The Lords Discipline should Drive us to Lament (& Repent)
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and I’d like to say Happy New Year. I mean that is my sincere sentiment for you all. But I am concerned that is unlikely – because of gross, unrepentant sin in our western world. If anything, I think we should begin 2023 with LAMENT, not partying. So please pray with me – and I’ll try to explain.
Prayer: Well, what is the saddest and most miserable you have ever been? Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one. Perhaps, it was the loss of a prized possession (like a house or family photos) in a flood or bushfire. Perhaps the lowest point in your life was most recently in the midst or coronavirus lockdowns. At the most basic level lament is simply an expression of sadness in conversation with God.
The Psalms and the Bible is full of LAMENTS. These laments show us the depths of pain that God’s people often feel. They show us that it is ok to be honest and express sorrow before God. (The Christian life is not always easy). And they show us that sometimes we will find ourselves in contexts of lament through no fault of our own. But please note – I said SOMETIMES we lament through no fault of our own.
But I want to stress that in Scripture – lament regularly linked with the Lord’s DISCIPLINE and PUNISHMENT for sin. People disobey God, then they reap punishment and so they lament. Or occasionally people in the Bible recognize their sin and so they lament – in the hope of warding off – God’s judgment before it falls.
So this January – we’re thinking about LAMENT and my BIG IDEA and I’ll explain more next week is (Slide 2) – “the Lords discipline which produces a recognition of wrongdoing should lead us to lament and repent of our sins.” Now there is nothing controversial in that statement. If I asked any biblical pastor the world over whether that is a true statement, I think every one would say yes.
The CONTROVERSY revolves around knowing when God is disciplining us? Were the recent bushfires God’s discipline? What about all the floods? What about Coronavirus itself? Was Coronavirus God’s punishment on a world rapidly rejecting the Bible?
Recently, I’ve been reading this book, “the Psychology of Totalitarianism” by Dr Mattias Desmet (with several Anglican ministers). Dr Desmet is concerned that the western world is rapidly entering into what he would call mass psychosis or delusion. He is NOT a Christian. He is a PHD PSYCHOLOGIST who argues that it is absolutely insane if we trust the academics of the world.
Modern science has developed a closed, mechanistic, naturalistic explanation of the universe. Science has become an IDEOLOGY that claims absolute truth, absolute purity and absolute power to solve everything. A) If there is a pandemic, science is the answer. B) If there are droughts, then bushfires, then floods – it is climate change and again science is the answer. But Desmet points out that this trust in science is insane, because science is always conducted by broken, sinful, psychologically sick people who doctor their studies to get the results they want. There is no such thing as PURE SCIENCE. At the end of the day trusting in science is simply trusting in sinful man. And yet, this is now the DOMINANT IDEOLOGY of our world. This is shaping our thinking whether we realise it or not. Throughout the pandemic you were told to trust the science, like you trust Jesus.
Now as Christians we know that the world is not a closed, natural and mechanistic system. We know there is a God. But if the prevailing worldview is that everything has a natural, mechanistic and absolute explanation – how do we know when God is disciplining us? Was Coronavirus God’s discipline?
Point 1: The Lord Disciplines those who Sin Against Him
Show: Ps.6:1-3 (READ – Slide 2)
Explain: Well please note David says “Do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.” Anger and wrath – are pretty much the same word. There are things that God hates. Things that make God angry. The book of Proverbs says (Slide 3-4). These are all things God hates. FIRST, HAUGHTY EYES is purely about pride and Sydney will soon host the world pride festival, even though God hates haughtiness. SECOND, a lying tongue is pretty much our new norm. We say yes, when we mean no and no when we mean yes – like it doesn’t matter. And THIRD the shedding of innocent blood is now the right of every feminist demanding abortion across the US. Please note; there are things God HATES. So when we do them – God gets angry and full of wrath.
Now the Bible tells us of other things that are also abominations to God. God hates sin and evil. So please pause and process the fact that there are things God really, truly hates. God hates evil because He is good. So don’t buy the lie – that because God is love – he is indifferent to sin or will tolerate sin. It’s a lie. God is love and that is why he hates and must punish evil, otherwise he stops being good. God’s love compels Him to punish wrongdoing.
(Slide 5) And this is where we get to the next key words. REBUKE means to chastise someone. When you rebuke someone you point out that their behaviour is wrong in order to bring about change. The same is true of DISCIPLINE. Discipline usually involves negative consequences for bad behaviour, so that we stay on the narrow path.
Now the context of suffering tells us David is lamenting because he has experienced at least in part – God’s rebuke and discipline. Now exactly what David has done – we don’t know. Perhaps Psalm 6 written after his sexual immorality with BATHSHEBA or perhaps the spilling of URIAH’S innocent blood.
