This series of posts comes from a workshop / seminar I gave to a collection of youth leaders in Superior, WI called: Discipline w/ the Gospel in Mind.

// You have to believe the Gospel

That statement may sound a little facetious. Or have some shock value to it. It has neither. It is a practical and functional statement. Discipline (or anything in life for that matter) looks vastly different depending on whether the person believes or doesn’t believe the Gospel.

Think about it: If a person doesn’t believe the Gospel then they will discipline to shape behavior or because they are annoyed, or that the outcome of whether a kid is good or bad is wholly dependent on them. Discipline is ultimately up to them. If they do a “good” job, then they did well. They pat themselves on the back, wipe the sweat from 18 years worth of engagement, and sit back and drink ice tea all while pontificating their wisdom to other human-centered parents. Or, if they did a “bad” job, then they did poorly. These parents or youth leaders feel guilty, ashamed or resigned, or they just blame it on the kid. They say they tried, but couldn’t do anything about it.

If you don’t believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then you believe what happens in this world, whether it’s successful parenting, or anything else, is wholly dependent on me… humanity.

There should be a difference, though, with those people who believe the Gospel… right? I mean, there should be a difference. I wonder if intellectually, or cognitively, we mentally assent to “believe the Gospel”, but practically and functionally, we don’t. We parent or discipline like it’s based on our own effort instead of joining and partnering with what God is doing in the lives of our children or those we are called to minister to and shepherd.

For some reason our mental belief and our functional practice are divorced from each other. We don’t live our lives with the Gospel in action, rather, just a set of doctrinal beliefs that we hold to.

If we say we believe the Gospel (God’s way of doing things, rather than humanity’s way of doing things), then we need to live the Gospel (God’s way of actually, functionally doing things, rather than humanity’s actual or functional way of doing things).

Do we really believe what the writer of Hebrews says?

“Later on, however, [discipline] produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11 NIV).

This “righteousness” is the same that Paul talks about in Romans:

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law [man’s way of doing things], has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (3:21-22 NIV).

The righteousness from God is His way of doing things introduced to this world, and His followers, His Christians are to bear witness to this new life, instead of the old life.

Are you catching a vision of the Gospel that not only speaks to discipline, but ALL areas of your life? Do you believe the Gospel? Not just in word, but in deed as James so eloquently puts it?

“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Event the demons believe that and shudder” (2:18 NIV).

Even demons believe mentally in God’s way of doing things. But they don’t really believe because they don’t have deeds that match up with their supposed belief in “one God.” What category are you in?

Discipline is for our good, Hebrews tells us, not just for behavior modification to our own human end, but rather to “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11 NIV).

We must believe the Gospel mentally as well as functionally. By faith, and by deeds.