Are You a True Disciple?

 

Are You aTrue Disciple?

 Are you willing to deny yourself?

Are you willing to take up your cross?

Are you willing to follow Jesus each day?

Are you a genuine disciple of Jesus?

 

Richard Hollerman

Are you a disciple of Christ?  I don’t refer to a disciple in name only, but in reality—a disciple that follows Jesus day in and day out, through trials of life as well as victories in life?  In other words, are you a follower of the Lord Jesus, one who has acknowledged Jesus as Lord and walks with Him daily, one who takes His word seriously and sincerely seeks to please Him and obey Him in all that you say and do?

You may reply, “I’m not a disciple at all! That number was limited to twelve very special men who traveled with Jesus when He was on earth.”  It is true that many people think of the twelve apostles of Jesus and conclude that they are not at all an apostle.  However, a disciple is not particularly an apostle.  Luke writes, “[Jesus] called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them whom He also named as apostles” (Luke 6:13). Of all of the disciples of Christ, only twelve became apostles, a term that comes from the Greek apostolos, meaning “one sent forth” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  These disciples were specially chosen to be with Jesus and to be sent out to preach (Mark 3:14).  But what about a disciple?  What is a disciple and who is a disciple?

What is a disciple and who is a disciple?

The term disciple is from the Greek mathetes, which means “a learner” or “one who follows one’s teaching” (Vine).  However, it goes beyond being a learner for in New Testament times, one chose to attach himself to a person for the purpose of learning from a person’s teachings and life.  He would hear the words as well as observe the life and example of the teacher, and thus would become “like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

This shows that one could be a disciple of John the baptizer, since this would mean that one learned from John and followed his teachings (cf. Matthew 9:14).  One who followed the teachings of the Pharisees would be a disciple of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16), one who followed the teachings of Moses would be a disciple of Moses (John 9:28), and one who adhered to the teachings of Paul was called a disciple of Paul (Acts 9:25).  This would mean that a person who follows Jesus and obeys His teachings would be a disciple of the Lord Jesus.  A disciple was committed to Christ and chose to be loyal to His way of life and teachings.

People today freely confess that they are Christians, but few admit that they are disciples.  Some people also assume that everyone who is saved is a Christian but “discipleship” is only for a certain few, the elite of the Chritian faith.  Yet “Christian” and “disciple” are  terms that can be exchanged in the New Testament.  We read that “the disciples where first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Those believers who followed Jesus and His word were disciples and these disciples were called “Christians,” ones who belonged to Christ and were devoted to Him and His word.  A Christian is not merely one who claims to believe in Jesus, but also one who is committed to Jesus and sincerely follows His teachings.  Does this describe you and me?

Characteristics of a Disciple of Christ

The Bible doesn’t leave us in the dark regarding what a disciple is and who may qualify as a genuine disciple.  In fact, much is written about this very important matter.  Let’s examine some of the identification marks of a disciple of Christ.

A disciple is obedient to the faith of Christ.  A disciple is one who has committed himself to the gospel or faith of Christ.  Scripture says, “The word of God kept on spreading and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7; cf. 14:22).  When one is obedient to the faith (or believes the content of the gospel of Christ), he is a disciple or follower of Christ.  Have we sincerely committed ourselves to the gospel?  If so, we are a disciple of Jesus.

A disciple has been truly baptized into Christ Jesus.  Do you remember what has been called the “Great Commission”?  After His resurrection, Jesus said to His apostles, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).  Notice that disciples are to be made by “baptizing” them and “teaching” them.  J. W. Roberts, a Greek scholar, points out that baptizing and teaching are “circumstantial participles” that express mode: the apostles are to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them.  Those who have been baptized (immersed) into the “possession of” or into a “relationship with” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are made disciples and then they are to be taught all that Jesus commanded His disciples when He was on earth.  Notice also below.

A disciple continues in Christ’s teachings.  Another prime characteristic of a disciple is that he obeys Christ’s words.  In Matthew 28:19-20, the passage that we noticed above, Jesus said that those who have been baptized must be taught to “observe” or obey all that Jesus had commanded.  In another place, Jesus said that a disciple is one who continues in His words.  Jesus declared, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). It is one thing to initially believe in Christ’s words, but it is very important that we “continue,”  “abide,” or “remain” in those words.   Are we consistent in our total submission to the teachings of our Lord?  Do we remain faithful to His will even when it requires sacrifice on our part?  Do we submit to His teachings even when they mean we must reject deeply-rooted sins, turn from false religion, give preference to Christ above all others, and yield our will to His will?  If we do, then we manifest true discipleship.

