Matt. 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Matt. 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matt. 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
I want to draw your attention to verse 19 above out of what we call the “Great Commission”. When you take time to hear the mandate that Jesus gave His followers you realize what His primary focus was for all of mankind. There is great emphasis on getting people born again, and I am all for that, but what Jesus was focused on was something more than just a born again experience. One must be born again to become a disciple, but you can be born again and not actually be what scripture reveals a disciple of Christ is.
In a day when there is much debate and argument it seems between different parts of the body of Christ about what some believe is being legalistic or not, we just need to do our best to continue to look to our relationship with Christ and His Word so that we can not only get to know Him better, but keep making Him known. Scripture is defined as that which is God-breathed and therefore should be a vital part of our life in developing our walk with God. So I am going to look to what the Word of God clearly defines as a disciple of Christ and share that with you.
A key element here to mention as well is what our focus is on. What you aim at you will hit every time. If you aim and nothing that is what you will get. Our aim should be on what Christ declared the goal was. He commissioned His church to go and make disciples so we should not be focused on just winning souls. If our goal is focused on what He declared was the purpose for the church, then our goal should be to both become a disciple and to make disciples which obviously includes getting people born again. When the focus is to just get people born again we sell people short of who they can become.
John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The first element we will look at that defines what a disciple is can be found here in John chapter 8. Many quote John 8:32, that if we know the truth the truth will set us free, but this is in relation to what Jesus stated in verse 31. Jesus said if you abide in His Word you are His disciples indeed. One who abides in the Word is going to know the truth and that truth will bring liberty to their life. But the key is abiding in the Word of the Lord. So it can be said that if one is not abiding in the Word they are not a disciple of Jesus Christ. As you will see you can be born again but not a disciple of Christ and the goal is to become what Christ said we could be.
The word for abide means to cleave or hold fast to something. A disciple is going to cleave and hold fast to the teachings of Jesus Christ. One translation says, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples.” To do this we must of course abide or live in the Words of Christ, but we must then also apply what He taught consistently. Don’t let people tell you that reading the Word of God and applying it is not that important as long as you love the Lord. Jesus said if you love Me you will obey my commandments. What Jesus taught in how we should live our life was not a suggestion, but from His perspective a commandment. He did so for our benefit and for the benefit of helping others.
The confusion for some has been that when anyone speaks of obeying God’s Word that is immediately perceived as a form of religious bondage or legalism. When we look to the Word as a part of how we learn to relate to our God and desire to honor Him by honoring His Word that is not legalism. Legalism is when one thinks by their own merit they can become right with God. The gift of righteousness is just that, a gift that cannot be earned. But once you receive this gift of righteousness you now have the God-given ability to be transformed on the outside. That happens as we look to God’s Word (our mirror) and begin to learn how to relate to God and walk in what is good for our life which is doing things God’s way. That is liberty not legalism.
Luke 14:26 “If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”
Here in Luke we have another element that reveals what a disciple of Christ is like. In many translations it is stated that you must hate your father and mother, wife and children, etc., but that would of course go against what we know Jesus taught about loving others. Here the NLT gives us a little better insight as to what the original Greek says. Jesus tells us that we cannot love others more than we love Him, for if we do then we cannot be His disciple. I want to emphasis again this does not mean you may not be born again; therefore being a disciple has to do with more that just receiving salvation.
What is interesting here is that Jesus uses family relations to relate this truth. As a pastor going on 22 years in ministry I have seen this unfortunately far too many times. To love others more than Jesus means that even if I know what Jesus said is true, even if I know in my heart that Jesus brought me to a church where He wants me, even if I know that He has given me a ministry to fulfill, I choose instead to allow my parents, spouse, or children to determine what I will do instead of Jesus. Stop and think about this for a minute. If being a disciple is what Jesus died and paid for then shouldn’t we be dealing with ourselves to become what He paid for?
I know how easy it is to have selective hearing for I, no different than anyone else, have to deal with this in my own life as well when I hear something preached or read truth from the Word that I may not be applying. For example if someone knows that God’s Word says that they should not forsake assembling with the church body and yet they will allow a spouse to determine if they go to church or not, then they are not living the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
You see this issue often with people who have children. Statics prove that roughly around 70% of people who have children determine where they go to church based on where their children want to go, not based on where the Holy Spirit leads them to go. One reason for this is because parents may not be fulfilling the responsibility to teach their children the things of God and they want the church to do so. Can you imagine where you would eat if you allowed your children to make that decision for every meal? Yet the most important decision in your life is where you will get fed spiritually and our children should not be making that decision nor influencing their parent’s decision, they should hear from God. If we are disciples of Jesus then we place our obedience to Him above all others in our life.
Luke 14:27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Another attribute of a disciple of Christ is one who carries their own cross and follows after Jesus. To carry your own cross means that you carry out what is God’s will for your own life. You must work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. In the days of Jesus when one was crucified they were made to carry their own cross. Going to the cross was a part of Jesus fulfilling Gods’ will for His life. For us to fulfill God’s will for our life we must work out our own salvation. I can’t live off of someone else’s faith or study of the Word of God. I must learn to walk on my own to feet as a believer and develop my own personal relationship with Him.
Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—
Luke 14:29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
Luke 14:30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
One who becomes a disciple of Jesus is also willing to forsake all that he has to become His. To do this as I have emphasized in verse 28 above you must count the cost. Jesus said what good would it do you if you gained the whole world and yet forfeited your soul? The more spiritually mature you become the less focus you have on the things of this life. There is far too much emphasis placed today on getting more things with our faith. I will be the first to tell you God loves us and desires to bless us, but our focus should be on Him, not on how He will get me more things. The relationship is the focus, not what we can get because of our relationship with God. You cannot serve God and mammon.
John 13:35 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].
Another key element of a disciple is the love they have for one another. This to can be easily misunderstood as well. We are told to speak the truth in love. If you love people one of the ways you show that love is in telling them the truth. If they are being misled through deception or false teaching you tell them the truth because you love them. To walk in love means we walk in truth for God is love, and He is the Word; and God’s Word is truth. We should show the same compassion Jesus did in all we do. This comes from yielding to the Holy Spirit within for the love of God is a fruit of the Spirit.
These are most of the elements of a disciple of Christ. Simply put, to become one we need to fall head over heals in love with Jesus, and pursue Him with all we have. The more we get to know Him the more He will rub off on us. Walking in the light of His Word helps us to become who He died and paid for us to be, His disciples!
See You Again Next Week For More “Weekly Wisdom”
May God’s Best Be Yours!
Pastor Darryl Baker