Robert Jeffress - Reproofs That Restore
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to, Pathway to Victory. Most parents understand the repercussions of coddling a child. When we remove healthy boundaries, and allow a child to run without restraint, we put our sons and daughters in danger. Well, as we continue our series called, "Spiritual Fitness," I'll be teaching from Hebrews chapter 12, about the wisdom of parental discipline. My message is titled, "Reproofs That Restore", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Every nine to 12 months, our switchboard lights up for a couple of days, with people calling from around the country, and they all say the same thing. They say, "You know, we thought we just saw your pastor on TV, but he sure looked a lot younger". And when we get those calls, I know immediately what's happening. The game show network is once again running reruns of my appearance on the game show, "Card sharks," 35 years ago. A show by which, I ought to mention, I was the five-day champion, but that's another story. In fact, my daughter, Dorothy, just recently, she came across it on television and said, "Why did you never tell me about this"? I remember it very well, like it was yesterday. And I remember on one of those episodes, the host of the program was asking me and my opponent a question. He said, "We surveyed 100 ministers, and we asked them this question, is that okay to tell children that if they are bad, God will punish them? How many ministers said yes"?
Well, my opponent was very sophisticated, and very articulate, and she basically relegated the idea of God punishing people to the dark ages. And she said that number was probably very small. And then host turned to me and said, "Well Robert, you're a preacher, what do you say? Is that okay to tell children that if they're bad, God will punish them"? And my mind immediately raced over some of those stories in the old and New Testament, where God didn't punish people, even children, when they were disobedient to him. But I also realized that to the general population, the idea of God picking on people not his own size, especially children, was somehow distasteful. So I'll admit to you, I kind of hedged my answer.
Now had the writer of Hebrews been in my spot on a game show, he would not have hedged his answer whatsoever, because in the passage we're going to look at today from Hebrews 12, the writer makes it very clear that God punishes unbelievers who are disobedient to him, but God disciplines believers who are disobedient to him. And it's that discipline of believers that is the theme of Hebrews chapter 12, beginning with verse 5. How does God deal with people like you and me, when we wander away from him? We're going to look at some very sobering words about that topic today. If you have your Bibles, turn to Hebrews chapter 12, beginning with verse 5, as we talk about, "Reproofs that restore".
Now remember, this was written to a group of Christians who were in danger of giving up their faith because of persecution. And the writer encourages them, "Don't give up your faith in Christ during these difficult times". And in the first portion of chapter 12, he uses a positive motivation, to ask them to hold onto their faith. He says, "Remember those who have gone before you, the great heroes of the faith, remember Jesus himself the author and finisher of our faith". But beginning in verse 5, he uses a negative, but a very reasonable explanation of why we shouldn't wander away from God as well. Look at verse 5, "You have 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. 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"?
There is a difference in the Bible between God's wrath and God's discipline. God's wrath is the anger that he pours out upon unbelievers. The Bible says everyone has sinned, everyone is deserving of the wrath, the anger of God. And God's wrath is the anger he pours out on unbelievers. And the Bible says we as Christians are exempt from God's wrath, why? Because God took out the wrath that we deserve. He took it out, he poured it out on his own son, Jesus Christ. You and I never have to worry about the wrath, the anger of God, because Jesus felt the full brunt of that wrath and anger that you and I deserve. And that's why Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus".
We are exempt from God's wrath. But God's discipline is the correction he brings into a believers' life, in order to restore him. And while we are exempt from God's wrath, the Bible says we are guaranteed God's discipline. Mark it down, underline it, circle it, remember it forever. If you wander away from God as a believer, God is going to discipline you. And the tools that God uses to bring hardship into your life is what the Bible calls reproofs, reproofs. You find that word throughout scripture, including our passage from Hebrews 12. Think of a reproof as a paddle that a father uses to spank his son or daughter with. Let me give you this definition of a reproof. A reproof is simply a difficult circumstance God allows in your life, to correct your behavior, and restore your relationship with him. It's a difficult circumstance that God brings into your life to restore your relationship with him. And we have a choice, we can accept those reproofs, and learn from them, or we can ignore those reproofs, and pay a steep price for doing so.
In fact, Proverbs is filled with warnings about listening to the reproofs of life, instead of ignoring them. Jot down these scripture verses, Proverbs 10:17, "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray". Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge. But he who hates reproof, is stupid". Every now and then I get an email from a member, or watcher saying, "Pastor, you said stupid. And the Bible says you shouldn't call people stupid. That's not nice". The Bible calls some stupid. If you don't listen to God, and you keep going down the path you're going, and don't learn from the reproofs he brings into your life, the Bible says you are stupid. That's what the Bible says.
Proverbs 13:18, "Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline. But he who regards reproof will be honored".
Proverbs 15:10, "Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way. He who hates reproof will die".
And then this one, it's a great verse to memorize, Proverbs 29:1, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy". The person who hardens himself, no matter what discipline God brings, and says, "I will not learn from it, I will not change," is suddenly going to be destroyed.
