Before you begin your Bible study, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, be sure you have named your sins privately to God the Father.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (Known, Unknown and Forgotten sins) (1Jn 1:9)
You will then be in fellowship with God, Filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to learn Truth from the Word of God.
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth." (John 4:24)
CATEGORIES OF CHRISTIAN SUFFERING AND STAGES OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
THE BIBLE EXPLAINS SUFFERING and reveals powerful Divine assets for coping with adversity. No believer in Jesus Christ should remain ignorant of the causes and solutions to any difficulty in his life. Suffering is not inexplicable. Every instance of suffering has a reason, an explanation, and a solution!
Christian suffering can be most clearly understood in relation to the individual believer’s Spiritual growth. From this perspective, adversities may be classified into five categories. Two categories are typical of Spiritual childhood; three characterize Spiritual adulthood. The two categories of suffering in Spiritual childhood are punitive. The three in Spiritual adulthood are designed by God for blessing. This study will examine the problems and Divine solutions connected with self-induced misery, Divine discipline, providential preventive suffering, momentum testing, and evidence testing. These are five categories, which will be defined in due course, and account for all suffering in the Christian life.
The connection between punitive suffering and Spiritual childhood and suffering for a blessing with Spiritual adulthood is not a rigid distinction. Some suffering for blessing occurs in Spiritual childhood, and punitive suffering can hit the Spiritually adult believer when he sins or makes bad decisions. The general pattern, however, gives us a basis for understanding the pressures in our lives.
FIVE CATEGORIES OF CHRISTIAN SUFFERING
Adversity plays a dominant role in the lives of adult human beings. Suffering is like a parent. What responsible parents do for their children, suffering does for adults. The discipline and restraints of childhood imposed by parents are replaced by the discipline and restraints of adult life enforced by suffering. As a parent, a guardian, a referee ready to blow the whistle as an authority provided by God; suffering challenges us as believers to utilize the assets God has given us. Suffering depletes our human resources and confronts us with our total dependence on the grace of God. Suffering impresses upon us our need to conform to His plan!
Parents do more than discipline their children. Likewise, suffering is not merely a warning and a restraint but a teacher and motivator as well. Misfortune does not always come to injure, says a Latin maxim. Pain not only discourages us from going in the wrong direction, but it can also help to propel us in the right direction. The proper application of Truth under pressure produces Spiritual growth. We see Truth working. We experience the Reality that God is “a very present help in trouble.” (Psa 46:1-2; Psa 46:10) As a result of using His Word, our love for Him grows stronger, and we accelerate our Spiritual advance. Whether as a guardian or as a stimulus of Spiritual growth, all suffering in the Christian life must be understood in relation to the plan of God. Suffering, (Old sin nature, Thought, people, organization and disaster testing) is designed for our good and for His glorification. He is glorified by sustaining and blessing us in any situation, whether prosperity or adversity. It is for His Own glory, therefore, within the hardships and disasters of life God Promises, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Jos 1:5; Heb 13:5-6) He will “never let the righteous [Spiritual believer] be shaken.” [Or totter or fall] (Psa 55:22) Rather than eliminating suffering from our lives, He gives us far greater benefits by walking with us “through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psa 23:4)
TWO FUNCTIONS OF SUFFERING IN GOD’S PLAN
Many Principles in our study of suffering will apply to unbelievers (To motivate faith in Christ; Rev 11:13) as well as to believers, (To grow to Spiritual maturity; Heb 11:37-40) but we will concentrate on Christian suffering. We are studying the assets that God has graciously given to anyone who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are also identifying difficulties that arise when believers fail to utilize what God has given them.
Union with the King of Kings
Spiritual childhood begins at Salvation. At the moment anyone first believes in Christ, God the Holy Spirit simultaneously accomplishes eight ministries in behalf of the new believer. One of these ministries is the baptism of the Spirit, in which the Holy Spirit instantaneously places the believer into permanent union with Jesus Christ.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ [The baptism of the Holy Spirit at Salvation] have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, [No racial distinctions] there is neither slave nor free man, [No social classes] there is neither male nor female; [No sexual bias] for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [In union with Christ] (Gal 3:26-28)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Rev 19:16) He holds the most exalted of all royal titles. He is head of a new royal dynasty, the Church, to which we belong. The present era of history is the Church Age, in which every individual who believes in Christ as his Savior is adopted as an adult son and heir into the royal family of God. (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:1-5; Eph 1:4-5) Our adoption occurs at the first moment of faith in Christ, when we are placed in union with Christ. (Gal 3:26) We are royalty now and will be royalty forever. This is our eternal position; in our current experience, however, we must learn to Think as royalty. We must learn to conduct ourselves as royalty. In order to Think and live as Spiritual royalty, we need royal Thoughts. Simultaneously with the baptism of the Spirit, therefore, God the Holy Spirit also places each new member of the royal family into a magnificent, invisible environment, a system of living that can be compared to a royal palace. Because the believer’s very own invisible palace is a sphere of Spiritual power. In the function of the Spiritual life God has made available to each believer the exercise of Divine omnipotence. The believer’s utilization of Divine omnipotence will be explained as our study proceeds. The palace, or the Spiritual life, is a teaching aid that clearly explains the tremendous assets and privileges that God has given to each New Covenant Church Age believer. http://dictionaryofdoctrine.com/files/Top And Bottom Circles.jpg
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Living as royalty in the palace, (The Bottom Circle) is a synonym for living the Christian way of life. Only in the palace can we use our Spiritual assets, develop capacity for life, and live with Spiritual wisdom, happiness, and graciousness as the Spiritual aristocrats we are. Furthermore, the palace is the only sphere in which Christian growth can occur.
The Protocol Plan of God
Royalty lives by protocol. The Christian way of life can be called the protocol plan of God because the system — the Spiritual life — for utilizing God’s power, is a system of protocol. God designed the Christian life; we must THINK His way! Protocol is a rigid, long-established code; prescribing complete obedience to superior rank and strict adherence to due order of precedence and precisely correct procedure. Each element in Webster’s definition describes the plan of God for the believer’s life.
1. LONG-ESTABLISHED CODE: In eternity past God created for each Church Age believer a rich portfolio of blessings, which glorifies God, who it also designed the Spiritual life as our means of taking distribution of those blessings. (Eph 1:3-4)
2. OBEDIENCE TO SUPERIOR RANK: Sovereign and omnipotent God holds infinitely superior rank to which we must give complete obedience.
