Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t a one time event. Jesus told us that we would need to take up our cross daily in order to follow Him. Being a disciple is to constantly choose to sacrifice your desires for His. In Greek, the language the New Testament was written in, the word disciple is mathetes. According to Strong’s Concordance it means, “a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.” What’s crazy is that Jesus didn’t tell us to go into all the world to make Christians. He told us to make disciples. We are to be followers of Christ who learn Scripture and live a life that daily reflects it. Paul said it was something we must press on for because it’s not an easy decision to make and live up to, but it’s who we’re called to be.
In Luke 18, Jesus encountered a man we’ve dubbed “the rich, young ruler”. He asked Jesus, in verse 18 he asked, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” (AMP) Jesus responded by telling him to follow the commandments in the Old Testament. The man wasn’t satisfied because he knew there was something more than following rules to being a disciple and follower of Jesus. So Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” The man walked away sad because he wasn’t willing to take his next step in discipleship. He was ready to accept the Bible and Jesus as Lord, but unwilling to daily follow Him. Being a disciple is a matter of the heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” What do you center your life on? Is it your desires or His? Do you seek Him for direction for your life or do you allow Him to lead? To me, that last question is the difference in being a Christian and a disciple. The rich, young ruler was asking for direction, but unwilling to let Jesus lead his life. He lived life according to the Bible, but his heart kept him from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He valued his life, possessions and desires more. He wasn’t willing to nail them to the cross and follow Jesus fully. We’re all faced with that choice as Christians. Are we satisfied with being saved or do we truly want to become like Him learning Scripture and the lifestyle it requires? It’s a daily choice each of us must make.
Chris Hodges, pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, likes to say that the systems in your life are designed perfectly to take you where you are today. If you want to change your direction or outcomes, you will need to change the systems you have in place. If you want to climb Mount Everest, you would need systems in your life that would prepare you physically and mentally to make such a climb. Climbing Everest is a pipe dream for most people because all it is is a dream to them. When it becomes a goal, that’s when you put a system in place to begin accomplishing it. The things that you are accomplishing right now are a result of the goals you have in your life whether they’re conscious goals or not. What you are accomplishing right now is a result of what you pursue. If you don’t like the results you’re getting, change what you pursue or the systems you have in place.
In Matthew 6:21 Jesus put it this way, “For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure” (TPT). Too many times, you and I are valuing the wrong things or we’re not valuing the things we should enough. When we’re easily distracted or constantly changing our mind, we find ourselves going in circles in life. We’re constantly moving, but find we’re going nowhere or we’re way off target. The things we have and where we are in life are based on what we pursue, value and think about most. Brian Tracy says that we are like a magnet in that we attract things into our life based on our most dominant thoughts. If we want to change the things in our life, we must change our thoughts.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” The Good News Translation says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” What are you pursuing right now? Is it money, better cars, better relationships, a closer walk with God? What do you think about most? Paying your bills, a better life, how to make more money or bringing God’s Kingdom to earth? Are your thoughts and pursuits of your heart in line with what God wants? If not, begin to change what you think about and pursue. Ask God to show you what He wants you to value and think about. The systems in your life may be great at getting you the things you want, but they’re ultimately unsuccessful if they’re not valuing what God does.
I remember doing a paper in college on the brokenness of the United States’ Social Security system. All the research I had done showed that the system was upside down and would not be able to sustain the retiring Boomers. It was recommended that Xers and younger should invest in their retirement through 401k’s and other means. Because of all that, we each have a mindset of doing what we can now to make sure we have enough in our former years. Even this week, I spent a few hours researching stocks, their performance, their diversification and ability to grow over time. I think it’s good to have a plan for the retirement years, but I’m left to wonder how much time, effort and energy do I spend planning for eternity.
When compared to eternity, a lifetime here is nothing more than a nanosecond. How much more should we be investing in the afterlife? In Matthew 6:20-21, Jesus said, “Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure” (TPT). That last verse should have each of us looking at what we’re pursuing in this life. Where are your energies focused? Are they for things that matter now or for eternity? Again, I think it’s wise to plan for your financial future here, but it’s critical to plan for your eternity there. God’s economy is different than ours and how you invest in it is different too.
You and I must value the same things that God values if we’re going to store up treasures in Heaven. God has always valued and cared for people, especially the members of society we seem to ignore. He values giving justice to those who need it, but don’t have a voice to get it. He values mercy and grace, specifically to those who don’t deserve it. He also giving of our possessions more than hoarding them. Finally, later on in this chapter, Jesus reminds us that we must seek His Kingdom first before we seek our own. I believe when we put His priorities above our own, we store up treasures in Heaven. You can’t check your heavenly bank account through an app, but you can measure it through lives changed.