Becoming Christ's Disciple


The simplest definition of a disciple is a learner or follower. Socrates had disciples, John the Baptist had disciples, and Gandhi had disciples. But to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is unique; it involves much more than following any human leader. Jesus’ followers were invited into a special relationship with amazing privileges and opportunities.

Jesus Has Invited You to an Incomparable Relationship

Jesus distinctively describes His role as master.

12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” John 15:12-16 CSB

From the verses above, what were some of the privileges and opportunities for Jesus’ disciples?

In Hebrews 13:5-6, God promises this will be a special relationship.

5 Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 Therefore, we may boldly say,
The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6 CSB

How do you feel about God’s promise as you commit yourself to Him?

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." Luke 14:25-33 NIV

Verses 26-27 tell us why this type of relationship is not for everyone.
What considerations does each potential disciple need to make?
Why do you think Jesus does not want any competing influences?

To more fully understand the use of the word hate in verse 26, consider Matthew 10:37.

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39 NIV

How do you respond to the intensity of Jesus’ challenge?

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot

According to the following verses, what responses does Jesus say should distinguish the lives of His disciples?

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32 NASB95

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NASB95

8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:8-10 NASB95

So in the time of the disciples, someone who called you a follower of Christ would expect to see your life busy about relationship and reformation. This identity was so clear in Christ’s day that calling someone a follower would be no different from saying to someone, ‘He’s a trucker’ or ‘She’s a doctor.’ It defined the privilege and responsibility of their role as followers. It spoke volumes about who they were and explained why they lived, thought, and acted as they did. Dr. Joseph Stowell, Following Christ

Christ’s Disciple Is a Learner

Jesus was a lifelong learner.

46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46 NKJV

During His ministry we see Him urging His disciples to “learn this lesson from the fig tree.”

32 “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.” Matthew 24:32 CSB

The writer of Hebrews said of Christ’s life on earth:

8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8 LSB

Solomon wrote many of the proverbs to those who want to learn. It is vital to remain teachable throughout your life here on this earth.

11 I am teaching you the way of wisdom;
I am guiding you on straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hindered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction; don’t let go.
Guard it, for it is your life. Proverbs 4:11-13 CSB

20 My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings.
21 Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life.
24 Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly,
and don’t let your lips talk deviously.
25 Let your eyes look forward;
fix your gaze straight ahead.
26 Carefully consider the path for your feet,
and all your ways will be established.
27 Don’t turn to the right or to the left;
keep your feet away from evil. Proverbs 4:20-27 CSB

We can learn from many sources.

From fathers.

1 Listen, sons, to a father’s discipline,
and pay attention so that you may gain understanding, … Proverbs 4:1 CSB

From other people.

17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 CSB

From Jesus Himself.

29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 CSB

From the Father.

45 It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me - … John 6:45 CSB

From other believers.

13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. Hebrews 3:13 CSB

From leaders in the local body.

7 Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 CSB

It is important for you to have a community who can provide guidance.

14 Without guidance, a people will fall,
but with many counselors there is deliverance. Proverbs 11:14 CSB

22 Plans fail when there is no counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 CSB

You can learn much from a willful, unteachable person who lacks judgment.

30 I went by the field of a slacker
and by the vineyard of one lacking sense.
31 Thistles had come up everywhere,
weeds covered the ground,
and the stone wall was ruined.
32 I saw, and took it to heart;
I looked, and received instruction:
33 a little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the arms to rest,
34 and your poverty will come like a robber,
and your need, like a bandit. Proverbs 24:30-34 CSB

Do you enjoy learning? Imagine living the next decade without learning. How do you think that would affect life?

The Cost of Becoming Christ’s Disciple

There is always a high cost for living. The key is in which price you pay and what the real rewards are.

It will cost you to be Jesus’ disciple.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 NIV

What could it cost you not to be Jesus’ disciple?

You must become a living sacrifice.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 NIV

How would you explain the meaning of the term living sacrifice?

You must want to be His disciple. You must deny yourself. You must take up your cross daily. You must follow Him. You must lose your life to save your life. You must not be ashamed of Jesus and His Words.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26 NIV

  • You must want to be the Lord’s disciple. Ask Him to give you a deep desire to be His disciple.
  • You must deny yourself. What do you think it means to deny yourself?
  • You must take up your cross daily. What does it mean to take up your cross daily?
  • You must lose your life in order to find your true life in Christ.

Discipleship… requires a basic shift of orientation as we align ourselves with God’s will through humble renunciation of our own agenda. To deny ourselves in the context of cross-bearing means that the world may kill us for walking outside its path, but we are ready to do so, because God has called us to walk in a different way. Darrell Bock, NIV Application Commentary

Prayerfully consider your life in light of the verses above.

  • Are there ways you can better align your life with Jesus?
  • What commitments might Christ be asking you to make?

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Diligence and Discipline Are Vital

A life of following Jesus is compared to running a race.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV

How did Paul say we should run the race?

From the verses above, list other important factors in running a race. How can these principles be applied to the lifelong race of a disciple?
Is the way you are running the race of life today more like a fifty-yard dash or a marathon? Why?

Hebrews 12:1-2 gives additional insights into this race.

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB

  • What can hinder you from finishing the race?
  • How should you run?
  • Where should your eyes be fixed as you run?
  • In what ways does Jesus’ life motivate you to run?

Paul compared believers to three types of people.

3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 2 Timothy 2:3-6 LSB

What are these three types of people?

Pick one of these types of people and further describe how such a lifestyle might represent a focused, diligent disciple of Jesus.

The verses from Hebrews 6 below teach us about diligence and discipline as it relates to being Christ’s disciple.

11 Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, 12 so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. Hebrews 6:11-12 CSB

There are four steps in completing a course of action: desire, decision, determination, and discipline.

For example, consider a person who desires to meet with God before going to work. He realizes that in order to have enough time he must get up early, so he decides to get up at 6:30 a.m.

The next day he overslept because his desire and his decision by themselves could not get him out of bed. He then determines to use an alarm clock to help him get up.

But the real test comes when the alarm goes off. Discipline must then come into focus. He must shut off the alarm clock and choose not to go back to bed.

Good habits can be developed as a result of consistent discipline. Consistency requires trust in the strength God gives. It involves heart, thought, and effort on a daily basis.

Good habits are hard to keep and easy to lose.
Bad habits are easy to keep and hard to lose.

Philippians 3 tells us what attitude characterizes a mature follower of Jesus.

12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. Philippians 3:12-15 CSB

What attitudes do you think would characterize an immature believer?

Colossians 3:17 speaks to us about true diligence.

17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 CSB

What are some areas in which you should be exercising greater discipline? How can you do this?

Other heart attitudes characterize a disciple of Jesus according to 2 Corinthians 11:2-3.

2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NKJV

What would it look like for you to be sincerely and purely devoted to Christ at this point in your life with Him?

The attitude of your heart is so important as Christ’s disciple.

23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 CSB

Memory Verse

23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 NIV84

Jesus calls you to be His follower, His disciple. Write down some of your journey as a His disciple. What has been most significant for you? What has been most difficult? Which of the characteristics of a disciple challenges you the most?

You may want to also jot down key events, decisions, people, and God’s provision in your discipleship journey. And give Him thanks for all.

Things to Ponder

Consider Jesus’ challenge in John 12:24-26 to anyone who would be His disciple:

24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:24-26 NIV84

Compare this with Romans 12:1:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV84

What would it look like for you to die to self, to be a living sacrifice?

If you consider yourself dead to sin and the world, how would that help you be a disciple of Jesus?

Finish this sentence with several phrases of your own: If I am dead to sin and the world, then…