Sometimes punishment and discipline can feel like the same thing, especially if you’re on the receiving end. Some folks get the wrong impression about God because they don’t know the distinct difference between the two; and they don’t know their true identity in Christ.
God does not punish His children. He punished our sin. When Jesus died on the cross, We deserved punishment. We deserved death. But He forgave all our sins, making us forever righteous.
Many believers can’t grasp that truth. They base their standing with God on their circumstances. Or how they feel. They think, “I’m doing good now, so God must be pleased with me.” But then, when they slip into a sin, or a season of falling away, they say, “Oh, no. God is really going to get me this time. I promised God I wouldn’t __(your sin)___ and I did it anyway. I know He’s really mad at me now!”
The difference between punishment and discipline depends on our attitude and our goal. The attitude beneath punishment is anger and indignation. Punishment is about the past. The goal is justice.
Ever get a speeding ticket? Despite all your efforts to talk the officer out of it? The policeman doesn’t care about your bad day. Or the appointment you’re late for. You broke the law. He caught you. Period. A ticket is your punishment for breaking the law.
Discipline is about the future. The attitude beneath discipline is love. The goal is to develop and sanctify the one being disciplined.
“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:10-11. NIV