The first step in the great commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) – disciples who are determined to grow to become like their master (Luke 6:40) in mind (Phil. 2:5) and heart (Matt. 11:28-30). Our Father is satisfied if we become like Christ in mind and heart (Matt. 10:24,25), because having the mind and heart of Christ is to have the complete love with all of its parts (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which surely will cause the mouth (Matt. 12:34) and the body (James 3:2-5) to speak and do all of the will of God (Acts 13:22). The first step in the great commission will turn us toward the purpose of God. After we are turned to do the purpose of God we must have help and direction to fulfill that purpose. This is the reason for the second command of the Great Commission.
Is Forgiveness of Sins Enough?
Some believe that forgiveness of sins is all that is needed, and thus conclude that growing in the heart of Christ is superfluous and unnecessary. They imagine that 1) if sin separates us from God, then 2) removing the sin will unite us with God. This is a major misunderstanding. It is a fact that “. . . out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). Judas had an evil heart. Whether Judas’ sins were forgiven or not, he still had an evil heart and out of the abundance of that heart, his mouth was going to speak. If God forgave his sins a million times, he would still have the same heart. He would still speak the same evil words. Sin is a matter of God’s record. Sin is transgression of God’s law. Once a man transgresses God’s law, it becomes a matter of history. God puts that sin on his record. God can forgive that sin, and blot those sins out of his book. All that takes place in God’s book. It is a matter of record, not of heart. The real key to controlling the body is the heart of man. We are not belittling the Lord’s part in forming the heart, but emphasizing the need to deal with our hearts, not just our bodies.
Whether the sins have been forgiven or not, the heart remains the same, and produces the same sins (Matt. 15:19), unless or until it is purified. We are commanded to purify our hearts (James 4:8). “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2,3). God also promises to help. He promises that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to 1) forgive us our sins, and 2) to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). These are two separate actions. He will blot our sins from his record and cleanse our hearts. Consider what God’s cleansing will do. Cleansing of the heart will stop the sin in the future. We need not think that the promise to forgive and cleanse us is based on mere faith only or confession only. We know that we are required to have faith and patience and many other things which are also a part of this cleansing or purging (Heb. 12:5-11). God does his part when we do our part. Our sins can be forgiven, but unless our hearts are changed, they will continue to be the source of the same words and actions. Forgiveness of sins is essential, but it is not the only essential part. Until that evil heart is cleansed, it will continue to produce evil words and deeds. The key is not only forgiveness of sins, but the power of a pure heart (Matt. 5:8).
The Immediate Source of Jesus’ Power
Our master describes the power of the heart. We understand that the Lord is the one who is ultimately in charge of everything, however, in this discussion we want to see the power that the Lord had placed in the heart of man. The abundance of the heart controls the tongue. Jesus said: “. . .out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34-35). The words that we speak come forth from the heart. Only what comes out of the mouth defiles the man. What goes into his mouth never defiles him (Matt. 15:10, 11, 15-20). What comes out of the mouth comes out of the abundance of the heart (Matt. 12:34). We must conclude there is great power in the heart. By controlling the tongue, we control more than the tongue.
The tongue controls the body. Just as the rudder of a ship, or the bridle of a horse controls the ship and the horse, so the tongue controls the body (James 3:3-5). It is not possible to tame the tongue (James 3:8), but it is possible to bridle it. In fact if we do not bridle our tongue our religion is in vain (James 1:26). Self-will can never bridle the tongue, but if we work together with God to form the heart in the image of Christ, the heart will bridle the tongue. The kind of heart we have determines the words we speak. For example, if we have the heart of Satan, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak Satanic words (Matt. 12:34). If we grow fully into the complete heart of Christ, out of the abundance of the good heart good words will come. If we are half like Satan and half like Christ we will have mixed words – good and evil – coming out of our mouths. The solution to controlling our bodies is to grow fully into the image of Christ. With the heart of Christ, we will speak and do only good no matter what bodies we will have. The heart will control this physical body and also the new spiritual body we are given in the resurrection.
