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Mark #5: Single-Minded Devotion to God

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work.

John 5:19 So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

John 5:30 I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.

The gifted men listed in Ephesians 4:11 are given by the Savior to equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up the body of Christ. The goal is to bring all believers to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, a goal that is further defined as a mature person who attains to the measure of the full stature of Christ—Christ-likeness in character. Since becoming like the Lord Jesus is the measure of maturity, growth in single-minded devotion which so completely characterized His life is certainly a necessary ingredient in spiritual growth and a measure of maturity. Because the Lord Jesus is the epitome of devotion to the Father’s will, it is hard to imagine someone who is truly growing in Christ who is not also growing in the direction of single-minded devotion to God.

When the Lord called men to be His disciples, one of the fundamental qualifications was a ‘single eye,’ a life of total commitment to the Savior. The Lord Jesus invested His life in training men to become disciples who would be fully devoted to Him, to His commission to spread the gospel to a lost world, and build men and women in Christ.

But just who is a disciple? Is being a disciple synonymous with being a believer? Is the term ever used of unbelievers? Are there various kinds or degrees of discipleship?

In the broad sense, the word disciple means “a learner, pupil, apprentice, an adherent, a follower.” A study of the word discipleship in John’s gospel suggests there are degrees of discipleship, what J. Dwight Pentecost calls the curious, the convinced, and the committed.41 To be a disciple in the broadest sense is to be a follower or learner of Jesus Christ. But in the narrower sense, as used by the Lord in His ministry, to be a true disciple meant to be fully committed in order to follow and learn from Him. It meant a life of devotion to Christ, self-denial, and obedience to His Word.

To this sense of discipleship which He defined as true discipleship (John. 8:31), the Lord attached very exacting conditions because without them the goal of a disciple—becoming like his teacher (Luke. 6:40), transformed into His image (Rom. 12:1-2)—could and would never occur. These, however, are not to be considered conditions of salvation. Rather, they are a summons to deeper levels of faith and commitment. Discipleship then, as illustrated in the life of Peter, denotes a new direction and a journey, not a state or an arrival. As spelled out in the epistles, discipleship is the process of experiential sanctification whereby the believer, in following and growing in the Lord, is transformed into the mature image of Christ by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:12f).

But just what did the Lord mean by “he cannot be My disciple” in Luke 14:26 and 27? Does He mean he won’t allow such a person to serve or follow him? Or does he mean such a person doesn’t have the ability to make the right choices because, unlike salvation which is totally free, discipleship is costly? In this regard, one might compare the purpose of John’s gospel with that of the other gospels. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the emphasis is on the costliness of following the Lord as a disciple. In John’s gospel, the emphasis is on the freeness of the gospel by believing in Christ.

Another key question is what is meant by the term commitment? Ultimately, as Luke 14 and Romans 12:1 suggest, it means dying to self and allowing the Lord to take complete charge; it means by faith surrendering the right to run one’s life to the control and will of God. To put it another way, commitment means the dedication of one’s life to the revealed will of God; it means the desire and willingness to choose for the Lord and His values regardless of the cost. In essence then, it is a single-minded devotion which entails loving the Lord with all one’s heart. It means putting Him first and thereby seeking first the kingdom of God, i.e., the reign and rule of God in one’s life.

Fundamentally, a single-minded devotion to God is a matter of faith or implicit trust in God. The Lord teaches us in Matthew 6:19-34 that having a sound eye (literally, a “single eye”) gives the clarity needed to be free and able to serve God as one’s master rather than money and possessions (see 6:22-24). It is a matter of faith in God’s loving character and sovereign ability to provide (see 6:26-30). In the Decalogue, the first commandment was, “You shall have no other gods before (besides) me” (Ex. 20:3). The basis for this command was the fact of their redemption out of the land of Egypt, a land of polytheism where people worshipped many gods—the corn god, the fertility god, the storm god, etc. It was not enough to worship one God. They worshipped all the gods in order to have help in all areas of life. Thus, grounding all the commands on the statement, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” (Ex. 20:2), God was calling the new nation to stop living in the old way and make a fresh start, one based on complete trust and loyalty to the God of Israel.

… It is as if He said: by saving you from Pharaoh and his hosts “by a mighty hand and a stretched out arm,” by signs and wonders, by the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea, I gave you a sample of what I can do for you, and showed you clearly enough that anywhere, at any time, against any foe, under any privation whatsoever, I can protect you, provide for you, and give you all that makes up true life. You need no god but Me; therefore you are not to be betrayed into looking for any god but Me, but you are to serve Me, and Me alone.

In other words, in the first commandment God told Israel to serve Him exclusively, not only because they owed it to Him, but also because He was worthy of their entire and exclusive trust. They were to bow to his absolute authority over them on the basis of confidence in His complete adequacy for them. And, clearly, these two things needed to go together; for they could hardly have been whole-hearted in serving him to the exclusion of other gods if they had doubted His all-sufficiency to provide whatever they might need.42

It is this kind of trust and exclusive devotion to which Christ calls us as His disciples. Based on the all sufficient and finished work of Christ, God has done the most for us which guarantees His complete adequacy for whatever He may call us to here in this life. “If He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Ultimately, then, all the commands and principles and promises are summed up in this one great truth, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matt. 22:37).

Of course, one of the goals of discipleship is to become like one’s teacher (Luke 6:40) and to be transformed into the likeness of the Savior (cf. Rom. 12:1-2) who was the supreme example of single-minded devotion to the Father

What, then, does a lack of commitment do to a person’s ability to serve the Lord? As Matthew 6:24 and Luke 14:26-27 show us, a lack of commitment disables and leaves one enslaved to wrong values which in turn create wrong loves, wrong priorities, and wrong pursuits. The result is that when faced with difficult, costly choices, the partially-devoted or double-minded believer can never make the right choices whereas a single-minded devotion of commitment gives one the freedom to make the right choices through a new set of heavenly and eternal values, priorities, and pursuits.