3. DUE ORDER OF PRECEDENCE: The highest priority in our scale of values must be learning the Word of God, Divine Thinking — Truth, which teaches us what assets we possess and explains how to utilize them.
4. PRECISELY CORRECT PROCEDURE: Only by adhering to God’s precise Thoughts for the royal family do we fulfill the conditions for receiving our blessings created in eternity past that glorify God.
Divine grace has created a royal way of life which Divine authority Commands the royal believer to execute. We are responsible for fulfilling the protocol plan of God, but God never issues an Order for which He has not already provided the means of execution. To obey God’s Commands is to tap His resources.
The Gates of the Palace
The Commands of God are like gates that open upon Divine assets. (Isa 62:10) The believer passes through these gates and uses his God-given assets by consistently learning and Thinking with God’s Thoughts and by following Divine protocol. Obedience to Divine authority puts the power of God into effect in the believer’s life. Although hundreds of Divine Commands for the royal family are found in the New Testament, all of these Commands can be classified into ten categories. The Spiritual life consolidates God’s Commands into ONE consistent, comprehensive system. The Spiritual life will be developed later in detail, but here a brief description of the ten gates will suffice, along with examples of Divine Commands pertinent to each gate. This section of the book outlines the Spiritual life; the next will fill in the outline, revealing the dynamics of the believer’s palace when he faces suffering.
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GATE 1, THE POWER GATE, is the silent, invisible, enabling ministry of God the Holy Spirit. Omnipotent God the Holy Spirit sustains the believer, supplying the supernatural means of executing the supernatural Spiritual way of life.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit [In Fellowship] and Truth. [With the Spiritual Thinking of The Word of God] (John 4:24)
Be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Gal 5:16)
GATE 2, THE GATE OF BASIC CHRISTIAN MODUS OPERANDI, is the source of the believer’s objectivity. In Gate 2, the most elementary systems of problem solving are available to the immature believer, which include the following:
The Rebound Technique is the grace means of restoring the believer to temporal fellowship with God after sin has broken that fellowship. The believer initially enters Gate 1 at Salvation, but he exits when he sins. He can reenter only through Gate 1. When the believer follows the simple, grace mechanics of reentry, the Holy Spirit automatically resumes control of the believer’s soul, (In place of the sin nature's control) restoring him to fellowship with God.
If we acknowledge our sins, [to God the Father] He is faithful and just so that He forgives us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)
Through the Faith-Rest Drill the believer mixes the Promises of God with faith and Thinks rationally to reach Doctrinal conclusions. (Heb 4:1-2)
In fact, we know that to those who love God, He works all things together for the good . . . To what conclusion are we forced, face to face with these things? God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:28; Rom 8:31)
Hope is the believer’s anticipation of Promised blessings and his initial basis for motivation. http://dictionaryofdoctrine.com/files/Three Hopes.jpg
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4)
GATE 3, THE GATE OF ENFORCED AND GENUINE HUMILITY, makes the believer teachable.
...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1Pe 5:5-6)
GATE 4, THE MOMENTUM GATE, is designed for intake, metabolism, and application of Divine Thoughts, which cause Spiritual growth and Personal love for God.
Man shall not live on bread alone, [Human needs] but on every Word [Spiritual Thought] that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matt 4:4)
GATE 5. THE GATE OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM, is the entrance into Spiritual adulthood. Spiritual self-esteem is the strength of soul that comes from Personal love for God. Love for God is the Spiritually adult Christian’s motivation in life. Spiritual self-esteem is also the beginning of sharing the Happiness of God.
For me, living is Christ, and dying is a promotion. (Php 1:21)
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now but believe in Him [From Truth in the soul] you rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious happiness. (1Pe 1:8)
GATE 6, THE GATE OF SPIRITUAL AUTONOMY, is the stability of Spiritual adulthood, characterized by Impersonal love for other people. Impersonal love is the functional Virtue of the Spiritually adult believer toward all mankind. Deriving its strength from the Virtue of the believer himself rather than being limited by questions of attractiveness or repulsiveness, compatibility or rejection from others, Impersonal love is the foundation for the correct mental attitude toward people and self.
The second is this, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. There is no other Commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:31)
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt 5:44)
But Jesus was saying, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (Luk 23:34)
GATE 7, THE GATE OF MOMENTUM TESTING, involves suffering which accelerates the believer’s advance from Spiritual autonomy to Spiritual maturity. Gate 7 is one of the categories of suffering for blessing.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of that upward call from God in Christ Jesus, therefore, as many as are Spiritual adults, let us keep on Thinking this. [God's Thoughts on every subject] and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. However, let us keep living by that same standard [Of Divine Thinking] to which we have attained. (Php 3:14-15)
GATE 8, THE WINNER’S GATE, is the gate of Spiritual maturity. This is the beginning of the most advanced level of Spiritual adulthood, in which God is glorified and the believer is blessed to the maximum under ALL circumstances, whether prosperity or adversity. The adult believer’s inner happiness is stabilized and established in Spiritual maturity.
If you keep My Commandments, you will reside in the sphere of My love, just as I [The humanity of Christ] have fulfilled the Commandments of My Father [Who created the Spiritual life] and I reside in the sphere of His love. [During His first advent Christ lived in the prototype] I have taught you these things [Divine Thoughts] that My happiness [Sharing the Happiness of God] might be in you and that your happiness might be completed. [At Spiritual maturity] (John 15:10-11)
When the Holy Spirit placed us in the palace, God the Father intended for us to live there, not to get out of fellowship with Him; through sin and move into the dungeon of Satan’s counterfeit systems. We are Spiritual royalty; but we must reside in our palace to solve the problems of suffering and to grow Spiritually. God’s plan calls for us to handle suffering from inside the palace. Only in the palace is His omnipotence at our disposal for handling the problems of life.
