Disciplining for Wisdom
What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? What is life really all about? Those are some very profound questions to be asking. They are so profound in fact, that some of you here, especially you younger ones, don’t even care about the answer. And that’s normal. It’s not good, but it’s normal.
My very first job was in an office in Whittier, and after being there about a year, I remember meeting a new coworker named Tony. He was an Italian guy, just a few years older than I was. I was about 18 or 19, and he was like 24 maybe. I don’t really remember.
But one day at work, we’re talking in the office, and he says to me: “Hey, Luis. Yesterday, I was talking to so-and-so (some older man we both knew), and he asked me, ‘Hey Tony, why do you get out of bed in the morning?’” Why do you get out of bed?
And in much more colorful language, Tony looked at me, with a puzzled look on his face, and he said, “What kind of a messed-up question is that?!” It was an offense to him. Why would anyone question his reason for living?
Well, in order to truly understand the world, we have to be able to give an answer to that question. Everybody, whether they verbalize it or not, has an answer to that question. What is the purpose of life? Some might say: nothing, or me, or fun, or life itself.
Those are all some of the possible answers, but the only true answer is the answer that has been given to us by the One who made life and designed it. That is God Himself.
Why did God make all this? Why did He place us in this world? The most comprehensive answer is that all creation exists for the glory of God. God did all this to make Himself known so that we would worship Him. That’s why we exist. We exist for God. To know Him and love Him. That’s the true and ultimate purpose of humanity. That is the most real and most profound satisfaction we can find.
That doesn’t mean we ignore the stuff in this world and focus simply on God. It means that we take what we have in the world and use those things as a means of knowing God better.
I’d like you to take your Bible and turn to the book of Ephesians. This is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a Christian church in the city of Ephesus. And most of these Christians were Gentiles; they had no Jewish background. So living in light of an all-encompassing God was a new concept to them. They came from a belief in which the gods could be compartmentalized, and really, life was all about themselves rather than all about God. And so Paul writes them this letter to help them understand their place in the world and in God’s purposes.
We are created for God, to know Him and love Him, but we have to admit that that’s not our natural bent. We are sinners. We are self-oriented, not God oriented. And because of God’s holiness and majesty, it means that we deserve judgment. We deserve to be cast away from Him and His goodness. But God has chosen to save us through Jesus Christ.
The Ephesian Christians knew this, but what Paul wants to emphasize to them is that it’s not really about them. It’s about God. It’s about God’s glory.
Ephesians 1, verses 3-14 is an extended praise to God for what He’s done in Jesus Christ. It’s a doxology. God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why? Look at verse 6. To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Christians have been saved so they would praise God for His grace. Verses 11 and 12 repeat it.
11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory
And once again in verse 14, we’re told that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The opening section of the letter reminds us again and again, not just of the blessings we have from God, but of the reason for those blessings. This is all so that we would praise God for His grace. God saved us for Himself. He made us into worshippers of Him.
And that’s why after this section, you get a written prayer of Paul. And his prayer is that the Christians would have a better understanding of their calling and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Following that prayer, in chapters 2 and 3, Paul describes the calling we’ve received with more details. He unpacks the process and details of salvation. We’ve been united to God’s household. God’s family.
Skip forward with me to Ephesians 3:7. Ephesians 3:7. Here is Paul describing his life calling. Ephesians 3:7-10.
7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Again, Paul goes back to the purpose of God. Through the church, God’s wisdom is made known. It’s made known to the world and to the angelic beings. That’s what Paul is saying. This life is not primarily about us humans. It’s not even primarily about the angelic beings. It is about God. It’s about Jesus Christ. And every created being exists to bring God glory.
We as a church exist for that very reason. And it’s not something that happens just on Sunday mornings. It’s supposed to be shown in the entirety of our lives. We are supposed to live out these truths with our lives. Our conduct is supposed to be an expression of our calling.
What kind of conduct? That’s what the second half of Ephesians tells us. Chapter 4 says we need to diligently preserve our unity. And then it says we need to walk as a new man, as a new creation, putting aside the old ways and putting on the new ways.
Chapter 5 we have to walk in love and holiness and sexual purity. We have to walk in the light, Paul says. And then, he adds, we have to walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom is part of how we glorify God. It’s how we, as the church, make God’s wisdom known. It’s the conduct that expresses our calling in Christ. Look at Ephesians chapter 5, verse 15.
