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What Matters Most to God in a Disciple? (Part 1)

The most fulfilling journey in life is the path of a person who has an intimate relationship with God, and who faithfully follows Him. Is it the easiest path to walk? No. Is it the inside track to popularity? No. But is it the inside track to joy? Yes, for eternal reasons.

 

Step one, for any person who yearns to experience this journey (i.e., a “disciple”), starts at the cross of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). It includes genuine conviction, humble repentance, and new loyalty. It is more than salvation from “the wages of sin”; it is also birth into a new family—with that family’s new purposes and new responsibilities,

 

But what are good “next steps” of this journey into joy? A short answer is that the disciple commits to learning and becoming. “Learning” includes growing in our knowledge. For example, God tells us in 2 Peter 3:18 to “grow in the . . . knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

 “Learning” also includes developing our skill as a disciple. For example, 2 Timothy 2:15 reminds us, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman . . . who correctly handles the word of truth.” As a woodcrafter skillfully wields tools of that trade to create wooden works of art, a disciple of Jesus Christ develops and applies skill in Bible study and in teaching or preaching to present God’s Word correctly and effectively to others.

 

But note this: The disciple who focuses only on growing in knowledge and skill will collapse—fail—sooner or later. Why? Here is a formula for failure:

Knowledge + Skill – Character => Collapse

 

Think of five people who experienced failure in ministry, whose stories you know well enough to understand basically what went wrong. Were those failures related mostly to a lack of that person’s knowledge? Unlikely. A lack of skill? Unlikely. As a seminary president once commented to me, “When any of our graduates fail in ministry, it is almost never for lack of knowledge or skill. It is almost always for lack of Christlike character.”

So what matters most to God in a disciple? Does He care most about that person’s knowledge—even knowledge about the Bible? No. Does He care most about that person’s skill—even skill in witnessing to others? No. Does He care most about that disciple’s use of spiritual gifts? No.

 

Please know this well: God says that a disciple’s knowledge, skill, and use of spiritual giftedness are very important. His Word consistently encourages His followers to grow in those areas of spiritual and practical life.

 

But 1 Corinthians 13 presents what matters most to God in His disciple. God is love (1 John 4:8). His steadfast love permeates all He is and all He does. In His eyes, this is the foundational reality on which a disciple must build, or risk eventual collapse.

 

What matters most to God is that His love in that disciple’s heart reflects outward to others; it permeates all that the disciple is and does. The evidence of His love in that disciple will be character, showing in that person’s Christlike kindness, humility, thankfulness, integrity, and other qualities that characterize Jesus Christ.

 

We were born to worship (1 Peter 4:10–11). Put that together with 1 Corinthians 13, and we have a better understanding of the fulfilling journey into joy that God graciously gives His followers: Our walk with God is our greatest witness to the work of God—and our worship of God.

 

We may also express that path in a heart-nourishing formula:

Knowledge + Skill + Character => Worship

 

Alleluia!

 

© 2018 John C Garmo

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