Jani: Hello, everyone, welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and her friend,
Heidi: Heidi Howerton. Hello there.
Jani: Glad to have you with us still, Heidi. You haven’t delivered that baby yet.
Heidi: I know. Abigail Joy hasn’t come yet. We’re just counting down the weeks like any mother in her third trimester waiting patiently,
Jani: Yes. Oh my goodness, especially after you’ve been through it several times before with your other three.
Let’s talk More About “Why Discipleship?”
Jani: Well, today we want to come back to discipleship because we started our new series on discipleship. And we want to spend a little more time talking about why. The why of discipleship. Why would we talk about this? Why would I encourage our listeners to disciple? And I would like to take some time, going deep into a verse in 2 Corinthians 12:15. And Heidi, I’d love for you to read for our listeners, verses 14 and 15, then I’ll set the context.
“Here for the third time, I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden for I seek not what is yours, but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”2 Corinthians 12:15
Jani: Hmm, hmm. Think of what Paul was saying there. It’s possible that he’s going to be visiting them a third time, but he didn’t want to be a burden to the church. I love that about him. He says, “I seek not what is yours, but you. You are what I want.” He goes on to use the illustration of children and their parents and their familial obligations. He says “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” We know that Paul felt a very strong connection, a fatherly connection, from his first letter to them, where he said in 1 Corinthians 4,
“I write these things to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you then, be imitators of me.”1 Corinthians 4:14
Jani: You see, there’s a family connection here that Paul wants us to take into account. There is an obligation of a parent to a child, a generational obligation of wisdom, and years and experience. I think this applies to our discipling relationships. When we disciple others, we become to them like mothers and fathers in the faith. This is a generational stewardship given to us by God.
Jani: In our last episode, Heidi read for us from Psalm 78, where we’re challenged from one generation to another to make known the glorious deeds of the Lord in his might and the wonders he’s done. When we disciple women, their children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren receive the blessings of our efforts. Our lives matter. Your life matters. Do you believe that? Your life will matter for a long time. As I said, in our last podcast, a glacier seems to be accomplishing little at the moment but leaves behind a Grand Canyon. Be willing to be part of a glacier. Be willing to move slowly, but steadily. We want to leave behind generations of men and women, the children yet unborn, who, as the psalmist says, set their hope in God.
11 Important Words with 3 main points
Jani: So what we want to do on today’s podcast is lift 11 words out of that passage in 2 Corinthians. This verse is so important to me that one of my friends who knows how important it is to me, got it engraved, and I’m wearing it on a necklace today as I podcast. I love this verse. Listen to these 11 words that we wanted to think deeply about today, as we answer the question, why should I be discipled and disciple others? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:15,
“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”2 Corinthians 12:15
Jani: I don’t know about you, but these words fill me with both fear and hope. I want to invite you, dear listener, to think through these 11 words with me, as we think through beginning a discipleship series. These three words break down into three main points, my attitude, my actions, and my motivation or my incentive. My attitude, what I feel, I will most gladly. My actions, what I do, spend and be spent. And my motivation or my incentive, why I do it for your souls.
Jani: So let’s talk about our attitudes, what we feel, Paul says, “I will most gladly”. Heidi and I can both tell you that discipleship is not always easy. It takes effort, but it should be gladsome. There should be an eager willingness, an open-hearted welcome, an earnest desire, a joyful delight, a cheerful yes, a welcome to the coming generation of willingness. That verb “I will”, shows a personal resolve, don’t miss this. It shows a determination to do this gladly. That means I’m not going to concentrate on the disappointing or the tiring. The frustrating aspects of giving Jesus to others. I don’t know about you, Heidi, but sometimes I just have to reach right down into my own heart and say, “Hey, Jani”, kind of grab it, “Don’t go there. God is glorified when I bear much fruit and fruit takes time and effort. So give yourself, Jani, to this mighty task.”
Jani: In the Old Testament, God warned his people that if they did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, they would end up serving their enemies. This is from Deuteronomy 28. That’s a heavy warning to me. Think of the abundance of all things. I have to think of that sometimes when I’m feeling tired or maybe overwhelmed. I have the freedom to gather with other women. I have eyes to read my Bible. I’ve been taught how to read. I have a solid church to belong to, a husband who supports my discipleship. Women who want to be discipled and then disciple others. All this and Jesus too. This should help me serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart. I will most gladly. Oh let’s be women who think about that and ask the Lord to help us be able to say, “I will most gladly.”
