of hardship, and He knows all what-ifs. God knows the end from the beginning and all possibilities in between. This is never our choice to make. Life is in His hands. He is the Divine Owner of life and the Arbiter of who lives and who dies. Murder, abortion, suicide, and euthanasia are all evil and should be decried. The only taking of life that God allows in the hands of man include justifiable wars, and the death penalty by the government so long as there are at least 2 to 3 witnesses to an evil, reprehensible crime.
That leads me to a side point. Murder by self-defense is an invention by secular man, not the Bible. I often hear Christians talk or teach self-preservation: that it is okay to murder for self-defense. They say that owning guns is our divine right (though I’m still waiting to hear Scripture to substantiate). This has led to evil laws, such as the Floridian Stand Your Ground law that has been racistly applied to exonerate white people for killing innocent black people, while claiming they felt threatened—yet the black person was unarmed. Who is really in danger if one has a gun and the other doesn’t? Logically, shouldn’t the law apply only to the unarmed person, as they are the truly threatened? Outside of war, I cannot come up with a single instance where God sanctions murder for the feeling of imminent danger. David and Goliath skirmished, but that was a war. Goliath represented the entire Philistine army and David represented Yahweh’s people. Goliath outlined the winner’s rights in 1 Samuel 17:9, saying, “If he [any Israelite] is able to fight and kill me, we [Philistines] will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” So this was a war between 2 nations, and not just a simple skirmish between 2 dudes who felt threatened by each other. Jesus even says in Matthew 5:38, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you: Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the left also.” Florida says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, pull out your concealed gun and kill them.” No Christian should advocate this!
The second bullet point above argues that God sees what we see as life as really death; and what we see as death as really life. Most people have the concepts of life and death backwards. The moment a baby is born, they are born into death. This side of the fence, that is this life, is death; the other side of the fence is life if one is Christian. Pain, suffering, disease, famine, deterioration, etc. are all part of death. None of that exists in the realm of true life, which is the next life. Paul understood this. He said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” While Paul was living in the realm of death, his focus was on Christ; but to see Christ face to face is gain and true life. Paul goes on to say that “to be with Christ is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). The Psalmist understood this. Psalm 42:2 says, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Paul again says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” See also Acts 21:10-14. The only ones that “death” really harms are non-Christians and also loved ones left behind who have yet to die themselves and who miss dearly the ones that have passed away. Many think they are living only to die; but the Christian’s reality is that we are currently dying to live. Moreover, the non-Christian is dead, even though he or she currently “lives.” And technically speaking, the Christian enters in and out of death as he or she vacillates in and out of fellowship with God due to their rebellion and reinstatement of their fellowship through repentance and return to obedience.
The Biblical definition of death simply means separation from the life of God. By the Biblical definition, to die physically for a Christian is to enter into life having come out of death. While here on Earth, one is more separated from the life and presence of God than one will be in the life to come so long as one is saved in Christ Jesus. We are currently in a body of death waiting to be fully redeemed through Christ. Rebellion against God is the root cause of death, which is what initially led to the physical death of the first human being. Without sin and evil, humans would have lived forever, as they were initially created as eternal beings. Recall that Adam and Eve had access to eat from the Tree of Life and lock in their ability to live forever without ever dying. But because of their sin, they got barred from that Tree, and God says in Genesis 3:22, “...The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.” That Tree would have made mankind live forever, but it would have also locked mankind into their sinful state forever without any hope for redemption, so God did Adam, Eve, and all of mankind a favor by kicking them out of the garden away from the Tree of Life until He provided the Sacrificial Lamb Jesus.
