This is an analysis of the Chicago UBF’s message on Hebrews 12:1-29. The title of the message is “Divine Discipline.” This message reveals how subtly the messenger changed divine discipline from God’s intervention in our lives to church leaders’ intervention. The following is an excerpt from Chicago UBF’s Hebrews, chapter 12 message.
“Look at verses 7 and 8. "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. When we learn the holiness of God, America will be established as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. If we don't learn the holiness of God, America will be the land of lawless Sodomites. Most people yearn most for the holiness of God in their souls. They want to imitate the holiness of God. But they fail because they refuse to participate in divine discipline. Those who do not receive divine discipline are illegitimate children to God.”
The messenger’s indication that UBF members choose to participate in God’s discipline changes the focus of the message from God’s work to people’s work. The messenger states that people must choose to receive God’s discipline in order to be considered legitimate sons of God. The messenger writes that those who do not participate in God’s discipline are illegitimate children of God. Thus, to be God’s legitimate children, people must choose to participate in God’s discipline. The messenger misinterprets Hebrews 12:7-8. Those who accept Christ as their Savior have already become God’s legitimate children. Because they are God’s children, God will discipline them. The choice made by people is not to receive discipline, but to receive Christ. Through Christ, people become legitimate sons of God, filled with righteousness and peace, and a blessing to others.
However, the messenger teaches that to be God’s children, people must choose to participate in God’s discipline. The implication of people needing to choose God’s discipline brings a human element to God’s discipline. If people must choose to receive God’s discipline, how can they know when God disciplines them? How can people know when they need to receive God’s discipline and what that discipline will be? People who want to choose to receive God’s discipline may not see God’s discipline in their life or know when God’s discipline will come. If they do not see God’s discipline, they may reject God’s discipline and thus become illegitimate children. How can this problem be solved?
In UBF, the problem is solved with the shepherd interpreting how God disciplines the sheep. Eventually, the shepherd will attempt to convince the sheep that it is God’s will for shepherds to impose discipline upon the sheep. The shepherd uses the pretext of God’s discipline to impose his or her brand of discipline upon the sheep. UBF leaders commonly refer to this as “training.” Sheep who do not meet the standards of the shepherd will be “trained” or disciplined by the shepherd so that the sheep will become obedient to the shepherd and devoted to UBF. When I visited Chicago UBF in 1999, I saw to Koreans planting flowers at the direction of Samuel Lee. They said that it was “God’s divine discipline.” Another shepherd told me that Samuel Lee told him to walk from the Skokie Police Station back to the Chicago UBF Center as “discipline” for a poor testimony. The shepherd told me this “Skokie training” is common in Chicago UBF. Many missionaries and shepherds receive Skokie training.
Hebrews 12 reveals God’s discipline to be something that only God can choose. God chooses to discipline us because he loves us just as a father chooses to discipline his son because he loves him. The son cannot choose to participate in the discipline. People cannot choose to participate in God’s discipline. God gives discipline and we are called to endure it and grow from it. Therefore, when UBF shepherds impose discipline or training upon sheep and call it “God’s discipline” they are taking the place of God in the lives of their sheep. No person has the authority to give God’s discipline to anyone. Any discipline given by people is “People’s Discipline.