Discipline as discipleship

May 15, 2018

As I recently prepared a conference for parents on discipline in the home, I was reminded of how Jesus used discipline to prepare His disciples for the life he needed them to live after He ascended back to the Father.

The root word of discipline is “disciple” – meaning to teach and provide opportunities to learn. The disciples were immature in their growing belief in Jesus as the Messiah. They had no precedent for what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Every day was a learning lab of trial and error and memorable lessons to learn and apply.

We know that Jesus discipled his followers by example, modeling, questions, stories, conversations, assignments and Scripture. He also had occasion to disciple through discipline. Three Bible stories demonstrate how Jesus used discipline to disciple His followers.

In Mark 10:35-45, James and John dared to ask Jesus to “do whatever we ask of you.” As parents, we sometimes think that our children expect the same from us. James and John wanted to sit at the left and right hand of Jesus in glory. Jesus response was not one of derision, but one that taught the disciples what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They were to be servants to all, not royalty to be worshipped. Jesus reminded them that His purpose was to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Would this kind of teaching be your first response when your children challenge your authority?

In Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples witness Jesus walking on the water. Peter’s request to join Jesus’ walk was met with a simple command, “come.” As Peter approached Jesus, he lost focus and began to sink. He cried out for rescue. Matthew 14:31 relays Jesus’ reply to Peter, “you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Have you ever considered the tone of voice Jesus used as He said these words to Peter? Was he sarcastic, angry or gentle in word and tone? What tone of voice do you use when you children fail in their attempts to try something new? Peter’s encounter with water-walking led to a gospel encounter and prompted all the disciples to worship Jesus as the Son of God.

John 21:15-22 recounts one of the most touching, impactful stories in the Gospels. Peter had a devastating failure by denying his relationship with Jesus three times as Jesus was on trial for His life. The guilt and shame of his actions could have crushed Peter. Jesus again used Peter’s failure to disciple, restore and return Peter to the mission that Jesus had chosen for him. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. By the third time this question was asked, Peter was broken and ready for healing, restoration and obedience.

There will be times when our children fail in ways we can’t imagine today. Our own shame, frustration, anger and disappointment could overwhelm our response to our children. Jesus knew Peter had punished himself for his failure, and it was time to restore their relationship. Peter was open and vulnerable to Jesus in ways he may not have been in the past. Jesus used this opportunity to disciple and challenge Peter to follow Him with a deeper commitment.

As you parent your children, Scripture guides and directs us. The goal of our discipline should always be an opportunity to teach in a way that leads to self-discipline and a closer relationship with Christ.


by Cheryl Markland  
/  Childhood Evangelism and Discipleship  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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