Jani: Now that talks about our attitude, what we’re feeling, what about our actions, what we do? Paul says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent.”
Jani: Isn’t that interesting? Both the active and the passive verb. Spend, that’s what I’m doing, and be spent, that’s what others are drawing out of me. It’s not just what I choose to give, but sometimes when people come and take from me. To spend means to pay out, to give, to sacrifice, to use what God has given to me, to invest in others. And I believe this verse is the full range of spending, actively spending myself, my time, my resources, my energies, to bring what I know of Jesus to others, until I’m spent, exhausted, weak, used up, done in, consumed, tired. That’s a godly, blessed tiredness.
Jani: Now, Paul knew what he was talking about. He had determined not to accept financial support from the Corinthians while he was working among them. He explained that it wasn’t their property, but their hearts that he wanted. He didn’t want to be a burden to them or take advantage of them. They were his spiritual kids. 1 Corinthians 4:15 says,
“And he was more than happy to spend his own resources and energy on them, and even to sacrifice his own life for them.”1 Corinthians 4:15
Jani: Those of you who have your own children understand this mindset. Most likely, you know, in your own life, what it means to spend and be spent. Let’s not be women who are overwhelmed by this. Almost everything of lasting value in this world is done by tired people. Think about it. What parent isn’t tired? What church planter or pastor isn’t tired. What employee isn’t tired? What teacher isn’t tired? You name it, if you’re working hard, you get tired. That’s okay. It’s more important who you are in Christ. You see, if you feel weak and tired and needy, that is when God’s power is strongest in you. That’s perfect because the strong don’t really need Jesus. It is the weak who draw close to him for help. It’s when I’m most tired that I pray more. It’s when I most feel weak that I call out to Him more. Do you know Jesus? Do you love him? Is he worth giving your whole life to? Then someone needs to hear that. Someone needs to be close to that to, see you embrace that. Someone needs to see you living out those convictions up close. And more than just on a Sunday morning.
Jani: You see, and we’re going to come back to this in the weeks ahead, but discipleship isn’t about a professional Christian passing on her best practices to novice Christians. Being a disciple and learning to disciple others means looking at Jesus with such intensity and delight, that you actually begin to reflect His beauty in your everyday life. Jesus becomes more precious, more satisfying, more exciting, more worthwhile than anything else. And as you behold Him, others will want to join you and you can begin looking to him together.
Jani: The most important way you can disciple others is by enjoying Jesus Christ yourself in such an irresistible way that your enjoyment becomes contagious. And then, what feels like being spent really leaves a lasting delight, way down deep in your heart.
Jani: Well finally our third point in this verse is our motivation or incentive, why we do this. Why are Heidi and I calling you to discipleship? Well, what is Paul’s motivation? “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” He knows he’s working for eternal returns, he is investing in his spiritual children’s souls. Heidi, would you read 1 Thessalonians 2:8?
“We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves.”1 Thessalonians 2:8
Jani: Whoa, that is spending and being spent, isn’t it? Or 2 Timothy 2:10 puts it this way,
“I endure everything for the sake of the elect.”2 Timothy 2:10
Jani: Why? Because Paul knows this is something of eternal weightiness. It is deep and lasting. It’s never shallow. And he also knows that God sees and knows and cares. I love how the writer of Hebrews puts it. Heidi read Hebrews 6:10 for us.
“For God is not unjust, so as to overlook your work and the love you’ve shown for his name and serving the saints as you still do.”Hebrews 6:10
Jani: Yes, you see, God would be unjust if he overlooked our work. That’s not God. He will never overlook what you’re doing as you serve the saints. Let me say this. Every single person on the face of the earth today is heading down a pathway to one of two places, either life or death. Proverbs puts it very plainly. Proverbs 12:28 says,
“The path of the righteous is life. And in its pathway, there is no death.”Proverbs 12:28
Jani: Proverbs 14 puts it this way,
“And there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”Proverbs 14:12
Jani: You see, one of two pathways, and in discipleship, we walk others with us down the pathway of life. Now, should we challenge and exhort them along the way? Yes. But as a fellow pilgrim, not as one already across the finish line. We get to help others recognize, admire, respond to and enjoy Jesus, whose yoke is easy, and his burden is light. We get to love them, as Jesus loves us to accept them. Romans 15:7 says,
“And welcome them, as we have been welcomed by Jesus.”Romans 15:7
Jani: Remember in discipleship, it’s not our mission to show others how sinful they are, but how beautiful Jesus is. Link arms as you walk together in your common need for Jesus.
