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Sonship vs. the Victimization Culture:
Discovering the Key to Final Revealing
Heb. 12:5 [A]nd you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. 6 for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. … 10 … He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
We are here today to discuss “sonship,” specifically, what it takes to be recognized as a mature son of the heavenly Father. If in the coming kingdom you aspire to be acclaimed by the Father as a son and not as a babe or adolescent, then this article is for you.
The Meaning of “Son”
On one hand, all born again believers are sons already. This is true in the principle sense where the believer is compared to the one bound as a slave under the Mosaic Law—a distinction Paul makes in Galatians 4:
1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,… 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave [under the Law], but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
In the principle sense, the born again believer, though a son as compared to a slave under the Law, is still a minor with respect to glorified life. This is evident where the apostles nevertheless still refer to us as “babes” and “little children” (e.g., I Pt. 2:2; I Jn. 2:1). Sons, yes, but still only in principle.
But a different actualized sense of sonship appears where we are to become recognized as bearing the mature status of the Father’s authority. An official “placement” accompanies this actualization. The conclusive demonstration or “revealing” of this placement occurs at our glorification:
Rom. 8: 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God… 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
The word translated “adoption” here signifies this placement to recognized mature sonship. It may refer to one born natively into the family, or to one placed from outside the family lineage. For instance, the Roman ceremony of adoption could refer to the placing of a slave or commoner from outside the family into the royal family and into the position of mature heirship authority at the same time. (This is illustrated wonderfully in the famous movie Ben-Hur.) As should be obvious then, no mortal believer has yet been recognized, placed or revealed as a mature son though all reborn believers are minor sons.
In this article, we are dealing only with the maturing from principle sonship to actualized sonship, not with entrance into principle sonship from slavery to sin. We want to understand what matures us to that actualized adoption and placement, or, as it is said, “what separates the men from the boys.”
Entrance to actualized sonship depends on developing a certain attitude in the face of adversity. In the end, how we choose to respond to life’s negative events determines whether we will ever be deemed mature enough to bear the Father’s seal of authority. How do we respond when we are pressured…when we are hurt…when we are offended…when we are opposed…when we are in pain emotionally as well as physically and circumstantially?
We are told that “through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God.” The real issue though is not that we face tribulation, but how we face it. Everyone deals with tribulation. But not everyone matures into placed sonship as a result of passing through it. The difference is in the attitude marking our responses to tribulation.
The writer of Hebrews issues a direct unvarnished discourse on suffering in relation to sonship. It’s imperative we thoroughly embrace what he says, for his instruction opposes how mainstream passionism deals with hardship. The mainstream seeks mostly to avoid and otherwise mollify suffering, while releasing the believer from critical responsibility for right response to suffering necessary to obtaining final sonship placement.
Discipleship Is Sonship
The writer opens by associating several key terms. They are: sons, discipline, reproved, loves, scourges and holiness. The association of these words establishes the platform for understanding the path to recognized sonship.
Firstly, the writer links “sons” and “discipline.” These form the anchor for his platform. Now, discipline is the heart of discipleship. We are called to be disciples. Jesus instructed His disciples to make disciples. Discipleship means we submit to the discipline of the Lord. It is not just a vague “following” of the Lord, but specifically a following through hardship. (This is the significance of those who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”) The writer tells us that these disciplines are applied to us as sons-in-training (“dealing with us as sons”) for the purpose of developing our sonship toward actualization.
The making of sons and of disciples is thus the same thing. Jesus says He came to “make disciples.” The writer says Jesus died to “bring many sons to glory.” These are one and the same concept. Jesus makes disciples unto glory.
So glorification is not something we receive as a guaranteed benefit at the end of this life. We have to be “made” into it. Paul says, “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” If we rightly suffer His appointed discipleship pains, we shall also be glorified with Him. If we properly bear up under the disciplines, we shall be placed as sons in glory. This is not unconditional love!
Love That Conditions
Speaking of love, we are brought to the next three terms: reproved, love and scourges. What an unseemly group by the worldly standard of “love.” Yet the writer says, “whom the Father loves, He disciplines…. reproves…. and even scourges”! Everything the mainstream church and the world together say the “heart of the Father” doesn’t do to demonstrate love, this writer says He does do!
Stop, soak this in, and get clear about it. The Father administers pain to His people as an act of love. The Father rebukes and reproves His people as an act of love. The Father even scourges His people as an act of love. In all these things, the Father offends His people. And like His Father, so does Jesus.
Now these are all concepts the world identifies as hate. The world says, “if you discipline, rebuke, reprove and especially if you scourge (take the whip to) your children, you hate them! If you speak directly to them disapprovingly, if you make life very hard for them, if you don’t accept them when they offer bad offerings (like Cain did), if you exile them for their idolatry, disobedience and rejection of your moral truth (as God did to Israel), then you hate them.
That is how the world speaks, it is how most of the church speaks and it is directly opposed to how the Father speaks. Nobody pays attention to the rebuking, biting, scourging and condemnatory words Jesus utters to people throughout the gospels. It’s as if they don’t exist. Yet these are the true words of love.
