We continue our series on how Jesus discipled others, and we’re looking at more of the Sermon on the Mount today. We saw that Jesus started with the Gospel through the Beatitudes. After that, he spent time teaching about how we are to live out our faith.
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses
or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail
of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in
the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be
called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 6:17-19, NLT)
In discipleship, this is what we usually think of—telling others how they should live–to walk that way in a sense, pointing them in the right direction. Teaching is an essential part of disciple-making, but it is not meant to be a lecture. One very important element of this teaching is that we must also be living it out in our own lives as examples–instead of “walk that way,” we must be able to say, “Walk this way with me,” and walk along together on the same path. Jesus, of course, did this perfectly. Us—not so much! But it should be our goal as we are discipling others.
Jesus taught about some important subjects for living out our faith, and He heightened the importance of our hearts and attitudes toward others (Matthew 5:17-7:29). No longer are we to be concerned only with “Thou shalt not kill.” But we must consider our anger or grudges toward others. They are the same as murder in God’s eyes. We are no longer only concerned with “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But now we consider how we look at others because, when we lust for them, we have already committed adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-30).
What Jesus teaches us through the rest of the Sermon on the Mount turns the Law on its head in many ways. Some Christians act like because Jesus fulfilled the Law and offered us the gift of salvation, we can just throw the Law out. But that is not what Jesus is teaching us here or anywhere else in the Bible. The difference is, we are not trying to obey the letter of the Law in order to be saved. We, instead, seek to obey the spirit of the Law out of gratitude for the salvation we’ve been given and to strengthen our relationship with God that He’s given us. We follow Christ out of love and thankfulness, not obligation and trying to earn a relationship with Him.
That is also why Jesus clarified the spirit of the Law when he took us from looking at what we do to what we think and desire. We look at our minds and hearts to see if we are right with God and if we are being faithful disciples, not just at what we’ve done for or against the Kingdom of God.
The heart of being a disciple, as Christ shows us, is taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and asking God to renew our minds (Romans 12:1). It is examining our motives and attitudes that lead to the sinful actions, and doing that, hopefully, before they lead to the actions. We confess our sins before they are acted upon. The true sin is in our hearts and minds. It is as though the actions, though sinful, are by-products of the sinfulness in our hearts and minds.
This reminds me of the teachings in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. We are in a spiritual battle inside our own hearts and minds. One friend recently pointed out that we often like to blame Satan for our temptations and sinful tendencies. But, if we are honest with ourselves, and pay attention to what Jesus is teaching us, most of our temptations and sins come simply from our own sinful desires. Yes, Satan tempts mankind, but I don’t think he works nearly as hard as we give him credit for. I think we do most of that work for him when we don’t stay in God’s word and pray, when we don’t take thoughts captive instead of letting our minds dwell on ungodly desires, and when we don’t guard our hearts (Philippians 4:7-8). We most often act sinfully because we desire those things, we like them, we want them in the moment more than we want Jesus or obedience to Him. We must ask God to renew our minds and to change the desires of our hearts. We must choose daily to follow Christ rather than our own desires (Matthew 16:24-26). Otherwise, we will never know victory in our Christian walk. And we will never be able to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples.
As we disciple others, we are to teach them what we have learned (Matthew 28:20) and what we are trying to live out in our own faith–remember: It’s a “walk this way with me” kind of thing. We will struggle and stumble along the way, but we need to think of it as like walking a path and stumbling and twisting our ankle. We need to get immediately back on the path by confessing our sin and turning from it. When we walk on a path and stumble a bit, we don’t give up and start trekking through the woods leaving the path behind. We misstep, we get back on the path. We fall, we dust ourselves off, and get back on the path. Even if we fall badly enough to need help to keep going, we call to others on the path and get back on it. And when we walk the path, we can show others the way. That is discipleship Jesus’ way.