I recently heard of some Christians who wanted to be discipled. Many Christians would think they are naturally disciples of Jesus because they simply believe in him. In thinking about this, a few scriptures I knew seemed to teach that a person may be a saved Christian but not be a disciple of Christ. Why is this?Second Corinthians 5:10 says that “we (Christians) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his (or her) deeds in the body, according to what he (or she) has done, whether good or bad.” If this is so, how would you or I feel about this day? Disciples of Jesus need not dread or fear that day, for it is a day they are to be commended and rewarded for what they have done that pleased him. Again, we ask, “Does being a saved Christian make you a disciple?” In First Corinthians 3 we are told that each of us will receive his or her own reward according to our own labor. We are told that believers will either receive a reward for their work, or they will suffer loss, yet not lose their salvation. Elsewhere in scripture, First John 2:28, we learn that some believers will shrink away from him in shame at his coming. Would a true disciple of Jesus shrink away from him in shame at his coming or suffer loss from a lack of proper service? I say this not to guilt people, but to get us to think. Knowing there is coming a day when we give account of ourselves to the Lord, how do we respond? Certainly not out of fear and working to earn his approval. We do not serve Christ so that he will reward us. We do not try and earn his acceptance. We already have his acceptance, and his love, and his forgiveness, and his righteousness, plus more. Therefore, because of his great love in saving us and in giving us all these blessings, our motivation for serving him is love for him. We don’t have to earn anything since we already have everything. As said in Second Corinthians 5:14, “the love of Christ controls us”, and as said in First John 4:18, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” True disciples of Jesus serve him out of love. We must discover and be convinced by our own study of God’s word, “What does it mean to become, not just a Christian, but a disciple of Jesus?” I share the following thoughts for your consideration.
First, being a disciple means that we believe in Jesus and have accepted his invitation to follow him. At some point in life, we felt a great need or burden that we were longing to have met. We encountered Jesus and experienced his love in his satisfying our longing. If something like that has happened to us, then following Jesus became a reasonable life-long commitment based on what he said or did for us. A follower of Jesus has come out of his or her darkness and into the light. Jesus asks us to enter into a relationship of trusting him, of putting our faith in him, and following him. When we trusted our lives into the hands of Jesus, at some point, he performed a miracle within us. He baptized us with his Holy Spirit. This is the promise of Jesus to all who put their faith in him to save them. A prophet named John the Baptist came preaching a message to prepare people to receive the love and forgiveness of Jesus. John said, Mark 1:8, “I baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” What does this baptism do for us. It causes us to be born into God’s family and it gives us a new heart to want to serve Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These things: putting our faith in him, accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow him, and being baptized and having a changed heart by his Spirit, are the beginnings of becoming his disciple.
Second, becoming a disciple of Jesus means being a life-long learner of all he wants to teach us. The word “disciple” means “learner.” A disciple is one who learns all he or she can about who Jesus is and what he wants us to be and do. Jesus said in Luke 6:40 that “a pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” In other words, we are being trained to become like Jesus. Originally, God created us in His image. That image was marred by our sin and corruption. In Christ we become a new creation and God is restoring His image in us by helping us to become like Jesus. When we display Christ’s character of love, kindness, patience, goodness, and so forth, we are showing the people around us what God is like. Part of becoming like Jesus involves learning all we can in the Bible about who God is and who we are. Also, we cannot become like Jesus without relying on God’s gracious help, and the help of other Christians. Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.” The Bible reminds us not to forsake being with other believers, for they encourage us and help us to be accountable. By loving one another and submitting to one another we gain a measure of the fulness of Christ. God also tests our faith through the good and bad experiences of our daily lives. As we properly respond to those trials, we are learning to be more like Jesus. In those happenings we are being trained up to exhibit Godly character and endurance in overcoming the problems life brings to all of us.
Third, becoming a disciple of Jesus means we join him in his mission. We all differ in our relationship with Christ and are at different places in our journey with him, but sooner or later we use whatever giftedness he gives us to get involved in his work. The Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, lays out God’s plan to redeem his world. He wants us to partner with him in making that happen. There are many ways to be a part of his plan. Jesus was not only the exact representation of what God is like, he also went about doing good. To join him in doing good means we are loving people by meeting their needs, and we are also overcoming the evils of this world. The greatest mission of Christ is to bring lost and hurting people into God’s Kingdom so they can be healed and have the new life that never dies. Jesus disciples were commanded to make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the triune God, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. One of the best ways we can get involved in Jesus’ mission is to join forces with believers in the church.
What is it that prevents a Christian from becoming a disciple of Jesus? God doesn’t destroy our freedom of will. The Bible says Christians can choose to resist and grief God’s Spirit. They get involved in the ways of the world, do not get serious about digging into God’s word, and do not love joining in fellowship with other believers. They blame and fall away from God when bad things happen to them. God gives believers a new heart by putting His Spirit into them. Picture a throne in the center of your heart. On that throne can be the big “I” which is yourself, or it can be Jesus who rules your life. It is normal to fluctuate between the two, but the more we allow Jesus to reign in us, that is what makes the difference on whether or not we become a trustworthy disciple. In the next age, when Jesus returns to be King over this earth, the Bible clearly says that we will rule with him. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant, you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).