Introduction

How does one become a disciple of Jesus Christ?  What is a disciple of Jesus Christ?  What are the specific requirements for a disciple of Jesus Christ?  THe answers to those questions and more is the objective of this article.  We will use the Holy Scriptures to answer the questions about discipleship.  We are not going to refer to tradition, denominational doctrines, dogma, or church teachings for the answers because those are skewed by man’s understaninding and bias.  We are going to look to God to reveal to us what a disiple of Jesus Christ is and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

Discipleship Defined

The word disciple means a student, learner, or pupil.  In the Bible the word is used most often to refer to the follower of Jesus.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines a disciple as “Someone who follows another person or another way of life and who submits himself to the discipline (teaching) of that leader or way”

Consider the following scripture.

John 8:31-32 (NKJV) — {31} Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. {32} And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

There are a few things that we see here that are part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  1. A disciple is a believer.  One cannot be a disciple of Christ if one is not a believer in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  2. A disciple abides in the word of Jesus Christ.  A disciple is first and foremost a Christian who has conformed into the Way of Jesus’ teachings.  A disciple knows the word of God and abides by it.
  3. A disciple knows the truth, which makes them free.  A disciple knows the truth, namely Jesus and is free because of that knowledge.  The liberty of the disciple is attributed to his or her inclusion of God in their lives.

Some other points about discipleship are given below.

  1. There is a cost of discipleship – Luke 14:25-33
  2. Jesus had many disciples – Luke 10:1 (The seventy disciples)
  3. Jesus empowering of His disciples – Matthew 10:1

 

Components of Discipleship

Read Matthew 4:18-22.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

There are at least four components of discipleship.  This is by no means an all inclusive list, but just one list for the purposes of this discussion.

  1. Personal attachment to Jesus
  2. Surrender to Jesus’ will
  3. Acceptance of the Mission you are given
  4. Doing what is required

Personally Attached to Jesus Christ

  • Jesus personally called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples.  They literally dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus Christ.  The point here is that Jesus personally interacted with them and personally chose them to learn from Him and eventually perpetuate those teachings.
  • We probably will not hear a personal call to discipleship as the disciples and Paul did.  However, we can spiritually respond to the call to discipleship.  Remember that Jesus told His disciples to make disciples of all nations and to teach the nations to observe everything that He taught them (See Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Our relationship with Christ must be personal.  We cannot genuinely respond to the call if we do not have a personal commitment to Christ.

 

Surrender to His Will

We must give up what is necessary to follow Jesus and carry out his mission for our lives.  We have to surrender to Jesus’ will over and above our own personal desires and aspiration.  I should say that I do believe that some of our desires are a direct result of the purpose that God places in us. For Peter, Andrew, James, and John this meant a vocational shift of significant proportions. Perhaps it meant that father Zebedee had to look elsewhere for heirs to his business.

For us it means yielding—perhaps even our career choices (See James 4:13-17) This doesn’t mean that everyone who responds to the call of Christ for salvation and service must enter vocational labor for Christ, but it does mean that we are willing to if that is what He wants.

In Christianity, the first pre-requisite for discipleship is to deny self. Consider the following scripture.

Luke 14:25-33 (NKJV) — {25} Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, {26} “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. {27} And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. {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— {29} lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, {30} saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ {31} Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? {32} Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. {33} So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

I must point out here that it is very important that a personal relationship with Christ is established else we cannot really submit to His will.  The reason for that is that we would not really know His will if we do not have a personal relationship with Christ.  It is very important that discipleship is not a mere religious activity or pursuit, but a response and lifestyle to a real calling on your life.

 

Acceptance of His Mission

Of course, in order to submit to the Will of Christ and actually live according to it, we must accept the mission that we have as disciples.  Disciples learn and then do what he or she has learned according to the will of God.  For the disciples that Jesus personally chose, that meant to start fishing for people.

For us, it means to fish for people too.  We must remember that the ultimate goal or purpose of Jesus was to bring God’s people back into right relationship with the Father.  We may not leave our jobs to evangelize the world as the disciples of Jesus Christ did in the first century AD.  However, we still can do effectively the same thing by doing or acting upon the specific calling that God has placed in us or acting on the opportunities of ministry that God places before us.

Not everyone will be a preacher by vocation.  Not everyone will be a traveling evangelist or missionary.  However, all Christians have the Holy Spirit in them and because of the word that we have in us (if indeed you learn the word of God) then you can minister to people around you in everyday situations through the personal relationships that you develop.

 

Doing What is Required

We have thus far said that a disciple must have a personal attachment to Jesus Christ, surrender to Jesus’ will, and accept the mission of discipleship.  Another very important component to discipleship is “doing.”  We must do what we were called and equipped to do as Jesus’ disciples. In Christianity, there is one word for all of this: GO! The calling of Jesus’ disciples prepared them for their short term missions trip that we find in Matthew Chapter 10.  This, in turn, prepared them for the great commission that they would have later in Matthew chapter 28.

God calls us to Himself so that He can send us out.  God is still very much active in calling people to himself.  God is constantly calling and sending disciples to spread the word and make more disciples.

 

Conclusion

The call to discipleship demands total commitment to Christ.  It demands the following.

  1. That we develop a personal relationship with Christ
  2. That we learn from Christ since a disciple is indeed a learner
  3. That we abide by (live by) the word of Jesus Christ
  4. That we submit to the will of God
  5. That we accept the mission that is given to us
  6. That we do what we were called to do

A disciple of Jesus Christ is not a mere religious nomenclature.  It is a real calling and a real lifestyle.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is a blow-horn for the gospel in whatever way that God has developed such blow-horn for each individual.

Are you a disciple of Christ?  Do you believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  Do you abide by His word?  If so then have you surrendered your will in order to submit to His will for you?  I challenge you to examine your life and see if you are living up to the call on your life.

What obstacles hinder you from doing what God has called you to do?  What obstacles hinder you from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others?  Perhaps you don’t know enough or don’t think that you do.  Well start with what you know and learn more.  Spend time with the Lord.  Read your Bible and pray.  Study your Bible and discuss it with other Christians that you know are disciples. Don’t allow anything to hinder your calling.

Make time to do what God wants.  We have to change our priorities so that we can do what God wants.  God will not backhand you from heaven if you do not do what He wants.  You will, however, know if you are on the wrong track so to speak.  You will know when God is calling you one way and you are going another.  So evaluate your life and submit to the call of discipleship and just do it.  Amen.

 


A Call To Discipleship
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
for Sunday December 4, 2005
Scripture Lesson: Matthew 4:18-22