A disciple is one who genuinely loves others.  Love is another primary trait of one who is a disciple of Jesus.  Our Lord says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  A disciple of Christ is not one who is selfish and unconcerned; rather, he is one who genuinely loves other believers (and all people)—for in this way, we display to others that we are true disciples of Jesus.

A disciple is one who loves God and Jesus supremely.  Our Lord said a very shocking thing that must have shaken His hearers in their heart.  “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).  Jesus said that to become His true disciple, one must be willing to “hate” everyone else!  In other words, our love for the Lord Jesus must be so deep and intense, so passionate and all-consuming that every other “love” seems like “hate” in comparison!  The Lord explains further in Matthew 10:37: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Our heartfelt love for Jesus is crucial if we claim to be His true follower.  Further, Jesus said that the greatest command is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  Love for God and for Christ, therefore, are primary in the disciple of Jesus.

A disciple also is one who is fruit-bearing.  We know that a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit and through this filling he is able to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), as well as righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9).  Jesus made this connection when he said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8).  We demonstrate our discipleship when we manifest God’s fruit in our life.  Personal characteristics and good deeds will fill our life when we are disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus.

A disciple is one who denies himself.  The Lord Jesus plainly said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  We are living in a very self-indulgent age for most people do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and how they want to do it.  People don’t discipline themselves to say No and change their life according to what they know to be right.  They are addicted to drink, tobacco, drugs, food, music, sleep, entertainment, and dozens of other addictions.  Jesus said that if we wish to follow Him, as a disciple, we need to say No to ourselves!  Jesus shakes us from our self-indulgent apathy by saying that we must “hate” our own life (Luke 14:26) or “hate” our own “life in this world” (John 12:25).  This means that we must turn from following the flesh and our self-will and begin to follow Jesus and His will  Do we do this?

A disciple must be willing to carry his cross.  Not only must we deny ourselves, but we must also carry our cross.  Our Lord declared, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).  A cross in the first century was an instrument of execution.  To carry one’s cross means that we must be willing to lay down our life for Christ and be willing to suffer persecution, hardship, and trials to follow the Lord as a disciple.  We must “die” to our self and sin and even be willing to die physically if need be.  Most people want to take the path of least resistance, follow the indulgent path, and have an easy and pleasant experience.  Jesus says that we must be willing to die for Him.  We must realize that suffering is part of living for Christ (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).

A disciple must actively follow Jesus.  In Luke 9:23 and 14:27, we saw that one must deny himself and take up his cross of discipleship.  We must also “follow” Jesus by giving full allegiance to Him and His teachings.  Christ said, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).  When Jesus was alive, His disciples literally followed Him from place to place and also literally heard Him speak to people.  In our day, we also must “follow” Jesus spiritually and we too “hear” Jesus as we allow Him to speak through the written words of Scripture (Hebrews 1:1-2; Colossians 3:16).  When we follow the Lord Jesus, we will “walk in the same manner as He walked” and keep Christ’s words (1 John 2:3-6).

A disciple must seek the things above.  Jesus said, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  Is this what we do?  Are spiritual things our first choice?  Or do we have other priorities?  Paul put it this way: “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  The enemies of Christ’s cross “set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19), but those who genuinely trust Him set their minds on spiritual, heavenly, and eternal things.  Does this describe you and me?

A disciple must forsake all for Christ.  The Lord Jesus plainly said, “None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33).  This speaks of complete and uncompromising surrender of all that one is and has.  This was fulfilled literally when Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples.  He commanded, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).  Their response: “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (v. 18).  He also called James and John, who likewise left their occupation and followed Jesus (v.20).  In a very real sense, we too must leave everything behind—our plans, our lifestyle, our own independent way of living, and anything in our life that would displease our Lord.  Jesus deserves all and He demands all.  He may allow us to use certain possessions, but we will never actually own them as we did before coming to Christ.  Jesus will become our “all”—our very life (Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:4).

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Have we spoken to you in this little booklet?  Have you clearly seen what a true disciple of Jesus really is?  Are you willing to answer Christ’s call to salvation and discipleship?  It’s true!  You can be an actual follower of the Lord Jesus in our own day.

If you wish to follow Jesus, realize your own sin and its disastrous results of death and hell.  Be willing to repent and turn from all of your sin and self-life (Acts 3:19; 17:30-31).  Believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:6; John 3:16) and trust in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross to forgive you (Romans 5:6-11).  Believe that Jesus rose from the dead to be a living Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10).  Die to your sin and be raised from the waters of baptism to live a new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-11, 22-23).  Read your Bible to know what God wants for your life.  If we may help you, we urge you to write to learn more about what is involved in true discipleship to Jesus.

 

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