Whatever, the cause – David knows God is angry and he is now suffering because of his sin. So David interprets A) his physical health and B) mental health calamities as Gods punishment. The words “HEAL ME” and “MY BONES ARE IN AGONY”, speak of physical suffering. The words MY SOUL IS IN DEEP ANGUISH – speak of psychological suffering – perhaps anxiety and depression. David interprets these negative experiences as discipline from God.
NOW ITS TRUE – that not ALL SUFFERING is Gods’ punishment Sometimes we suffer simply because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we suffer righteously like Job, in the book of Job. BUT SOMETIMES God does use sickness and suffering as a form of discipline. There are countless passages in the Bible that talk about God using such things – as a wake-up call – to lament and repent. One example is 1 Corinthians 11 – where Paul talks about Christians being weak and sick because they are eating the Lords Supper without repenting of their sin. In other words, God is using weakness and sickness as a call to examine their lives.
So if God sometimes uses physical and mental sickness (or global calamities) as discipline – what is THE CURE. Is a vaccination, or pills or going to the doctor really the answer? Of course not. The real answer is faith, repentance and holiness. I simply point this out because most people no longer think this way. Our new default position is that the world is a natural, mechanistic system that we can control and fix with science. Science, scientific endeavour and medicine is the new way, the new truth and the new life.
But as Mattias Desmet points out this scientific ideology is probably paving the pathway to hell. Incredibly he says this as a non-Christian psychologist and academic. He knows man is sick and he shows countless examples where academic peer-reviewed scientific studies are nothing but smoke and mirrors. If you don’t believe me – (Slide 5) google the words – “James Lindsay” and hoax*. Science is fatally flaw..
Apply: Friends, we know the world is not a closed, natural, mechanistic system. The Bible is clear – that God is Sovereign. God determines where the rain falls and when droughts occur. God determines when your hair turns grey and when sparrows fall from the sky. Yes, sometimes God may control these things through the natural mechanistic processes He has written into creation. But perhaps just as often, God defies these natural mechanistic processes and works miracles. So thinking that the new scientific ideology can understand every part of the universe, and in some sort of pure, altruistic way deliver absolute truth is not only the height of arrogance it is also the height of foolishness. Personally, I think a bit more CYNICISM and DISCERNMENT by Christians would be healthy.
David says in verse 3 “How long O Lord, how long”. THE QUESTION is how long will David be under the heavy hand of God’s discipline. He longs for God’s mercy, but he hasn’t yet experienced it. These words “How long O Lord, how long” are echoed in Revelation 6, by the martyrs. How long will the world (in the last days) be under the heavy hand of God’s discipline before mercy and deliverance comes?
Well if the world fails to recognize God’s wrath because they think everything has a natural mechanistic explanation (like climate change) – its going to get pretty bad. It may even be why Revelation says 3 TIMES – and “still they would not repent; still they would not repent, still they would not repent”. PERHAPS, the worlds failure to repent is because they think everything has a natural mechanistic explanation that has nothing to do with God’s ANGER or WRATH. Sadly, if the church then lacks the courage to suggest it might be discipline, the world will never recognize it is discipline given their current ideology.
Point 2: The Lords Discipline is meant to bring about Sorrow
Show: Ps.6:4-7 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see – David is not having a good time. He is worn out from groaning. He is weeping and crying. His eyes are full of sorrow because he faces enemies on every horizon. So David’s lamenting his sorry state. It probably started “Woe is me. It’s so unfair. Life sux.” But bit by bit – as David laments and cries out to God – he begins to process the cause of His suffering. God is disciplining him.
In the New Testament, Hebrews 11 has an extended treatise on God’s discipline and it says (Slide 8; Heb.12:11). Notice discipline is NOT PLEASANT. But it does produce RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE – for those who are trained by it. But how can we be trained by Gods discipline – if we only ever see the calamities in our life as natural processes? If we continue in sinful ways (without lamenting and repenting) can we still have God’s righteousness and peace?
There is this belief in some Christian circles that because Jesus died for all my sins (past, present and future) – it doesn’t matter whether I continue in sin or not. (GOSPEL) Of course, the truth is Jesus did die for our sins. As Jesus died on the cross he took both barrels from God – both His ANGER and WRATH – so that we could be spared Gods’ punishment. Jesus literally took God’s wrath for us – so that we can now approach God without fear. If you believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord and repent of your sin – you are welcomed into God’s presence and God’s blessing. This is the good news of Christianity. If you believe Jesus died for you and you ask God to forgive you – He will now pardon you, come into your life and take you to heaven when you die. But if you ask God to forgive you of your sins, you seriously try to stop sinning. OF COURSE, this is hard and we often have to ask God to forgive us of certain sins over and over again. Again, the good news is God is long suffering and patient. If we are Christians God also promises to never give up on us.
But don’t think that is a license to sin without consequences. If you sin and continue in sin – God will DISCIPLINE you to get you back on the narrow path that leads to life. At first the discipline may be mild. But if you do not lament your sin and repent of your sin, and instead continue in that sin the discipline will get worse. It is a delusion to think God can bless you and you can continue in sin. But that is how many people think?
They think – I once said a prayer to Jesus asking him to forgive me – so I can continue doing whatever I want and God will still bless me. That logic is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. This logic is what many good Christians pastors in the US are now calling a false gospel, because sadly this is what many church goers in the US, actually believe. They think they can blatantly continue in sin, defy God’s word and still have Gods’ blessing on their life. But God can no sooner bless sin, than he can call light – darkness, or good – evil.
Apply: So David kind of acknowledges what he needs to do if God delivers him. The word “unfailing love” actually has to do with God’s covenant faithfulness. And in this covenant with God – David’s duty is to proclaim the glory of God’s name and praise God with His mouth. If he dies he won’t be able to do these things. But if God shows him mercy David is kind of promising that he will try to keep up his side of the covenant too. He is acknowledging that the redeemed life is a life of worship.
When life is hard and we are driven to groaning and lament before God, it should lead to an evaluation of why we are suffering. Are we suffering simply because we live in a fallen world or are we suffering because of real sin in our life or in the world? SERIOUSLY; don’t be too quick to reach the conclusion that your innocent and everything is roses and its just a spot of bad luck. Look a bit deeper and a bit harder. Or talk to a trusted Christian friend.
Often our suffering will not be because of some blatant sin like murder, or adultery or theft. Rather, much of our suffering (especially in the psychological area) is because of more subtle sins – like 1) fleshly desire, or 2) a failure to really trust God with a specific area of your life or 3) even unforgiveness of another person. Don’t be too quick to write off your suffering as a closed, natural, mechanistic process – where you are entirely righteous. Let me point out the CONCLUSION that you are entirely righteous – should not be your first and immediate conclusion. As Hebrews 12:11 says (Slide 8) – “Gods discipline produces righteousness and peace for those who recognise the discipline and are trained by it.”
Point 3: The Lords Discipline sets Gods People apart as Holy
Show: Ps.6:8-10 (READ – Slide 9-10)
Explain: Well notice that David says in verse 8 – away from me all you who do evil. David’s enemies are those who do evil and as such they are not only David’s ENEMIES, but God’s ENEMIES. So in verse 10 – David recognises they will soon reap God’s discipline too in terms of shame and anguish…
The longer we walk with God and are disciplined by God – the more we should understand the nature of good and evil. The more we are disciplined and refined by God – the more we should be willing to be SET-APART from the world as holy and different. But I think we are often reluctant to say “Away from me, all you do evil.” We are reluctant to even open our mouths and say abortion is evil or greed is evil, let alone identify certain people as evil doers. Sadly, we want God to love us and show us mercy, but we also want the world to love us and show us mercy. But what do we want more?
There is a whole book in the Bible called Lamentations – where Gods people lament their sin and the terrible consequences of sin. Christian scholars have identified that 42 of the 150 Psalms are laments.
And all the major prophetic books contains heartfelt sections of lament. Yet, when was the last time you seriously examined your life and lamented your sin? Or when was the last time the church publicly lamented sin in the church or the world. Friends, our biggest enemy in the church and in the world is still sin. Sin will always reap Gods judgment as surely as morning follows night.
The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel all reaped God’s judgment because of other people’s blatant sin. And if something does not change soon – our western world may soon reap more of God’s judgment because of our societies choices. But is it not also a sin of sorts TO BE A WATCHMAN on Jerusalem’s walls and yet fail to sound the alarm of pending danger. God must punish wanton sin. His holiness and righteousness demands it. So what Christian can honestly say – the droughts, the bushfires, the floods and coronavirus are DEFINITELY NOT the discipline of God? Can anyone make that claim? What’s more can any born-again Christian honestly say – that legalizing same sex marriage, extending abortion to full term and introducing euthanasia (that is now wildly out of control in Canada and Europe) are things that did not arouse God’s anger and wrath? You can’t. So a reasonable, biblical conclusion is that God may well be disciplining us and judging us right now.
Just before Christmas I wrote to Bishop Michael Stead asking the Diocese of Sydney to begin 2023 with a serious time of public lament. I will tell you more about this next week. But I gave our Bishop two concepts for public lament (AND I know they have been discussed by all the bishops, the Archbishop and the public relations department of our Diocese). I suggested that our Diocese should hold a period of public Christian lament in the Cathedral for the 17 days of WorldPride in February-March. Gods way is not about pride, but humility. God’s way is not rejoicing in sin, but lamenting sin. Now I doubt whether the Diocese will have the courage? I hope they prove me wrong. But what about you? Should we lament world pride? Has God been disciplining us?