CATALOG OF THE BELIEVER’S
Problem Solving in Spiritual Childhood
Each gate of the palace contains Divine assets that may be used to solve particular problems that cause or accompany suffering. What difficulties do these eight gates solve? To help the believer recall and utilize the grace of God in the midst of overwhelming pain, the Divine provisions for problem solving are best described in highly objective language. The power and grace of God, therefore, will be presented in terms of “problem-solving devices.” This terminology may sound harsh and mechanical, but there is a reason for it. Under pressure the believer needs Truth. If he is coddled, he may be in danger of intensifying his problem by slipping into self-pity. No one with integrity wants to feel sorry for himself. Furthermore, under stress the believer needs straight answers. He does not need a lot of beautiful language. His emotions are already highly charged, and emotionalism offers no hope of stabilizing him. Certainly the grace of God can be described in beautiful poetic terms, but emotional stimulation will not solve the problem and might only complicate the Christian’s suffering which already is difficult enough. The purpose for this terminology is, to make it absolutely clear to the suffering believer that God has provided real assets, that both transcend his current sin nature, thought, people, organization and or disaster testing; and offer him effective help in time of need. (Prov 28:25-26) The purpose is not to commiserate or to comfort him. This human dimension of the problem is not to be ignored, but that is not the focus of this book. This book is intended to teach and to present a system of orthodox Doctrine with tremendous practical application. Simple problem-solving devices are available for Spiritual childhood in the first four gates of the Spiritual life. More powerful problem-solving devices become effective in Spiritual adulthood in the final four gates. The Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life that demands a supernatural means of execution! The only power equivalent to the demand is the omnipotence of God. Therefore, Gate 1 is the invisible, behind-the-scenes ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. The Holy Spirit manages Gate 1 entirely by Himself from His Divine omnipotence. We contribute nothing. We merely ensure that we give Him empowerment of our lives by using the rebound technique. (Prov 1:23) Rebound is the believer’s first responsibility in Gate 2. Rebound, faith-rest, and hope are basic problem-solving devices found in Gate 2. Rebound allows the believer to reside consistently in his palace. It switches on the power of Gate 1. Because the Spiritual child (Indeed, every believer) is prone to leaving his palace, (1Jn 1:8-10) he must quickly learn how to reenter. He exits by committing sin; (Matt 15:19) he reenters by acknowledgement that he is out, (Just wanting to be in fellowship with God is the standard) and naming that sin to God if you know it? And we are forgiven for all known, unknown, and forgotten sins. (1Jn 1:9) This Divine provision is called the rebound technique because it causes the believer to bounce back after failure, restoring his fellowship with God, avoiding the trap of a guilt complex. The next problem-solving device in the Christian way of life is faith-rest, which enables the believer to control his own mental attitude. Emotion is a blessing, but it can also be a terrible cursing when it sweeps away reason and Truth. If emotion dominates thought in a crisis, the result can be disastrous. The Spiritual child needs to know how to remain lucid when his emotions rise and how to Think clearly under pressure. The accurate application of Truth appropriate to the crisis, demands a stabilized mentality. How does the distraught believer regain and maintain his self-control? The solution is the faith-rest drill. A confusing, complicated situation must first be reduced to utter simplicity by claiming the stated Promises of God. (Heb 4:1-3)
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them, Those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. (Isa 41:10-13)
GOD'S WORD WORKS EVERYTIME; IF WE THINK WITH IT!
Stabilized by Divine Promises, he can recall Principles he has learned and eventually reach Doctrinal conclusions. From the Divine Viewpoint he can then deal with the complexities of the situation. Another basic problem-solving device in Gate 2 is called “hope.” Hope answers the question “Where am I going in life?” The believer learns pertinent Doctrine about his own future blessings; his eager anticipation, or hope, of receiving those blessings motivates him to keep advancing in the protocol plan of God. (Rom 5:3-5) Hope begins as a basic problem-solving device in Gate 2 but increases in strength as the believer grows Spiritually. (Rom 8:24-25) As a result, hope also becomes one of the key problem-solving devices of Spiritual adulthood. Arrogance is the believer’s worst enemy. (Jer 18:12) What is the immediate and long-term solution to the insidious, multifaceted problem of arrogance? In Gate 3, enforced humility is an immediate problem-solving device as the believer submits to the authority of God’s Thoughts and plan. (Isa 57:10) Obedience to Divine protocol means using perfect Divine Thoughts rather than trusting inferior human thoughts and ability. (Mark 8:33) As the believer learns more Truth, he understands the reasons behind God’s Commands and sees how His Commands reveal His matchless character. With a growing knowledge of Truth, enforced humility becomes genuine humility, the foundation for Personal love for God. The most critical issue in the believer’s life is how does he solve the problem of ignorance? At Salvation he knows nothing of God and His protocol plan. The solution in Gate 4 includes tremendous Divine power for learning, metabolizing, and applying the Mind of Christ. (1Co 2:16) The Bible draws an analogy between eating food and learning Truth, which is the believer’s Spiritual food. (Deut 8:3; Matt 4:4) Just as food must be metabolized to sustain the body, so Truth must be metabolized before it is usable in Spiritual growth, application or problem solving. And then the waste (False thoughts) are eliminated just as in the human body. Someone may order a meal at a restaurant, and the food, if well presented, may be attractive to the eye. But the food nourishes him only when he eats it. Likewise, the believer learns Truth, but this benefits him only when he believes what he has learned! (Jer 15:16) He must integrate the new Doctrine he hears with the rest of the Doctrine he knows for that new Truth to contribute to his Spiritual growth. To dispel his ignorance, the believer must establish a firm policy of learning God's Thoughts every day. He must always organize his day to accomplish his first priority, the assimilation of God’s Word! (Eccles 11:6; (2Co 4:16; Heb 3:13)
Problem Solving in Spiritual Adulthood
Spiritual childhood continues from Salvation until the believer reaches Gate 5, which is Personal love for God. Spiritual adulthood extends from Gate 5 all the way to Gate 8, the winner’s gate. As the Christian moves into Spiritual adulthood he finds solutions too many problems. How can he love God whom he cannot see? How can he have an objective yet positive attitude toward self, even though he knows his own flaws and weaknesses? How can he tolerate obnoxious, antagonistic people? How can he avoid being distracted by the people he loves? These are problems in relationships, and the solutions lie in Virtue-love. Virtue-love is the combination of Gates 5 and 6 of the Spiritual life, which include Personal love for God, Spiritual self-esteem, Spiritual autonomy, and Impersonal love for all mankind. These Biblical Concepts are in contemporary terminology to communicate the progression and the mechanics of Spiritual adulthood. Gates 5 and 6 solve problems in relationships with God and with other people. Toward God, Virtue-love derives its strength from God Himself, the object of the believer’s Personal love. Personal love for God naturally generates Spiritual self-esteem and Spiritual autonomy within the believer’s own soul. The believer gains confidence concerning his eternal Spiritual royalty and that inner composure becomes the self-assured basis for kindness, thoughtfulness, and graciousness toward other people. Toward others, therefore, Virtue-love is Impersonal love for the entire human race. Impersonal love draws its strength not from the object of love but from the Virtue of the believer himself, even when the object of love is totally incompatible or antagonistic toward him. When the believer begins to acquire Virtue-love, how does he coordinate his newly developed Spiritual muscles? How do the first awkward expressions of Virtue-love become the genuine poise of Spiritual strength? The answer is suffering for a blessing. Between Gates 5 and 6, and again after Virtue-love is consolidated in Gate 6, God applies pressure to test the believer and to accelerate his advance. Gate 7 is a series of tests designed to propel him into Spiritual maturity. The mature believer is a winner in life. He has developed the capacity to receive the conveyance of “every Spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3) all of which were tailor-made for him “before the foundation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) These fabulous blessings, now on deposit for each believer, are called “greater grace.” (Jas 4:6) Conveyance of the believer’s greater blessings glorifies God to the maximum.
