Responsive Reading: Hebrews 12:1-12
Key Verse(s): Hebrews 12:5-6
Background Scripture: Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-28
When God rebukes you, how does it make you feel? Rebuke is not something that is not handled well; many of us hate to ever be criticized or corrected. Yet, I tell you today, when God rebukes us, we should not ever think of it as a bad thing. Yes, I tell you today that when God rebukes you, it is for your own good.
Choosing to Live for the Better
So, I would ask, how many of us desire to be a better person today than we were yesterday, and a better person tomorrow than we are today? In other words, how many of us desire to grow and to live for the better? My hope is that all of us desire to continue to grow and live for the better. In order for us to grow and live for the better, we must make sure that we are taking the proper steps.
Proper step for growth
The first and only step we should take for growth should be our turning to and choosing God over everything. Last week, in my sermon, we saw that choosing God over everything to live for the better can come with hardships. A lot of those hardships definitely come from things that are beyond our control, yet, quite a few hardships we face come from within.
As we saw last week in our Sunday School, there is a transformative work that is taking place within our soul on a daily basis. The Holy Spirit is transforming us from our old self into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); our talk is changing as well as our walk and our actions.
Jeremiah said of his transformation, after consuming the Word of God, that he rejoiced in his heart. So, for us, again, when we choose God, we are making a choice that will cause us to grow and bring joy to our soul. Yet, putting off our old self can be rather difficult because some of us get stuck not being able to let go of our old ways for the way of God. As the saying goes, “old habits die hard”.
The fool refuses to grow
Yet, those old habits must die if we truly desire to grow and live for the better. When you and I choose God, it is a choice to break away from those old habits in order to gain wisdom; gaining wisdom is good for growth. As Solomon said, “a wise man will hear and increase learning and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel … the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:5,7)” — it is the beginning of truth
Now, all of us must answer a question, a very important question when it comes to our growth: how many of us are willing to heed the truth, especially the truth coming from God?
If that question was to be answered truthfully, then the truth would be that a lot of us can’t stand hearing the truth! Why so? Because a lot of us believe our truth to be the truth and so, many of us will refuse to hear anything from anybody else, including God. What leads us to be so stubborn that we will refuse to listen?
Let us consider that when one tries to offer correction, the suggestion, we think, is that we did something wrong — nobody likes to ever be wrong! Being wrong can be seen as failure and, again, many of us are unable to handle failure, nonetheless, acknowledging our failures. So, rather than accepting failure and being wrong, some of us will continue blissfully in our ignorance. The person carrying on in a way of refusing correction is one that Solomon called a fool.
Failure, or being wrong, should not be thought of with the negative connotation that we often think of it in. You see, when I was growing up, I was taught that when you don’t know something, you should ask questions and seek help. I was also taught that when you are wrong, it means that there is something new to learn. You see, failure, I learned, is how we grow to be able to make better decisions and be better down the line.
Sadly, as Solomon stated, the fool despises wisdom and instruction because in the fool’s mind they never make mistakes; they never fail because they know the right way all of the time — they’re perfect. How can the perfect person ever grow?
In the Old Testament days, God sent to the children of Israel His prophets to rebuke them, yet they ignored God’s rebuke. During the days of Jesus, rather than heeding God’s rebuke, the religious leaders chose to antagonize Him. These actions were taken by people that believed they knew better and were living in the right way. By doing this, many of those living during those days were unable to grow and live for the better.
To this day that truth still stands — nobody can grow and live for the better if we believe ourselves to be perfect! In order for us to truly grow, we must humble ourselves and then train ourselves to be open to receiving wise counsel; we must be open to being corrected and to learning!
What It Means When God Rebukes You
We should always carry with us an open mind on our journey that is especially open to the rebuke of God.
God’s desire for us to grow
Something I believe that all of us should understand is that when God rebukes us, it is because He also desires for us to grow and to live for the better. Not only does the Lord desire for us to grow, scripture shows us that His desire for our growth far exceeds our desire for growth.
The Lord’s desire for mankind to grow and live for the better is first truly shown to us when He gave the children of Israel the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law, Paul wrote, is the knowledge of sin; it made the sins of the children of Israel known to them (Rom. 3:19-20; 7:7). Now, ask yourself, why did God give the children of Israel the Mosaic Law?
God certainly did not give them the law just for the sake of giving it to them; no, God had, and still has, an eternal desire for mankind. The Lord said to Moses that He desired for the children of Israel to live by the law so that they could become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). So, in essence, God gave the children of Israel the law to correct them in their way because He did not want them to be a wicked and sinful nation; being holy is much better than being wicked!
As we know, Israel was unable to keep the law and God gave the world His only begotten Son. Why did the Lord give the world His only begotten Son? Again, scripture makes it clear to us that the Lord gave the world His Son because of His love for us, mankind (John 3:16). Because no person can keep the law, and as Paul pointed out, the law cannot save (Rom. 7:21-25), God gave His Son in order to correct us and turn us away from wickedness for holiness.
Jesus ministered with a call for us to repent because the kingdom of God and heaven was at hand (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). In His ministry, Jesus pointed out that we are sinners – disobedient to God’s instructions – and we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
With this rebuke, let us understand, again, Jesus made it clear that there is an opportunity for us all to grow and live for the better. Through our faith and through God’s forgiveness and mercy we can gain salvation and, again, become holy and righteous in God’s eyes. Will you take advantage of this opportunity?
God loves you
Do you desire to grow and live for the better? Will you heed the Lord’s rebuke when God rebukes you?
Now, some believe that when God rebukes them, He is rebuking them from a place of anger, bitterness, and even hatred towards them. Does God rebuke us because He is angry and bitter towards us?