15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise
Walking in wisdom means walking in obedience to the Spirit, in obedience to the word of God. And that has some very practical expressions in life. Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives. Lay down your lives for them. And, chapter 6 says, children, obey your parents in the Lord. Parents, this is verse 4, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
That is a very simple and yet foundational way that God’s people express their calling and live in wisdom and give God glory in their lives. That’s how we fulfill God’s design for our families. It’s not easy. I didn’t say it was easy. I said it was simple and foundational. It’s not a complicated instruction: children, listen to your parents, and parents, train your children.
That’s what we’re going to be continuing with this morning in Proverbs. And you need to keep the idea of Ephesians in mind. This is how we glorify God. This is the conduct that expresses our calling. To say it in the words of Proverbs, this is how we fear the Lord.
Over one year ago, back in July of 2017, we started looking at the Proverbs. And since then, we’ve been learning that Proverbs is a parenting book. It’s a father teaching and instructing his son. It’s a father disciplining his son. That’s a key word.
Discipline doesn’t just mean punishment. Punishment might be one aspect of it. But biblical discipline is a much bigger category. It basically means an all-encompassing training in life. There’s an instructional component, and there’s an applicational component too. And it’s not just about shaping your kids behavior; it’s about shaping their hearts.
A God-honoring parent wants their child to see and eventually catch a love for God, a love for Jesus Christ. In theology, you could call that a theocentric education. That’s what we want to give our kids—a theocentric and Christocentric education. A system of instruction aimed at honoring God and Jesus Christ.
That’s how God trains His children, and that’s how we are to train our children. That’s biblical discipline.
If our kids learn all the Bible stories and all the theological facts, but they don’t see a people who love Christ from the heart, and delight in His forgiveness and grace, then we’re missing it. Because that’s not the goal. It’s not just about information or behavior. It’s about a love for Christ, a love and intimacy with God for His work of redemption and grace.
Now, what does that discipline look like? Well, the three components I’ve mentioned before are preparation, pain, and protection. Preparation, pain, and protection. And I’ll show them to you from God Himself.
Go with me to the book of Deuteronomy. This is God, through Moses, instructing, or disciplining the people before they enter into the Promised Land, filled with the pagan nations. And those lessons are reminders of God’s discipline.
First up, let’s look at Deuteronomy chapter 4. Deuteronomy 4, verse 35. It starts with a rhetorical question. Deuteronomy 4:35. To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.
Some translations say “to instruct you” rather than “to discipline you.” But the Hebrew term there is “discipline.” And the emphasis is on God’s revelation to teach His people. He prepared them by giving them His commandments. He instructed them. That’s part of God’s discipline. That is the preparation. It’s the teaching. And that’s what we parents, and you future parents should be doing. Teaching your kids. Giving them God’s instruction.
Secondly, go to Deuteronomy chapter 8, verse 1. This is going to highlight the second component: pain. God disciplines His children by instruction. And He disciplines His children by pain. Sometimes the pain is a part of punishment, and sometimes it’s just part of the lesson. Deuteronomy 8, verse 1.
The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
Why did Israel suffer so much in the wilderness? Why did the people go through that pain? Because it was a form of discipline. The previous generation disobeyed, and the punishment was that they would all die in the wilderness. But it wasn’t just punishment for punishment’s sake. It was pain with a purpose. And even the next generation, who didn’t sin in the same way, still had to go through that difficult time because the pain was a part of the discipline.
Now, you may not like the sound of that. The culture definitely doesn’t like the sound of that. But that is God’s design. It’s part of His discipline. Discipline includes pain.
Some people call that tough love. But the Bible just calls it love. Love compels a father to teach his son. And love leads a father to correct his son. Love wants to lead others back to the truth.
There are some lessons that we can learn simply from someone telling us. We listen. But other lessons don’t come to easily. And pain, within the context of love, is an amazing teacher, isn’t it? Nobody likes pain. But pain is a gift from God. Pain tells you something is wrong, and it’s a motivation to fix it.
Pain is part of how some lessons are learned. And you see that in Proverbs 3 and Hebrews 12. The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
If true joy, and true satisfaction is found ultimately in God and in Christ, and in honoring His ways, then correcting a child (with a measured and temporary amount of pain) is not a hateful act. It is a loving act. In fact, one of the ways God’s wrath is described in the Bible is an abandonment. Letting someone go their own way without any correction, is an act of judgment. That’s not love.