There is no sin or evil in the next life for the Christian, therefore death exists only while we are alive in this body, not after we leave this body. Christians die to attain life. Non-Christians are already dead, but they will die again to attain even greater death (that is, they’ll be even more separated from the Life of God) and they will also attain the punishment or sentence that serves as the penalty for death. So it is important for Christians to stay in fellowship with God because in fellowship, we are abiding in life, which staves away the effects of death for us. When a Christian rebels against God, refusing to repent, God kicks them out of fellowship which puts them into a state of death even though they are still saved for Eternity. Regarding Christian widows, Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:6, “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” She is alive physically, but dead spiritually even though she is still saved and will be alive for an eternity in the next life. When a Christian is dead, that means that he or she is outside of the fellowship of God: that abundant life that Jesus spoke about. This state of death makes one much more prone to suffering. In this state, one is now more prone to suffering because to be outside of God’s fellowship is to be outside of His protection, blessings and good-will. God does not answer the prayers of Christians who are out of fellowship with Him. And if Christian keeps rebelling then God’s judgment increases proportionately. A Christian who plays the game of sin becomes God’s enemy. Once a Christian acts as God’s enemy, God treats them as such (Hebrews 10:27). Before we talk a bit about fellowship, it is first important to highlight that Christians are not exempt from suffering.
Some uninformed new Christians believe that God is obligated to prevent His own children from suffering. Scripture, however, teaches the opposite. Christians are not exempt from pain, trials, suffering, or persecution. In fact, Jesus promised that if we are His disciples then we will be persecuted. Paul was left with a thorn in his flesh that Satan gave him. God allowed Satan to give it to him. Even though Paul prayed 3 times for God to remove it, Jesus said that his thorn that is causing him pain serves a purpose. Even though his thorn made him weak, Jesus said that it will make him stronger to keep it because it forces Paul to rely more on the strength of Jesus over his own power. God never took away his suffering and pain. The Bible says that no servant is above their Master (John 13:16, 1 Peter 2:21). Jesus suffered pain and persecution; His people too are not immune to the same sufferings. God never promised that we would not have trials. Some Bible students confuse a particular verse for this. God did promise was that He would not give us any temptation that is too much for us to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Please don’t confuse the word “temptation” for a “trial.” Some Christians alter this verse to say that God does not give us trials beyond what we can bear. Temptation has to do with the struggle to fall to our desire to sin. A trial is any endured suffering. A trial may or may not be a consequence to sin—sometimes it is and God disciplines us through it; other times it has nothing to do with sin, but God is still allows it to increase our faith in Him and strengthen us more spiritually.
God never promised to not give us more than we can bear. Job was given much more than he could bear as he sat with his friends in silence for 7 days in dust and ashes. Please see Paul’s hardships—2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29—where he was given more than he can bear. He even boasts of his weaknesses to his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:30. In fact, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8b, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even life.” Here, Paul directly contradicts what many Christians say because they misinterpreted his other verse. Paul says that his trials were much more than he could bear. He goes on to say, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” God does not give us heavy burdens for no reason. He gives us the heavy weight of trials so that we can learn to rely on Him more and not on ourselves. God hates pride and self-sufficiency. He uses trials to break and humble us so that He becomes our only source of strength. Since we are weak mortals, why trust in ourselves? Should we not rather trust in a great God who has the power to raise people from the dead?
The purpose of light trials is often discipline. The purpose of heavy trials is to break us. There is a great benefit to being broken. God wants to break all of His children. He hates pride. 2 Corinthians 4:11 says, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.” This verse tells us that God gives His children over to death. “Trials” is a close synonym to “death” because both are a consequence of sin. In order for the life of Jesus to be made manifest in us, it requires that we be given over to death; and it requires that we put to death our worldly desires and will. As long as our old selves are still alive—that is, as long as it is the dominating influence—then we will never experience the life of Christ being revealed in us. The life of Christ includes peace, power, light and Truth. It does not include exemption from more trials (i.e., death); instead, with the life of Christ, one is able to have complete joy and peace while they undergo their trials. Trials are the refinery fire that God uses to break the will of His servants to bring us closer to Him and to reveal His life in us.
