What is God's Discipline?

If there is no condemnation in Christ (Rom 8:1), then what is God’s discipline?

Just like God’s forgiveness, we cannot compare how we do things with how God does things. God teaches us and guides us without punishing us for our sins. Unlike the world, we are always under God’s discipline. God’s discipline is His constant teaching, guidance, and instruction for us. He uses everything in our life to bring us to conformity to His Son (Romans 8:28‑30).

God is not a hypocrite. He is not going to take away our sins and promise to never remember them, and then discipline us for them. That’s not how He works. He’s not punishing us for our sin. The punishment for our sin was death. And Jesus died. Now there’s no condemnation for our sin (Romans 8:1). This means that God is not going to condemn us or punish us for our past, present, or future sins.

Hebrews 12 offers us the best picture of what God’s discipline looks like in our life. The writer says that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), for our good (12:10), so that it “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

Furthermore, God disciplines us so that we can share in His holiness (12:10). This means that when God trains us, we get the amazing opportunity to participate in the very nature and character of God. God is not disciplining us so that we can become more holy in our identity. Instead, His discipline is about teaching us to live out of who we already are.

I was a football player in high school and college. And in the off-season, we would train ourselves to become stronger and faster. We were disciplining ourselves to become the best we could be. There were many days when this training was not joyful. But I knew that no matter how I felt in a given moment, the training would pay off.

In the same way, the writer tells us that sometimes discipline can seem sorrowful (Hebrews 12:11). This does not mean God is punishing us. Instead, we all go through difficult times and even in the most difficult times, God is teaching us and training us for what lies ahead. The writer moves on to say that after our training, it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (12:11).

When God trains us, He teaches us to say no to sin and yes to the godly people He has made us (Titus 2:12). And as we learn to trust Him, we bear His fruit. We get to participate in God’s life and righteousness. When we bear His fruit, we express Him. We are God’s image bearers. When people see us, they see a picture of God. We’ve been re-created in His image and get the amazing opportunity to let Christ express Himself to the world through each one of us.

God loves us without condition. And He cares about everything we do because He wants what’s good for us. We see God’s perspective on discipline when He commands human fathers to be like him:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 nasb)

God is not provoking us to anger, either! He is not punishing us or making us mad, nor is He hurling insults our way for our bad behavior. He is patient and kind, and keeps no record of our wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4‑6).

God is not disgusted with you, nor is He impatient with your growth. There’s no rush. And there are no expectations. The same God who saved us is the same God who will grow us, guide us, and lead us to live out of who we are.

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