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A Theology Of Spiritual Health – Chastening, Pruning, And Self-Confrontation

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The Biblical Foundations for Discipleship & Counseling: Sanctification Part Three

A Theology of Spiritual Health

 

 

A Theology of Spiritual Health: Chastening, Pruning & Self-Confrontation

 

 

Have you ever thought about the common elements we see all around us that touch on improving our physical well-being like dieting, weight loss and steps to better health?

 

Often, after a diagnosis of looming poorer health, such as diabetes, heart problems, joint stress, and so on, there is a conscious desire to follow a plan of exercise, healthy eating, limiting certain items that hinder the goal.

 

That is exactly what so much of discipleship and counseling is about. People come to the point of spiritual ill-health. They don’t like what they see in their various symptoms, some they see and others they do not.

 

Signs of Spiritual Bad Health

 

What are a few symptoms of spiritual bad health? These are just a few of the very common spiritual discipleship & counseling areas we will deal with when counseling others:

 

  1. CHECK THEIR APPETITE: Believers with poor or even no appetite for the Word, fellowship, spiritual growth, or much to do with God.

 

  1. CHECK THEIR HABITS: Believers addicted to anger, fear, self-pity, or to influences that are harmful (occult images, sensual images, horror images, un –biblical romance images, materialistic-driven goals in life, pride-driven lives, etc.).

 

  1. CHECK THEIR EXERCISE: Believers experiencing: spiritual lethargy, lack of strength to resist temptation, inability to flee lust, constant bouts of defeat, paralyzing guilt, re-occurring seasons where they lack assurance of salvation and complete forgiveness, etc.

 

Each of these common symptoms point to lack of spiritual health.

 

God’s recovery program for these and most other symptoms is sanctification.

 

Sanctification is a spiritual work that God does.

 

Discipleship is the way that God trains believers through other believers.

 

All of us should be life-long discipling-counselors.

 

Great Commission Living is

Life-Long Discipleship & Counseling  

 

Jesus said we are all to go everywhere we are and be a part of the process of making disciples. That involves “teaching them to observe all things” that Christ has commanded. That process is what most of us call discipleship and counseling.

 

Christ’s church is designed to be nurtured most deeply by small group, and mostly one-on-one discipleship & counseling. That is how truths are taught, mentored, and nurtured in a relationship of accountability and encouragement (nurture and admonition as Paul calls in in Eph. 6:4).

 

That is why we have geared up for this two year long marathon run. This is a training center for long-term discipleship & counseling. The lessons are each building upon this Biblical Foundation of who we are in Christ.

 

This Discipleship & Counseling 101 course is a series of 24 building blocks:

 

  • Lesson One: The Supernatural Work of Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Lesson Two: The Necessity of Self-Confrontation for Sanctification (Matthew 7:1,5)

 

Foundational Truths

 

Here are the foundational truths we are building upon in our study of Biblical Counseling & Discipleship:

 

  1. Biblical Counseling is Supernatural: God does the work through the Word (John 17:17).
  2. Biblical Counseling is not a technique: it is a chosen way of life, of walking in the light and truth (I John 1:7).
  3. Biblical Counseling is Personal Sanctification: we must first learn to deal with the flesh in our own lives; so we confess imperfection (1 Thes. 5:23).
  4. Biblical Counseling is Personal Discipleship: we are explaining to others how to be followers of Christ, like we are (1 Cor.4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17).

 

Discipleship Summary

 

Now turn to the boxed statement on p. 33:

 

The process of biblical change, explained m God’s Word, begins when you repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God has given you everything you need to make the changes in your life that will please Him and will lead to His blessings.

 

As you continue to obey God’s Word, biblical change towards maturity will occur in your life until  you  see Jesus  face to face (based on John 1:12; Acts 26:20; Romans 8:28-39; 2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 1:6; 3:12-14; James 1:25; 2 Peter 1:2-10)

 

Bible Studies on Key Verses:

 

  1. Authorized as Children. We have been given the authority to live as children of God. That involves being God temple, possessing the power of His Spirit, being sealed, gifted, called, and personally in fellowship with God.

