To The Churches 22: What Is A Disciple?

To The Churches 22: What Is A Disciple? October 31, 2014


From Gary Avant, President and Lead Coach of To The Churches:

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the term “discipleship”. The word “disciple” is used 297 times throughout the New Testament. The word “Christian” is used three times. According to these numbers, we should be receiving about 1,000 times more teaching about being a disciple of Christ compared to being “Christian”.

How does this fit into the type of teachings that you are receiving at your church?

Jesus, of course, is the first one to use the word “disciple” in the New Testament when He called his disciples. He calls them, invites them, prompts them, challenges them, and tells them to follow Him.

To Peter, He says, “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.” To Matthew, He simply says, “Follow Me.”

And, to YOU, He is also saying, “Follow Me.”

You have a choice. Will you follow Him, or follow your own way? It is a clear crossroads in your life at this moment, and each day.

“Discipleship” actually has its roots in the Old Testament when men and women were called by God to follow Him and obey Him. All the followers of God in the Old Testament were disciples of God, as were followers in the New Testament, and all the followers throughout Church history and into today. These are disciples of the Lord.

You, if you are a disciple of Jesus, are in great company. This great group of followers is often referred to as the Great Cloud of Witnesses – all the disciples that came before you are included in that group.

The term “disciple” means a dedicated follower, a committed learner, an applied apprentice. A disciple of Christ diligently follows, learns, and gains knowledge and skills that God indicates are important. Being a disciple of Christ implies interest, action, intention, commitment and moving forward. Being a disciple of Christ implies interesting work, engaging fun, stimulating your mind and your emotions, and being excited about the future as you grow in skills and wisdom. Being a disciple includes surrendering every part of yourself: body, mind, emotions, and spirit, to Christ.

Here’s an illustration: Picture yourself in the presence of someone very important, say a famous leader, speaker, musician or personality that you deeply admire. They come to visit you and want to show them something that is very important. They invite you to go with them and ask any questions you want. As they walk beside you, you would intently be right beside them, asking, listening, and talking with them.

What does this feel and look like?

Here’s a personal story to illustrate the point: I remember when I met and had the opportunity to spend a little time with a famous man. I read about who he was and he was such a visionary in my field, and had such great insights as a Christian. At first, I was like a little kid – I was intimidated, even scared by him. I was in awe that he was even there in front of me and was spending time with me. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him and I hung on every single word. I sat next to him, listening intently, asking a lot of questions. I took notes and tried to remember each word that he said so that I could remember them later. I was a follower, a learner, an apprentice.

Now, being a disciple of Jesus is a step beyond this previous illustration. It is vastly different than following any human man or woman.

We follow Christ because we want to be like Him, and we want to surrender to Him. To do this, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our life every moment of every day. He is now in control of who we are, to make us loving, merciful, gracious, powerful, strong, bold, wise, fun, balanced, and in the center of God’s plan. Those are all characteristics of Jesus and He wants them for us also.

Being a disciple also means you are unique. If you notice, each of the disciples in the Bible were very different. They each had different personalities, quirks, interests, strengths, and abilities – just like you have unique personality traits, gifts, strengths and weaknesses that make you who you are. And Jesus wants to mature and balance each of those uniquenesses to be wonderful.

Jesus brings these two facets together: He makes us like Himself, and shapes and uses our uniqueness. This is another way that the Christian faith is different from any other religion in the world.

So, why is dedication and commitment to being a disciple so important? Because being a disciple is a process – an ongoing process, not a finished product. Once a disciple – always a disciple: meaning, you will always be seeking, asking, knocking. As a result, you will be finding, learning, growing and maturing. You need full dedication and commitment to continue being a disciple of Jesus.

The key tools to being a disciple are very simple, and they are shown all throughout Scripture. A.S.K.: Ask, Seek, and Knock. Ask the Lord; Seek Him; Knock on the doors in front of you to gain entrance. Jesus will be your loving Guide.

The goal of being a disciple is to become what He intends you to be – in His image, walking with Him, building His kingdom. He wants you to be mature, fulfilled, balanced, strong, and bearing wonderful fruits of the Spirit. Which include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That’s a lot to aim for. That’s a great goal. But again, this takes time.

Just as it takes time to grow physically, from a child to an adult, it takes time to grow spiritually, from a new Christian to a mature Christian.

It is good to know what you are getting into. Is the risk / reward worth it? I would advocate: Yes it is.

What are the costs of a disciple? It costs everything.

You must surrender everything to Him. EVERYTHING. Nothing held back, open hands, no closed fists holding onto something. He wants it all.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34) And He said, “Whoever does not pick up their cross and follow Me, cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)

So, what are the benefits or rewards of being a disciple of Christ? The long-term rewards, beyond this life, are living eternally in a new heaven, a new earth, with a new body, seeing God and knowing Him directly. The immediate rewards, in our current lives, are endless and amazing: a passionate, productive, and purposeful life. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Abundance implies growth. There are many word pictures in the bible of disciples growing: moving from being blind to seeing; moving from milk to meat; moving from childhood to adulthood; moving from crawling to walking to running; moving from student to teacher. So, the question is: Are you moving in that type of positive direction?

We each need a discipler – someone who walks alongside us to help us grow. A discipler is there “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13)

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