Discipleship is a Matter of the Heart

Many contemporary thinkers view the heart simply as a word to describe the seat of human affections or emotions. God’s word describes the human heart as being so much more. The heart is the center of a person’s spiritual life. This means that as followers of Christ, we must recognize that how we think (reason in our hearts) is vital to our spiritual growth and development. Let’s consider the heart (the inner person) in the Gospel of Mark.

The heart reasons. In Mark 2:6, the scribes were said to be “reasoning in their hearts”—that is, “reasoning within themselves.” The heart is viewed as functioning when a person thinks, processes information, deliberates, formulates questions, considers ideas, and weighs one thing against another.

The supposed use of reason did not guarantee that the scribes were thinking straight (Mark 2:8). Although the scribes were right in thinking that Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins meant that Jesus was claiming authority that only God had, they did not believe in Christ.

How we think (reason in our hearts) is vital to our spiritual growth and development.

Those who disciple others must seek to understand how their disciples reason in their hearts.

The heart may be hardened. What Jesus did in healing the paralytic also showed that Jesus had authority to forgive people’s sins (Mark 2:5, 7, 10). That “sinners” were drawn to Him and became His followers showed the radical compassion which characterized Jesus (Mark 2:13-17). His authoritative teaching on fasting and the Sabbath showed people how His new ministry compared to human tradition (Mark 2:18-28). But the Jews failed to understand who Jesus was and refused to believe in what He was doing, so that they opposed Him, and waited for Him to make a mistake. In the hardness of their hearts, they decided to destroy Him (Mark 3:5-6).

This hardening of the heart does not characterize only those who outwardly stood against Jesus. Even the disciples’ hearts were said to be hardened by their failure to gain insight from His miracles, as evidenced by their terrified astonishment at seeing Jesus walk on water (Mark 6:52).

Those who disciple others need to be aware of the danger of having hardened hearts.

Jesus reproves the heart’s sinful responses. Jesus addressed the scribes for the wrong way they were reasoning in their hearts about Him (Mark 2:8). Jesus was grieved and angered by the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts against Him (Mark 3:5). Jesus reproved the Pharisees’ and the scribes’ for their hypocrisy because their hearts were far from God, in that when they should have kept God’s law, they held on to human tradition (Mark 7:6). Jesus taught in Mark 7:21-23,

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Jesus reproved His own disciples for lack of spiritual perception and insight because it betrayed a hardened heart (Mark 8:17). Sinful behavior is evidence of a hardened heart and must be brought under control (Mark 10:5).

Disciple makers must address not only sinful behavior but also the sinful responses of the heart.

Jesus encourages the heart’s righteous responses. Jesus affirmed the need for a faith-filled heart in His disciples (Mark 11:23). He also reiterated the greatest commandment from the Old Testament saying,


If we are discipling others, then we must nurture their hearts towards faith in Christ and love for God.

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