Now that the believer has reached Spiritual maturity, he becomes aware of yet another problem. Having learned the Doctrine of the angelic conflict, which explains the existence of the human race and the objective of human history, he knows that God’s purpose is always to demonstrate His Thoughts. How is God glorified to the maximum? How does He express His glory in the life of a believer who already receives the magnificent blessings of Spiritual maturity? The answer is evidence testing. Evidence testing is Satan’s cross-examination of a mature believer whom God has called to the stand as a witness to show the Thoughts and Virtue of the new nature created in us, (2Pe 1:4) a demonstration of Christ, His Thoughts and Nature alive in us. God receives the glory we are privileged and blessed. (Luk 17:10) Satan attempts to discredit each witness, but Spiritual maturity gives the believer the strength to face the worst Satan can throw at him. (Rev 2:9-10) When the believer uses Divine Thoughts under extreme duress, not only is God’s perfection demonstrated to the elect angels, Satan and the demons, but the marvel of God’s grace and power is also made dramatically clear to the mature believer himself! His Occupation with the Person of Christ sustains his inner happiness and is the greatest of all problem-solving devices. (Heb 12:2; (1Pe 1:6-8) Whether enjoying prosperity or coping with adversity, the mature believer has access to all the problem-solving devices of the Spiritual life. As he grows, he still uses all the problem-solving devices of Spiritual childhood, but now they are reinforced with the strength of adulthood. (Rom 4:20-21; Heb 11:2) Using the tremendous assets of his palace, he sustains his Spiritual momentum throughout his life and handles suffering with such confidence that he becomes a maximum demonstration of God’s perfect grace and integrity. (Num 11:23)
MENTAL ATTITUDE IN SUFFERING: THE PRINCIPLE OF THE OFFENSIVE
Besides the Doctrines of the royal family and the palace, yet another Spiritual Concept must be understood in connection with suffering. The protocol plan of God is an aggressive plan. Its objective sharply focuses the believer’s attention. The Christian’s purpose in life is to know God, as He has revealed Himself in His Word! This goal is achieved by learning, metabolizing, and applying Truth, which not only will cause the believer to Personally love God but also create true motivation in all realms of Spiritual and temporal life. Positive volition is more than a passive interest in God and His plan! The believer must take the offensive and employ Divine assets to attain the goal that God has set for every believer.
No one stands still in the Christian life: If a believer does not advance, he retrogresses. This Truth is intensified under pressure. Suffering never leaves the Christian the same as he was before; suffering makes him either better or worse. The believer who reacts to pain and pressure with arrogance — has bitterness, vindictiveness, implacability, guilt and self-pity, this mental attitude sets him back and stops the Christian life. (Luk 15:28-32; Php 3:18-19) To advance, he must follow the example of Paul who repeatedly expresses the attitude of offensive action: “I press on reaching forward . . . I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:12-14) The offensive has always been an important Principle in life. It is a military axiom that offensive action is the only means by which a victory is gained. Offensive action brings victory, while defensive action only delays defeat. Just as the offensive increases the effectiveness of the force adopting it, likewise taking the offensive in the Spiritual life increases the believer’s ability to handle any suffering he encounters. The offensive also raises morale, permits concentration of effort, and allows freedom of action. Defensive action can be used to assist offensive action elsewhere, to gain time, to utilize terrain, or to compensate for weakness, but offensive action must be used where there is any reasonable chance for success. In the Christian life there is always a “reasonable chance of success.” Taking our cue from the many Biblical analogies drawn from military life, (Eph 6:10-18; Heb 4:12) let us use the parallels between the Christian life and a military operation as a means of anticipating where our study of suffering will carry us. The believer has an objective in life, which is to know and love God! This personal objective implies that the believer must attain Spiritual maturity, in which status his life glorifies God to the maximum. How does he reach his assigned objective? He goes on the offensive by metabolizing Truth, while consistently living in the Spiritual life. Truth gives him Spiritual momentum. From Truth he develops capacity to love God; he attains Spiritual self-esteem. Spiritual self-esteem is a remarkable achievement, which we will study in detail. It is the giant step into Spiritual adulthood, the first major intermediate objective along the route of advance to full maturity. Because Spiritual self-esteem can easily become arrogance, God strengthens the believer’s Spiritual self-esteem with providential preventive suffering. (2Co 12:7) This is the first category of Christian suffering designed for blessing. When strengthened, Spiritual self-esteem becomes Spiritual autonomy, (Matt 22:37) which is a base of further operations. The believer continues his advance to Spiritual maturity through the valley of momentum testing, which is yet another category of Christian suffering for blessing. Upon reaching Spiritual maturity, the believer is in a position to face the challenge of evidence testing and to glorify God to the maximum. Suffering plays a major role in the believer’s advance. His personal determination to achieve Spiritual maturity by obeying God’s Commands makes him equal to any suffering in life. Mental alertness and a readiness to use the assets God has provided are the attitudes of the Spiritual winner.
THE LAW OF VOLITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
BY FAR THE MOST PREVALENT CATEGORY of human suffering is self-induced misery. People in general and believers in particular cause themselves tremendous anguish, both within their own souls and in the overt circumstances they create. The law of volitional responsibility recognizes that a believer’s decisions have natural and logical consequences. When he makes bad decisions, suffering will naturally result. In nearly every instance of Christian suffering, therefore, part or all of the problem can be traced back logically to the choices of the one who suffers. Before God created the human race, He decreed that man would have free will. By Divine decree; our decisions (Or indecisions) have real repercussions for which we are responsible. Just as there are scientific Laws in which science observes the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3; cf. Col 1:16) so also there are laws of human consequence in which each individual’s thoughts, decisions, and actions establish the trends in his life. Every human being has free will. We make decisions constantly. Some of those decisions are good, others bad. You probably discovered in early youth that when you chose to take certain actions you were punished, but when you chose to take other actions you avoided punishment and perhaps enjoyed some measure of blessing. This Principle also holds true in the Spiritual life. When we follow Divine protocol we are blessed; when we violate protocol we are disciplined. The obvious conclusion is that we must learn God’s system and Think with it! The implication of the law of volitional responsibility is that every human being must take the responsibility for his own decisions and actions. A mature person understands that he never blames others for his unhappiness. He acknowledges any mistakes or wrong decisions he has made regarding relationships, activities, motives, and functions in life and fulfills the obligations he has incurred. If he suffers from causes beyond his control, he does not allow the pain to tyrannize his soul. Rather than poison himself with bitterness and self-pity, he makes the most of his present options and opportunities through good decisions compatible with the protocol plan of God. The Law of volitional responsibility is clearly taught in Scripture.
