“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines , and He scourges every son whom He receives.’”
In verse 4 the writer of Hebrews begins to deal with reversionism and its relationship to the sin nature. The believers in Jerusalem who were in a state of reversionism had not been successful in combating and controlling their sin natures. You have not yet resisted is the Greek military word “antikathistemi,” which means to oppose, to resist, or stand against the enemy. The negative not yet means that these believers had not resisted to the point of “shedding blood,” as in battle. To the point of shedding blood would be the maximum resistance for a soldier in combat. Striving against means to do combat, to contend or to fight.
As believers, we are in a spiritual war with Satan, his demons and his world system. Doctrine in the soul is the means of combating the sin nature. The antidote to the sin nature is doctrine resident in the soul and applied to the circumstances of life. Therefore spiritually mature believers with maximum doctrine in their souls are able to combat their sin natures the best. On the other hand, the reversionist cannot handle his sin nature.
Before going to war, it is necessary to assess the enemy. What are his strategies, where is the battlefield, what is the size of his force, etc? You must also assess your capability. What kind of weapons do you have, should you be on the defensive or offensive, is your force superior to the enemy, etc? Our assessment is that God is the one who fights this spiritual warfare for us. We are unable in our own power and strength to wage war with Satan and his demon army. Being equipped with God’s armor is the only possible way of gaining victory in this battle. But as always in the Christian life, we must exercise our volition. We must be the ones to put on the complete armor of God. So, how do we go to battle? We go with Bible doctrine resident in our souls and with God’s righteousness. We go with the knowledge that we are reconciled to God. We go using the faith-rest technique (mixing the promises of God with our faith) and the 30+ divine operating assets. We go using God’s Word for every battle in life and we go with a consistent prayer life for ourselves and for others. God’s battle plan is perfect. We just need to learn how to execute it! (Ephesians 6:10-20)
In order to fight this spiritual battle, the believer must have supernatural power. This fight cannot be waged by human power. The soul must be armed with Bible doctrine circulating in the soul. Jesus Christ controls history, but Satan is the ruler of this world. He is a genius and has been observing mankind for thousands of years. He has a well-organized army of demons to do his “dirty work”. Satan is not omnipresent or omniscient. Therefore, he is not personally after most of us, nor does he know everything about us. Satan relies on the influence of his army of demons, the world system and the sin nature to keep us off track regarding our spiritual life.
Divine discipline is the action taken by the justice of God in grace to correct, to encourage, to train, and to motivate the believer’s free will toward the protocol plan of God. Therefore, divine discipline is distinguished from divine judgment, in that discipline is for believers only, but judgment is directed toward all categories of the human race and angels under certain circumstances. When believers get out of fellowship through sin we bring suffering on ourselves. If we do not use the most basic problem solving device of Rebound, we will continue in a state of carnality or reversionism. Carnality is a brief stay in Satan’s cosmic system; reversionism is a prolonged residence in the cosmic system.
Divine discipline must be distinguished from the Law of Volitional Responsibility where each of us is responsible for his or her bad decisions. Bad decisions from a position of weakness due to lack of proper application of Bible doctrine result in tremendous misery manufactured by ourselves, for which we must take the responsibility. If a believer persists in the three categories under the Law of Volitional Responsibility, i.e., self-imposed, self-induced, and self- indulged misery, God will have no other option than severe divine discipline.
Discipline from God often follows the failure to Rebound from our sins. Our sin originates from our free will. Though temptation comes from the sin nature, we make the decision to sin! All wrong decisions come from some form of arrogance or lust. While God is the source of divine discipline, man’s free will is the source of suffering under the Law of Volitional Responsibility. God uses His sovereignty and His perfect judgment to know when it’s time to warn us that we are out of fellowship, and to bring us back on track with varying categories of discipline. All divine discipline is always designed to correct, to train, and to motivate.
God in His grace provides divine discipline. His divine discipline is motivated by His love. God does not discipline us because he likes to see us miserable! God is perfect, just, and fair; we are His children as Royal Family of God. Being fair and loving to your children means you will reward and bless them on certain occasions, and at other times you will discipline them. Being a parent is a very difficult task, because you must recognize their faults and train and discipline them; you must also recognize when they succeed and reward them.
Divine discipline is a warning that the believer is “out of bounds” and not executing God’s plan, but functioning in Satan’s cosmic system. The boundaries of God’s plan are defined in terms of the divine power system. As a perfect plan, God’s plan must be executed in bounds, not out of bounds (a right thing must be done in a right way). Just as the referee blows the whistle, the flag is thrown, and the penalty is given when a player is out of bounds in a sports game, so God blows the whistle on us through the administration of divine discipline.
Divine discipline to the believer is parental training in the Royal Family of God. The very fact that we receive warning discipline from God tells us that He is bringing us back to reality (waking us up!) so that we can grow in grace and have all the wonderful assets He has designed for us in our portfolio and in His protocol plan. So divine discipline teaches a believer, when he has not learned from doctrine. Often, when you resist in the teaching of doctrine, God will teach you in another way (the hard way) through divine discipline. Remember that although divine discipline is suffering, it is designed to teach us. All of us must learn certain things the hard way sometimes through divine discipline. So you can learn the easy way, from your pastor-teacher, or you can learn the hard way, from divine discipline.
