Robert Jeffress - The Heart of Discipleship
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The word disciple is one that gets thrown around a lot in church. We all know we're supposed to be disciples of Christ but what does it really mean to become a disciple? A hundred different people would probably give you a hundred different answers. So today and throughout the course of this new series, I'm going to show you what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. My message is titled, "The heart of discipleship" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Nobody is going to escape death. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed unto men once to die and after this, the judgment". If it's not terrifying enough to you to think of the end of your life, notice what the writer says death is followed by, "Immediately after death comes a judgment, we will all face before God". As you read through the whole of the New Testament, can you really say that all God really wants for me is to receive that free get it out of hell card, and that's all that really matters? Does he care about anything else? Again, the stakes are too high to get this wrong. What does God want from my life? Let me affirm at the outset of this message that I believe that salvation is by grace alone. That is the foundational bedrock belief of Christianity. There's nothing we can do to earn God's salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, the apostle Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast". God doesn't allow us to work even a little bit for a right relationship with him. Why is that? And Paul explained it in detail in Romans chapter four. He said, "Even if God says, my salvation is 99% my grace and 1% of your work", I'm going to let you work just a little bit for your salvation so you have some skin in the game you know why God doesn't do that? Because if we contribute even 1% to our salvation then our salvation becomes a wage that God owes us. It becomes an obligation because we worked for it and God refuses to owe any man or woman salvation. It is a gift from God.
So it's very clear, salvation is by faith alone. But is that all God wants for me? Is there anything else he wants for me? I want you to turn to Luke chapter 10 for just a moment. Luke chapter 10:25, "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test saying, 'teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life'"? Now I've pointed out before, it's very clear, Luke says, that this lawyer was testing Jesus. Perhaps the pharisees put him up to this to try to entrap Jesus, hoping that he could get Jesus to say something that would be considered blasphemous and worthy of death. So like a lawyer, he was trying to trick Jesus, what do you have to do to inherit eternal life? But I have a sneaking suspicion that wasn't the lawyer's only motivation. Sure, maybe he agreed to do this as a favor to the pharisees, but perhaps something in this attorney's own life made him ask the question. Maybe he had just had his 50th birthday. Maybe he began thinking about how life was passing him by very quickly.
So he sincerely, maybe wanted to know, now Lord, what do you think I must do to have eternal life? Jesus said, "Well, how does the law read to you"? And the lawyer said, verse 27, "Well, the law says basically, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul, and with all of your strength and with all of your mind, and your neighbor as yourself". Jesus said, "Right, do that and you shall live". Jesus affirmed that the essence of a right relationship with God, was loving him with all of your heart, and loving other people as yourself. Very simple, not easy but very simple. What is the essence of what it means to be a disciple? How do you explain not only pastors but other Christians, who fall into that kind of rebellion against God, whose lifestyle is completely like that of unbelievers?
I think perhaps the late Dallas Willard had the answer when he wrote, "A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, for foresee, forestall or transform, most of the painful situations before which, others stand like helpless children saying, 'why did this happen'"? But listen to this, "The greatest need you and I have, the greatest need of collective humanity, is the renovation of our heart. That spiritual place within, from which outlook, choices and actions come, has been formed by a world away from God. Now that heart must be transformed". Today, we're beginning a brand new series I've titled, "Seven Marks of a Disciple". We all know we're supposed to be disciples of Christ but what does it mean to be a disciple?
You know, that word disciple or the word discipleship, it gets thrown around the church, our church a lot, people use that term without really understanding what it means to be a disciple. In fact, if I were to ask you what does it mean to be a disciple? I think would come up with all kind of answers. Well, to be a disciple means you get up at five o'clock in the morning, and meet with a couple of other men or women for an accountability group. Some people would say, "Well, to be a disciple means you memorize a hundred verses and that's what it means to be a disciple". Other people would say, "Well, being a disciple means, enrolling in this class in discipleship university, that means you're a disciple".
Now all of those things by the way, are good things to do. But those things relate to the process of discipleship, they don't define what a disciple is. It describes how you become a disciple but that's not what a disciple is. Other people define discipled by what a disciple does or is. They will note that that term disciple, mathitis in Greek, was used in Jesus day to refer to somebody who admired a rabbi, and decided to attach himself to that rabbi. To learn all of his teachings and to emulate his lifestyle. So to be a disciple, they say, involves attaching yourself to Jesus and emulating his lifestyle. Specifically, they would note, that there are four things a disciple does or is. You might want to jot them down on your outline. First of all, they would say, "A disciple is a Christian".
