Chastening and judgment? Who wants to read about that?! Most of us would rather go eat a cookie. But… but that’s where quite a lot of things suddenly come into play. It turns out that, in life, most of us find that we end up more enhanced and matured through the experiences we learn, often from chastening and judgments, than we do from the fleeting pleasures of eating cookies.
This morning I was sitting on that park bench again. And I was thinking about a slightly complex couple of Bible verses that say, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (I Corinthians 11:31 & 32)
What does it mean, “If we would judge ourselves…”? The idea is, I think, that if we listened to the voice of our conscience (and for those of us who are Christians, the voice of God through the Holy Spirit), quite often those still, small voices will lead and guide us to make the right decisions. Now, we may not always like the way they are leading and it’s often a real battle inside of us to obey what we know is right.
But, like the verse says, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” We can escape quite a lot of suffering in this world if we take heed to those voices of our conscience, voices of the Holy Spirit and Bible verses that come to mind which tell us something we should or shouldn’t do. This isn’t rocket science; basically everybody knows this, even if they don’t always like it or sometimes make light of it.
OK, sometimes you don’t listen to those voices and you seem to get away with it, don’t you? Ha! But then, like Moses of old said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) Some people don’t like Moses and the word “sin” so they opt to “karma”. I read somewhere the other day,
“Karma is only a bitch if you are.”
And that verse I was thinking about this morning also gave the alternative to the times when we properly “judge ourselves”. When we don’t, sooner or later, through one means or the other, it says “but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (I Corinthians 11:32)
Oh, how some people hate this concept! They love to make God out as some giant cruel monster Who’s always ready to crush us poor little righteous people. I wrote about folks how believe that recently in “God is a Monster!” he said. But we often don’t even obey our consciences, what we already know in our heart is right, much less any admonition from the Holy Spirit which tries to punch through and provide direction in our lives.
So through one means or the other, sooner or later there’s some form of suffering for our “sins”. Here are another set of very famous verses on the subject from Hebrews 12:5-11
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, ‘My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, or faint when you art rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father doesn’t chasten? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.”
Some folks just utterly hate this passage and the concepts within it. But the reality is that for almost every person in their life, even if they hate the whole idea of what’s being talked about here, usually sooner or later they have to admit, if only to themselves and under their breath, that they did do something wrong or stupid or even evil and that they suffered because of it. And for some, they very reluctantly learned a major lesson of life through the “chastening” of their experiences. Or if you don’t like “chastening”, try “karma”
But how much better it is if we could just be like that verse says that we talked about and the many verses in the Bible which teach us to look at things so differently from the way the world does? That’s what that verse in Hebrews 12 is saying, “No chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous.”
Who likes chastening? Nobody! But the rest of the verse shows us how we can more wisely look at the thing, “Nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Chastening isn’t the same as being beat up and injured in some abusive circumstances. But in whatever way some form of chastening comes, the wise in heart will ask the Lord, “What can I learn from this?” “Did this happen for some reason?”
There’s so much more to all this and I don’t like to make these long. There’s the whole thing about “justifying ourselves”. (Job 9:20, Luke 10:29) That’s usually our first reaction, even to strike back at the circumstances or the one who’s being used to correct us or even chasten us. But for some wise souls, like King David when he was being exposed by the prophet Nathan, (II Samuel 12) they seem to have the honesty and humility to admit their sins and to not justify themselves. For some of us, we sometimes eventually do that. But first we have to justify ourselves for a while, Lord help us.
What’s the conclusion? “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” It’s like the verse in Proverbs, “A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3) Sometimes that “evil” a prudent man foresees is some impulse in his heart to do what he knows is wrong. But he sees it, recognizes it and turns from it. On the other hand, “the simple” (meaning in this case the unwise and hardened of heart) “pass on and are punished.” Because they didn’t listen to the voice of their conscience and the voice of the Lord. Or their friends.
Like it even says in Psalm 23, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me”. (Psalm 23:4) It happens to all of us. We all experience this. But if you learn from it, you can grow through the mistakes you make and you can learn to have a wiser, chastened heart which can be led by Him into “green pastures” and the “still waters” of life.(Psalm 23:2) God bless you!