Be not deceived; God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (Gal 6:7)
Sowing and reaping can be beneficial or detrimental. In Galatians 6:7 they illustrate the law of volitional responsibility, warning the believer not to ignore or violate the protocol plan of God. The seeds a farmer plants will invariably produce their own species of plant and fruit. Likewise, the sins a person commits sprout and follow a natural pattern of growth. Tracing the results of a particular sin is not the point of this verse. Just as no two seeds are exactly alike and just as they are affected by nearly infinite combinations of soil and weather, a believer’s sins produce suffering in keeping with all the variables of his life. The harvest of suffering will differ from one person to another even if they seem to commit the same sins. But anyone who thinks he will escape the consequences of his own decisions deceives himself. He assumes that God has not sovereignly decreed man to have free will. If man’s decisions had no effect, he would not have free will. However, man does have free will and his bad decisions have bad effects.
Arrogance is self-deception. An inflated opinion of self is the believer’s great enemy, an illusion which will relentlessly undermine his life and happiness. Most suffering in life is caused by ignorance and arrogance. In contrast to humility and Truth, which orients the believer to God's Reality, arrogance is divorcement from God's Reality. The Divine decrees guarantee that the consequences of man’s decisions occur in Reality, and because the arrogant believer’s perception and thought are divorced from Reality, his suffering will seem to come out of nowhere. The natural results of his decisions often will take him by surprise. Situations for which he himself is responsible will shock and disappoint him, will confound his expectations, and will dash his misplaced hopes. In arrogance and ignorance the believer will falsely blame his misfortunes on other people, environment, childhood trauma, bad luck, the devil; or even God. Because he is out of touch with Divine Reality, he is ultimately illogical in his thinking. Blaming others is rationalization; everyone is responsible for his own decisions! (Gal 6:8)
VOLITION AS THE SOURCE OF SIN, OLD SIN NATURE GOOD, AND EVIL
Volition, which is a component of the human soul, is the source of personal sins and sin nature good and is also a source of evil, PERSONAL SIN is an act of volition contrary to the will and Standards of God. Personal sin is distinguished from Adam’s original sin, which caused the fall of the entire human race, and distinct also from the old sin nature, which is the genetic legacy of Adam’s sin in the body of each of his descendants. (Psa 51:5) Personal sin is one manifestation of man’s fallen state. The old sin nature is a source of temptation, but volition is the source of every personal sin. Personal sin results from volition saying yes to temptation; whether or not the individual knows he is transgressing God’s will. The presence of the old sin nature is no excuse for committing personal sins, nor is ignorance. God has given us assets with the power to overcome these handicaps. Personal sins are classified as (1) mental attitude sins, like arrogance, greed, lust and jealousy, (Matt 15:19) (2) verbal sins, such as gossip, maligning, and lying, (3) and overt sins, like murder, theft, and fornication. OLD SIN NATURE GOOD is man's relative righteousness, which can never meet the Standards of God’s absolute righteousness. When compared to God, “...all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...” (Isa 64:6) Religion vainly seeks to earn the approbation of God through the “dead works” of the human old sin nature, (Heb 6:1; Heb 9:14) whereas Christianity, which is not a religion, is a personal relationship with God based not on human merit but on the possession of perfect Divine righteousness. At the moment of Salvation, God imputes His own righteousness to every believer (Gen 15:6; Rom 3:22; Rom 4:3; Rom 8:10) and declares each believer justified, vindicated, acceptable to the absolute Standards of God. (Rom 3:19-30) EVIL is a self-destructive way of thinking that is hostile to the will of God. As ruler of the world Satan's thinking is his multifaceted policy of evil, a policy of guaranteed misery which we are born with, and think with. (Jer 17:9; John 8:44; Rom 12:2) Until we Spiritually mature. (1Co 14:20; Heb 5:14)
SINS OF IGNORANCE AND ERRORS IN JUDGMENT
Sin, old sin nature production, and evil are absolutely excluded from the plan of God for the believer’s life. But since believers still have their old sin natures after Salvation, (Rom 7:24-25) and since many believers fail to learn what constitutes sin, old sin nature production, and evil or how to deal with them, Christians will inevitably commit these violations of Divine protocol. Suffering under the law of volitional responsibility will afflict the believer who does not know he is involved in sin, old sin nature production, or evil. Because volition operates in ignorance as well as in cognizance, whether or not a believer knew a particular thought or act was wrong, he nonetheless chose to commit it. He did it because he wanted to do it. Consequently, he must take responsibility for that decision and for any resultant suffering. He is foolish if he remains oblivious to the connection between his decisions and his misery. No one has an excuse for practicing sin, old sin nature production, or evil. Free will is always the cause. Even in psychosis people use their volition. Indeed, psychosis is primarily volitional. In fact, many psychotic individuals have exceedingly strong wills. Very few people are born psychotic; most of mental illnesses are acquired through arrogance, self-centeredness, selfishness, self-righteousness; and the practice of making thousands of subjective wrong decisions over an extended period of time. (1Sa 16:14-15) In deliberate rebelliousness, in ignorance, or in psychosis; suffering piles on top of suffering — for which the individual bears responsibility.
Not all suffering under the law of volitional responsibility arises from sin, human good, or evil. Occasionally, our suffering originates from nothing more than poor judgment. The very fact that we are imperfect means that our judgment will be flawed from time to time. No matter how smart we are, someone can always deceive us. Despite wisdom and objectivity, we all have areas of subjectivity and sentimentality that can distort our thinking. Intelligence is no protection. Experience affords little help. Advice from friends or warnings from experts will never keep us from doing the foolish things we set our minds on doing. A great deal of suffering arises from errors in human judgment.