Well, duh pastor, tell me something I don't know. And yet a lot of people think it's actually possible to be like Jesus Christ without ever being in Jesus Christ. That is, they try to follow the lifestyle of Christ without ever having that initial experience with Christ that not only results in the forgiveness of our sins but the empowering by the Holy Spirit of God. They're trying to live the Christian life being like Christ without ever being in Christ. And Jesus described what happens to people like that. One day, they're going to receive the surprise of a lifetime. Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus said, "Many will say to me on that day, the Judgment Day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name performed many miracles'"? But then Jesus will say to them, "Depart from me, I never knew you, you who practiced lawlessness".
They did good things, they did 'em in the name of Christ but they never had that personal relationship with Christ that comes through faith. So the beginning point of being a disciple is to become a Christian. You know, Jesus talked about the importance of that in the discipleship process, in the passage we often call, the great commission. Remember what Jesus said at Matthew 28:19-20? "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations". How do you do that Jesus? How do you make disciples of people? Well, he said, "First of all, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit". The first step is a conversion experience. And then he said, secondly "Teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you and lo I am with you always, even into the end of the age".
A disciple's a Christians. Secondly, a disciple has a growing relationship with God. If we're really a disciple, we're going to know and love Jesus Christ more today than when we were first saved. A disciple has a growing relationship with God. Thirdly, a disciple obeys Christ in every area of his life. Go back to that great commission. Not only is it baptizing people but it's teaching people to observe what? All things that I have commanded you. Discipleship, the essence of it, is teaching people to obey God in every area of their life, their work, their finances, their marriage, their parenting, their thought life. That's what it means to be a disciple. And then finally, a disciple is one who makes new disciples. He makes new disciples. If you are a true follower of Christ you're going to take seriously Jesus' final command before he ascended into heaven, to go into all of the world to make it your life purpose, to make disciples.
Now, all of those things I mentioned, those four characteristics of the disciple, still, as true as they are, don't define the essence of discipleship. So are you ready to know what discipleship is really all about? The essence of discipleship is a changed life that comes from a transformed heart. Let me say it again. The essence of discipleship is a changed life that comes from a transformed heart. Second Corinthians 5:17, Paul says, "Therefore, if any man is in Christ he is a new creature, the old things passed away, behold new things have come". Some translations capture the tense accurately, "New things are coming".
A disciple is somebody who resembles Jesus Christ in his actions, attitudes, and affections. A disciple is someone who loves what Jesus loved, thinks like Jesus thought, behaves like Jesus behaved in every situation. To be a disciple means to live my life as Christ would live my life, if he were i. Those are all descriptions of a disciple but it all comes back to this, discipleship is about a changed life that comes from a transformed heart. Unfortunately, too many professing Christians today have this testimony, it's a testimony that says, "I came to the cross of Jesus Christ just as I am and I left just as I was". There's been absolutely no transformation of their life. I mean, the statistics are well known and they're very depressing. You look at any area of human behavior and there's not any really marked difference between the behavior of professing Christians and non-Christians.
And that ought to be disturbing to all of us. I know it's disturbing to me. You know, I'm assuming the reason you're here this morning, the reason you're watching this series right now, is because you really do want to know what it means to be a follower of Christ. You really believe what the scripture says, that one day you're going to face God, and you want to be sure that you've gotten it right. You know, there's a lot of clutter in Christianity today. Some people think the essence of Christianity is making sure you're able to parse every doctrinal issue just right, and say it in the right way, to be sure you're able to explain with great precision, the relationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, and if you can explain that then you're not really a Christian.
Other people, the essence of Christianity is believing what they believe about the gray issues of Christianity that the Bible really doesn't speak about, but you've got to adopt their beliefs about these gray areas. For other people, the essence of Christianity is making sure you worship in exactly the right way, that you sing the right kind of songs, you pray the right kind of prayers, that's what it means to be a really fervent disciple of Christ. Other people believe it's all the issue about the gifts of the spirit, and you've got to believe just this way about the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be a real Christian. Those are all secondary, tertiary issues.