Precisely, what does a single-minded disciple look like. He or she is one who is committed to walking through this life as a pilgrim, as a mere temporary resident, as one who is willing to travel light with a light grip on things. And as the Savior leads or guides, he or she is one who is willing to do what the double-minded person refuses to do—give up material wealth and the security it often provides along with possessions, prestige, comfort, and other things the world treasures and pursues. With his treasure in heaven and his eyes on the Savior, the devoted disciple does not labor for treasure on earth, or for a high standard of living, but may, as the Lord may call on him do, live without position or power or possessions or popularity.

Some important questions to ponder:

(1) What are some of the motivations for commitment? See 1 Corinthians 6:19; Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17; Titus 2:11-15.

(2) Is commitment an evidence of maturity and insight to life? If so, how?

(3) Why does the Lord mention the family in two passages (Matt. 10:37 and Luke 14:26) in connection with one’s ability to be a devoted disciple?

(4) Where am I in the matter of commitment or devotion to the Lord? What is there in my life that hinders my availability to the Lord, i.e., what kinds of things affect this in my life? This would include things like one’s drives and goals, treasures or values, fears, longings, one’s level of understanding, unbelief or lack of faith, etc. What about our private time alone seeking to know the Lord more intimately? Following are some key verses that might help us here (Matt. 6:30; 1 Kings 18:21; cf. 1 Pet. 1:13f with 1 John 2:17; Rev. 3:10; Jam. 4:7-10; Jer. 2:13; Phil. 3:9f).

Our capacity to serve the Lord is directly related to our trust and commitment to Him and God’s values and priorities. But single-minded devotion is also an evidence of maturity and insight to what is truly meaningful and has eternal ramifications in life. Commitment, then, or total devotion to the Savior is also an evidence of a maturing faith that has come to grips with the reality of eternal treasures (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Matt. 6:19-21, 30-34; 1 Pet. 1:17-18).

An important questions to reflect on is simply this: “Am I trying to do the impossible in that I am seeking to serve both God and the world?” Jesus said, “No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one is able to serve God and possessions.” James also spoke about the effects of being divided in one’s mind. He wrote, “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is an individual of two minds, unstable in all his ways” (Jam. 1:7-8). A question, then, that deserves serious reflection is: “Who and what has my allegiance and devotion?”


41 J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Discipleship, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, pp. 14-17.

42 J. I. Packer, Knowing God, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1973, pp. 243-244.

 


 

Appendix: Discussion Questions for Marks of Maturity

MEN 7/52 is a men's ministry of bible.org. Our desire is to see all men become true followers of Jesus Christ 7 days a week/52 weeks a year.

These studies were developed in a team training environment where men were being trained for their role as church leaders, as fathers, and as effective members of a society that desperately needs to see what authentic, biblical Christianity looks like. So, exactly what does a mature Christian look like? A mature Christian is a believer whose life begins to take on the character of Christ-likeness. But what exactly is that? What are the specific qualities that mark out a person as Christ-like? This is the focus and point of this study.

The qualities that should characterize Christian leaders are also the marks of spiritual maturity as described in the Bible. While all of the qualities that will be discussed in this series are not unique to Christianity and are often promoted and taught in the secular world, many of them are, by their very nature, distinctive to the Bible or biblical Christianity. Thus, the characteristics that should mark out a Christian leader are also the marks of biblical maturity which are in essence the product of true spirituality. In fact, biblical spirituality can be described by the term maturity since Christian maturity is the result of growth produced by the ministry of the Spirit in the light of the Word over time. It is this biblical/spiritual element, at least in part, that makes the marks of Christian leadership distinctively Christian.

Session 6

1. What is the broad definition of being a disciple of Christ?

2. What is the narrow definition?

3. According to Luke 14 and Romans 12:1, what is meant by the term “commitment”?

4. Describe, in your own words, what is fundamental to having a single-minded devotion to God?

5. In light of these fundamentals, how would you describe your devotion to God?

6. What persons and/or things, other than God, are drawing your devotion?

7. Describe the occasions in which you find yourself focused, driven, immersed, or devoted to your job, your hobby, your recreation, or any other interest other than God.

8. Do you find yourself dividing your time between God and your worldly desires? Please explain.

9. If a believer lacks commitment to a single-minded devotion to God, what happens to his ability to serve the Lord?

10. Describe, in your own words, what a single-minded disciple looks like.

11. What would you have to do to become a single-minded disciple? What would you have to give up? What would you have to accept?

12. What are some of the motivations for commitment according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, Jeremiah 12:23, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 2:15-17, and Titus 2:11-15?

13. Is commitment an evidence of maturity and insight to life? If so, how?

14. Why does the Lord mention family in two passages (Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26) in connection with one’s ability to be a devoted disciple?

15. Where are you in the matter of commitment or devotion to the Lord?

16. What is there in your life that hinders your availability to the Lord (drives, goals, treasures, values, fears, longings, understanding, unbelief, lack of faith, etc. )? Please refer to Matthew 6:30, 1 Kings 18:21, 1 Peter 1:13, John 2:17, Revelation 3:10, James 4:7-10, Jeremiah 2:13, and Philippians 3:7-11 for your answers.

17. How much private time do you spend getting to know the Lord intimately?

Group Discussion

Read James 1:7-8. Who and what has your allegiance and devotion?

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership