Though my thoughts are scrambled and this is a very brief overview, discipleship is something I desperately wanted to share with you.
What is discipleship? We talk a lot about it, and we think we engage in it - but do we really?
Now what I am about to say may be controversial: You can be a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, and still not be a disciple of Jesus Christ. What I mean by this is that you can put your faith in Christ and still not follow Him.
A disciple is a pupil, student, one who follows someone’s teaching. It follows, then, that a disciple of Christ is:
-learner: learns from Christ.
-student: studies and obeys God’s Word.
-follower: follows Christ.
-willing to die - figuratively: die to self, sinfully: die to sinful natures and desires, to worldly pleasures; AND literally: die for Christ
-loves other disciples (body of Christ) - John 13:34.
-bears fruit - 1) fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - Galatians 5:22-23 (inward) and 2) makes disciples (outward).
-counts the cost and joyfully and obediently pays the price to be a disciple of Christ - Luke 9:57-62, Luke 14:25-35, Luke 18:18-30.
-boldly shares his or her faith
The calling of the first disciples: Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:14-20, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 5:1-11, John 1:35-51
Unlike the trends of the times, when disciples competitively applied to study under a rabbi, Jesus Christ broke the norm by personally reaching out to each disciple specifically, telling them to “Follow Me!” He chose each of those unworthy, uneducated, average persons to be His disciple - without applications and interviews. All they had to do was accept. What grace!
Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen; and Matthew was a tax collector. This just goes to show Christ can use absolutely anyone to do His work.
The disciples didn’t ask any questions, but dropped everything immediately. This hints at the cost of following Jesus: give up everything for the sake of Christ.
The disciples catch a ton of fish with Jesus’ command after having not caught a thing the previous night. They leave this lottery prize to follow Jesus; “they choose His presence rather than His presents.”
-Discipleship is life-on-life. Christ spent 3 years with the disciples, not only verbally instructing them but also teaching them through actions. But more than that, Jesus showed them His lifestyle and attitude. This is more than just a Bible study or a once-a-week worship night. This is a lifelong journey literally to the end of death.
In John 16:29-31, Jesus exclaims to His disciples, “You now believe” - it took 3 years for them to see all that Jesus says and does face-to-face, both publicly and personally, and finally confess that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Not even Jesus’ disciples were perfect (ex: disciples slept as Jesus prayed at Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples deserted Jesus when the guards came to arrest Him John 6:60-71, Peter denied Jesus 3 times, Judas betrayed Jesus, etc.).
There were other Christians - but not His disciples:
-hundreds of followers (but not the 12 disciples) - crowds;
-sending of 72 (like short-term missions team, in Luke 10)
There are other disciples - those after Christ’s death and resurrection:
-illustrates God still working even after Jesus is physically gone - and with the Holy Spirit: Matthias, Paul, Apollos, etc. - legacy continues: to make disciples, like Christ has taught and commanded.
-Disciples have child-like faith Matthew 18:1-4 - depend on God
We don’t need to apply or “be good enough” to be followers of Christ; He gives the invitation to us freely and without discrimination.
We are called to lay down/give up everything before Christ - this includes academics, relationships, career goals, etcetera. Yes, we must do our best in these areas, but we must place God at the forefront.
We must share life-on-life with people, with one another: as a community, as a fellowship, as the body of Christ.
We can be slow; it may take us awhile to figure out who Jesus Christ really is (it took the disciples 3 years).
As disciples, we need discipline.
The Great Commission (not the great suggestion) - Matthew 28:18-20: Christ’s command to us.
The thing is, if we’re completely honest, we can say with confidence that we are unworthy to be considered disciples and servants of Christ, let alone His friends, or even children of God. What’s crazy, a profound mystery, is that God loves us so much and uses broken vessels for His glory; He uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong so that it is that much clearer that it truly is all God (1 Corinthians 1:20-31). Although we are imperfect human beings, God can use us perfectly - we just have to submit to His will, be available, and obey Him. A key highlight, however, is that we must repent. Walking blamelessly before God does not mean a sinless life, but rather a sinful man or woman running to God to be cleansed from all his or her iniquities by the blood of the Lamb. God is the God of second chances - not to be taken advantage of or abused, but to give hope for grace.
Something to add: Jesus said make disciples, not Christians.
Jesus’ great strategy is discipleship. He wants us to make disciples. With God, that’s the way to bring multiplication and transform nations.
What is crazy is that Jesus even called Judas Iscariot to be His disciple - whom He knew would be a failure, a traitor, a “waste of time.” Was all that Jesus did for Judas - all His love, instruction, mercy, grace, work, etc. - all a waste? Was it all in vain?
This emphasizes the magnitude and sacrifice of Jesus. He spent 3 years investing in and pouring into 12 uneducated men, including one who would betray Him. Yet He relentlessly shared His life, wisdom, love, etc. with His disciples.
That just goes to show us how much we must sacrifice, invest in, pour into, and pray for our disciples. These are not machines or projects; these are people that God has graciously brought into our lives whom we must do our best to serve as a model of Christ, and to instruct what Jesus has taught. We are to live out Christ. Even when the people we disciple may seem like failures or may not even remember what we say, we must patiently, faithfully, and obediently sow seeds just as Jesus did with His disciples.
Be on your guard; do not be a fake disciple like Judas - 1 John 2:19.
-Discipleship comes at great cost - Luke 9:57-62, Luke 14:25-35, Luke 18:18-30.
Moreover, the world hates Jesus’ disciples - John 15:18-27.
Discipleship is an investment and a sacrifice. But by God’s grace, it is more than worth it.
Need: discipler (teacher/mentor), fellow peer disciples, and disciple. Find a discipler and a disciple.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? It’s “simple” - take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Jesus.
Breaking it down:
1. Take up your cross daily - each person has his/her own cross to bear. There will be suffering, hardship, trials, temptations, etc. just as Jesus Himself underwent.
2. Deny yourself - your selfish desires, wants, gains, wealth, power, fame, pride, selfishness, etc.; be a humble servant and loving neighbor. Discipleship is commitment: you give up your own will and rights.
3. Follow Jesus - meaning “follow with Jesus”: observe His life, teaching, heart, attitude, lifestyle, etc.; get to know Him, listen to Him, obey Him. Build a relationship.
We are the salt and light of the earth - if salt loses its saltiness, it is no longer useful; and who covers a lamp? Keep being rooted in Christ; the dead branches are cut off and thrown away to be burned. Truly apart from Christ we are nothing.
The world knows we are Christ’s disciples because of the love of God at work in us - we are loyal, committed, and uncompromising to Christ; and from this inreach of God we outreach to the world.
At the heart of the matter, a disciple of Christ loves Christ more than anyone or anything else.
"It’s not about how many followers you have, but who you are following."