For many years, I used the words disciple and believer interchangeably. However, I was always left wondering if Jesus believed in salvation by grace alone. That’s because He continually put conditions on being His disciple. So in the spirit of Acts 17:11, I searched the Scriptures to find out what the Bible had to say about being a disciple of Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 states that we are “saved by grace through faith” which means my acceptance by God is not based on my performance. The basis of my salvation is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross which is available to all those who receive Him. So if my salvation is free, why did Jesus say that I should consider the cost of being His disciple? (Luke 14:28-33) There’s a huge difference between “free” and “cost,” so since the Bible states that both are true, I had to come to some resolution. Because I was certain of my salvation, I came to believe that I had misunderstood what it means to be a disciple.
The actual meaning of the word disciple is a learner or a person who becomes an apprentice to a teacher. Since Jesus is the true Master Teacher, how could I become His disciple? My understanding of this is a work in progress, but my thoughts about discipleship have definitely evolved from what I was taught. Like many people, my early experience with discipleship came because of my involvement with an evangelical Para-Church Ministry. They had a strong emphasis on discipling, encouraged me to do so, and gave me a number of tools to help me. So over a period of many years, I took eighty-four men through the discipleship books believing that I was creating disciples for Jesus. The goal was to help them understand the Biblical view of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Sin, Nature of man, Salvation, etc.. I believe I did help them have a correct view of the Scriptures, and that’s important, but I now know that it didn’t produce very many authentic disciples. It produced people who believed correctly about the essentials of the faith. That’s very necessary, but Jesus calls us to become His disciples, not just people who are saved and believe right.
I once heard the CEO of Canon, the electronic firm, tell an audience of businessmen; “Your systems are perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting” He was saying, your current systems created your bottom line, so if you don’t like it, you must change your system. That idea is also true for our methods. While thousands upon thousands have gone through discipleship courses, the vast majority don’t become what Jesus calls a disciple. I regret that it took me so long to understand that teaching people to have correct theology does not create disciples. I’m now focusing on the definitive statements of Jesus about what He says makes a person His disciple. Those words at the end of Matthew, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mat 28:19) have to be viewed in light of what Jesus said were the characteristics of His disciples. My understanding of, “make disciples” is to point people to what Jesus said.
Jesus said His disciple is:
1. A person who puts Him before others. (Luke 14:26a)
2. A person who puts Him before self. (Luke 14:26b)
3. A person who puts Him before possessions. (Luke 14:33)
4. A person who takes up their cross and follows Him. (Luke 14:27)
5. A person of prayer. (Luke 11:1-13 and 18:1-8)
6. A person who abides in Him and produces fruit. (John 15:7-8)
7. A person who has a special love for other believers. (John 13:34-35)
8. A person who is unified in spirit with others in His family. (John 17:20-23)
9. A person who lives His words. (John 8:31)
Since I can’t accomplish these essential requirements for anyone but myself, I’ve changed the way I think about discipleship. I will energetically continue to help people understand the Scriptures, but the primary goal is to encourage them to focus on the things that Jesus said are true of His disciples. So now I ask people the question; Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? If so, then tell Jesus that you want to cooperate with Him as He accomplishes these things in your life.
A disciple of Jesus reminds him or herself daily; “I no longer have a right to myself.”
If you have a desire to be a disciple of Jesus, a good start might be to spend a week or a month reviewing the Scriptures listed below. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know where to start and which of these to focus on first. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t meet them perfectly, in fact, no one ever has. However, you can be a person who takes the statements of Jesus seriously and asks Him to help you become His disciple.
The following is only a partial list of verses about becoming an authentic disciple.
1. A person who puts Jesus before self! (Luke 14:26b)
a. Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:20,21 & 2:5-13; Col. 3:1-4.
2. A person who puts Jesus before others! (Luke 14:26a)
3. A person who puts Jesus before possessions! (Luke 14:33)
4. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
a. How do you understand; “your own cross”?
5. A person who prays! (John 16:24-31)
a. Matthew 6:5-15 & 9:36-38 & 18:19; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:28; John 15:7 & 16:24
6. A person who abides in Jesus and produces fruit. (John 15:7-8 & 16b)
a. The right definition of ”Fruit” is crucial. (Check Gal 5:22-23)
7. A person who loves other believers! (Jn 13:34,35)
a. Romans 12:3-9; 1 Cor 1:10; Phil 2:1-4; Hebrews 10:24,25
8. A disciple is one who works at maintaining unity! (John 17:20-23)
a. We are not asked to create the unity but rather to maintain it. (Eph. 4:3-6).
b. Ps. 133:1; Matt. 23:8-12; Romans 12:10 & 15:5; 1 Cor 1:10 ; Gal 3:28; Eph 5:21
9. A person who lives the words of Jesus! (Jn. 15:7) (obeys, continues in)
a. Rom. 15:4; Col 3:16-17; 2 Tim 3:16,17;
What is the Gospel?
The Gospel is a Person. That Person is Jesus. So the Gospel is Jesus not information about Him.
To preach the Gospel is to preach Jesus. He Himself is the “Good News” (John 1:1,14; Colossians 1 & 2; I Corinthians 2:2)
Truth is not correct facts; truth is a person. Jesus said, ”I am the truth.” Our Faith is not placed in what Jesus said but in Himself (SUBTLE BUT IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE)
What is the work of God?
“Then they asked him, what must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29) This is not just a salvation verse. The work of God is to believe in Jesus in every situation we find ourselves. Not believing in what He will do but in Himself.
A great quote:
“The most conspicuous thing in the New Testament is the supremacy given to our Lord. Today the supremacy is apt to be given to phases of the truth, to doctrines and not To Jesus Christ. Truth is a person, not a proposition. If I pin my faith to a logical creed, I will be disloyal to the Lord Jesus. The most fundamental heresies that split the church are built on what Jesus Christ can do instead of on Himself. Wreckage in spiritual experience always follows.” Oswald Chambers