God increases the magnitude of trials when we continue to ignore His discipline. He does this to break us and He breaks us because He loves us. His goal is to bring us back into fellowship with Him. Hebrews 10:26 warns us to not abuse God’s grace through the Cross, or else He will send greater judgment. It says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the Truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” This verse is referring to Christians only. Only Christians have received/ accepted the “knowledge of Truth.” Other passages show clearly that Christians cannot lose their salvation. Once one is saved through faith in Christ, the same is always saved because one’s salvation has nothing to do with what one does. However, if a Christian continues to sin, he or she will incur severe, raging fire type of judgment from God. And, the Christian will be so far out of fellowship that he or she will be temporarily viewed as “an enemy of God” until they repent by appealing to the Cross and putting away their sin and pride. God never gives up on the prodigal son or daughter. God’s judgment is evidence that He has not given up on us, otherwise He would remain silent and let us continue to go astray when we spurn His rebuke. As we saw earlier from Proverbs 27:7, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” God disciplines as a loving Father and friend.
I sort hit on the fact that fellowship is linked to God’s discipline because God uses discipline to bring us back into fellowship whenever we rebel against Him. So I should conclude with a few words about fellowship. The Bible has an entire book about fellowship. The theme of 1 John is fellowship. There are several requirements to fellowship. To be in fellowship with God requires that we are in fellowship with our fellow Christians. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother (throughout the New Testament, “brother” means fellow Christian—we are each other’s family), he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” If we do not love our fellow saints, then we are not in fellowship with Him.
To “abide” or remain in fellowship with God requires that we do not walk in darkness. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the Truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” We get purified, or forgiven or purged of our sin when we are in fellowship with God, which requires first that we are not walking in darkness and are loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. To not walk in darkness means that we are walking in its opposite, which is light. Verse 5 says that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. To walk in light does not mean that we are first absolved of all sin; it does not mean that we first get right with God before we can walk in light. No, rather, to walk in light means that we come as we are and let God’s light expose us of our dirt, sins, and shortcomings. Light exposes whatever is there. To walk in light means that we are not lying to ourselves about ourselves. It means that we are not hiding or ignoring our sins. It means that we have brought our sins to the open before God so that we address them and fix them. The light itself is pure and perfect. God is light. He shows us what we need to clean up when we humbly come to Him with contrite hearts and no pride. He not only shows us, but He also empowers us to do it when our hearts comply.
To be in fellowship requires that we confess our sin. See 1 John 1:8-10. We must understand, however, that “confession” is nothing like what Catholicism has made it out to be. Catholicism allows one to sin without constraint and it teaches that all is well so long as one simply confesses. It goes on and teaches that not only is all well again just by confessing with the mouth, but one can keep sinning the same sin over and over again and just keep confessing and all will remain well. We already looked at Hebrews 10:26-27 earlier in this lesson and saw that this sentiment is not correct. That is not what confession means. We are to come into the light to see our sins and then confess our sins with the purpose of correcting them and not repeating them again. Any sin that is difficult to overcome because of its overwhelming power of temptation, we are to implement Galatians 5:16 against, which says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul says that it is possible to stop sinning—we just have to rely on God’s power, not our own to overcome sin that is too great for our mortal selves to overcome. Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing is impossible with God.” And we are to keep in mind as we saw earlier that God does not give any temptation that is too great for us to overcome—even though sometimes it might “feel” like it is too great. God always—no matter how great the temptation may be—provides a way out. Sometimes the way out is to simply run away from it like how Joseph did when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:12.
There are three passages in the Bible that list sins that kick us out of fellowship. One is Galatians 5:19-21, which says: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, for he says, “...and the like,” i.e., “etcetera.” The phrase “and the like” goes with the first part: they “are obvious.” The other 2 passages are 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Ephesians 5:3-5. Although all three are similar, there are slight variations between each of the lists. But all three conclude that such a person does not inherit the Kingdom of God. This is referring to the Kingdom of God, not salvation. We can lose access to the Kingdom of Heaven, but not salvation, which is not based on our efforts, but rather on our faith in Christ. The Kingdom of God is a separate study of its own that I have covered. For brevity sake, I won’t cover it here. All sin is not equal, and we will examine this more in a bit. These 3 lists list the egregious sins that God refuses to fellowship with such people who live this way. We are to bring our sin into the light, repent, call upon His Holy Spirit and power to overcome it, agree with God’s Word regarding it and commit to putting these things out of our lives.