 

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

 

  1. Entered the Same Way. We each enter God’s family the same way, by following the Gospel that Christ and His Apostles proclaimed. Listen to Paul’s re-statement of what God called him to preach to the Gentiles (that is us in the church today). After Jesus explained the Gospel to Paul in Acts 26:18, what does Paul understand and communicate as the Gospel according to Jesus? It is in v. 20’s three simple elements!

 

  • Repent (a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior);
  • Turn to God (re-orienting my life towards God by His grace and power);
  • Do works befitting repentance (choices in my daily life that reflect my change of mind about God).

 

Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

 

  1. Stabilized by Truth. God’s Declaration of the Way Believers are to live has three dimensions:

 

  • No Condemnation v. 1 (God has forever justified me);
  • No Frustration 28 (God is orchestrating my life);
  • No Separation v. 39 (nothing has the power to separate me from God ever again).

 

Romans 8:1,28-39 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Other Scripture Studies

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

 

Philippians 3:12–14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

 

2 Peter 1:2–10 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

 

How God Improves

Our Spiritual Health

 

There are elements of our spiritual life: namely chastening and pruning, that many believers know very little about. These are almost foreign terms, when they are actually laws of spiritual health that God has built into our lives, and explained repeatedly in His Word.

 

Now, move to the box on p. 35:

 

Discipleship is a process which enables you to “grow up” in the Lord Jesus Christ and equips you to overcome joyfully the pressures and trials of this present life (based on Luke 9:23-24; James 1:2-4).

 

Luke 9:23-24 (NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

 

James 1:2-4 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

 

Discipleship requires constant self-examination that is in accordance  with God’s  Word (based  on Matthew 7:1-5;  1 Corinthians  11:31; Galatians  6:4).

 

Mt. 7:1-5 (NKJV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

Gal. 6:4 (NKJV) But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

 

Bible Study on 1 Cor. 11:28-31

God Explains the Stages of our Spiritual Health

 

1 Cor. 11:28-31 (NKJV) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

 

Summary: God charges us with self-examination as a way to spiritual blessing and spiritually healthy lives

 

Lessons:

 

  1. 28 “Examine” Grk. dokimadzo speaks of our making an inward look of verifying our condition based on how God sees us and desires us to be. This means stopping any comparison of myself to others. We confront ourselves based on God’s standards.
  2. 29 “Judgment” Grk. krima speaks of a decision based on an examination of compliance and obedience to a standard or law. God acts based upon clear standards of dealing with us which are: chastening and pruning. Both are blessings, one is punishment and the other is refinement.
  3. 30 “For this reason” we see here that we should beware of the chastening Hand of God. Chastening has three levels: some were weak, some were sick, some were dead. In Hebrews 12:5-11 God explains this process more fully.
  4. 31 the key is self-confrontation. What does God do to help us in these stages

 

Chastening vs. Pruning

 

So we can see in this passage that God has a chastening rule that He follows when believers get stuck in the mud or ditch of sin. But what about things that aren’t sin, they are just wasted efforts, misdirected priorities, what does God do then?

 

Does God work to sanctify us when we are not sinning, just “frittering” away our precious time? Yes. That process is called pruning and it is explained in detail in John 15. When God said that He is the Vinedresser, it was a declaration that whatever it takes to make us fruitful, He is on the job, and at work doing.

 

Look at these key verses in John 15 briefly, then let me introduce this idea. We will cover these principles deeply and frequently in the weeks ahead.

