Will some believers take advantage of the message of grace and keep on living by their flesh? If their understanding of the gospel goes no further than the forgiveness of sin, then probably yes.
However, if they understand that Christ not only died for the forgiveness of sin, but rose again to come and live in us and through us, then absolutely not!
Some will become immature and rebellious, thinking grace is to cover everything they continue to do, but they will soon discover a turmoil on the inside that is far worse than before they came to Christ. We don’t continue in what God has delivered us from. When you have an understanding of the true gospel, you have a responsibility to respond accordingly.
Knowing the difference between discipline and punishment can help those who don’t understand how to get back on the right track.
Discipline is not punishment. Too many times people confuse what parents or others have done to us, and think God’s character is the same – not so. This error in thinking this way is a stronghold of legalism. It has to be corrected in order to rest in God’s grace. And never think you have sinned so much that a loving Father won’t forgive you.
Punishment – is a penalty imposed on an offender for breaking a law – wrong doing. It is retribution for a crime committed.
If you get a ticket for speeding, the police officer doesn’t really care that you had something else on your mind or you were late for work. The why doesn’t matter, you still pay a fine. There is a penalty for breaking the speed limit.
Discipline – is training that develops self-control and character. Punishment and discipline sometimes feel like the same thing, on the receiving end, especially when you first start exercising body or mind. However, the attitude for punishment is anger and indignation and its goal is justice. The attitude for discipline is love to develop and benefit for the person. You can’t start a diet today and reach your goal the next.
We should know that under the “New covenant”, God does not deal with His children on the bases of punishment. I know I’ve probably just shocked some of you but continue reading.
God placed all the punishment for yours and my sin, on Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary! He deals with us through discipline when we need it, not out of anger, nor with a demand for justice. He deals with us as a loving Father, teaching us to grow in grace.
Until we learn this, when tragedies happen in our lives, we will ask, “Why did this happen to me? Is God mad at me for something I’ve don?” Remember: Jesus already said that, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). So you know trouble, hardships, and tragedies are going to happen. But Jesus said in John 16:33 that, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” So we still need to trust in Christ when bad things happen.
Chapter 11 in Hebrews was written to the Christian Jews who were facing tremendous persecution for their faith. They were being barred from the temple and synagogues; were being ostracized and threatened, many were wavering in their faith. They might have assumed, as we do at times, that God must be angry about something. But Hebrews reminded them and us of all the historical characters that had faced even bigger tragedies, hardships, challenges, and pressures, to keep going, “by faith.” They all did what they did, by faith!
The Bible tells us in James 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. It’s a testing of our faith.
And the good news to the trials we go through is; the promise that He will go through them with us; the promise that all things will work together for our good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28); the promise to steer us back on track if we stray, through a loving corrective discipline to restore us; the promise of peace and joy in the midst of our trials through trusting and thanksgiving from us; and the promise, that nothing that happens to us is a sign of rejection.
So we accept our trials as an opportunity for God to build character qualities that have an eternal value. Philippians 1:6, reminds us that, “He who began a good work in you, will complete it, until the day of Jesus Christ!” We are not to focus on the circumstances because that only brings frustration. We focus on the promises of All Mighty God because He knows the “End from the beginning and its all good!