The evidence of being in fellowship with God is given in Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The Bible says that love covers over a multitude of sins. If you simply love, you’ll accomplish much of the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are what God produces in us when we live not according to the flesh (our wills), but give up our wills and efforts, and live according to His will and strength. Living this way is evidence that we are in fellowship with God. There is freedom in fellowship. There is no law against it. It is not to be regarded as a restriction. God gave freedom to Adam and Eve. God said that of all other trees of the garden you may freely eat. Satan, the Deceiver, twisted God’s words to make it seem like God was restricting Adam and Eve. Satan had them focus on the one tree that God said that they couldn’t eat from and Satan took their eyes off of all of the other trees that God said that they were free to eat from (which included the Tree of Life).
Let’s look at one more passage regarding fellowship. 1 John 5:16 says, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that does leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.” Verse 17 continues, “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” What in the world is this saying?!?! Well, let’s discuss. John here says that there is sin that leads to death and there is also particular sin that does not lead to death. First of all, I have to remind the Reader that John’s intended audience is Christian only. John makes it clear that his book addresses Christians only. In 1 John 5:13 he says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Not only is his intended audience Christian, but John’s purpose of writing is to make them more sure of their salvation, not to make them uneasy about not knowing whether or not they are saved. John’s purpose is to assure them that they are saved. We learn from other Scriptures throughout the New Testament that Christians cannot lose their salvation from either sinning or from failing to achieve enough righteousness because salvation is not based on what we do—it is based only on our faith in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, there is sin that the Christian can commit that leads to death. These sins that lead to death are found in the 3 lists from Paul that I shared earlier and please refer again to 1 Timothy 5:6.
We learn right here from John that all wrongdoing is sin. However, we also see here that not all sin is equal in God’s eyes. All sin falls short of God’s glory, but not all sin is equal to each other. A person who has told a white lie has fallen short of the glory of God, just as a person who has committed a heinous offense. However, God, who is a just God, will not judge the white lie and the heinous offense equally. They don’t carry the same weight. If God judged the murderer and the person who told only a white lie the same, would that be just? He doesn’t do that. All sin is wrongdoing, but we also learn from this passage that not all sin leads to death. Death is separation from the life of God; it is a departure away from fellowship. The term “death” here refers to being outside of God’s fellowship. So although all sin is wrongdoing, not all sin kicks a Christian out of fellowship from God. And to be kicked out of fellowship is to be kicked into a death state. To continually commit any egregious sin will lead to us being kicked out of fellowship (until we sincerely repent back into fellowship). Other venial sins, however, do not lead to disfellowship.
This is good news. God does not kick us out of fellowship just because of our foibles. If we accidentally slip sometimes; as long as it is not an egregiously flagrant sin or a perpetually recurring one that we refuse to repent of, God understands that we slip and fall sometimes. He knows that we are only human and won’t kick us out of His fellowship. It is good news to know that we don’t have to live in fear in this regard. We don’t have to worry whether or not if God is angry with us regarding sins of omission or sins of commission that we are not aware that we have committed so long as those sins are not egregious. To be in fellowship with God means that we are in His favor; and God says that small sins do not kick us out of His favor. As long as we are in fellowship with Him, He wants us to enjoy our relationship instead of being afraid or wondering if He is angry with us. However, when He does kick us out of fellowship for hardened hearts, then He wants us to be very afraid, because the Bible says that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. It is dreadful to fall into His wrath. Whether we are in His fellowship or not, we should always be confessing our sins (both the big and small) to assure that we remain in His fellowship. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
The sins that tick God off are the ones that kick us out of fellowship. It is important to be aware of which sins these are. The only way to know this is to study the Word. The most offensive sins are not based on our opinion. Some sins that we think are terrible, God does not rank as highly (or He might not consider it a sin at all); other sins that we think are not that bad, tick God off greatly. We don’t think like how God thinks. His opinions are different than ours. The only way to know the mind of God is to read and study the Bible. I’ll give some examples. Many Christians don’t think it to be so bad of a sin to lie sometimes, or don’t think it is so major of a sin to gossip about others. Christians do these things in church all the time and still feel good about themselves. But Proverbs 6:16-19 says that both of these are sins that God hates. Proverbs 6:19 says, “[God hates...] a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up [gossips] dissension among brothers.”
