“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
Some time ago I heard an interesting study that had been done which had to do with your brain’s health. Those who did the study had found that if you don’t exercise your brain, you will be more likely to develop brain problems later in life.
The study said that the brain is a lot like any other muscle or organ in your body. If it isn’t used much, then it will begin to deteriorate. It’s just like your biceps or any of the muscles in your legs. If you don’t do a lot of walking or lifting, then the muscles in your legs or arms will begin to go through atrophy. They will begin to waste away.
But you see those guys in the weight room pumping iron. What happens to them? The more they exercise, the stronger their muscles become.
That’s what this study has reported about your brain. If your mind isn’t being exercised, then—like any other organ or muscle—it will begin to degenerate. So, later in life, people who haven’t used their brains much, are more likely to develop things like dementia or Alstimers. But, on the other hand, those who have tried to apply themselves in some sort of regular study—some brain workouts, you might say—these people’s brains are stronger. They are more likely to stay off these problems and live longer healthier lives.
Now you know how I love it when science points out things that are very pertinent to the Christian life. And this study is one such example.
As Christians, we are to be “a studying people.” We are people who are to be known as “a people of ‘The Book.’” Because when Christ calls us, he calls us to be his disciples. And a disciple is nothing more than a student. We are to be students of Christ’s teaching—students of His Word—constantly growing in “what we are to believe about God and what He requires of us.”
Now our proverb for this morning touches on just this very thing. It talks about how we are to be diligent disciples. Here we see that God calls us to exercise our minds by being lovers of instruction. Yes, we must love instruction! We must savor it and seek after it. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard or if it’s harsh, we are to love instruction.
Now, I know that most all of you have forgotten about your New Year’s resolutions by now. You made them, you broke them, and by now you have completely forgotten about them. It has been so long you probably don’t even feel guilty about having broken it anymore too!
But why is it that we break our New Year’s resolutions? I would assume that it is because it is hard. We don’t keep up with it because it takes discipline.
This is exactly why we often forsake the Scripture too. But this passage makes it clear that we are to love instruction, even though it may be hard (hard to do).
I. A true disciple of Christ loves discipline, even if it may be hard.
The passage begins by saying, “Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge.” If you have a different version, it might say something slightly different, but the meaning is the same. It might say “Whoever loves instruction, loves knowledge.” When you think about instruction, what do you think of? I hope you think about discipline.
Probably the thing you think of when you think of “instruction” is sitting in a classroom. There is a teacher and students listening to the teacher’s instruction. Now that takes a lot of discipline, doesn’t it? It takes a lot of discipline to sit and to concentrate and be instructed.
But a disciple of Christ is someone who wants knowledge. He wants to learn more about Christ, about God, about the Bible. That means he loves to be instructed. That means he loves the process of discipleship, even though that might suck up some brain power.
Now think about this. Think about how foreign this is to us fun-loving Americans. We, for the most part, don’t like discipleship. Let’s admit it. It’s hard. We don’t like things that are hard—we don’t like things that take discipline. We like things like the drive through at McDonalds—it’s fast and it’s easy. Cooking our own meals takes discipline. It is a whole lot easier to pull up to the window at McDonalds and say, “Give me a burger!”
That’s why our form of worship is not that popular today. It is hard. It isn’t very “fun.” And a lot of people will come and go because our style of worship revolves around loving instruction. Most people don’t want that for worship though. They rather have someone performing for them.
And it is no different when it comes to our personal or family devotional time. Let’s face it, we like to be lazy. We rather flip on the television and have the bobbing head in the box entertain us for a while.
Just this week I read an article from the AP about America’s TV watching habits. This article—you might have seen it in the TG a week ago or so—started off by saying, “Americans spend more time watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the internet and reading newspapers than anything else except breathing.” The only thing we do more than breathe is spending our time in various forms of media.
The article went on to say that the average American watches almost 5 hours of TV a day. And that number is only projected to increase as the Baby boomer generation—the largest portion of America’s population—begins to retire.
I think we are going to be seeing a lot of minds beginning to deteriorate in the upcoming years. (There’s a reason why they call it “the idiot box,” you know).
As Christians we have to watch how much TV we are watching. And some of our daily time is to be spent in the study of—not just the reading of—God’s word.