As I just referenced, God gave the children of Israel His law and the prophets because He loved them. God gave the world His only begotten Son because He loved the world. I believe it is clearly established to us that the Lord rebukes us from a place of love. The writer of Hebrews, in our key verse, said of God’s rebuke, “whom the Lord loves He chastens.” To chasten, by the way, means to correct (rebuke) or to discipline; to prune of excess, pretense, or falsity; to refine.
With that in mind, in our scripture from the book of Hebrews, we will see that the writer of this book was likening the Lord to a loving parent. We will see the writer ask this question: “for what son is there whom a father does not chasten (Heb. 12:7)?”
When I think of how my parents raised me, mom and dad did not let me act bad anywhere and get away with it! I can recall how before me and my brother could go into a store, mom would tell us that we better behave and not to put our hands on anything! If we were to act up in the store, or anywhere in public for that matter, I promise you that dad, especially dad, would not waste a second before correcting us! If it was like that in public, I can assure you that the same thing was true at home — disobedience was not tolerated!
I remember one of my cousins, over a decade ago now, talking about how she thought me and my brother never got in trouble because she never saw us acting up. I chuckled at her and sarcastically remarked that me and my brother knew what would happen if we ever did!
My parents were great parents in how they raised us to know right from wrong. My parents were great parents in that they were quick to correct us in our wrong doings and they taught us how to do better. There were certain things that other kids my age were able to do that me and my brother could not do.
At that time I would be so upset with my parents and their disciplining but now that I am older, I am very grateful for how I was raised. I am grateful because I know that my parents loved me enough to correct me when I was doing wrong. I am the man I am today because my parents loved me. I believe this same thing to be true when it comes to God loving us; we are who we are today because the Lord loved us enough to correct us when we were doing and going the wrong way.
Cutting away for the good
As my parents were looking ahead to my future, I want you to understand that when God rebukes you, it is because He is looking ahead to your future as well.
As we know very well by now, God’s thoughts towards us are of peace, a future, and a hope (Jer. 29:11). When God rebukes you, it is because He has His eternal desire for you in mind. I want to remind you that God’s eternal desire is not for us to die being a sinner and suffering an eternal life without His presence.
Again, here in Hebrews 12, we will see the writer tell us that God chastens us for our profit so that we may be partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:10). Is it fun to be rebuked – corrected and disciplined – by the Lord? It can be rather hard and even painful to be corrected by the Lord because either we don’t want to listen or we may not understand the Lord’s reasoning.
If a plant could feel anything, I would not imagine it would be a fun feeling to be cut and pruned. Yet, when a plant is cut and pruned, it is for the better because the plant is able to prosper and bear more fruit. God prunes us in a way that a plant is pruned so that we can grow and prosper (John 15:1-2).
What this means for us is that there will be some old habits that we will need to cut away. This also means that there may even be some people in our life that we may have to remove from our life because they aren’t helping us to grow and truly live for the better. Should we not remove what needs to be removed so that we can grow and prosper, God will certainly get to work.
Again, when God rebukes you, it is because He desires for you to grow and prosper; He is blessing you. Yes, growth can be rather difficult, yet at the same time, we must endure when it comes to growing to living for the better. As the writer of Hebrews stated, “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).”
Heed God’s Rebuke
As I said earlier, it is a good thing – a blessing – to be rebuked by the Lord! If you desire to grow, to live for the better and truly be happy with yourself, I encourage you to turn to the Lord and heed His rebuke. We cannot be like the fool and despise God’s rebuke.
Open to God’s rebuke
In Hebrews 12:9, the writer, again, asked a very important question. We will see that the writer asked that if we paid respects to our parents in how they corrected us, then should we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? In other words, rather than disputing or flat out ignoring or rejecting God’s rebuke, you ought to be open to when God rebukes you!
Being shown that we are wrong about something will certainly not be “fun”. When we fall down in error, it will certainly not feel good. Yet, we should learn to be mature about these things so that we can be a better person tomorrow than we are today; we must learn to be mature about God’s rebuke so that we can be fit and ready for His eternal desire.
Yes, the Lord is going to correct us when we are wrong, but He also tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30). The Lord is not so overbearing that He is merciless. No, even when we error, we find that God is a forgiving God and Him rebuking us is part of how He goes about forgiving us; we must be rebuked (corrected) when we have done wrong in order to truly be forgiven.
As it was for the children of Israel, it is for us today that the Lord desires for us to return unto His glory and righteousness. When God rebukes you in your wrongdoings, just remember that God is doing it so that we can become holy and righteous in His eyes. When God rebukes you, I encourage the same as the writer of Hebrews encouraged: do not despise the chastening of the Lord nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.
We ought to be open to and heed God’s rebuke today because the disciplined and obedient child is always rewarded. If our parents rewarded us for our obedience and being on our best behavior, how much more will the Lord reward us for heeding His counsel and being obedient?
We ought to heed God’s rebuke today because we should all be desiring to live for the better. You and I ought to heed God’s rebuke today because we desire to be blessed and highly favored in His eyes. We ought to heed God’s rebuke today because we should all desire that greater reward of His and in order for us to receive it, we must listen to Him.
You see, if God did not love us, then He would have left us in the despair of our sins; He would have allowed us to run wild in our wickedness for which there is no heavenly reward. We are not illegitimate children when it comes to the Lord because He cares, but not only cares, He loves us. You and I belong to Him and at the end of the day He wants to boast and proudly tell the world, like a proud father, that we are His!
So, let us be open to and heed God’s rebuke today because none of us are perfect! We ought not ever think for a second that we don’t need God to discipline nor correct us when we erred. Let us remember, again, that when God rebukes it is for our own good – He is restoring us unto perfection that we, mankind, once had (Gen. 1:26,31).