Conversely, it fumes a lot of Christians when another “judges” them. “You can’t judge me,” they say. According to the Bible, God does want Christians to judge each other. He wants us to hold each other accountable. He also wants us to be opened to being judged ourselves by other Christians. We are told, however, to not judge non-Christians for their sin because they don’t need to be bashed for their sin when instead they need Christ to forgive them to take away their condemnation. The Apostle Paul judged a fellow Christian for an egregious sin in 1 Corinthians 5:3, which says, “Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.” (There, Paul told them to excommunicate the person from the Church, which consequently kicks the person out of fellowship from God and into His strictest discipline until the person repents.) Our opinions must conform to God’s Truth. The reason for the Christian’s sensitivity to so-called “being judged” is due to a misunderstanding of the passage in the Bible where Jesus teaches to not judge another. I explained what that really means in a different lesson. It doesn’t fit in this lesson. It is indeed a misinterpretation of that passage. Please note that Paul, James, and others pass judgment on their fellow Christians throughout the New Testament and teach us to do the same. Jesus was instructing us on how to judge one another. Judge with righteous clarity, not hypocritically or with prejudice.
Let’s return to 1 John 5:16. It tells us that if anyone sees his brother (or fellow Christian) commit a sin that does not lead to death (that is, it does not break fellowship) then we should pray and God will give him life. Why would he need to be given life if he just told us that the sin does not lead to death? Please stick with me and follow the logic. He needs prayer to “receive life” because the sin did bring about some death, but it did not fully break fellowship from God. The wages of sin is death, but God doesn’t let penurious sin break fellowship. Sin in penny wages does not break fellowship. Sin that does not break fellowship would lead to death if it were multiplied and committed repeatedly, flagrantly, purposefully. Don’t let your penny sins accumulate since the wages of sin is death. So what types of sin does lead to death immediately or more quickly? What is an example? John told us already. He says in 1 John 3:14b, “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” For John, the options are love versus hate (there’s no neutral option that he gives between the two). So what John is saying is that anyone who hates his brother remains in death. Hatred, enmity, jealousy, strife, plotting against another, gossip, etc. all leads to death (they all break fellowship from God). In order to be in fellowship with Him, God wants us to first be in fellowship with one another. Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”
I’ll close with the joy of discipline. Discipline is never fun, but we are still called to be joyful during discipline and even suffering. Being joyful while suffering is made possible by keeping an eternal perspective in spite of the trials we are facing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Be joyful always...” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always...” and in case that didn’t resonate, it goes on to say, “...and again I say, rejoice.” What does the word “always” mean? It means to rejoice even during trials and the hard times. Rejoice even while the Lord is disciplining you for your sins. We are not called to rejoice “because” of the trial or discipline; we are called to rejoice in spite of our sufferings. Rejoice because God loves you and is in control even while you are facing your storm. When it comes to discipline, keep in mind that God is disciplining you because He loves you—we saw that earlier. He is disciplining you because He is refining you into a better spiritual person to become more like Christ. You will be more spiritually mature once you get through His discipline. Rejoice because suffering does not last always and there is a blessing waiting at the end of the tunnel.
Paul and Silas were severely flogged by the magistrates; they were stripped and beaten. Then they were thrown in prison in stocks. They did not bicker because of their suffering and injustice. They instead rejoiced. They prayed and sang hymns to God and then God sent them a break through and rescued them from their trials. The Israelites bickered during their hardships and God sentenced them to 40 years in the desert (but He still took care of them during their discipline). Whether we suffer unjustly or because of a sin, we are still called to rejoice and never bicker. God hates bickering. If God is disciplining, but yet you respond by bickering—and God hates bickering—His discipline will never reach its intended purpose until you stop bickering. Rejoicing and repentance is the quickest way to get through discipline. Rejoicing is the best way to get through an unjust suffering where no sin was committed. It won’t change the situation, but it will change you during the situation because rejoicing strengthens our faith and opens our eyes to who is really in charge—i.e. God.