What does it mean to be a disciple?

When one chooses to be a Christian, one becomes a follower of God. There are things that our leader, God, asks us to do as followers.These conditions of being a follower or disciple of God are not always easy. God wants a real relationship with his followers and when believers meet these conditions spiritual growth occurs. Personal spiritual growth is really important in being a disciple.

According to Barna success in making true disciples is: Seeing “men, women, boys and girls committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and growing daily in their knowledge, love, and service to Him.” Barna calls for Christians to single-mindedly focus, day to day on Jesus. The kind of obsession for Jesus that disciples have is all-consuming. They are passionately devoted to Him. They make a lifelong commitment to a lifestyle of following Jesus. But the personal devotion is only the half of it. And my favorite analogy is that of a coin. On one side disciples are committed to personal growth. But on the other side of the coin disciples are committed to sharing and multiplying themselves.

Some of the conditions of being a follower of Jesus are self-denial, renunciation, “leaving it all,” steadfastness, fruitfulness, and love. Jesus taught that God does not like half-heartedness. God desires a real relationship with his followers therefore it is imperative that followers show that they are serious about their faith and put God first. There could be many people who say that they are Christians and many people who want to follow Jesus but they are not truly followers because they are not willing to follow through on these conditions.

The first condition, self-denial, is setting aside one’s own plans, goals, desires in life and following God’s instead. This is one of the hardest things about being a disciple of Jesus. Our life is no longer ours, but Christ’s. This first thing disciples must do according to Barna, fits here. It is “disciples must be assured of salvation by grace alone.” The “getting in” to the discipleship club is that we realize that it is not about us. Nothing we can do will save us. It is only by God’s grace, therefore it is essential that we deny ourselves completely. Being a disciple of Christ means that we will have to choose between the desires of our own flesh and the plans of God.

The second condition, renunciation, means to reject or renounce earthly pleasures. It is a sacrifice. Take the idea of self-denial and step it up to the next level. Not only are you denying your own plans and pleasures but now also rejecting all earthly pleasures and desires as well. Remember God wants all of us in our relationship to Him, not just to be compartmentalized to Sunday mornings only. The second thing disciples must do is “learn and understand principles of Christian living.” If we reject the earthly things we need to replace the void in our lives. Understanding the essentials of Christianity is absolutely necessary to living (a Christian lifestyle) practically and passing it on. Instead of indoctrinating ourselves with the world’s ways we are to learn the ways of being a Christian.

The next condition of “leaving it all” builds on the same ideas of self-denial and renunciation. We are taught by Jesus to follow him. Not to follow our own ways, not to follow the ways of this world, instead we are told to “leave all” behind. This might mean leaving behind other “important” things like family, friends, or a career to do God’s will instead. Luke chapter fourteen tells us to leave behind our family, our possessions and instead take up our crosses to follow Christ! And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (v. 27).” “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (v. 33).” “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple(v. 26).”

The fourth condition is steadfastness. Steadfastness means to be dedicated, devoted, loyal, and fixed on a goal. When it comes to being a disciple we are to be fixed on following Christ. We are to align our thoughts, doctrines, and teachings up with what Christ teaches in the Bible. The third thing disciples must do is “obey Gods commands.” (John 14). Perfection is not required but dedicated devotion and steadfast commitment towards following the laws is required!
We are to be fruitful. Christians will bear fruits of the Spirit. This also progresses from being steadfast. If someone is steadfast in their faith, abides in Christ, and is serious about their relationship with God then they will inevitably become more like Christ. This means they will act and behave differently. They will love. They will have peace, joy, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The fourth, fifth, and sixth thing disciples must do fit under being fruitful. Disciples must represent God as His ambassadors. Those who are not Christians will know that you are a disciple because of your fruit and lifestyle. Disciples must love and serve others (John 13). Disciples must reproduce themselves in Christ.

In other words, if a disciple is truly a disciple, he is sharing Jesus with others. He is so zealous about Jesus that he wants (and is) telling others about Him! He is reproducing himself. He is reproducing his passion for Christ and setting other’s ablaze in that same passion!

In conclusion, being a disciple means being a zealot for Christ. It means giving everything over. Not only is it surrender but it is a new life. It is a new life in Christ. It is about maintaining a passion for my first love. Being a disciple to me means dedicating my all to Christ. I love Christ. For all that He has done for me, I want to serve Him. I want to learn from Him. I read and study about Him in the Word to become more like Him. When my focus is on Him, my life is transformed. I am serving and loving others. I am growing my own faith, but I am also telling others about him. Being a disciple is a dedication to a day-to-day, moment-by-moment lifestyle.

Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Waterbrook Press: Colorado Springs, CO, 2001.

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