I know God disciplines me, because the Bible tells me so, but how do I know when I am personally experiencing God’s discipline for my sin?
This question surfaced this week on the Ask Pastor John podcast. In part of his answer, Pastor John said this:
Here is one of the most remarkable things about God’s ordaining hard things in our lives in a disciplinary way. Jesus was disciplined and he never sinned. Hebrews 5:8 says Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” Now a lot of people read that and they say, “Whoa! Learned obedience? You mean he stopped being disobedient, and became obedient, and thus he sinned?” No. That is not what it says; that is not what it means.
When it says he “learned obedience” it means he moved from one degree of obedience to another as he grew. He is learning at each stage the actual implementation of his obedient heart in acts of obedience. And he is doing it “through what he suffered.” Which means that God ordained suffering in the life of Jesus to bring him to the fullest expression of obedience.
Now the reason that is important is because we, I think, forget that God’s hand of discipline may be on us not simply to spank us because we have been bad, but to stretch us and broaden us in what we are doing well. . . . In other words, God is always disciplining us. He is always doing things good, hard, and gentle to us. . . .
The person who asks, “Well, then how do I know if I am being disciplined?” — what they are really asking is this: “How do I know if I have sinned?” And the answer to that question is: read your Bible. Don’t base your conclusion about whether you have done something wrong on how God is treating you, because that is going to be very confusing. Sometimes he treats you way better than you deserve, and sometimes he spanks you in order to bring it to your attention — but you can’t tell which it is.
Pastor John illustrated this point with a personal story of a time when God disciplined him for a sin, not with a rod or whip or through pain, but with a divine kiss of blessing. You can hear the entire recording in episode 45.
Also on Friday we asked Pastor John if he ever doubts in God’s existence. Yes, the thought crosses his mind, he says, but it doesn’t lodge there. He explains why in episode 48.
We also asked him how he would care for a couple struggling with infertility (episode 46). And finally he addressed preachers, and explained the healthy tension preachers feel in not living up to what they preach (episode 47).
Tune in to the new episodes (released every weekday morning) through the new Ask Pastor John iPhone app. You can download the free app here.
To date we have released 48 episodes. Here are the top-ten most played in the last 30 days:
- A Theology of Prayer in 3 Minutes (Episode 37)
- Biblical Womanhood in Five Minutes (Episode 42)
- How Does Rape, Incest, and Threat to the Mother's Life Affect Your Pro-Life Stance? (Episode 31)
- God Hears My Prayers, So Why Should I Pray for Things Twice? (Episode 38)
- Should Missionaries Intentionally Lie? (Episode 32)
- The Spirit Lives in Me, So Why Do My Affections Fluctuate? (Episode 33)
- A Theology of Art in Five Minutes (Episode 29)
- Do You Conduct Funerals for Non-Christians? (Episode 40)
- How Can I Help My Friends Stay Satisfied in God? (Episode 39)
- How Do I Know If I’m Being Disciplined by God? (Episode 45)
The Ask Pastor John daily podcast is a series of 3–8 minute conversations released on weekdays at 11am (EST) via the DG Facebook and Twitter feeds. We’re currently hosting all the recordings on SoundCloud, a website that makes it easy to listen to several of the podcasts in one sitting. They’re also archived on the DG website. This week iTunes approved our podcast request and it will be syndicated in iTunes shortly.
We want to hear from you. To submit a question to Pastor John please include your first name, hometown, and question in an email to AskPastorJohn AT desiringGod DOT org.
We have started to receive requests from broadcasters asking to play these episodes over the airwaves, and we are happy to help make this possible. Please send us an email to the above mentioned address and we’ll get back to you.
Thanks for listening to the podcasts. We appreciate your engagement and interest.