I listened to one of Ligonier’s Tape of the Month messages this past week. The message was by Sinclair Ferguson. Ferguson told the story about a parishioner of his who came to him once and said how much they loved the book of Ephesians. They had just finished reading the book of Ephesians and they were raving about how good it was. Ferguson rejoiced with them, and then said, “Well, have you taken the Ephesians test?” The person looked at him and said, “What’s the Ephesians test?” Ferguson, making up on the spot, said, “The Ephesians test goes like this: Can you give an outline of the book? Or can you recite some of the verses from memory? If someone came up to you and asked about the book of Ephesians, could you tell them something about its form and content?”
You can see that’s a pretty good test. And, as Ferguson says, it can have 65 other names! But passing that test will only come if you’ve disciplined yourself.
We are to love discipline—we are to love instruction. The Word of God is to change, not only our actions and beliefs, but it is to change our affections too. When it comes to discipleship, we are to love it. As Apostle Peter says, “As newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk.”
I’ve been told that a newborn baby will actually seek out his/her mother’s milk. I’ve been told that, if you place a newborn on your stomach, the child—never having been taught this—will begin to nudge its way up. It is a natural instinct that God has given newborns, to seek out their nourishment.
That is what Peter says we are as Christians are to be like. We are to crave instruction. We are to love it so much that we yearn for it.
I hope that, if you do not do so already, you will be motivated to turn off the TV for a while and say, “I’m going to spend some time really digging through the book of ___.” Or perhaps take up the challenge of discipline and say, “I’m going to try and memorize this psalm or this passage of ___.”
Make an attempt to exercise your brain. If you do, I can guarantee this: you will find that it’s not just your mind that becomes stronger; your soul will be strengthened too.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father calls us to love discipline. We are to love instruction. But we are to love it not only when it is hard; we are to love it when it is harsh too. That is to say, we are to love it when it is hard to take.
II. A true disciple loves discipline, even if it is hard to take.
Look at the second part of our verse. It says, “He who hates reproof is stupid.”
What you have here is a specific form of instruction: that of reproof. What is a reproof? It is a correction, isn’t it? It is someone coming to you and letting you have it because you are in the wrong.
This reminds us that discipline (or teaching) is not always palatable, is it? Sometimes it stings.
Have any of you young people had the board of education applied to the seat of knowledge? How did you like that? That probably wasn’t easy to take, was it? That hurts! But that is a form of instruction. That’s a reproof, and we are to love that.
Now, most of us don’t get spanked…at least not physically. We do get reproved though. We can get verbal spankings. When someone comes up to us and corrects us that is instruction. When they pull us aside, or when a minister reproves us on the basis of Scripture that is instruction. And sometimes that can be something we don’t want to hear.
But we are to love instruction, even when it is harsh.
I really like the way the older versions put the second part of this verse. The KJV says, “He who hateth reproof is brutish.” Brutish, I like that. It is kind of like calling someone a beast. “If you hate being corrected, you are not human. You are sub-human. You are like a stupid donkey.”
Some of you might know the story in the Book of Acts about Paul’s conversion. He was on his way to Damascus where he was going to persecute a bunch of Christians. But the Lord confronted him there. Do you know what the Lord said to Paul when he confronted him? He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you kick against the goads?”
In other words, “Saul, why are you acting like a donkey?” A goad was a stick that someone used to get their donkey going. Donkey’s are known to be stubborn things, and sometimes they won’t go when you say, “Giddy-up.” So you would use this sharp stick to prick them in the behind to get them going.
Paul was acting like that donkey who wouldn’t listen to his master. No doubt he had heard about Christ. He was a Pharisee and he knew the Scriptures forwards and backwards. These Christians were telling him that the Messiah had come. But he wouldn’t accept it. He bucked against it as hard as he could. He was as stubborn as a donkey.
That’s really how everyone is who hears the gospel, but won’t accept it. They are like a stupid animal. They won’t accept the fact that they are sinners and there is one who is Lord over them.
Really that’s what Romans 1 tells us about the unbeliever. In Romans 1 it says that the unbeliever’s thinking has become futile and their hearts are darkened. In other words they are beasty—beast-like people. Since the beginning of the world God has revealed through his creation that he exists. But the sinner suppresses the truth. Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God.” They are not whispering. They declare—they are shouting: God is our maker!” But an unbeliever will not receive that correction. They won’t seek him out. How foolish.
But it is even more foolish when someone won’t listen to the Lord’s special revelation! Not the correction that comes through creation, but the correction that comes through the Bible.