Discipleship Takes Time
Jani: Now, this will take time, I find great comfort in Peter. Oh, he was so rash and governed by his passions, as I often am. If he wasn’t jumping out of his fishing boat into the lake to go walk to Jesus, he was rebuking the Lord. Think of Matthew 16:22 and questioning Jesus’s knowledge of Him in Matthew 26:30. Yet, Jesus called him a rock when he was still so flaky. One minute, Peter is defending his Lord before a Roman cohort with his sword and the next time we see him, he’s turning away in fear from a young girl’s question in the temple courtyard. But Jesus didn’t give up on him. Because Jesus saw the finished product. God had called Peter and was committed to changing him. Peter, a former fisherman with a propensity for saying the wrong thing, a man who lacked any formal educational training, becoming a well-known apostle and spirit-filled author. Christ saw who Peter would become in him.
Jani: The same is true throughout the ages. Christ doesn’t see me as I am today, he sees what he is making me into. He doesn’t choose any one of us on the basis of what we are, fortunately, but on what we will become through his work in our lives. 1 Peter, was written about 30 years after Christ was crucified. Take a minute and think back 30 years from today, that would be 1991. Hmm, some of you weren’t even born yet. But if you were, think of all that God has done in your life since then, and think of all God has done in the lives of others. Let’s learn to be people who see others the way Jesus sees them way far out beyond today. Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor responsible for the stone sculptures of the four presidents at Mount Rushmore. His housekeeper was quite a fan of his and she was taken to the site before the work began, and taken back after it was finished. When she saw his completed work, she said to him, “How did you know Mr. Lincoln was in that rock?”
Jani: That is the way the Lord looks at us. We may just look like rocks to other people. But Jesus is our sculptor. He sees his own image in us. We may feel rough and ugly, and have nothing at all to look at. But Christ is chipping away, polishing our rough spots, revealing more of himself, transforming us into His image from one degree of glory to another. He isn’t finished yet. So let’s be patient with ourselves and with each other.
Jani: Well, let me bring this to a close. The opposite of spending yourself is to take in, to hoard, to save, to build up a collection. It’s what we are most naturally. And it’s where we end up if we don’t come to Christ, we worry and we try to save and we’re afraid of giving too much of ourselves because we might just be too spent. We can never imitate Paul here in 2 Corinthians 12:15. Without the gospel, permeating our minds and our hearts without Jesus showing us the way. Paul tells us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. And this is exactly how Christ loves us, how he is always loved us, and how we will always love us on into our future. He spent himself for us, gladly. John 13:35 puts it this way,
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”John 13:35
Jani: There is no half-hearted, super being in our universe. Our God is a whole-hearted, glad spender. And what about Philippians 2? Heidi, would you read Philippians 2:5-8 for us?
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:5-8
Jani: Mm-hmm. You see, Jesus never quit descending. From equality with God, he descended to the form of a servant in the likeness of men. And then he descended down into death, even the horrible death of crucifixion. He kept descending all the way to the cross, no place was too low for him to go. And in Ephesians 5, we’re told,
“Therefore, walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”Ephesians 5:2
Jani: The unlimited love of Jesus for us sweeps us away into extravagant, unlimited love for others, where we can most gladly spend and be spent for their souls. Heidi and I are asking you to come before the Lord and ask Him to show you who he wants you to connect with in this series on discipleship. Who he wants you to gladly give yourself to in this coming year. Maybe it’s your children, maybe it’s your grandchildren. Maybe it’s some friends. Maybe it’s some youth in your church? We don’t know. But God does. Hopefully, you will be able to say with Paul, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” because you know the one who will restore your soul. God bless you.