By Ryan Shaw
There is some confusion in the body of Christ about what a “disciple” is. Definitions are at times used having little Biblical support. It is crucial to grasp this concept for our own lives as well as for those we may lead.
Let us begin with the idea of “salvation.” Being saved is more than simply affirming a belief in the existence of God or the historic works of Christ on the cross. Even the demons believe God exists and Jesus suffered and died, more so then many professing Christians weighed down with various doubts.
Instead, for the true disciple, belief has turned into trust in this Living God and His sending of His Son to suffer in our place for the penalty of sin.
True disciples (not merely those believing in His existence) are primarily committed to knowing Him more each day. They want to know what pleases His heart and what His will is in order to align themselves with it.
We inevitably serve God by serving others, but this is not our primary goal. Instead, serving becomes a normal response of those rightly relating to the Lord on a daily basis because of the overflow of love working on the inside of us.
Our primary purpose, however, is to know Him! Jesus and all the early apostles understood, modeled and taught this. Jesus prayed for believers saying “eternal life is to know you (the Father) and His Son Jesus Christ.”
It is common for believers to mix these up. This is a scheme of Satan and always has been. He gets believers to primarily “work hard for God” apart from pursuing the heights of “knowing God.” This produces dead works and has little eternal impact on others.
Spending much time in the Word of God becomes our top priority. To know this glorious God, grow in His ways, grasp how we are meant to live and cultivate a wholehearted devotion to Him, means we abide with Him consistently through His Word. A true disciple is devoted not only to hearing God’s words, but faithfully obeying them and putting them into practice.
True discipleship means getting back to Jesus’ standards laid out in the four gospels. A straightforward reading leads us to a very different set of conclusions about what Jesus called a “disciple” then what we hear in many of our ministries today. The vast majority of what Jesus teaches is about what we are “becoming” and not what we will “do” for Him.
Jesus tells us in the Great Commission passage of Matthew 28 we are to “teach (all ethnic groups) all that I have commanded you!” His “commands” or teachings throughout the gospels are to be the focal point of how we understand true discipleship.
Jesus never promises such a road will be easy. He does, however, promise He will be with us and this life of true discipleship will produce deep satisfaction and fulfillment. For it is what God intended for us before time began.
Though it is tough, the alternative is even tougher. The Bible tells us “the way of a transgressor is hard!” All of life lived outside of pursuing the highest levels of discipleship as Jesus taught it, will leave us empty and barren on the inside. Such is a hard life no matter how “Hollywood” seems to make it appear otherwise.
True discipleship means overcoming the areas of waywardness we are prone to. It means deliberately growing and cultivating the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives.
We recognize that our lives are submitted to the greatest, wisest King that has ever lived. He has called us to live according to His eternal Kingdom now, though all around us might be opposed to such a way of living.
Lastly, a true disciple knows their life is not their own. Not only do they grasp this intellectually but their life no longer revolves around what used to matter. They are set on a new course of not seeking to do what they want, but of seeking to please Jesus above all else.