Why is that so? How can all these negative actions and words of God toward us be evidences of love? They are evidences of love because they are redemptively necessary to escape the far greater consequences of being allowed to follow our own will and lusts:
But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. I Cor. 11:32
That’s why. And those consequences are permanent disfellowship and abandonment by God on the other side of existence from which there is no return and no recourse.
Solomon says “folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” By driving foolishness far from the heart of a child, a child is raised to become a revealed son. Discipline and God-ordained pain at the hand of satan, if rightly responded to, convert foolish babes in Christ into mature sons of God ripe for harvest to glory. Now that’s love. The unloving thing for God to do is to allow foolishness to continue and reign in the midst of His people. But whom the Lord loves, He rebukes with the rod, even as Paul rebuked the foolish Corinthians and Galatians whom he had “fathered” in the Lord. (Being the immature fools they were, they too thought he didn’t love them.)
Holiness: Our True Destiny and Purpose
True love conditions us against sin. This brings us to the sixth key word in Hebrews 12, holiness. The writer tells us that the reason the Father disciplines us with extremely painful situations is so that we may “share His holiness.” This too you will not hear from the at-large church. Yes, the church teaches largely about our “purpose” and “destiny.” But it is not the purpose and destiny of which the Father speaks. The Father’s purpose for every believer is to become partakers of His holiness in glory. We are to become separated out unto Him from the world. That is His one driving purpose and destiny for us.
What has happened today is that intermediate transient creational purposes have usurped God’s ultimate driving purpose for us. Creational purpose has become its own idol in competition with the Father’s purpose in glory. People are not being taught that becoming partaker of the Father’s identity-severed holiness is their chief destiny. Instead, they are being told that God has some ultimate “glorious plan for their lives in the here and now”—a plan that carnal ears can only hear to refer to some kind of humanly applaudable achievement that earns the praise of the church, or even of the world (i.e., the praise of men).
Sonship Meets Wounding: the Key to True Healing and Revealing
This six point platform leads us to the core point of this article. It pertains to God’s solution for brokenness and woundedness. This is so critical, because it is in the matter of response to broken woundedness due to offenses at every level that the ability to graduate to placed sonship is determined. Let’s break this out.
Today, it is recognized that people are more wounded and broken than ever before. People are suffering under effects of sin that have been unknown to previous generations within current human memory. Indeed, all this evil is the result of the sin that has mushroomed in the earth as a result of the prior rejection of God’s disciplines upon society, beginning with the church. The church has cast off the restraint of God’s disciplines in order to feast on the world’s bounty and progress. And so the world has likewise cast off all restraint as well. We live in a culture more characterized by moral lawlessness than at any time we can point to except for the days of Noah and Lot. Certainly that is true at least here in the west.
Consequently, a devolving cycle has been established in which lawlessness breeds judgment, judgment breeds further lawlessness that blames God, further lawlessness breeds further judgment, and so on. This unending downward spiral identifies the fate of the unbelieving world through to the end of the last days and the final vials of wrath (Rev. 16:8-11). Nothing will arrest this cycle until man is made “as scarce as the gold of Ophir” and, but for God’s intervention, no flesh would be saved (Is. 13:12; Mt. 24:22). Forget what the la-la prophets are telling you otherwise about “imminent cultural reformation.”
Yet it is here, amidst the greatest societal brokenness of all times, that God has ordained sonship to come to its harvest in His disciplined sons. If so, then it means that the Father has ordained a specific attitude that sonship is to observe and hold in regard to the shattering of the human soul into splinters across the spectrum of life’s evil in these last days—an attitude that yields both true healing and ultimate glorification.
What then is that attitude?
The World’s Answer to Brokenness
First, let’s observe the world’s attitude to societal-wide brokenness echoed by the mainstream church. The world adopts a spirit of victimization and the absolution of all personal responsibility for dealing with brokenness. The world teaches us to tip-toe around everyone’s wounds and offenses and sensitivities. It teaches us to say nothing that will further offend or cause pain to anyone who is already suffering enough as it is.
The world teaches us to treat every hurting soul as a victim of someone else’s actions or attitudes, and to lay no responsibility or accountability on the wounded for their own attitudes. The world teaches us to mollify all things at all times under all conditions with no questions asked. The world also teaches us to make excuses for ourselves while assigning blame somewhere else to someone else for what has happened to us. (Can you tell that all I’m doing is regurgitating the 6PM news back to you?) And, except perhaps for the blame game, the mainstream church practices these same attitudes spiritually in the way it hawks the compassion of God to the ameliorating of all offense from God or in regard to others.
Given this background, is it any wonder that teaching the requirements and conditions of discipline and actualized sonship are anathema to the world and that the church is kowtowed into acquiescent accommodation with the philosophy labeled “unconditional love”? Belief in God at all is a tough sell in this climate, never mind the pursuit of holiness.
Yet God Himself is wounding people, His people, even amidst all of society’s brokenness! He is not letting up. He is not making things easier for the aspiring sons! God is wounding us in two chief areas. He is wounding us in regard to failed faith. And He is wounding us in regard to violated morality. All this continues, yet He still expects to develop actualized sonship in us under these torrid conditions.