Jesus Led the Way to the Goal
Jesus was not born full grown either spiritually or physically. If he had not been like us in all ways he could not be our example. He had to be made like his brethren in everything. His brethren were not born full-grown and Jesus had to grow like they grew. He was not born with all wisdom but grew in it (Luke 2:52). God sent Jesus to be like we are so he could be an example or us to follow. Jesus grew by following in his Father’s spiritual steps when his Father showed him those steps (John 5:19, 20). He grew until he had the complete love of God (Heb. 2:10, James 1:2-4; 1 John 2:5). We are also commanded to follow the Father like Jesus did (Mt 5:48). We follow our Father by walking in Christ’s love as he loved the apostles while he was on earth (John 13:34-35). We are to follow Christ to grow in his image (Col. 3:10) for he is in the image of the Father (Col. 1:15). Not all of God’s children grow. Laodicea, Galatia and many other Christians are examples of brethren who forgot their calling (Rev. 3:14-17, Gal. 5:7-9, Heb.12:5,6). God’s faithful children are in the process of being “. . . changed into the same image, from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). The word ‘changed’ in this scripture is the word metamorphoo (present indicative tense), which tells us that this is a continuing process for those who are exercised by our Father’s chastening (Heb 12:11). As children grow physically, so God’s children are to grow in heart in a continuing process. Jesus grew in favor with God as he grew in all of the parts of love (Luke 2:52; James 2:2-4). He did not run the race so that we don’t have to run it (Heb. 12:1-3) but we are to follow in his steps (1 Pet. 2:21).
New Testament Discipleship is Attainable
Some discount any possibility that we could ever be like Christ. To them, he was too great. They believe that no one could ever walk in his steps. They imagine that on earth Jesus was 100 % in God’s nature and 100% in man’s nature at the same time. That is not good mathematics or science either. It is even worse Bible. It is excellent imagination. Jesus is the Creator God. He created this world (Heb. 1:2), which makes him our God. This is a matter of history. No one can change history. True facts of past events will always be true facts of past events. The fact that he created this world can never be taken away from him. Everything that exists, the Father created through the Son (Col. 1:16,17). No matter where Jesus is, no matter what form he is in, no matter what situation he is in, he will always remain our Creator. In that historic sense, Jesus was, and always will be 100% God. However, when it comes to the nature that he took on while he was on earth, we have different facts. It is a fact that he left off the divine nature (his form of God) and, for that brief 33 year period, took on the form of a man (man’s nature) and was made like unto his brethren in all ways.
The scriptures state that “in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren . . .” (Heb. 2:17). There was no difference between Jesus’ nature and his brethren’s nature in anything. Jesus’ brethren were not 100% God’s nature and 100% man’s nature at the same time. If Jesus were like his brethren in all things (which he was), he could not have been both natures at the same time. It was essential for him to be like his brethren in all things in order to be tempted in all points like they were (Heb. 4:15). He suffered by being tempted (Heb. 2:18) which is the way he learned obedience (Heb. 5:8). There are only certain ways man can be tempted, and Jesus was tempted in every one of those ways (1 Cor. 10:13). God the Father can not be tempted with evil (James 1:13). Jesus was tempted with evil. This shows us again that Jesus was not 100% God during the time he was in the earthly form of man. Jesus left off God’s divine form for a brief 33 years so that he could be tempted. Without being in the form of God, how could he be 100% God? At the very least he lacked the form of God. Jesus grew in wisdom. (Luke 2:52). If he were 100% God, how could he grow in wisdom? Jesus came to walk run the race ahead of us that God has set before us. “. . .let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1,2). Jesus did this to leave us “ . . . an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). We must conclude that during that brief 33 year period Jesus indeed was made like his brethren in all things – 100% man.