What is Christian Discipleship?
1. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN BEING A “CHRISTIAN” AND/OR “DISCIPLE” OF CHRIST?
The first question to ask yourself is, have you accepted Christ as your savior and do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, calling yourself a “Christian”. Secondly, are you a disciple of Christ?
In answering those questions, you must understand that if you are a Christian, then you are also a disciple of Christ. Lets look at the reasons why by being a Christian, you are also a disciple.
The Oxford dictionary’s definition of disciple is “A follower or pupil of a teacher, leader or philosopher”
A disciple is a “follower”, someone who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. In the New Testament Jesus’ followers were called disciples. Matthew 9:9 “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me”. And he rose and followed him.” This is an example of how Jesus called out to the person, and that individual had to exercise his own “free will” in response. In this instance Matthew rose and followed him. In a similar way it is the Holy Spirit that now calls out to sinners and we must exercise our free will to respond and accept the call of Christ, or decide to remain in sin (John 16:7-8 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”). Once the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin through the word of God, we must make a choice. The Pharisees prided themselves in being disciples of Moses (John 9:28 “And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.”). In a similar fashion do we pride ourselves in being a disciple of sin, or do we hear the call of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin and the need for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who redeems us from all sin?
In order to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, he made it very clear that there is a cost in following him. Luke 14:33 says “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”. Sacrifice is expected as it says in Mathew 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”. Notice that not everyone was willing to leave the things of this world and and make a commitment to be a disciple (John 6:66 “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”). Ask yourself, are you willing to leave all that which is of this world, so you can be a true disciple of Christ, not only by word but with your heart.
Now that we know who a disciple is, let us look at what makes someone a Christian. Biblically, a Christian is:
- Someone who has placed his faith and received the Lord Jesus Christ (same trait as a disciple) – John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
- Has been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (as a disciple, listens to the call and follows) – John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- Belongs to “Christ” and is daily being transformed into the likeness of Christ (as a disciple, a follower) – 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
So being a Christian, is automatically being a disciple of Christ. If you are then a disciple of Christ you must completely adhere to the teaching of Jesus, make Christ your number one priority and live accordingly. In doing so we must take this good news to all peoples and all nations just as the disciples in the Bible did. Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Being a true Christian, you will possess new life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Because you believe in Christ, you will also be an obedient disciple. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
2. WHAT DOES CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP INVOLVE?
According to the word of God, being a Christian disciple involves the following:
1. Put Jesus first in all things
As a disciple of Christ we must be set apart from this world. Our focus should be to follow and please the Lord in every area of our lives. We must take the focus of ourselves and be Christ focused.
Mark 8:34-38 “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
2. Follow Jesus’ teachings
We must listen to and obey what Jesus taught. As stated in Samuel 1:28-29 (“Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.”), obedience is very important and paramount for your Christian walk. Jesus showed us this by being completely obedient to the Father, even to the point of death.
In order to be fruitful, it must be understood that you cannot do it by your own strength. If you abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit and this fruit is the direct result of obedience. The first and foremost change must be in our hearts, and the overflow of this will be new conduct in our thoughts, words and actions representing that change. We must allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work that change in us.
John 15:5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, as whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
4. Love for other disciples and for all people
In 1 John 3:10, it says “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. Love for one another is commanded by Jesus Christ. Not only must we love other disciples and members of Gods family, but in the same way we must love all those around us (our neighbors). 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 shows us that love is not an emotion, its an action.
Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This verse sums up what we must do when it comes to everything in our lives. This is the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ, the perfect example.
Once we receive and experience Jesus in our lives, there is no way we want to keep it to ourselves. We are compelled to share the gospel to all non believers. There is no per-requeste that we must be scholars or graduates of the study of the Bible to become witnesses of Christ. Our experience and our relationship with him is more than enough to tell others of his good news and sharing your testimony of why you are now in Christ. The Holy Spirit works in marvelous ways and he uses every person to reach others. It is not in our own strength but that of the Holy Spirit. The great commission given to all disciples is:
Matthew 28:18-19 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
If you have never given you life to Christ and you feel the call of God, calling you to come and follow him you can do that right now with a simple prayer. Accept Jesus as you Lord and Savior this moment and allow Christ to dwell in you:
“God I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me. Amen.”