Let's look at three of the most common reproofs, examples of reproofs, that you find in scripture that God may be using, even in your life right now. One reproof he uses is sometimes financial pressure. Financial pressure can be God's way of bringing you back to himself. I've seen this so many times played out. Here's a man who starts an elicit relationship with another woman, falls in love with her, decides to leave his wife, and immediately, he encounters financial pressure. Suddenly, there are attorney's costs, having to maintain two residences, having to split his assets, alimony payment, child payments, and pretty soon he's out of money. It's just like Proverbs 6:26 says, "For on account of a harlot, one is reduced to a loaf of bread".
Living apart from God can be very expensive. And one way God gets our attention is through financial pressure. Another way he does it is through family conflict. If God can't get our attention through our wallet, he'll do so with our family. We remember when God pronounced judgment, discipline on David, who by the way was a man after his own heart. But he wasn't exempt from God's discipline. God had a harsh punishment for David. He said, "Because you've done this thing," that is, committed adultery with Bathsheba, her husband killed in the process, "Now, therefore," he said, "The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and taken the wife of Uriah, the Hittite to be your wife".
Not long after that judgment, in 2 Samuel 12, you find David's son Absalom rebelling against David, and trying to overthrow his kingdom. Is that an accident? No, God had said, "Because of what you have done, there is going to be trouble in your house from now until the day you die". That's not accidental. Absalom had observed his own father rebelling against God. And from his father's example, he learned about how to rebel against God as well. Don't be surprised if God uses family conflict to bring you back to himself.
A third reproof of God can be sometimes illness. God can bring sickness into our life to get our attention. Now, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I'm not saying all sickness is the result of sin. Remember job's three friends, who were absolutely sure that job's illness was a result of his disobedience. They were wrong. And by the way, we're never to try to explain somebody else's reproofs. We're never to try to discern if somebody else is suffering because they're living outside of God's will. God will give you that wisdom about yourself, but not about other people. They were wrong about job. They didn't know any better. But even though job's illness was not the result of sin, some sickness is the result of personal sin.
For example, in Numbers chapter 12, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was struck with leprosy, because she rebelled against her brother, Moses. I always remind my sister Jennifer of that, just speaking out against Moses. No, but that's what happened to Miriam. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was also stricken with leprosy because of his disobedience to God. Look at David, what happened to him? Psalm 32 says that during that time when he refused to repent of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, God afflicted him. Psalm 32:3-4, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, your hand was heavy upon me, and my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer".
In James 5:14-16, James says, "Is there any among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil, in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him". Why is James talking about healing and confessing sins in the same passage? Because James is saying there are some sins that are the result of sin. And we need God's wisdom to determine whether or not our sickness is a sickness because of sin.
Now we've talked about what a reproof is, it's a difficult circumstance God brings into our life to correct us. Secondly, we've talked about examples of reproofs that we experience. Today, I'd like to close by talking about three timeless truths about reproofs that come from Hebrews 12:5-8. First of all, God's reproofs are impartial. Hebrews 12:5-8, "You have 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," underline that, "Every son whom he receives".
I want you to imagine that you and I go to the top of this worship center. You're an obedient Christian, I'm a disobedient Christian. And we both jump off the top of this worship center. What's going to happen to us? The answer splat and splat. It doesn't matter that you're obedient, and I'm disobedient. The law of gravity applies to all of us. And it's the same truth about God's discipline. You may have lived your life as an obedient Christian forever, and you wander away from God. I may be a disobedient Christian, but none of us is exempt from God's discipline. Secondly, God's reproofs are restorative. Look at verses 9 and 10, "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, but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share his holiness". And then he quotes Proverbs 3:12, "For whom the Lord loves, he reproves, even as a father corrects the son, in whom he delights". "For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines".
Notice it doesn't say he condemns, he disciplines. Think about a murderer who's on death row, and is executed. The purpose of executing a criminal is not to restore him, to rehabilitate him. No, the purpose is not restoration, or rehabilitation, it's retribution. But God doesn't deal with us that way, if we're a believer. When you trust in Christ as your Savior, God took all of the retribution you and I deserve, and he poured it out upon his own son, at Jesus Christ. God corrects us, disciplines us, to restore us back into a right relationship with him. And finally, God's reproofs are instructional.
Look at verse 11, "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". Whenever God sends a reproof into your life, it's primarily for your benefit, and you choose to remain stiff necked, and suddenly be destroyed, or to submit in repentance. Most of the discipline God sends into your life is for your benefit. But it's also for the benefit of other people as well, who are watching you. They're to learn from your discipline. Let me ask you a question, have you recently been experiencing some unexplained hardships in your life? Financial pressure, illness, family conflict, something else? Don't just automatically write those things off as the problems of everyday life. Realize that if you're a Christian, and you're living apart from God, God will bring difficult circumstances into your life, not because he hates you, but because he loves you, and wants you to return to him. "For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines".