I have been thinking a lot about being a disciple lately and what it really means to follow Jesus. I decided to look up my Bible software and see how the New Testament describes followers as Jesus. I found that it used the term disciples 282 times, believers 26 times and Christians only 3 times. This got me thinking about the terms disciple, believer and Christian.
Being the Bible geek that I am, I decided to look up the Greek words used for disciple in the New Testament too. One is math-ay-tes this means learner or pupil. The other is math-ayt-yoo-o this talks about being a student or a pupil, but also a teacher too. It is about learning and also passing it on to others.
Today I want to have a look at what the Bible says about being a disciple and what things are expected from a true follower of Christ. Here are some of the things.
1. A true disciple is willing to follow the call to discipleship
When Jesus called the first disciples we see that He came and saw the fisherman by the lake in Mark 1:17-18. He simply said to them to, Come and follow Me. We see that they heard the call, received it and simply left everything to follow. He called them to be His followers or Disciples.
In New Testament times a disciple was someone who wanted to learn from another person. You could become a disciple of a Rabbi, a Craftsman or a Philosopher. The learner would attached themselves to the person and learn the particular skill. Often the pupil had to beg over a period of time to be the apprentice. If accepted, they would watch, learn, practice and eventually do it by themselves. When the skill was fully transferred they would go on their way.
This was very different to Jesus He chose His disciples, not the other way around! He turned the whole process upside down when He chose His disciples!
As we have seen, being a disciple was about connecting with someone else to learn their ways. This is how it was for the 12 disciples that Jesus called at the beginning of His public ministry. They stayed with Him for three and a half years. The watched, learnt and were sent out to do things themselves.
Being a disciple of Jesus is about committing to a way of life and of learning and growth. It goes past just believing in something, it is more about learning to follow and to heading in a new direction full steam ahead.
2. A true disciple wants to be part of God\’s plan for their life
The Bible tells us that God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives and a disciple of Christ knows and understands this. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10, For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. The NLT says, You are God\’s masterpiece. This verse tells us that God has a great plan and purpose for our lives. He has a destiny that He planned for us before the world was made.
Because of this plan He has created us with certain gifts and abilities so we can play our part in it. Just imagine that we could have been born at any time in history, but God chose for us to be born now. We are not here by chance and we are not living at this time in history with no purpose. God has a plan and purpose for each of us and it is a great one! When we deliberately seek out God’s plan for our life and play our part in it, we find ourselves being the most happy and fulfilled as we can be in this life. Finding and following God’s plan is a big part of being a true disciple.
3. A true disciple loves and accepts others like Christ did
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. A true disciple should love God and love others.
It is interesting when we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He loved and cared for all types of people. Here are a few examples of the different groups of people Jesus spent time with. The Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Romans, Zealots, Samaritans. Jesus also had followers who were women which was unheard of for religious leaders of His time. He welcomed children. Combine this with Jesus spending time with social outcasts of the day like tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers shows that Jesus was a Saviour for all people. He didn’t discriminate. He just genuinely loved and cared for people, no matter whom they were or what they had done.
Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Loving others the Jesus way means opening ourselves up to others and to want what is best for them. It means being willing to come along side them and help them if the need arises. It is interesting that it says people will know we belong to Christ because of the love we show to others. A true disciple loves people like Jesus did.
4. A true disciple shares their resources to help others
In this life we have a choice to spend our money how we please. We can choose to save it and spend it all on ourselves or we can see ourselves as stewards of God’s resources. One of the great examples we see from the early church in Acts 4:32-37. We see that the community of believers shared their possessions and sold some things so others would not go without the basics of life.
They understood what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. We should really look out for each other and not just see this life and my journey, but our journey together. A true disciple sees the world and its needs through God’s eyes and uses their resources accordingly. A true disciple knows to store up their treasures in heaven as it tells us in Matthew 6.
5. A true disciple helps others to follow Christ
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells us to go and make disciples. This is the last words of Jesus before He returned to heaven. We are told to make Disciples, not Christians. As we saw earlier a disciple who is someone who is committed to a journey of learning, service and growth. We are called to help others start the journey of faith and life in Christ to be disciples.
A true disciple knows how great it is to know, love and serve Christ and they want to help others to follow Him too. For me personally, the day I became a Christian is the greatest day of my life. Knowing Jesus personally and asking Him into my life was a true turning point for me. My life was good, but I lacked a sense of purpose or real meaning. Now my life is full of hope, purpose and meaning and I want to share this with others. I also want to share the great love Jesus has for others too.
6. True disciples are known by Jesus and do the Father’s will
In Matthew 7:21-23 there is a section titled, “True disciples” in the NLT Bible. It says, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, “Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.” But I will reply, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.”
As I read this section of Scripture two things spring to mind. The first is that being a true follower of Jesus is about being obedient to the Father’s will. Secondly, being a true follower of Jesus is about relationship. Jesus’ words “I never knew you” shows us that it is possible to do good works and not be in relationship with Him. I can have an intellectual knowledge of God and copy what other ministers do and get good results, but a personal relationship might not exist. True disciples are obedient to the Father’s will and are in an ongoing personal relationship with the Son.
As true disciples of Jesus Christ our heart attitude should be that of a humble servant who loves God and loves others. They should try their very best to live their lives in the same way that Christ lived His. A true disciple should try to live out Jesus’ teachings in a way that blesses others and gives them a chance to follow Jesus themselves. And finally a true disciple is known by Jesus and is obedient to the Father’s will.