Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Discipleship is for the whole person, and this is what it looks like in a nutshell.
Teach me, the psalmist David starts. That is, there are things about God I need to LEARN. There are things I need to know. Things that my head must comprehend. Words to understand. Meaning to discover.
That I may walk in your truth, he continues. That is, these things I must learn are things that change me. I need to learn your truth in order to LIVE your truth. And he means really live. There are moral choices to be made. Habits to practice. Reactions to cultivate.
Unite my heart to fear your name, he concludes. That is, I’ve got to LOVE you, God. What good is knowledge and practice if my heart’s not in it? We know absolutely that God cares about the heart — that he isn’t impressed by our theological acumen, though it’s important, nor by our good deeds, though they’re commanded, because God mainly wants our hearts.
The Heart Matters Most
And this is to say, although the learning and living are indispensable, the loving is foremost. As Isaiah tells us, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). We can know the word and do the word, in other words, but if we don’t tremble at the word, he’s not looking at us.
We can learn and live without loving, but we can’t really love without learning and living. And if we do tremble — if we do receive God’s word as it really is, the word of God — then we will press on to know his truth and we will conform our lives to its practice.
But here’s the thing: this all rarely unfolds in a programmatic way.
It’s not like we go there to love, and then over there to learn, and then over there to live — one-two-three, boom. No, that is not how it works.
It’s more of a mixed bag, with all these things happening at the same time in different ways. Now to be sure, we have a discipleship structure on purpose. We are intentional about it because you have to be. But discipleship is not as narrow as we might think, and it’s effect is much more like shaking a snow globe than balancing a budget. (Oftentimes, actually, this most important part of the heart can seem the most elusive. We can read and we can do — almost as easy as we flip on a switch — but we can’t ever make our hearts love. That can be the slower, more frustrating work, but always worth the time and frustration. The temptation is to throw our hands up and forget the whole thing if our hearts are not in it, but that would be a mistake.)
All Over the Place
As your pastors, we expect that discipleship is happening in and around all the different times we come together, and many times even outside of those scheduled times. Again, there are varying levels here, but whether it’s Sunday worship, your Community Group meeting, or sharing and listening at your Life Group, the aim is that we are all learning, living, and loving.
We are growing in our understanding of God’s truth; we are making changes in our lives that accord with God’s truth; and our affections are increasing (even when it doesn’t feel like it) for God himself. The shorthand here is that we’re becoming more like Jesus — inescapably, all over the place.