Are you a Christian searching for more and asking, “What is discipleship?”
When you read the Bible, do you discover a stark contrast between the powerful lives led by Jesus’ disciples and your own?
Perhaps you have been ‘born again,’ but you have yet to see the fruit of the abundant life that you have read about in the Scriptures. Perhaps you have not yet encountered the secret to supernatural success in the Kingdom of God. There is victory promised by God in His Word for the life of every believer.
Have you not yet experienced this victory that is promised to every disciple of Jesus Christ? If not, chances are you have not yet been ‘made a disciple,’ or a disciplined follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is discipleship? – My friends, the key to success in Christ is the discipline that the Scriptures bring to center every believer in the victorious abundant life that sets you free from the evils and perils of this world.
What ever happened to the great commission?
If Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead and proclaimed victory over death, hell, and the grave, why do so many Christians look just like the world, living defeated lives? Many people have heard of the Great Commission in Bible study or in a church sermon. Just as Jesus, Himself, is the only way, truth, and life, and no one can come to the Father but through Him (Jn 14:6), Jesus instituted the standard for how to follow Him. That standard is called discipleship, and we read about it in Matthew 28:18-20 after Jesus rose from the dead and is speaking to His disciples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In this passage, we see Jesus as Commander and Chief with all authority over heaven and earth. He gives orders to His followers to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commands. The word “obedience” in this day and age has become almost like a curse word. However, Jesus teaches that in order to be set free to follow Him and live the life He has called for you to live, you must obey His commands.
Read the Q & A below to find out what discipleship is and to know what Biblical discipleship looks like today for the Christian.
Q: What is discipleship, and why is it necessary?
A: Discipleship is an integral part of the growth of the Christian today. It is the process of leading others by example to follow Jesus Christ through obedience to God’s word and the leading of His Holy Spirit.
Discipleship is absolutely necessary since Jesus, Himself, commanded His followers in the Bible to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all of His commands (Matt 28:19-20). Just as a son grows up to reflect the values and characteristics of his parent, so the disciple should reflect the life of Christ as he follows the example of the person discipling him. That is why the Apostle Paul could say with confidence in 1 Corinthians 11:1
Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ
Q: Can I disciple myself?
A: If someone were to suggest that you have your daughter educate herself from kindergarten to twelfth grade instead of going to school, you would call me crazy. If a person suggested that your son should learn to potty-train himself, you would say that is crazy. How far would a child excel who wanted to learn to play soccer without ever joining a team or learning from a soccer coach? Why then do people think a brand new Christian, one who is a spiritual new-born in the sight of God, can teach himself outside of the Godly instruction in the Church? A person cannot disciple him or herself. Again, the Great Commission of Jesus Christ clearly commands the disciples of Jesus Christ to “go” and “make” other disciples, “teaching” them to obey all that Jesus commands. Just as Jesus developed a relationship over time in which His disciples observed, experienced, and learned His ways and commands in every aspect of life, so disciples today must do the same for others.
Q: How do I become a disciple?
A: To become a disciple means to become a life-long learner, a student of Jesus Christ. Followers of Christ will always be disciples, and after proper discipleship, they become makers of disciples. The discipleship process begins internally, within the heart. The internal change that takes place in the heart results in the external change of one’s behavior, mindset, and lifestyle. This external change is indisputable once the love of the Lord Jesus Christ enters a heart; as a result, a person that was once angry, bitter, and selfish is now joyful, peaceful, and loving. A true disciple counts the costs before committing to follow Jesus Christ, since this is the greatest life decision a person could ever make (Luke 14:27-30).
Q: How is Church discipline related to discipleship?