 

John 15:1-4 (NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE WAY GOD DISCIPLINES

HIS CHILDREN BY CHASTENING AND PRUNING

 

            QUESTION[1] CHASTENING PRUNING
What does chastening and pruning mean? Chastening” is derived from the Greek[2] word meaning “instruct, train,” which in turn has its roots in the Greek word for “child.” (Heb. 12:5-11). Pruning is God our Vinedresser pinching away parts of our lives that are presently or in the future will be unproductive. The Greek[3] word means, literally, “cleanse.” To clean of excess foliage is to prune. Our[4] Father’s work with us is the careful trimming away of sins, hindrances, and evil habits so that we gain the maximum fruit-bearing capacity.
How do we know that chastening and pruning are happening? In chastening we have a growing frustration with our problems and we find our selves going away from the Lord because of it. In pruning we have a growing peace through struggles and we find ourselves drawn closer to the Lord by them.
What is it like? Chastening hurts Pruning hurts
Why does it happen? We are chastened because we are doing something wrong. We are pruned because we are doing something right.
What happens when we are chastened and pruned? During chastening joylessness fills our heart, mind and life. God and His Word seems distant, and our life is blighted by sadness, and lethargic. During pruning even though it hurts we remain joyful, we read God’s Word with hunger, and we talk to Him often in prayer.
What is our fruitfulness level? When chastening begins it signals a no fruit time in our walk. When pruning starts we are already bearing spiritual fruit.
What does God desire from us? For us to turn from sin and return to fruitfulness. For us to bear even more fruit .
What needs to go? We need to see and turn from our sin We need to even more turn from our self and flesh.
How should we feel? Chastened, guilty, sad, anxious for restoration. Relieved, trusting, and expectant of God’s even greater blessing.
What is the right response? Repentance Further surrender.
When does It stop? When we stop sinning. When God is finished

 

Student Worksheets

 

 

 

WEEK 7: A Theology of Spiritual Health: Chastening, Pruning & Self-Confrontation

 

 

Signs of Spiritual Bad Health

 

What are a few symptoms of spiritual bad health? These are just a few of the very common spiritual discipleship & counseling areas we will deal with when counseling others:

 

  1. _______________________________________: Believers with poor or even no appetite for the Word, fellowship, spiritual growth, or much to do with God.

 

  1. ________________________________________: Believers addicted to anger, fear, self-pity, or to influences that are harmful (occult images, sensual images, horror images, un –biblical romance images, materialistic-driven goals in life, pride-driven lives, etc.).

 

  1. _________________________________________: Believers experiencing: spiritual lethargy, lack of strength to resist temptation, inability to flee lust, constant bouts of defeat, paralyzing guilt, re-occurring seasons where they lack assurance of salvation and complete forgiveness, etc.

 

Each of these common symptoms point to lack of spiritual health. God’s recovery program for these and most other symptoms is sanctification. Sanctification is a spiritual work that God does. Discipleship is the way that God trains believers through other believers. All of us should be life-long discipling-counselors.

 

Great Commission Living is

Life-Long Discipleship & Counseling  

 

This Discipleship & Counseling 101 course is a series of 24 building blocks:

 

  • Lesson One: The _________________________ of Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Lesson Two: The Necessity of Self-Confrontation for ___________________ (Matthew 7:1,5)

 

Foundational Truths

 

Here are the foundational truths we are building upon in our study of Biblical Counseling & Discipleship:

 

  1. Biblical Counseling is Supernatural: God does the work through the Word (__________________________).
  2. Biblical Counseling is not a technique: it is a chosen way of life, of walking in the light and truth (____________________).
  3. Biblical Counseling is Personal Sanctification: we must first learn to deal with the flesh in our own lives; so we confess imperfection (_____________________________).
  4. Biblical Counseling is Personal Discipleship: we are explaining to others how to be followers of Christ, like we are (1 Cor.4:16; _________________; Phil. 3:17).

 

Discipleship Summary

 

Bible Studies on Key Verses:

 

  1. __________________________________. (John 1:12) We have been given the authority to live as children of God. That involves being God temple, possessing the power of His Spirit, being sealed, gifted, called, and personally in fellowship with God.

 

  1. __________________________________. (Acts 26:20) We each enter God’s family the same way, by following the Gospel that Christ and His Apostles proclaimed. Listen to Paul’s re-statement of what God called him to preach to the Gentiles (that is us in the church today). After Jesus explained the Gospel to Paul in Acts 26:18, what does Paul understand and communicate as the Gospel according to Jesus? It is in v. 20’s three simple elements!