And God isn’t out there correcting everyone. Hebrews 12 tells us. He only corrects His own children. And it’s done in love. And it’s done for their own good. Again, it’s not the only component of discipline. But it’s an important part.
So we’ve got discipline through preparation, through instruction. And then there’s discipline through pain.
The third category is discipline through protection. Protection. For this one, go to Deuteronomy chapter 11. This is the final component. Deuteronomy chapter 11, verse 1.
You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. 2And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, 3his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, 4and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord has destroyed them to this day.
Verse 2 connects the discipline of God to the way He freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God heard their cries and He saved them. He demonstrated compassion and He stepped in for their benefit. He provided for them. That’s part of godly discipline too. We don’t just teach our kids. We don’t just make their life hard sometimes. We protect them and provide for them. We serve them and love them.
That’s why parents are bigger and stronger than young children. Not so they can bully them or abuse them. It’s so they can protect and care for the children. That’s part of our godly duty. Godly parenting, godly discipline includes stepping in and defending your children, and lovingly providing for them. Because that’s the character of God. He defends the helpless. He protects the weak. he provides for His children’s necessities.
So that’s a threefold view of godly discipline. There’s preparation through instruction. There’s the pain of correction. And there’s the compassion of protection. That’s how God disciplines His children, and it’s how we are to discipline and train ours.
Parents, take a good look at your parenting style. If you’re married, talk to your partner about it. Are you incorporating all of these into how you raise your kids? If something missing, or if something doesn’t seem to be represented appropriately, you’re not faithfully representing God to your kids.
By our actions, by our attitudes, our kids need to know that we love them—that we want to teach them and correct them and provide for them, for their benefit.
And we can all grow in this, right? None of us parent perfectly. So we want to draw near to God in prayer and in the Word, so that we can learn from Him, learn about His character, and then express that in our parenting. Okay?
That is a very long introduction to our lesson today from the book of Proverbs. We’re continuing to trace this theme of children and parents in Proverbs.
One of the handouts you have is a collection of the verses we looked at last week. It says “Proverbs for Parents and Children” on the top. And the sections there are “The connection between parents and children,” “The importance of honoring father and mother,” and “The importance of honoring the elderly.”
Some people had suggested to me that it would be beneficial to have these given to you, so that’s what I’m trying to do. That handout is from last week. So put that one away for now.
For today’s lesson, I’d like you to look at the other handout. It’s two pages, and it’s got a line down the middle. The top of the page says “Proverbs on Discipline." On those two pages, you’ve got three different headings, and they’re all connected to this concept of discipline.
The first section is primarily aimed at us younger ones—those who need wisdom most. The section is called “The Importance of Receiving Wisdom.” These are Proverbs that would help a young person cultivate a humble heart that is receptive to wisdom. So, if we’re talking about parenting, this is mainly aimed at the children, although parents, we need teachable hearts too.
The second section on discipline, and this is on the other page, is called “The Neglect of Discipline Brings Pain.” These are Proverbs that highlight the idea that if you fail to pursue wisdom, if you do not have a humble, teachable heart, life will not be fun.
The third section is titled “Guidance for Disciplining Others.” This one would be primarily aimed at parents, but it’s also good for all of us future parents. We want to learn how to discipline those in our care. And again, it’s not just about punishment. It’s about teaching and caring for them and modeling wisdom.
I was a little conflicted as to what would be the best way to go through all this. Obviously, we’re not going to go through all the verses today, but what I decided to do is to go through all these verses in the order they come to us in Proverbs.
So, if you want, you can just hang on to this list, and look at it later, but for right now, we’re just going to combine all three lists and then go through the Proverbs in the order they were written.
So it might feel like it’s kinds jumping around, but I think that will help keep us on our toes, and, in the spirit of Proverbs, it’s a kind of repetition we all could benefit from. We’ll have instructions for us children mixed in with instructions for us parents. And since you have the notes already, you can see the verses spread out into their categories later on.
Are you ready? I’m not sure how far we’ll get to day, but we’ll pick this up next week, Lord willing. For now, look with me, in your Bibles at Proverbs 10, verse 8. This is our starting place. Proverbs 10:8.
The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Notice the contrast in that statement. You can be wise of heart by listening to God and to others. Or you can be a fool who talks too much. I remember a teachers once telling me something like: if your mouth is open, your ears are closed. Other have pointed out that God gave us two ears and only one mouth. And the mouth is the one we can turn off, if we’re disciplined.
A babbling fool will come to ruin. Kids especially, make sure you’re listening more to your teachers and your parents, than you are running your mouth to them. And parents, make sure you take the time to really listen to your children, rather than just ranting all the time.
Next, we have Proverbs 10:13. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
Parents, speak true, biblical wisdom into your children’s lives. And children, recognize that if you reject wisdom, there will be consequences. One of the recurring themes in Proverbs is “the rod.”
The basic meaning of the word was an offshoot of a tree. So this was typically something made of wood. Maybe you’ve heard of an older person talking about a switch. That was a slender, flexible piece of wood. It could be used to whip an animal.
The word for rod was also used for a cane for an older man, and for a scepter for a king. So I think it’s good to understand this, not just as an instrument of correction, but as a symbol of authority. That’s the Proverbs rod.
God has given to those in authority, a means to keep the peace and to promote righteousness. And in the home, Proverbs refers to it as the rod.
Now, there are a lot of objections and questions people have when you talk about the rod, or when you talk about spanking. In fact, somebody sent me an article about a recent publication by the American Academy of Pediatrics and what they said about spanking. In short, they don’t like it.
But I would also add, they don’t really understand it. Nor do they define it well. The article, and I’ll probably talk more about this in the coming weeks, says nothing about the context of this punishment. It says nothing about the other facets of biblical discipline, like instruction and patience and protection.
So, I’ll talk more about those issues once we get to more verses that deal with the rod. So don’t judge this all just yet. But the basic point here in 10:13 is that foolish behavior can result in a painful consequence. That’s the rod. And God even tells you where it gets applied. To the backside.
That is typically aimed at younger children. For older kids, the consequences might not be physical, but they should still be painful. A loss of privileges. Or a loss of a freedom. Or some additional chore to be done. But it should be aimed at helping the child connect disobedience or foolishness to painful consequences.
It’s much better to have a simple, temporary consequences earlier in life, than to face much greater, and more lasting consequences later in life.
Parents, we cannot make our kids obey. Do you get that? We can’t control that. But what we can control, and what we can teach our children is that disobedience is painful. Disobedience brings consequences.
I’ve told my kids: The pain will go away. But the lesson needs to stay. That’s the idea here.
Parents, if you don’t think you have a good understand biblical discipline, don’t go jumping into corporal punishment, just because the Bible mentions it. You need to understand the bigger picture. And then talk to your spouse about what is appropriate for each of your children. Not every disobedience needs a physical correction.
Sometimes, all a kid needs is a reminder. Sometimes, they already learned their lesson. Your goal shouldn’t be to make sure the kids never does anything wrong. Your goal should be to model God’s grace toward them. And sometimes, that grace means letting them figure something out for themselves. Sometimes grace means gently correcting them. And sometimes, in the most severe examples, grace means bringing some kind of pain so that the lesson can hold.
The rod is just one aspect of that. And it’s not even a very common one. If you do a word study on the rod, it can feel like it’s all throughout Proverbs. But if you place it in the context of the other passages that deal with discipline and training, then you get a much better picture.
Part of that context is verse 14. The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
Parents, help your child store up God’s knowledge. Help them value that more than grades, more than friends, more than entertainment, more than money or possessions. If you want to be wise, store up knowledge. But if you’d rather talk than listen, if you’d rather have the foolish mouth, ruin will be close by.
With the time we have left, we are just going to finish up chapter 10, and then, Lord willing we'll continue our study next time.
Proverbs 10:17 — Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
To heed means to listen. Children, young ones, learn to heed instruction. If you do that you're on the path of life. Even if you don't agree with your parents, heed their isntruction. One day, you're going to grow up and have a boss one day. And guess what, you're not going to agree with them either. And if you don't learn to listen no one will hire you.
He who ignores reproof will be led astray. The modern phrase is: "I know. I know. Leave me alone." That attitude will lead you astray.
Last proverb for today. Proverbs 10:23 — Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
Why do people like jokes? Because they're fun. They make you laugh. They bring you joy. This verse is talking about what gives you satisfaction and fulfilment. A true fool finds fulfilment in wrongdoing and in foolishness. It's a joke to them. It's a game to them. Let's do it again!
But if you're a person of understanding, your delight and pleasure, is in the wisdom of God. And even when you get a rough correction, you embrace it because you believe the God of this Word. That takes faith.
We'll continue looking at our list of Proverbs next week.