Cross Words: Discipleship, it starts in the heart

By Isaiah Pauley

This week marks the beginning of a series on discipleship. Why? Because this word holds significant importance. I believe it’s my word for 2019. I’m longing for closer intimacy with Jesus. I’m longing for genuine relationships with other people. My prayer for 2019 is to focus on discipleship instead of merely being known or helpful. I challenge you to join me on this journey. Truth is, Jesus calls us to be His disciples.

What does “discipleship” mean? John Piper says, “It can mean my discipleship, in the sense of my own pattern of following Jesus and trusting him and learning from him… . Or it can mean my activity of helping others be disciples in that sense of learning from him, growing in him.”

In other words, discipleship is twofold. This is vividly seen in the gospels.

Peter and Andrew are fishing. That’s what they do. Until Jesus comes. He says, “‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matt. 4:19 ESV).

The next verse reads, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20 ESV).

Discipleship begins with a call to follow Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. Discipleship also involves sharing Jesus with others. It works both ways.

For this first week, I want to focus on what it means to be saved. Salvation is the first step towards following Jesus. Let’s start with the basics.

I’ve been writing about Jesus since 2014. But I don’t recall ever dedicating an article to the simple message of salvation. Why? Because most of my readers are Christians. That’s a good thing. I’m a Christian, too. I bet you’re glad to hear that. But here’s the bottom line: we should never grow tired of the best news ever. We should never forget the simple message of Jesus Christ. If you’re like me, you’ll be challenged by studying it again. So stick with me.

How do you be saved? The Bible says, “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9 ESV).

Why? Because we’re sinners. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 ESV). We must recognize the sin in our lives (see 1 John 1:8-10). I don’t know about you, but I have no problem recognizing the sin in my life.

Once we recognize the sin in our lives, Jesus calls us to repent from our sin. The Bible says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17 ESV). To repent means to have a change of heart towards the sin in your life. This is important. I have a feeling most people believe they need to have their lives together before being saved. This is nonsense. Repentance is a process that begins with a changed heart. A heart with a desperate desire to obey God.

Jesus says, “‘But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander’” (Matt. 15:18-19 ESV).

Jesus preaches these words to a group of Pharisees who think they have it all together. But to them, Jesus says they honor Him with their lips but despise Him in their hearts (see Matt. 15:8). Salvation is a change of heart. And the results are often a process. Someone can be saved and still struggle with sin. Someone may struggle with gossip and have no desire to change. At the same time, someone may struggle with homosexuality and desperately desire to change. The key to repentance is having a heart that desperately cries, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And over time, by God’s power, results are seen.

So what does it mean to be saved? It means confessing your sins. It means repenting from those sins. But believing in the saving work of Jesus Christ is the power behind it all. And you need His power.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13 NLT).

It starts in the heart.

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.