Violations of the laws of Divine establishment, (Life, property, protection, privacy and freedom) guarantee suffering to both believer and unbeliever under the Principle of volitional responsibility. The Scriptures describe in detail operational laws for the entire human race within the framework of national entities. The sanctity of life and property of privacy and freedom, must be respected or suffering will result. If a believer commits murder, for example, he has not only committed a sin against God but he has violated the laws of establishment concerning the sanctity a human life. He should, therefore, suffer capital punishment because he made the criminal decision to commit murder. (Rom 13:1-4) The Christian way of life is more demanding than the establishment life of the unbeliever. The believer’s life has a Divine purpose; the unbeliever’s life does not — except to become a believer. Hence, the Christian suffers from violations of establishment Principles, as would any unbeliever, but he also suffers when he ignores the Commands of God’s protocol plan. He is Commanded to reside and function in the palace, the Spiritual life under the enabling power of God the Holy Spirit, but if he “quenches” or “grieves” the Holy Spirit through sin, (Eph 4:30; (1Th 5:19) he cuts himself off from God’s purpose for his life and enters the dungeon of Satan’s system. (2Ti 2:25-26) All suffering from the cosmic system is classified under the law of volitional responsibility, but the believer in the cosmic system suffers more severely than does the unbeliever in the cosmic system.
The law of volitional responsibility not only explains individual suffering but also accounts for the collective suffering that man brings upon himself. A corporation may go bankrupt through the bad decisions of a few company officers and government officials. Suffering from their decisions touched many other people. With so many individuals operating in the world, each with free will, a certain amount of suffering inevitably overflows into one’s life from the decisions of others. Volition is still the cause. If not created by one’s own volition, suffering results from someone else’s volition. The innocent suffer with the guilty, but innocent or guilty, each believer must apply the solutions available in the Spiritual life. If he personally fails to use Divine assets and problem-solving devices, the blame for misery can fall only upon the believer himself. Ultimately there are no innocent parties; man by nature is a flawed imperfect creature. Since the fall of Adam, no one is naturally great; nobility of soul is a rare achievement. Evidence of this Biblical Principle is found in the tremendous amount of suffering in the world today, suffering that has been rampant through thousands of years of human history. In every generation, there is always a plethora of suffering. Each individual, (Excluding the humanity of Christ; Isa 9:6; Heb 7:26; (1Pe 1:19) is identified with Adam in his fall; each is genetically related to fallen Adam. Because of Adam’s deliberate decision to sin in the Garden, (Rom 5:12) we are born with genetic and environmental handicaps to which add our own volitional flaws from personal sin and poor judgment, creating our own suffering under the law of volitional responsibility. Human weakness, ignorance, and arrogance weave a tapestry of inevitable suffering for many people. However, we are not doomed by our handicaps to lives of misery and despair. A Principle of grace is far more powerful than is the unavoidable law of volitional responsibility: While man manufactures his own problems and resultant suffering, God manufactures solutions and blessings in the midst of suffering. (Sin nature, thought, people, organization and disaster testing)
FORGIVENESS AND RESPONSIBILITY
All personal sins were judged at the Cross. (Rom 8:3; (1Pe 2:24; 2Co 5:21) The Gospel of Salvation is the supreme illustration that Divine sovereignty and human free will coexist by Divine decree. In grace God the Father, who is the author of the Divine plan, took direct action and solved the sin problem. He imputed all the sins of mankind to Christ on the cross and judged Him as our substitute. (1Jn 2:2) Jesus Christ died for the sins of every member of the human race, paying in full, once and for all, the penalty demanded by the absolute righteousness of God. (1Pe 3:18) That is why the Scripture says “...whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:15) One non-meritorious act of positive volition to believe in Christ appropriates the work of eternal, omnipotent, sovereign God. This is grace. (Eph 2:8-9) Through Christ’s perfectly meritorious work and man’s non-meritorious faith, God totally removes the barrier between fallen man and Himself, reconciling the believer to Himself. Even though sins were judged on the Cross, and we have eternal Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our daily living on earth involves the natural repercussions of our sins. Sin has temporal consequences toward God, toward self, and toward other people. In relation to God, the sin caused by negative volition removes the believer from temporal fellowship with Him in the palace of the Spiritual life. When we rebound, the sin is always forgiven and we are restored to fellowship with God. Admitting being out of fellowship privately to God the Father is our responsibility (1Jn 1:9) and is our first obligation after committing a sin. What is our responsibility toward self? In relation to self, the danger lies in allowing the sin that God has already forgiven to kindle a mental attitude reaction. Like a chain smoker who lights his next cigarette on the butt of the last one, the chain sinner ignites a mental attitude sin on a sin that rebound has taken away. For example, when a believer guilty of hatred confesses his sin to God. He forgives him and forgets the sin. If the believer then fails to forget the sin God Himself has forgotten, the old hatred can lead to further sins of bitterness and revenge. Likewise, fornication is a sin that, even though totally forgiven by God, may cause the devastating sin of guilt. Or, in erroneous zeal to make up for a sin for which Christ was already judged on the Cross, a believer may enter into self-righteous crusader arrogance, which once again ejects him out of the Spiritual life, and fellowship with God. An essential part of rebound, therefore, is the isolation of sin. We never allow one sin to become the cause of another and another; in a subjective chain reaction. After perfect God has forgiven us, a guilt complex or self-pity or a “root of bitterness springing up” must be classified as a devastating mental attitude sin, a prime cause of self-induced misery. (Heb 12:15) By understanding and applying the powerful Doctrines that underlie the simplicity of the rebound technique, we are able to prevent the forgiven sin from igniting another sin.
