- What is a Disciple?
- An Eternal and Incomparable Relationship
- You Must Be a Learner to be Christ’s Disciple
- From Whom Can We Learn and Be Taught Spiritual Truths?
- The Lifetime Race to Obtain the Eternal Prize
What is a Disciple?
The simplest definition of a disciple is to be a learner or follower; to be a pupil under a teacher. A disciple chooses to accept instruction given to him by someone and makes the instruction the basis for how he conducts himself.
“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
An Eternal And Incomparable Relationship Invitation
Jesus is Calling You
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:16-20 NIV
When the Lord Jesus Christ calls you into relationship with Him and tells you to come and follow Him, that is the time to go and start following Him.
Jesus is the Master of the Relationship
- His relationship with you begins in love.
- He is the One who commands you.
- He is the example of love.
- He is the Master.
- He calls you His friend (if you do what He commands you).
- He makes all things He heard from the Father known to you.
- He chose you.
- He appointed you to go and bear lasting fruit, fruit that remains.
You Are His Friend if You Do What He Commands You
- You are the one who obeys.
- You are His friend if you do what He commands you.
15 If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.” John 14:15 AMPC
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another." John 15:12-17 NASB95
He Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You
In Hebrews 13:5-6, God promises that this will be a special relationship. How do you feel about God’s promise as you commit yourself to Him?
5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not,[I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] 6 So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6 AMPC
There Can Be No Competition or Comparison or Equal
The Lord Jesus said your relationship with Him can have no equal with anyone or anything else, not your family, not your friends, not your possessions, not even your own life.
25 Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ >31 “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? >32 If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:25-33 CSB
Often we equate God with how our parents or others have treated us, especially our fathers. God is not like anyone else. He is truly the loving heavenly Father, and He is not like any man. Believing in God is believing He is who He says He is. Separate Him from anyone else and all human experiences. When Jesus said to believe, this is part of that belief. Trust Him.
You Must Count the Cost
Why do you think Jesus does not want any competing influences? (In order to understand the use of the word hate more fully, read Matthew 10:37.)
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;” Matthew 10:37 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
There is always a high cost for truly living. The key is in which price you pay and what the real rewards are.
What might it cost you to be Jesus’ disciple? (Luke 9:57-62)
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” 59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” 62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (NLT)
What could it cost you not to be Jesus’ disciple?
Read Romans 12:1-2. How would you explain the meaning of the term living sacrifice?
11 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. Romans 12:1-2 AMPC
Read Luke 9:23-26 below.
23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. 25 For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 CSB
- What do you think it means to deny yourself?
- What does it mean to take up your cross daily?
- How can you reclaim your life (your 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
Are there ways you can better align your life with Jesus? What commitments might Christ be asking you to make?
Grace is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
What Distinguishes the Life of a Disciple of Christ?
The Testimony and the Life
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:39-41 NASB95
Abiding In and Living According to the Word in Christ
31 So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. 32 And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free. John 8:31-32 AMPC
Loving One Another
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 CSB
The Proof is in the Fruit
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
You Must Be a Learner To Be Christ’s Disciple
Disciples of Christ Are Teachable All Through Life
Solomon wrote many of the proverbs to those who would be learners. Why is it so important to remain teachable throughout your life?
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
Disciples of Christ Learn and Apply Spiritual Truths
13 And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. 15 But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him]. 16 For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 AMPC
Disciples of Christ Listen and Ask Questions
Jesus was a lifelong learner. In His early years we see Him in the temple, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:46).
46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46 NIV
Disciples of Christ Learn Lessons
During His ministry we see Him urging His disciples to “learn this lesson from the fig tree” (Matthew 24:32).
32 Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. Matthew 24:32 NLT
Disciples of Christ Learn Obedience From Suffering
The writer of Hebrews said of Christ’s life on earth, “Although He was a son, he learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
8 Although He was a Son, He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered 9 And, [His completed experience] making Him perfectly [equipped], He became the Author and Source of eternal salvation to all those who give heed and obey Him, Hebrews 5:8-9 AMPC
From Whom Can We Learn and Be Taught Spiritual Truths?
From the Word of God
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:39-41 NASB95
17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17 NASB95
From God the Father
45 “As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” John 6:45 NLT
From God the Son
29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 NKJV
From God the Holy Spirit
16 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever—17 The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 AMPC
26 “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.” John 14:26 AMPC
26 “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.” John 15:26 CSB
13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” John 16:13-15 NASB95
From Our Spiritual Leaders
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
From Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13 NIV
24 Meanwhile, there was a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, who came to Ephesus. He was a cultured and eloquent man, well versed and mighty in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and burning with spiritual zeal, he spoke and taught diligently and accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he was acquainted only with the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak freely (fearlessly and boldly) in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him with them and expounded to him the way of God more definitely and accurately. Acts 18:24-26 AMPC
From Fathers and Mothers
1 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father,
And give attention that you may gain understanding, Proverbs 4:1 NASB95
26 She opens her mouth in skillful and godly Wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness [giving counsel and instruction]. Proverbs 31:26 AMPC
From Other Men
17 Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NASB95
From a Willful and Unteachable Person Who Lacks Judgment
Read Proverbs 24:30-34. What can you learn about a willful, unteachable person who lacks judgment?
30 I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense.
31 I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down.
32 Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson:
33 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 34 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. Proverbs 24:30-34 NLT
Do you enjoy learning? Imagine living the next decade without learning. How do you think that would affect your life?
Why Guidance is Vital
Why is it important for you to have a community who can provide guidance?
14 Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory. Proverbs 11:14 NASB95
22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 NASB95
The Lifetime Race to Obtain The Eternal Prize
Following Jesus is compared to running a race. The race will last your entire life here on this earth.
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASB95
How You Run the Race is Vital
How did Paul say we should run the race?
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?
Spiritual Maturity Requires Forgetting and Pressing On
From Philippians 3:12-15, what attitude characterizes a mature follower of Jesus?
12 Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. 13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. 15 So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. Philippians 3:12-15 AMPC
What attitudes do you think would characterize an immature believer?
What did Paul teach about diligence in Colossians 3:17?
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?
In addition to discipline and diligence, what other heart attitude characterizes a disciple of Jesus?
2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NASB95
What would it look like for you to be sincerely and purely devoted to Christ at this point in your life with Him?
A Soldier, an Athlete, and a Farmer
Read 2 Timothy 2:3-7, where Paul compared the believer to three types of people.
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.
5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.
6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. 2 Timothy 2:3-7 NLT
What are these three types of people? A soldier, an athlete, and a farmer.
Pick one of these types of people and further describe how such a lifestyle might represent a focused, diligent disciple of Jesus.
Read Hebrews 6:11-12 below. How do diligence and discipline relate to being Christ’s disciple? (You may want to use a dictionary to help you understand the full meaning of these words.)
11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:11-12 (NIV 1984)
Proper Heart Attitude is Required
Why is the attitude of your heart so important as Christ’s disciple?
23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
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
How to Complete a Course of Action
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 to meet with God he must get up early, so he decides to get up at 6:30 a.m.
- The next day he oversleeps 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.
A Great Cloud of Witnesses
Hebrews 12:1-2 gives additional insights into this race.
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
What can hinder a believer 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?
A Life-Long Workout
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 NASB95