 

  • ______________________________ (a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior);
  • ______________________________ (re-orienting my life towards God by His grace and power);
  • ______________ befitting repentance (choices in my daily life that reflect my change of mind about God).

 

  1. (Romans 8:1, 28-39) God’s Declaration of the Way Believers are to live has three dimensions:

 

  • No _______________________ v. 1 (God has forever justified me);
  • No _______________________ 28 (God is orchestrating my life);
  • No _______________________ v. 39 (nothing has the power to separate me from God ever again).

 

How God Improves

Our Spiritual Health

 

There are elements of our spiritual life: namely chastening and pruning, that many believers know very little about. These are almost foreign terms, when they are actually laws of spiritual health that God has built into our lives, and explained repeatedly in His Word.

 

Bible Study on 1 Cor. 11:28-31

God Explains the Stages of our Spiritual Health

 

Summary: God charges us with self-examination as a way to spiritual blessing and spiritually healthy lives

 

Lessons:

 

  1. 28 “Examine” Grk. dokimadzo speaks of our making an inward look of verifying our condition based on how God sees us and desires us to be. This means stopping any comparison of myself to others. We confront ourselves based on God’s standards.
  2. 29 “Judgment” Grk. krima speaks of a decision based on an examination of compliance and obedience to a standard or law. God acts based upon clear standards of dealing with us which are: chastening and pruning. Both are blessings, one is punishment and the other is refinement.
  3. 30 “For this reason” we see here that we should beware of the chastening Hand of God. Chastening has three levels: some were weak, some were sick, some were dead. In Hebrews 12:5-11 God explains this process more fully.
  4. 31 the key is self-confrontation. What does God do to help us in these stages

 

Chastening vs. Pruning

 

So we can see in this passage that God has a chastening rule that He follows when believers get stuck in the mud or ditch of sin. But what about things that aren’t sin, they are just wasted efforts, misdirected priorities, what does God do then?

 

Does God work to sanctify us when we are not sinning, just “frittering” away our precious time? Yes. That process is called pruning and it is explained in detail in John 15. When God said that He is the Vinedresser, it was a declaration that whatever it takes to make us fruitful, He is on the job, and at work doing.

 

Look at these key verses in John 15:1-4 briefly, then let me introduce this idea. We will cover these principles deeply and frequently in the weeks ahead.

 

John 15:1-4 (NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE WAY GOD DISCIPLINES

HIS CHILDREN BY CHASTENING AND PRUNING

 

            QUESTION[5] CHASTENING PRUNING
What does chastening and pruning mean?    
How do we know that chastening and pruning are happening? In chastening we have a growing frustration with our problems and we find our selves going away from the Lord because of it. In pruning we have a growing peace through struggles and we find ourselves drawn closer to the Lord by them.
What is it like? Chastening Pruning
Why does it happen? We are chastened because we are doing something:

 

 

We are pruned because we are doing something:
What happens when we are chastened and pruned? During chastening joylessness fills our heart, mind and life. God and His Word seem distant, and our life is blighted by sadness, and lethargic. During pruning even though it hurts we remain joyful, we read God’s Word with hunger, and we talk to Him often in prayer.
What is our fruitfulness level? When chastening begins it signals a no fruit time in our walk. When pruning starts we are already bearing spiritual fruit.
What does God desire from us?    
What needs to go? We need to see and turn from our sin We need to even more turn from our self and flesh.
How should we feel? Chastened, guilty, sad, anxious for restoration. Relieved, trusting, and expectant of God’s even greater blessing.
What is the right response? Repentance Further surrender.
When does It stop? When we stop sinning. When God is finished

 

[1]  Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of The Vine. Sisters, Oregon:  Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001,p. 96-103.

[2]  From the paragraph entitled “Instruction and Training” in Chastening, a booklet by James H. McConkey

[3]  The Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications) 1996.

[4]  Adapted from John MacArthur, Jr., How to Get the Most from God’s Word, (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing) 1997.

[5]  Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of The Vine. Sisters, Oregon:  Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2001,p. 96-103.

 

 

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