We are responsible to rebound and move on in our Christian lives, rather than be enslaved to past sins by bitterness or a guilt complex. Any suffering that our sinning brings about is converted by rebound, from cursing to blessing. Although we may be the cause of our own pain, our situation has now become an opportunity to utilize Divine assets, to see God’s provisions in action, and to grow in grace. Since we are responsible for all of our decisions, what is our obligation to people who have been hurt by our sinning? What is our responsibility to those harmed by our bad judgment? Although our sins are forgiven and we are restored to fellowship with God, we have avoided chain sinning and have proceeded to apply Truth in our own lives, our sins may continue to have injurious effects on other people. Rebound and the isolation of sin are marvelous problem-solving devices supplied by the grace of God, but they give us no excuse for irresponsibility toward others. Rebound is a license for Spiritual growth, never a license for sin. Nor does God’s grace in rebound ever justify a believer’s flip attitude toward the freedom, privacy, property and or feelings of others. Here we sail into dangerous waters where we must “...rightly divide Word of Truth.” (2Ti 2:15) To be right with man does not mean that we a right with God. Unbelievers can have relationships with other people, proving that human relationships are not at the heart of the Christian way of life. What the unbeliever can do is not the Christian life! In the protocol plan of God, relationship with God comes first and has a positive impact on relationships with people. A right relationship with God leads to a right relationship with man. The believer’s most important function after committing a sin is to restore his fellowship with God, where he is filled with the Spirit and thereby perpetuates his Spiritual growth. Much less important, but still part of the believer’s volitional responsibility, is the fulfillment of his obligations in relation to other people. Every situation is different; each believer must apply Truth for himself. There is no pat solution by which the Christian resolves his human relationships, but certain Biblical Principles must guide his Spiritual Thinking and application. Responsibility to people we have harmed lies between two extremes that we must avoid. We must not be insensitive, nor should we allow ourselves to be enslaved by anyone’s implacability. In other words, we are not to ignore the just cause of anyone who suffers because of our decisions, but neither should we be motivated by fear or a guilt complex. Between these two extremes lies our responsibility. If the suffering we cause can be alleviated, we should go to the extent that justice, sensitivity, and common sense dictate in easing the situation. Often the problem is complex. Usually both parties in any dispute are guilty to some degree. Some “solutions” would only aggravate the problem. We should be thoughtful and generous and should walk the extra mile, (Matt 5:41; Rom 12:18) but when nothing more can be done, we must leave the situation in the Lord’s hands for the solution as we press on in our Christian lives.(2Sa 12:13; Psa 51:4) No matter whose volition originally causes the suffering, each person is ultimately responsible for applying Truth in his own life! Above all else, the believer must live his life as unto the Lord, not as unto people! This is not to be construed as ignoring the human dimension of the problem, but application of the Law of volitional responsibility does not mortgage the believer’s future to pay for his past failures! Instead, the protocol plan of God demands the Virtues of humility, Personal love for God and Impersonal love toward other people. (Matt 22:37-40) Bad decisions make suffering inevitable, and when a believer commits a sin, he must take responsibility for its consequences toward God, self and others.
THE LIMITED EXAMPLE OFESTABLISHMENT COURAGE
In the devil’s world a certain amount of suffering is unavoidable, but self-induced misery can always be avoided. The key is found in the application of Truth resident in the soul. All Truth is ultimately based on the absolute Person of God, and all human integrity is loyalty to some category of Truth. Truth exists in three categories:
1. LAWS OF DIVINE ESTABLISHMENT for believers and unbelievers alike,
2. THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION for unbelievers,
3. THE WORD OF TRUTH for believers only.
When inculcated with Truth, the human soul can triumph over adversity. This point is dramatically illustrated by the establishment-oriented unbeliever. Although he has limited resources of Truth, he displays admirable stability and courage under stress. If the unbeliever can handle suffering with the restricted power of establishment Truth, then far greater are the believer’s dynamics as he utilizes Truth and the Divine omnipotence available in the Spiritual life to meet the challenges of life.
The effectiveness of Divine establishment as a limited source of strength dramatically reveals the superior power of Divine Thinking. American prisoners of war in North Vietnam provide a notable example of unbelievers and believers whose inner strength was derived from establishment Principles. These men were sustained by a code of establishment Concepts through years of bestial, crippling torture. Rear Admiral James B. Stockdale, (Ret.), the senior American prisoner of war, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his “valiant leadership and extraordinary courage” as the leader of prisoner resistance. He confirms that even under extreme suffering, the law of volitional responsibility remains operational, and he describes the prisoners’ ability to avoid self-destructive mental attitude sins.
There are a lot of things a torturer can’t do with torture. Aristotle said that compulsion and free will can coexist, and he was right. . . . A man about to undergo torture must have burned into his mind the fact that he can be hemmed in only within a very narrow window and that he need not volunteer information. . . . To keep your integrity, your dignity, your soul, you have to retain responsibility for your actions, to deal with guilt. (“Yes, I lost the bubble, I might have done better, but I didn’t.”) You need to look squarely at what you did and measure its limited gravity in the light of the overall Truth of the total situation, then use the guilt, such as it is, as a cleansing fire to purge the fault, as a goad for future resolve, and above all do not be consumed by it. But you have to do all this yourself. To say that guilt doesn’t exist or that it was the work of “evil spirits” or “brainwashers” is self-delusion. . . . What is indispensable to avoiding the web of fear and guilt is the ability to stand isolated, without friends and surrounded by enemies, and quite uncharitably say “no,” without the crutch of anger, without embarrassment, with finality and with commitment to the consequences. . . . Young Americans in Hanoi learned fast. They made no deals. They learned that “meeting them half way” was the road to degradation. My hypothetical young prison mate soon learned that impulses, working against the grain, are very important in political prisons, that one learns to enjoy fighting city hall, to enjoy giving the enemy upside-down logic problems, that one soon finds himself taking his lumps with pride and not merely liking but loving that tapping guy next door, the man he never sees, the man he bares his soul to after each torture session, until he realizes he is thereby expiating all residual guilt. Then he realizes he can’t be hurt and can’t be had as long as he tells the Truth and clings to that forgiving band of brothers who are becoming his country, his family. American prisoners of war applied establishment Truths concerning personal freedom and responsibility as well as humility, honesty, and mutual respect. They avoided torturing themselves with mental attitude sins. Moreover, free from self-induced misery, they learned to actually enjoy the challenges of their unspeakable situation. Their success did not stem from mere stubbornness, which can be a counterfeit of integrity. Anger, fear, guilt, vengeance, implacability, or insecurity may motivate unyielding tenacity. This pseudo-strength may appear admirable and may even achieve a degree of success, but the inner result of such false motivation is only wear and tear on the soul. In particular, fear is a tremendous drain of mental and physical energy. God is the source of establishment Truth, but the protocol plan of God both includes and exceeds Divine establishment. If the application of establishment Truth creates genuine strength of soul, the application of Spirit & Truth has far greater dynamics. (John 4:24) The whole is greater than the part. The advancing believer understands that “the overall Truth of the total situation” includes the magnificent grace of God, His Divine omnipotence, and the problem-solving devices of His protocol plan. Freewill (Volition) causes suffering under the law of volitional responsibility, but the existence of freewill also strips away every excuse for self-induced misery. The believer’s own negative volition is his only hindrance to advancement in the protocol plan of God. There is no excuse for failing to perceive, metabolize, and apply Truth in the power of the Spiritual life. Far surpassing establishment Truth, fabulous equal privileges and equal opportunities are granted by God to every believer for the fulfillment of His plan, purpose and design.