A: It is impossible to talk about discipleship without talking about discipline. One cannot fall in love with Jesus Christ without falling at His feet (Walters, 2011). When you think of a disciplined person, you might think of an Olympic athlete or academic scholar. Yet none of these compares to the discipline demonstrated by Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated the highest form of discipline through perfect obedience to His Father, which always proved to be stronger than His human desires for anything else (i.e. Jesus tempted in the desert in Luke 4). Though we could never become as disciplined as Jesus Christ, He gives us the grace to say ‘no’ to ungodliness (Titus 2:12). A true disciple embraces the correction that leads him daily to be perfected in the faith and to daily be transformed into the likeness and image of God. The Scriptures describe this as training in righteousness, so that the believer may become like a disciplined soldier, competent and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). Through this training, the disciple becomes steadfast and faithful in his walk with God. Not only does this lead to restoration and tremendous success in the life of the disciple, but it also enables the disciple to then learn to make other disciples and, in doing so, fulfill the Great Commission and impact generations for God. Truly, there is great honor and reward for those who come into discipleship.
Q: Who should disciple someone?
A: The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit would be our teacher, as stated in 1 John 2:27
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
This Scripture speaks to those who have studied the Word and are mature in the Word of God. Erroneously, many believe that because they receive the Holy Spirit upon conversion, they need no other teachers. However, the Great Commission refutes that, as well as the teachings of the disciples and even the conversion of Paul, who subjected what he learned from the Holy Spirit to the leaders of the church and received approval and assistance from them to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is given upon conversion but the convert also must grow with the instruction of the word and with a more mature Spirit-led believer who has been grounded in the power and the love of God. This causes the Holy Spirit power in a new believer to slowly grow and to mature. A mature disciple must produce other disciples like himself, thereby fulfilling John 15:16 where Jesus said, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… The mature Christian must be tested and proven genuine against the Word of God to those who call themselves teachers. Today, many who feel that they know the Scriptures call themselves teachers, but the Bible is clear that a teacher or true disciple must have borne fruit after Himself. This is where Paul stated, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1 NASB).
Q: How long does it take to disciple someone?
A: There is no time limit on discipleship because it is an investment into someone’s life. Just as a parent is entrusted with the life-long responsibility of raising a child in order to ensure the child’s well-being and success, one who disciples is committed to guiding newborn believers in reaching their greatest potential. Furthermore, children must go through stages of growth and development learning to imitate the values and principles taught by their parents. Similarly, new disciples also must be purposefully guided in the Word of God with the intent of leading them into maturity in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, discipleship is a life-long process that evolves and never ends.
Q: What are the results of effective discipleship?
A: The reward of implementing true discipleship is immeasurable and invaluable; the result is a life that is no longer conformed to the ways of this world, but transformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. The disciple becomes the light of the world and the salt of the earth, because Jesus Christ is Lord of that person’s life. As a result of the discipleship process, disciples possess peace in the midst of the chaos of the world, hope instead of despair, and joy instead of mourning that is established in their relationship with Jesus Christ. God equips His church with mature leaders so that …we will no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… (Ephesians 4:14-15).
10 Blessings for the True Disciple
Below is just a snapshot of the blessings of the abundant life that God offers in Scripture to those who learn to love God and obey His commandments above all else:
- PURPOSE – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11).
- DIRECTION – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Prov 3:5-6).
- STRENGTH – I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13).
- COMPETENCE – For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).
- PEACE – Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt 11:29).
- SATISFACTION – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
- POWER – Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and the will do even greater things than these, because I am (John 14:12).
- RELATIONSHIP – Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20).
- ETERNAL LIFE – And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
- LEGACY – Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands(Deut 7:9).
References for “What is Discipleship?”
Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously (1 Cor. 5:1-13). True Spirituality: A Study in I Corinthians. Bible.org., 2013. Web 2 Jul. 2014.
English Standard Version.Open Bible.info. Web. 3 Jul. 2014.
New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 2 Jul. 2014.
New Living Translation.Bible Hub. Web. 3 Jul. 2014.
Walters, M. “No Discipline, No Disciple.” Christian Worldview Journal (2011): Web. 3 July 2014.