By Paul Tripp
Discipleship is profoundly more than a set of strategies and workable systems. Discipleship is about transformation of the heart.
Without focusing on the heart of every disciple, none of our strategies and goals produce what we hope. In Matthew 6, Jesus reveals where our focus often is, instead: on our own needs, cares, and goals. These are the thoughts, desires, and worries of another kingdom.
Discipleship means a war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God. It’s a street-level war that takes place in hallways, kitchens, family rooms, and car-rides of everyday life. The war is fought on the turf of your heart for control of your soul.
This war is centered around our treasure.
1. Every human lives for some kind of treasure.
Each human being gets up in the morning in pursuit of treasure. Your treasure may be a goal, a strategy, a value, an achievement, or something else. Our treasure-orientation was meant to drive us to God as the ultimate treasure.
2. What you treasure will control your heart.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, CSB). The heart is the causal core of our personhood. It functions as the steering wheel. Because our treasure controls our heart, our treasure controls the direction of our lives.
3. What controls your heart will control your words and behavior.
Our speech and actions follow where our heart leads us, and our heart is directed by our treasure-seeking. We live in pursuit of the treasure of one of two kingdoms. People in ministry can seek to build the kingdom of self, finding their identity in ministry and loving acclaim and power. We love earth-bound treasure through where we spend our time, how we use our money, and the type of relationships we pursue. Anxiety-bound needs causes us to live in claustrophobic kingdoms of our own concerns.
The Discipleship War
Second Corinthians 5:15 shows that Jesus came so we may no longer live for ourselves. It reveals the war of discipleship: our kingdom or God’s.
Most people don’t know they wake up every day to a war of kingdoms. Discipleship can’t be reduced to a system or class. It has to be rooted in a real understanding of the war on the turf of the heart. It is about a willing, joyful, and humble sacrifice of our purposes to the greater purposes of the King of Kings.
Discipleship is captured best in the Lord’s prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). Your will be done with my ______ : community, relationships, gifts, resources, possessions, time, marriage. This is the most dangerous prayer we can ever pray because it is a prayer for the destruction of our self-oriented little kingdom.
We need to, ourselves, confess that we can live selfishly. Then, we need to tell our church members they do not need to be afraid of confessing that they live selfishly, that their time has been taken up by earth-bound treasures and anxiety-bound needs. We need to confess, for nothing can ever be known about us that hasn’t already been covered by Jesus Christ.
We must encourage people to see the war, to confess the war, to talk about the struggle of allegiance, to ask themselves what the treasures are which they yearn for each day.
We need to encourage people to have kingdom awareness, to be disciples of Jesus with surrendered hearts, giving everything to the greater purpose of the King of Kings. Without this surrender, without the transforming power, the rest of our hopes for discipleship simply will not take place.
Adapted from Pipeline 2016: Developing Your Leadership Pipeline. To learn more about how to lead in discipleship, check out our free Ministry Grid courses Introduction to Leadership Pipeline and Leadership Pipeline Competency Overview.