MAKING GOOD DECISIONS, FOLLOWING DIVINE PROTOCOL
The believer is responsible for most of his own suffering, but what is the solution? He must reverse the trend. Rather than make bad decisions, the believer must begin to make good decisions, which also have logical repercussions — good results. The believer who obeys the Commands of God, frees the omnipotence of God to advance and bless him. This means that he must learn Truth filled with God the Holy Spirit. Only the believer who understands and properly uses the problem-solving devices available to him in the palace of the Spiritual life fulfills his destiny in the plan of God.
Divine protocol is precise. “God is not a God of confusion” or disorganization. (1Co 14:33) The believer is free to express his individual volition within the Boundaries (Thoughts) established by the plan of God. God’s plan must be accurately understood and applied. The believer who distorts God’s plan by overemphasizing isolated elements rather than living by the entire system of protocol is not solving his problems; he is compounding them. The rebound prayer, for example, is the means of reentering the Spiritual life and restoring the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. (John 4:24) But even a precisely accurate rebound prayer generally does not cause pain to instantly, magically cease. In reaction to pain, prayer is often taken out of its protocol context and falsely applied to suffering. Prayer is a weapon for the strong, not a crutch for the weak. Prayer has many wonderful applications within the rules God has laid down, but no amount of prayer will reverse the natural results of bad decisions. When a believer prays for himself or asks others to pray for him because he is hurting from bad decisions, he may be hoping prayer will achieve what it was never designed to accomplish. If he merely wishes his suffering to end, he wants God to suspend the Law of volitional responsibility, change His entire plan for the human race, and somehow miraculously make the pain go away. The source of the suffering is the wrong decisions the believer himself has made regarding business, or personal relationships, or when facing temptation or sin. There are Divine solutions to suffering, which we are studying, but imploring God for relief is not one of them. (2Co 12:8-9) In fact, the removal of suffering might deny the believer a special blessing available to him only through the suffering. The protocol plan of God establishes the correct procedure to Think and use; the believer must learn and obey the system God has established. The ignorance and confusion of believers who have never learned the protocol of the Christian life can only intensify their suffering.
AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S GRACE
WE HAVE SEEN THAT MOST CHRISTIAN SUFFERING arises from the believer’s own thoughts, decisions, and actions. One bad decision follows another until his life is unbearable. He makes a shamble of his present experience and destroys his future options. No one can devastate a person’s life, as he can himself. At some point in this self-destructive process, God intervenes with Divine discipline. God will not stand by while members of the royal family sink into degeneracy; He takes stern measures to alert them to their dire situation and to encourage them to rebound and reenter the palace. In His perfect wisdom God knows when and how to warn each believer. Our heavenly Father knows the most effective way to confront us with the fact that we are totally dependent on His grace. (1Co 11:30-31) All Divine discipline is administered in grace. The Christian under discipline may doubt that God is treating him in grace, but he could not imagine how much more he would hurt if God were not acting in grace. God severely punishes believers but not because He likes to see us squirm. He is perfect. He is just. We are His children, the royal family of God, and He punishes us for our benefit. By definition, Divine discipline is the sum total of punitive action taken by the justice of God in grace to correct, to punish, to encourage, to train, to motivate the believer’s free will toward the protocol plan of God. Divine discipline is for believers only (Heb 12:8) and occurs only in this life, not in heaven. (Rev 21:4)
Divine discipline is a warning that the believer is outside the boundaries of God’s plan. Just as a football game is played inside the boundaries of the playing field, so the plan of God must be executed within the bounds of Divine protocol. (2Jn 1:9) Just as the referee blows a whistle when the ball carrier steps out of bounds, so God blows a whistle on us and administers Divine discipline when we live out of fellowship. (Rev 3:20)
DISCIPLINE AS PARENTAL TRAINING IN HEBREWS 12
When a believer cuts off his fellowship with God through sin and remains in the cosmic system, God in His grace must deal with him as a child. Truth has been ignored; God must get the believer’s attention through pain.
And so you yourselves have forgotten a Principle of Doctrine which teaches you as sons: My son, [God addresses believers as His children] do not make light of corrective discipline from the Lord nor be fainting when you are reprimanded by Him. (Heb 12:5)
Hebrews 12:5 encourages us by explaining that Divine discipline is tailored to each believer. God treats us as individuals. Discipline is neither too lenient (“Do not make light”) nor too severe (“Nor be fainting”) but is administered for maximum effectiveness in every believer’s life.
For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He punishes every son whom He welcomes home. (Heb 12:6)
Divine discipline from the Lord is part of parental training in the royal family of God. The premise in comparing Divine discipline with child rearing in the home, that is; except for the humanity of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as a perfect child. Some children are unquestionably better behaved and more responsive to instruction than others, but every child needs training so that eventually he will be able to function in adult society. Parents try to instill authority orientation in their children. Anyone who leaves home without authority orientation makes himself a monster who will manufacture misery for himself and others under the law of volitional responsibility. On the Spiritual side of the analogy, there is no such thing as sinless perfection in this life, again with the exception of Christ’s impeccable humanity. As long as any believer lives in his mortal body, in which the old sin nature resides, he will continue to sin. (1Ki 8:46; Psa 143:2; Eccles 7:20) As he matures Spiritually, he will sin less frequently and perhaps will commit different categories of sin, but periodically he will succumb to temptation and enter the cosmic system. (Rom 7:18-25) If the believer remains in the cosmic system, his thinking loses touch with the Reality of God’s protocol plan. Under prolonged cosmic influence, his arrogance becomes antagonism toward God; he multiplies his own unhappiness and incurs Divine discipline. Like parental training, Divine discipline is designed to inculcate humility, which is orientation to God's Reality and authority. Only the humble believer is teachable; (Psa 25:8-9) he desires to understand how he fits in the overall scheme of God’s grace. Only with humility can anyone be objective and responsive to the authority of God's Thoughts. Although self-evaluation when accompanied by arrogance rapidly slips into subjectivity; (False reality) we have the responsibility to analyze our lives objectively in the light of the Word of God. We should be first to recognize our own weaknesses. If we do not, Divine discipline enforces humility on us, teaching us to see ourselves as we really are in relation to God and His marvelous plan. The very fact that we receive discipline from God tells us we are divorced from Reality and that God is bringing us back to grace-oriented objectivity. From that solid footing we can rebound and resume our Spiritual growth.
Go to # 2.