Sonship’s Selfless Hurdle—the Secret Revealed
What then is God’s answer to all this brokenness within the church? Does He echo what the world tells us? Is God displaying and teaching unconditional compassion to every hurting soul and wounded heart? Is he mollifying every possible offense? Is He alleviating every possible pain? Is He treating all the world’s hurting sinners and the hurting church as victims of someone else’s actions, including His Own? Is He conducting unconditional mercy healing seminars everywhere to deal with all this? Is the writer calling for this?
The answer is, no…. just the opposite. But get this straight:
Yes, the writer of Hebrews speaks of the need for healing out of woundedness en route to glory. But his answer is not found in any of the above prescriptions. Instead, he speaks directly to the wounded themselves accountably, and says,
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. … See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Here, amidst the world’s horrendous defilements and the very woundings of God Himself, we find the secret to obtaining manifest sonship. The secret to matured sonship is in the inner man’s rising above the victimization mentality to instead heed the Spirit’s call, “Do not allow your attitude toward Me to be shaped by what has happened to you!”
This is also the secret to inner healing. It is to answer the convicting call from within the heart to refuse to allow pain to shape one’s own attitude toward God, toward oneself, toward others and toward life itself.
Consider well the state of these to whom the writer speaks. These “sons” are already in a place of suffering resulting from God’s disciplines, which includes the works of satan allowed to victimize them. They are already wounded and hurting. And they are already offended at God for allowing these things to happen to them. They are being pulled to complain about their lot, for which reason the writer warned them early on not to be like the rebels in the wilderness (See Heb. 3-4 where to complain is to rebel).
What is happening here? This fatherly writer is talking to weak, hurting, broken people to shape their own attitude about their plight from which they may then find the grace of God’s supernatural inner healing! He is telling them to strengthen their hands, he is telling them to make straight paths, he is telling them to see to it they don’t succumb to bitterness and thus fail of God’s grace for healing.
Behold the utter lack of self-affirming comfort (that is, coddling…”Now, now there poor baby, I know how hard this is on you….”). Notice the lack of victimizing language, even though he acknowledges that they have suffered in struggling against sin (12:4). Notice the writer does not appeal to their knowledge of their own past faithfulness in a spirit of commiseration. Such is glaringly absent.
This then is the secret of matured sonship. This is where the men become separated from the boys, the children and infants. And yet, at the same time, this is the prescription for true healing. Why is that so? It’s because the struggle with pain itself is ordained to convert broken self-centered immaturity into the wholeness of Father-centered maturity. (For a thorough treatment of the imperative of right response to God's wounding offenses in the life of the believer please carefully hear and ponder pastor Ray McCollum's riveting audio series on the Skandalon.)
Never Easy, Ever Doable
For aspiring sons in principle, the knowledge of God’s grace to keep us through every evil we encounter should dominate our hearts and minds at every point of suffering. This is never easy, but ever doable. There is a momentary eternal call within to rise above whatever we feel out of whatever abuse we have experienced—to look to Jesus from within the inner sanctum and fortress of our spirits—to refuse the self-centered attitude that all pain invites us to embrace, and believe Him from within our deepest depths for His healing of heart and mind and body.
We are not talking about living in denial of our pain or of what has happened to us. By no means! But we are talking about the ever present release of our pain to Him and all the thoughts and feelings that attend that wound until that superior inner grace flow releases from within to heal us. We are talking about true forgiveness in the purest sense, which is simply the release of all unto God. It is the choosing to forget about what has happened to us, and instead, to find Him within. And in that exchange, we are changed from self-centered babes to Father-centered sons. This is the true relationship between pain and sonship.
Will You Overcome?
That this is the secret of overcoming sonship is recognized by Jesus’ question to the sick man when He first and simply asks, “Will you be made whole?” This is difficult to receive, but Jesus puts the burden for healing on the sick themselves. All inner healing is keyed to what is within us. The power for the release of that healing is already within us. But we have to allow it to come by refusing everything else that seeks to make us the center of our pain.
Maturing sonship overcomes all inner woundedness by refusing to allow itself to become that center. Sonship refuses to play the victim card. Sonship overcomes by realizing one’s own internal responsibility to surrender all thought and feeling to God in the moment of deepest anguish.
And that is what today’s exhortation is about. This is the victory that overcomes the world (in which we will have tribulation), even our faith. Faith sees beyond self to see Him, and it is in the inner man’s faith seeing of Him, that the grace of God for inner healing is released and the son moves from one more self-centered pole to a higher centering in the Father. Out of that healing, the hopeful son of God is lifted to his next realm of anticipatory authority ahead of his final glorification.
May this teaching embolden every one of us struggling with inner pain in these evil times to gain the grace of God for that internal healing unto our ultimate deliverance through revealed adoption. It is there for us. Let God make us “deader than dead” to everything else that has happened to us. Let’s just wait with those trusting eyes of soul for that healing, and with it that next level of authority en route to our final placement. And let us all strengthen one another with these words in our deepest down times. As the esteemed Jim McKeever once wrote,
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First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created October 24, 2019