It reminds me of what Jesus said to Martha down in verses 41 and 42 of Luke 10. "The Lord said to her, 'Martha, Martha you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only a few things are necessary and really only one". When it comes to the Christian life and being a disciple, there's really only one thing that matters. Jesus said, "Loving God with all of our hearts and loving others as we love ourselves". You've heard of the old kiss principle, remember that? Kiss, keep it simple, stupid. You know why that's important? Han's Hoffman has written, "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak". Reason we need to get rid of all of these secondary and tertiary issues is because if we don't, we can't focus on what really is important.
You know, the business world has learned that. John Schnatter, the founder of papa John's explained the secret of his company's success. He said, "At papa John's, we have a simple formula for success, focus on one thing and try to do it better than anyone else". Is it just possible that in Christianity we need to learn that secret? That instead of focusing on so many things like Martha was, we need to focus on the one thing God really wants from us. And again, Jesus said it all can be reduced to that simple principle, "Love God with all of your heart and love others as yourself".
You're saying, "Wait a minute, pastor, that can't be all there is to it. Well, what about the issues like forgiving other people? What about issues of living a moral lifestyle? What about not letting anger take hold of your life? What about not being caught up in greed and materialism? What about all of those things? Are you saying God doesn't care about those things"? Well, of course he cares about those things but all of those issues can be traced back to the condition of our heart. It's all a heart issue. A carefully cultivated and guarded heart, a heart that loves God and loves others, will be able to handle all of those other challenges. That's what Solomon said in Proverbs 4:23, he said, "Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it, the heart, flow the springs of life".
I want you to think about this. Every issue you're facing right now in your life, ultimately comes back to a condition of your heart. Whether you allow worry to consume your life will be determined by whether you have cultivated a fearing heart or a trusting heart. Whether you allow anger and outburst to be the rule of your life, depends upon whether you have cultivated a bitter heart or a forgiving heart. Whether you allow money to consume your thoughts and actions depends upon whether you are cultivating a greedy heart or a content heart. Whether you fall into that trap of immortality that Satan is setting for you right now, depends upon whether you have cultivated an adulterous heart or a pure heart. You see, we Christians get it backwards. We get it backwards when it comes to our relationship with God, we try to modify our behavior without ever dealing with the cause of our behavior. Remember, the essence of discipleship is a changed life that comes from a transformed heart.
Few years ago, we were getting ready at home, to come down to our Christmas eve service, and so, it was middle of the afternoon, and I was taking a shower, getting ready, and as I stood in the shower suddenly, I was overwhelmed by such an offensive smell I nearly suffocated in the shower stall, and I looked down and immediately saw the source of the problem. Gurgling up from the shower drain was stuff I can't even mention in the service today, but it was really gross, and it was flowing up out of the shower drain, and then it lapped over the side onto the bathroom floor, and of course I did what any husband would do at that moment, I yelled "Help" to my wife.
So Amy came in and we engaged in this mop up operation and we got it finally all mopped up, and then I utilized all the plumbing skills I had developed through the years, and reached under the cabinet there, and pulled out a can of drano, and I looked at that, read the directions, I poured the drano into the drain, did what the direction said, turned the water back on after a few minutes, let it go down there, I thought problem solved, 30 seconds later, the stuff came back up again. So we had another mop up operation. We did it about a third time. It kept coming up and up, and so finally I broke down and called the plumber and he was happy to come on Christmas eve for three times the normal rate, but he arrived. He came in and looked at our drain. He said, "Could I go into your backyard"? We said, "Well, sure".
So he went in the backyard, a few minutes later he came back and he said, "I found the problem, I looked at your sewer line and some overly aggressive roots from a nearby tree had invaded that sewer line causing the clogging and the backup of the refuse". He said, "You'll never be able to take care of this problem until you deal with the root problem". You know, every day, you and I have offensive words and thoughts coming out of our lives. They're offensive to us and just think about it, if we're offended by what we think or say or feel, imagine how offended God is. Now we can try to mop up our behavior but it's really useless until we deal with the source of that behavior.
Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life, greed, lust, anger, bitterness, these are not the problem, they are the symptom of the problem, and the problem is a heart that has not been carefully cultivated and guarded to love God completely. You say, "Well what can I do to change the condition of my heart"? More than you might think. Over the next seven weeks, we're going to discover how you and I can cooperate with God to experience a transformed heart that results in a changed life. That's the essence of what it means to be a disciple.