So, what does this all mean for us in our daily lives? What is it that a disciple of Jesus does? Let me list five things a disciple of Jesus does.
A disciple is a Reborn Follower of Jesus
There is no distinction between being a Christian and being a disciple. Christian means “belonging to Christ” and thus that Jesus Christ is your Master, your Rabbi, which means that you are His disciple, and thus follow Him. Now, here we could go into all sorts of discussions of belonging to Christ means justification, and that those who are being justified also will be glorified (Romans 8:30), so that no sanctification or following is required of a Christian/disciple/follower of Christ, for you will be glorified anyways. But regardless of the fact that this is true, this doesn’t take away the fact that Jesus Christ demands a lot from a Christian, which (if He is your Master, because you are His follower) must be obeyed. For those interested to find out what Jesus exactly demands from a Christian (and the world), a good book to read would be John Piper’s “What Jesus Demands from the World” which lists 50 demands from Jesus. Like I said in my first post, in the old Jewish tradition, the relationship between a disciple and his teacher is one of complete loyalty, dedication and submission. In Matthew 4:18-20 we read about the immediacy of following Jesus where it says, “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” And in Matthew 8:18-22, Jesus tells us what it means to follow Him, “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” But I think John’s writing is the most clear when he wrote, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
A disciple Submits to At Least One Other Person Who Teaches Him How to Follow Jesus
Character develops in community, but in order for character to develop it requires something. It requires submission. You need to be willing to submit to someone and letting that person speak into your life, and this requires humility (“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5). So, humility leads to submission leads to character development (which means transformation into Christ-likeness). Humility is a starting point, not an end goal (see my post “Good Works Versus Humility” for more insights). The Apostle Paul in particular points this out in several of his writings. He says to Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me” (2 Timothy 3:10-11), and “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). And Paul says to the Corinthians, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). And we read in Ephesians 5:21 to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Being a disciple means to be a servant, and in this case it is a servant/servant relationship towards each other.
A disciple Learns Jesus’ Words
On this point obviously much can be said. Like the old Jewish disciple had an oral tradition which required them to memorize everything their rabbi said (and often meant memorizing the whole Law (the Torah or the Pentateuch or the five books of Moses) and much of the Prophets), so we should learn Jesus’ words. This should not be taken lightly at all. We should know Scripture by heart. It should ooze out of us, ready to be used “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should have Jesus’ words ready in our heart for all circumstances, which means next to the aforementioned verse also for defending and confirming the gospel (Philippians 1:7) and for fighting the devil (Ephesians 6:11-17), which includes the Word of God being a sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). I like what Donald S. Whitney says in his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” when talking about Scripture memorization, where he explains the Word of God being a sword to be used. He says that if you need to defend yourself and you take out your sword, that knowing only Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16 will not be sufficient to defend yourself in most situations. (This obviously does not mean that we should turn the Word of God into a list of handy verses to be used for different situations!).
“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32). We need to abide in His Word if we are truly are His disciples. Why? Because we will know the truth! But there are more reasons, and the Psalmist says it quite beautifully. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8), and “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-3), and “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11). So, the Word of God is perfect, it revives the soul, it makes wise the simple, it rejoices the heart, it enlightens the eyes, and it keeps you from sinning. In other words, it is life-giving!
A Disciple Imitates Jesus’ life and Character
This could actually be the most important one, although this should flow naturally out of submitting yourself to Jesus. Yet, this is a thing that many times is skipped in the process of being a Christian. Imitating Jesus’ life and character means sanctification, means spiritual formation, and means transformation into the image of Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It means that we should “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of humility, for “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of sacrifice, for “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of submission, for “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of obedience, for “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) and “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:29). Imitating Jesus’ life and character leads to living a life of persecution, for “indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
A Disciple Finds and Teaches Other Disciples Who Also Follow Jesus
Jesus spent three years teaching and training the apostles, and when He left He told them in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The Great Commission is the normal job of a disciple: to raise up more disciples, and we could say that the Christian faith has done a pretty good job in ‘going’ and ‘baptizing,’ but that unfortunately the ‘making disciples’ and ‘teaching them’ could be described as the Great Omission. Something Dallas Willard wrote a whole book about. With the great commission transformation became mission. It reveals Jesus’ heart and priority. It launches a rescue mission. All followers receive orders to take action: “When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38). When all who become disciples make disciples, the result is not reproduction (adding one disciple at a time), but multiplication (one become two, becomes four, etc)
These are the things that Jesus demands from His disciples.