Discipleship is a topic we often don’t give enough time and emphasis to in churches today.
If we boil it down to its essentials, there are basically three facets to discipleship: (1) becoming a disciple; (2) growing as a disciple; and (3) making other disciples.
Many Christians might have become disciples years ago, but they have failed to grow in their discipleship and are spiritually stagnant now. Perhaps they’ve never taken the initiative to play an active role in making other disciples and, therefore, have shirked their God-given responsibility.
Some believers simply try to maintain the status quo in their lives rather than allow Christ to transform them more into His image.
It’s a sad state of affairs when someone remains a perpetual babe in Christ, still feeding on the milk of the Word and never moving on to the solid food reserved for mature Christians.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV) says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
True discipleship entails more than mere intellectual assent to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It means faithfully following in His footsteps.
Did you know the word for disciple and the word for discipline are both derived from the same Latin root—discipulus, which means student or pupil? It emphasizes the notion of practice or exercise. Self-discipline and self-control are supposed to be ongoing characteristics of the followers of Jesus, as exhibited by Peter, James, and John, who left everything to follow Jesus.
At its core, discipleship is primarily obedience to our Lord and Savior. It also involves purity and holiness, giving and serving, and studying God’s Word and sharing it with others.
Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24 (ESV), “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He warned in Luke 14:27 (ESV), “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
And if that wasn’t clear enough, Jesus also asserted in Luke 14:33 (ESV), “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
In the Great Commission, Christ challenged his apostles to “Go . . . 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” (Matt. 28:19-20a, ESV).
Therefore, discipleship is not to be a selfish endeavor whereby we become the sole beneficiaries of the message and blessings of the gospel. Good News ought to be shared with others. That’s why evangelism and biblical education are essential components of discipleship.
According to the New Testament, being a Christian disciple involves personal growth characterized by the following:
1. Putting Jesus first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
2. Following Jesus' teachings (John 8:31-32)
3. Bearing Fruit (John 15:5-8)
4. Loving other disciples (John 13:34-35)
5. Evangelizing the world by making disciples of others (Matt. 4:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2)
No matter what your current maturity level is in the Christian life, you have something valuable to offer. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you don't know enough or haven't been a Christian long enough to make a difference. While you may not know a lot of Bible verses, you’ve personally experienced the love of the Savior, and that’s precisely what you need to share. Enthusiasm for Jesus is contagious.
In Luke 6:40 (ESV), Jesus said, “A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher.”
The yoke and the cross are twin symbols of the Christian life. “The cross speaks of leaving the world for Christ; the yoke speaks of learning in the world from Christ. The one speaks of sacrifice; the other service. The disciple must bear both; he cannot choose to take one and leave the other” (The Prairie Overcomer).