Learning the easy way requires the filling of the Holy Spirit and enforced or genuine humility. If you cannot learn from humility, you learn from hurting. Learning from hurting is a motivation to Rebound and recover from the cosmic system. The believer must recover from the cosmic system to live inside God’s power system. The carnal believer who does not learn from divine discipline is eventually removed from this life under the sin unto death. Many believers have to learn the hard way by getting out of fellowship and learn certain things the hard way through divine discipline.
Once a believer uses Rebound, God exercises one of three options on his behalf: 1) the removal of all disciplinary suffering 2) discipline suffering is diminished, but is now designed for blessing. The reason the suffering is reduced is so that you can bear it. God never gives us more than we can bear when we are in fellowship 3) disciplinary suffering continues at the same intensity, but is now designed for blessing. It continues at the same intensity because you can bear it and gain blessing from it.
In summary, most of our suffering comes from ourselves under the law of volitional responsibility (self-induced misery). There are three categories of divine discipline administered to the cosmic or carnal believer: 1) warning discipline 2) intensive discipline 3) dying discipline. When we ignore these warnings, continue to live in Satan’s cosmic system and move into reversionism, then God has to bring us back to reality by means of divine discipline.
In Ephesians 4 we find the reversionism recovery process. The first half of the chapter we see believers executing the Christian Way of Life and growing spiritually. It is the “worthy walk” of a believer that is being described by Paul in verses 1-16. Then Paul begins to admonish these believers for their slide into reversionism in verses 17-19. In verse 20-32 Paul gives these Ephesian believers the recovery process.
In verse 17 Paul warns these believers not to walk as the unbeliever (which apparently some were doing), in the vacuum or emptiness of their mind. The vacuum leads to blackout of the soul and scar tissue on the soul as described in verse 18. Verse 19 gives us the next progressive step in reversionism, which is total indulgence to the trend of the sin nature. In this case it was lascivious lawlessness.
Now Paul gives us the recovery process beginning in verse 20. First a believer is to recall the Bible doctrine that was learned in the past. The Greek word for “learned” indicates a process of study, which is not the same as simply listening to Bible teaching or reading your Bible. The connotation is not to simply learn the doctrine of Christ academically, rather get to know the Person of Christ. In “learning Christ” application is made that will cause the believer to “walk” in a different manner than the rest of the Gentiles. In verse 21 the word for “taught” indicates that a pastor-teacher is involved in this learning process and the last phrase is an indication that all Bible doctrine is the thinking of Christ. Therefore, the first step to recovery is to make the study and application of Bible doctrine number one priority.
However, before you can begin this process, you must Rebound in accordance with I John 1:9. This is the meaning of verse 22 along with the concept of controlling the sin nature (the old man). This is accomplished only under the control of God the Holy Spirit, as we will see in the next verse. Therefore, we have rebound and keep moving (“walk in the light”)
In verse 23 we have the resumption of the spiritual life that had previously been abandoned. How do we do this? We do this by renewing our minds, not by attempting to change our behavior, which comes as a result of the renewed mind. The mind of a believer is renewed by the consistent intake and application of Bible doctrine. Therefore, a believer involved in reversionism must renew his mind, not “change his ways.” Right thinking leads to right actions. Removal of scar tissue on the soul takes time and patience… patience with ourselves and/or other believers who might be going through this recovery process.
Verse 24 is a great description of building your spiritual life on the right foundation. Rebound, the filling of (control by) the Holy Spirit, study and application of God’s Word and resuming your spiritual life are all caught up in the phrase “put on the new man.” The Greek word here indicates that the “new” is new in type not new in time. In other words, it is something you already possess. Paul says to remove the “old man” in verse 22 and put on the “new man” in verse 24. This is not a reference to salvation, but rather to your spiritual status. In other words, stop being controlled by the sin nature (the old man) and be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
This process of transformation, of course, takes place first in the mind, in accordance with God’s standards of “righteousness and holiness from truth.” “Righteousness” (a right relationship with God) not only refers to the righteousness of Christ that the believer receives at salvation, it also refers to a righteous lifestyle. A righteous lifestyle is the execution of the unique Christian life, not the practice of legalism. Another way to explain this is: make your experience in Christ align with your position in Christ.
“Holiness from truth” is literally “holiness based on Bible doctrine.” Holiness (being set apart to God in a right relationship) in this verse is a reference to the quality of holiness exhibited by those that have regard for the truth (Bible doctrine). It is the doctrine that is used by the believer in reversionism that will eventually remove the scar tissue and lead to a full recovery of the spiritual life. If a believer is to fully recover from reversionism, he must use God’s system: name, acknowledge or admit his sins, make a decision to put God’s Word first and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and teach him. The result will be a renewed mind that will lead to the execution of God’s plan, purpose and will. (Romans 12:1-2)