The Art of Discipline

John D. Barry

Isaiah 5:1–6:13; Luke 1:67–2:21; Job 2:1–10

Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could continue to sin—He sacrificed Himself so that we could have sinless lives. God is patient, but His patience does not last forever. We wouldn’t test His patience so often if we had not lost sight of the notion of discipline, a concept that is at the forefront in the OT.

In the book of Isaiah, God describes His people using the image of a vineyard:

“And now let me tell you what I myself am about to do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall become a devastation. I will break down its wall, and it shall become a trampling. And I will make it a wasteland; it shall not be pruned and hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thornbushes.… For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah is the plantation of his delight. And he [Yahweh] waited for justice, but look! Bloodshed! For righteousness, but look! A cry of distress!” (Isa 5:5–7).

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The vineyard described in this passage is eventually restored through Christ, who creates a new vine and new branches. Yet the vineyard still requires the same level of care and discipline (John 15:1–17).

It’s tempting to justify our behaviors by arguing that it is impossible to not sin, but is this true? Jesus came to make it possible for us to live as God has always desired for us to live—this is one of the many things that makes His birth so glorious (Luke 2:14; compare Isa 6:3). While no one other than Jesus has been sinless, Christians are meant to be people who are freed from sin (Rom 6:1–14). Thus, it may be unlikely to live a sinless life, but it’s not impossible: “All things are possible for God” (Phil 4:13).

Discipline is one way that God teaches us to become more like Him—as He intended us to be (Gen 1:26). God disciplines believers because He cares too much about His people to allow us to throw away all the grace and goodness He offers. If sin had no repercussions, we would live the lives we desire, not the lives we are meant to live. And if we don’t live the lives we’re meant to live, we miss out on God’s blessing and lose sight of the goals He has for us, leading others astray in the process. When we openly sin (without repenting), we discourage others from wanting to live in God’s likeness.

God has called us to do everything we can, with the Spirit’s empowerment, to live sinless lives. We must repent daily and move closer toward that goal. As we seek that goal, we have greater opportunities to live so that others may know and find Him. In the meantime, we should expect His discipline to help shape us to become more like Him.

How is God currently disciplining you? What are you learning from it?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.