You know, I heard one preacher tell a story about an experience he had on his grandfather’s farm. On that farm there was a cow that had been injured. Somehow it had gotten a sharp sliver stuck in its leg. The stick was protruding from the animal and the wound was bleeding and had become infected. The vet had been called in order to help restore the beast. But the animal wouldn’t let the vet come near him. Every time the doctor approached the stupid little bovine, it would lash about & try to escape. The very hand that was there to heal, was rejected.
But, you know what, that’s how a lot of people act. When a preacher or a friend comes with a word of correction—no matter how gently and lovingly they come, the person just will not listen. They rather continue in their sin than submit to God.
Speaking of animals…I am told that in parts of Alaska that there are wolves that will kill themselves. I am told that a person can take a knife and dip it in blood, and let the blood freeze on the knife. Then that person will place the handle of the knife in the ground—with the sharp side sticking up. Then they will wait. At some point a wolf will be attracted by the scent of the blood. That stupid animal will then begin licking the blood-cicle. As he does so he will pierce his tongue and begin to bleed. Tasting the fresh blood the animal will continue licking all the more—until at last he bleeds to death.
What a stupid animal. He has to be experiencing a lot of pain, but he won’t heed the correction.
Yet it is a picture of some people who won’t listen to God’s word. They will continue in their sin, despite the reproofs they hear. Even the painful consequences of their sin won’t be enough to stop them. They will act like a stupid animal, and they will end up piercing themselves through. They would rather harm themselves than listen to God’s healing correction.
I want to ask you: How do you react to reproof? When someone wants to get something straight with you, how do you react? Do you go on the offensive? Do you automatically put up your defenses and want to fight back?
Or do your eyes glaze over? Or do you listen politely but as soon as they are gone you roll your eyes and say, “What’s with them?”
How do you react? I know that people might not come at you carefully or in the most loving way. How do you react when they come though? I am probably the chief of sinners when it comes to not correcting someone gently. I am terrible at it. But even if someone corrects you in a way you don’t think is right, doesn’t give you an excuse to refuse their correction.
I remember a time where I was corrected—it was more of a searing scold! I was not expecting it in the slightest. I was sitting with a guy I did not know and we were keeping score of an intramural basketball game. It was a really good game and I was really getting into it. I was actually trying to act like a sports announcer. I don’t remember all that I said, but after the game, the guy next to me just hauled off on me. He chewed into me with a vengeance. I don’t remember everything he said, but basically he said that I was the most arrogant, obnoxious person he had ever met.
I just looked at him in disbelief. I was ready to tear into him. What gave him the right to say that, and why in the world was he saying it? I had just met the guy an hour ago!
But you know what? Looking back, I can see how I could have been obnoxious. I could see how I might have come off as arrogant. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t trying to act like a jerk. But there was a grain of truth to his words. It might not have been to the degree that he made it. And he certainly could have gone about it in a much nicer way. Nevertheless, there was some truth to his words.
The point is, there was a correction. I could have blown him off (I could have punched him in the nose!)—I could have acted in a brutish/stupid manner. Or I could say, “You know, your right. I’m sorry. I’ll try and do better.”
We have to love instruction—even when it is hard to take.
In the end, the question comes down to this: “Are you going to sit at Jesus’ feet?”
Remember Mary and Martha. Jesus came to their house and these two ladies had different reactions. Martha took to the kitchen, and Mary took to the feet of our Lord. She wanted instruction! And Jesus commended her, “She has chosen the wiser.”
Are you going to sit at Jesus’ feet? When Jesus speaks (be it by means of a friend or by the preacher), are you going to listen to him? Are you going to love that instruction?
Better yet, rather than waiting for him to come to you, are you going to seek him out? Are you going to love instruction? Are you going to discipline yourself so that you receive that instruction? If you are, that means things may have to change in your life. Your whole schedule will have to be rearranged. All the other events of your day are going to be scheduled around your time with the Lord, in his word.
Your Saturday may have to look a little different too. Young people, you may have to buckle down and get your homework done on Saturday. That way, you don’t have to be doing it on Sunday. Then with your Sunday open you can come to worship. And with your Sunday free from any other obstructions, you can focus on the Lord all day long. You have a whole day set aside for instruction—and that takes discipline!
It’s hard setting aside fun things, I know. We love those things, don’t we? But these things can distract us from our first love, Jesus Christ. And they can distract us from being the disciples he has called us to be.
May God grant us a heart that he has called for here. May he fill us with the heart of the Psalmist who cried out, “Oh how I love your law!”
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.