Discipleship: One of the most important things you can do for others is to be excited about Jesus.
“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Tim 4:16
It is with these words that the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, to equip him for pastoral ministry. Yet this verse is not only beneficial for pastors, but also for any Christian who is involved in the work of discipleship[i].
There are many observations that can be drawn from this text. One of which is: that there is a direct link between the life of a person and the effect of his ministry. Paul is saying, ‘Timothy, if you persevere in keeping watch on your life and what you teach, then the result would be that you will save both yourself and your hearers.’
What a promise! What else do we desire in the ministry of discipleship than the salvation of our hearers? And Paul is telling Timothy how this is possible. How? By keeping “a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”
Think about this! The way I live, as a teacher, has direct results on the salvation of my hearers[ii]!
|Aside: The importance of the duty of keeping “a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” is no small matter. In Richard Baxter’s groundbreaking work The Reformed Pastor, Baxter thought fit to make it his first chapter in the book. Likewise, in Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students, this also appears in the first chapter, entitled, “The Minister’s Self Watch”. Surely, this duty that we speak about must be of magnificent value.|
But how does the way I live affect the lives of my hearers? Let me suggest just one of the many ways I think the relationship between ‘my life’ and ‘my hearers’ work.
In a lesson I learned from D.A.Carson’s talk entitled “The Scholar as Pastor”, Carson says, after some 40 years in the ministry,
“Recognize that students do not learn everything you teach them. They certainly do not learn everything I teach them! What do they learn? They learn what I am excited about; they learn what I emphasize, what I return to again and again; they learn what organizes the rest of my thought.”[iii]
The train of thought is this:
If I am excited about Jesus, it will be shown in my life and my teachings.
If my life and teachings show my excitement for Jesus, then Jesus becomes more exciting for my hearers.
Therefore, my excitement for Jesus causes my hearers to be excited about Jesus.
Some Lessons and Applications
First, my students will be excited about what I am excited about. This is one of the ways “my life” affects “my hearers”.
Second, if there is inconsistency between ‘my life’ and ‘my teaching’, it will destroy the credibility of ‘my teaching’. Paul was a man who was completely in love with Jesus, and this was evident both in his life and teachings. Everything he did, he did for Christ (his life); and his teachings were only about Christ. Could you imagine if this were not the case? Say we find a man who says the same things Paul would say; for example about the priority, sufficiency, and satisfaction of Christ. And yet, we find that his life does not match up. He spends most of his time watching movies and playing games (I’m not saying this is bad), but we seldom hear him talk about Christ outside church, and if we examine his heart we realize that his desires are for things of this world. Now, would we give his teachings the same respect? Unlikely so. Our ‘life’ must add up with our ‘teaching’.
Third, it is not enough for me to pretend to be excited, I must be genuinely excited. Why? Firstly, because hypocrisy between one’s life and one’s teaching is condemned (Rom 2:21-23). Secondly, because our sins (including those of hypocrisy) will find us out (Num 32:23).
Final Application: Am I really excited about Jesus?
If you are convinced by what has been written above, then the final question by way of application is this: Am I really excited about Jesus? If not, then what am I really excited about? Whatever that is, it would be an idol. What is it that I spend most of my time thinking about? What fills my thoughts, worries, and desires? What do I hope for most? What gets me excited? What do I love reading about, speaking about, or even praying about? What wakes me up in the morning? And I pray, that our answer will be resounding: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
When my life is filled with Jesus, and my teaching is filled with Jesus, we can gladly hope and pray that by the power of the mighty Spirit, our hearers will be filled with Jesus as well!
The ministry of Richard Baxter is one example. He was born in 1615 and ministered in a town in England named ‘Kidderminster’. When he first arrived in the town, they were “an ignorant, rude and reveling people”. Yet, read his biography and writings, and see his incredible excitement for Jesus. And after years of ministry (and excitement, I must say), it was reported that “On the Lord’s days… you might hear an hundred families singing psalms and repeating sermons as you passed through the streets”.
Want your hearers to be excited about Jesus? Be excited yourself! And I believe that excitement for Christ is most passionately kindled when we are kneeling and broken before the Cross of the One who loves us.
[i] In Romans 2:21-23, Paul brings out this same idea. Further, the work of discipleship is part of pastoral ministry.
[ii] In saying this, Paul isn’t denying that salvation comes from Christ alone. Calvin writes, “Our salvation is… the gift of God alone… But the ministry of men is not on that account excluded… Moreover, this is altogether the work of God, because it is He who forms good pastors, and guides them bu His Spirit, and blesses their labor..”
[iii] Listen to this message at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/the-scholar-as-pastor or read Carson’s manuscript at http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2009_scholar_as_pastor.pdf
Daryl first got acquainted with Transform Student Ministries in 2011 serving in the Summer Intern Program. When we asked Daryl for a short bio for the blog, he told us that he is a great sinner, and has a great Savior.