Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Webster dictionary Definition of disciple:
1- someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person
2- one of a group of 12 men who were sent out to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ
I find some of the Bible to be quite counter-intuitive. Let me illustrate that from the second definition above. Judas was one of the 12 disciples Jesus called but when his own agenda and expectations did not work out, he hanged himself in remorse, rather than return to Jesus in repentance to experience reconciliation and restoration. In a similar manner, Jesus met so many needs that multitudes were attracted to follow him, but he often taught with tough words which seem intended to dissuade his followers from continuing with him as disciples. Here are a couple of examples.
Luke 14:26 (GNT) Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.
Luke 14:27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
The majority of his followers left him after his following hard saying in John 6 where he contrasted his superiority to manna from heaven. Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
And then there were those disciples who were somewhat in the shadows until they boldly stepped forward to risk their necks like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Nicodemus especially shows me how patient planting of the gospel seed can later produce a bold disciple, as planted by Jesus in John three. As we will note in this book, a disciple is known by the one he follows and serves, and by his master’s effect on his actions and fruit.
Matthew 27:57 [ Jesus Buried in Joseph’s Tomb ] Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.
John 19 Jesus Buried in Joseph’s Tomb
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
A disciple is also defined as a learner, a pupil, one who comes to be taught.
The relationship between the disciple and his teacher is not merely that of a student listening to a lecturer, or a passively interested listener. A disciple listens with attention and intention. He drinks in every word of his teacher, marking every inflection of voice with an intense desire to apply what has been learned. A popular belief in the field of teaching is that teaching has not really occurred until the student is able to apply and do that lesson for himself (i.e. learning by doing).
Jesus believed in, and exemplified this learning principle. He put all his eggs in the basket of investing in disciples who would in turn invest in other disciples after he was gone from this world. As Armin Gesswein says, all Jesus left behind when he departed this world was a prayer meeting. By living with his disciples for three years they saw “God in the flesh,” Emmanuel, demonstrating obedience to the Father every day. He also taught them as they traveled and observed, and he answered their questions. Although they did not comprehend most of this while he was with them, he had planted seeds of discipleship which would bear much fruit after their obedience to unified prayer in the upper room, and the promised presence of the Holy Spirit to break the scales off of their spiritual eyes. Patient showing and telling, leaving the choice to obey and do to the disciples, and the results to the Father, is the essence of making disciples, as demonstrated to us by Jesus.
As a disciple of Christ, I cannot cling to a single sin and pretend that I am following Him. In the place of those sins, I can enjoy walking in fellowship and friendship with God, living a holy and happy life.
In other words, I must no longer allow secular and worldly philosophy to color my thinking and living. "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold" (Romans 12:2 Phillips).
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I must pay the price of this world's friendship. I will be laughed at for my convictions, mocked for my beliefs, and scorned for trying to live by what the Bible teaches. At the same time, in place of the world's friendship, I will have God's.
We all have ideas of what we want to do and who we want to be. These are not evil or wrong. Still, I must be willing to give them up if asked to do so by the Lord. And in the place of those flawed plans, I will have God's perfect plan for my life.
Yes, there is a cost to discipleship, but what we gain in the place of the things we give up is infinitely better.
The disciple is the one to whom God reveals more as that individual drinks in His every Word, marking the inflection of His voice with the desire to obey.
The disciple is the one who lives the Christian life in all its fullness, receiving all God has for him.
To the disciple, each new day is a fresh opportunity to walk with God.
To the disciple, life has definite purpose and direction. It is life abundant.
It costs to follow Jesus Christ, but it costs more not to. If you are settling for anything short of discipleship, you are missing out.
This next subsection gives us a chance to review some of the main ingredients that most disciples of Jesus share in common, and to reflect on what this means to us personally.
As we continue to sharpen our focus on discipleship we need to personally focus on what that means to each one of us. We know that Jesus prayed and invited 12 disciples to “come follow me and I will turn you into fishers of men.” Amazingly to me these unlearned men immediately (without excuses or equivocation) left the fishing nets, lucrative tax collecting, homes and familiar comfort zones to “follow the Master” and learn from Him as His disciple. They spent time (24x7x3 years) with Him. His leadership style was to show and tell, but much differently than most of us would do. There is no substitute for personal time spent together in discipleship.
For example, Jesus showed (demonstrated) things like prayer with such recognizable results that after awhile, they asked Him, “teach us to pray.” He then succinctly verbalized a model prayer as a template example to guide their prayers. In contrast to the way Jesus did it, most of us would likely have called a meeting to discuss prayer or have started a class or lecture series on prayer.
He told them truth mostly as it came up during their travels and discussions. Often such teaching came when He needed to correct their thinking, speaking, or action, i.e. offering opportunity for them to make personal changes to get back on track. He was willing to patiently repeat such teaching and give examples and stories (simple parables taken from everyday life) that you could only miss if you were set in your own ways (and motives) in opposition to God.
Many of us would agree that a disciple follows his mentor or master to learn from him in order to become more like him, including becoming more able to achieve results similar to his teacher. Jesus’ disciples at first had major difficulty understanding His goals and objectives since they often got hung up on their own earthly purposes that obscured what He was teaching about spiritual things. Especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus promises that disciple and disciple-making fruit comes as a result of disciples “abiding in Him and His love” and He and His word “abiding in us.” This is similar to the Hebrews 4 instructions about resting (ceasing from our own works), believing or trusting in Jesus and His word, and lastly partnering (yoked together) wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, and energetically with Him as we “strive to enter into His rest” of seeing and doing His will.
So at this point let’s stop and consider how we each became interested in being a disciple of Jesus; have we received any “calling” to follow Him; what intensity do we feel about this (e.g. where does discipleship fit in our list of personal priorities); and what are one or two main objectives we are focused on in our discipleship? I recommend that you take time to consider each of these questions and think, pray, and journal your personal answers. For those who do this, this will make a good referral for you later in order to observe your own spiritual journey and progress, starting when you finish this book.
You love God, and you want to follow Him. Now you have to choose:
To live for yourself or to deny yourself.
To ignore the cross or to take it up.
To seek to save your life and ultimately lose it, or to lose (or invest) your life and ultimately find it.
To gain the world or to forsake the world.
To lose your soul or to keep it.
Though our numbers as disciples are small, we must press on and stand together. God may purge our ranks, but it is only to make us stronger as we pursue His plan and purpose to make an impact upon our world.