"The Disciple's Life"

Various Passages and thanks to John Hunt

By Paul Robison

Jesus gave a tremendous challenge in the passage that was read this morning.  Being His disciple is no frivolous matter.  It requires a loyalty to Him above all other relationships and even our own lives.  It requires bearing a cross and looking ahead with a determination to finish faithfully wherever following Him might lead.  It requires forsaking possessions. 

Supposedly, we who bear the name Christian have done these things, but our task as disciples does not stop here.  Jesus' last words recorded in Matthew give us another challenge: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Jesus is saying, in essence, “Because now that I have received all authority over heaven and earth, you are to go to all nations and make disciples; you will do this by preaching to them about God, Christ, and the Spirit, baptizing them into those names, and then teaching them to be obedient to all the commands that I have given to you.”  What a tremendous vision: all authority, all nations, all My commands, all centuries!  Our discipleship to Jesus includes persuading and helping others to become His disciples.

This morning we want to look a little closer at this idea of discipleship.

Looking at this concept might help us to examine our own discipleship or relationship to Christ and it might help us to better understand our mission in making other disciples.  There will be three parts to this lesson.  First of all, we want to notice some background and then define what discipleship to Christ means.  Secondly, we want to see what actions this relationship involved.  Thirdly, the letters from the word “disciple” will be used to show some of the more noteworthy aspects involved in being a disciple of Christ. 

Here's some brief background.  “A disciple was a learner.  A man was known as a disciple when he bound himself to another in order to acquire his practical and theoretical knowledge.
  The word was sometimes nearly synonymous with the term “apprentice.”  There was never a disciple without a master or teacher” (Deffinbaugh).  So, the disciple becomes a lifelong student of the master or rabbi under whom he studied.  The disciple was one who followed, questioned, discussed, and walked in the teacher's ways.  Someone has applied these concepts to Jesus and come up with this definition of discipleship: “A disciple of Rabbi Jesus is one who totally surrenders to Him and His way of seeing and doing things. 

As such, a disciple comes with a willing desire to conform all aspects of his or her life to the authoritative Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The central issue of being a disciple of Jesus is: 'Will I willingly surrender – submit for a lifetime - every aspect of my life, including worldview [how I view reality], paradigms [my ideas about reality], career, personality, character, ethics, desires, motivations, values, family, ego, sexuality and attitudes to the authority of Jesus and His teachings?' ...  Jesus came to reveal further 'who God is and how God does things;' thus, a disciple of Jesus is one who is always asking Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, more about who God is as well as God’s will and ways” (Greenwold).”

From this definition, we see that the relationship between disciple and teacher or rabbi involved several actions.  A disciple was one who would willingly submit his life to his teacher's commands, instructions, directives, and interpretations.  The teacher, master, or rabbi was very much in control of the disciple's life, thoughts, and outlook upon life.

It was not the place of the disciple to challenge the master's instructions and directives.  The disciple submitted to the rabbi's commands and interpretations.  Next, the disciple would memorize his teacher's words.

The disciple knew that his master's instructions, directives, and sayings would help him to become skillful in mastering a trade or interpreting a body of literature.  Such memorization was seen as both a duty and an honor.  Next, the disciple would learn his teacher's way of working and helping.  In days gone by, people could often tell who a person had been a disciple under because they could see the the teacher's same mannerisms, same craftsmanship, and same argumentations in those who were his disciples.  Learning the master's ways came through daily association, observation, and implementation.  Another action of the disciple would be imitating the teacher's life.  With such a close relationship and such a great respect for the master or rabbi, his apprentice or disciple would seek to imitate his life.  He sought to believe what he believed, to live as he lived, to work as he worked.  Lastly, the disciple would be expected to progress to the point that he became a master, a teacher, or a rabbi himself who would then gather disciples under himself.  His lifelong learning would then be shared with those who came to him as apprentices and disciples.  Let's review.  A disciple submits to his master's will, memorizes his master's words, learns his master's ways, imitates his master's life, and grows to the point that he becomes a teacher himself.  Now have these actions permeated our relationship with Christ and do we teach others who are unbelievers that such actions should be a part of their relationship with Christ if they would be His disciple?  So often, we tend to think of discipleship as steps. 

This is not necessarily wrong, but doesn't “five easy steps” take away from the richness that is involved with a master-disciple relationship?

And it also takes away from Christ.  One brother puts it this way: “With such an approach to conversion, Jesus is rarely discussed except in terms of His authority to command obedience to those saving 'steps.'  His glorious person and work are often placed in the same category as the 'steps.'  In doing so, Christ is demoted.  Which is greater: Yosemite or Highway 120 leading to it? ... Paul never preached 'steps,' but the Gospel. 

tolic preaching gave center-stage to Jesus.  Coming to Christ is a staggering event” (Peek).

Now let's look quickly at some noteworthy aspects of discipleship by using the letters of the word “disciple”.  The “D” stands for discipline.

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3ff: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a solider.  [Did you hear that discipline there?  When you are a soldier, you discipline yourself to keep focused on the battle and to please your commander.]  And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  [Following the rules in your training takes discipline doesn't it?]

The hardworking farmer must be the first to partake of the crops
[Being a good farmer also takes discipline and keeping focused on all the variables that go into making a good crop].”  Discipline is needed to change our hearts.  You know, we have a great Bible reading program going, and we have monthly prayer sheets.  These tools are really just crutches, and we hope that these tools will help you to fall in love with reading God's Word and talking with Him daily.  We hope that you read and pray because these actions are becoming your heart's desire.  Do others see by our disciplined lives that we are striving to honor the One that we call the Lord of our lives?  Has Jesus made a difference in our lifestyle, our habits, our speech, our entertainment, our use of leisure time, our outlook on wealth, our relationships?  Discipleship involves discipline.

The “I” stands for intense brotherly love.  The apostle Paul admonishes: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).  The apostle John exhorts: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).  The apostle Peter affirms: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).  Jesus Himself puts it this way: “A new commandment I give you that you love one another [now how can that be new when the old law said to love one another?  Listen, here's how:] as I have loved you [there's what's new, we are love in the same way that Jesus has loved], that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  Discipleship usually occurred in the context of a group.

Someone has observed: “Christian love is the real me connecting with the real you as we represent God to each other,” but “many churches are characterized more by polite distance than by the connection of hearts and souls in love” (Hunt).  There are many positive signs of brotherly love in this congregation.  Let's build on this, and continue to be intentional in creating an environment and an atmosphere where intense brotherly love can flourish!  “As I have loved you” is the fervent standard we must imitate.  Discipleship involves brotherly love.

The next letter “S” stands for sacrificial giving.  Our Master was the world's greatest giver!  He gave up His divinity to come this earth (Philippians 2:5-6).  He gave up His time to teach, to preach, and to heal others (Matthew 4:23).  He gave of His modest means to help the poor (John 13:29).  He gave much time to training His disciples.  He gave His own blood to purchase and to justify us (Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9).

He gave His word that He is preparing an eternal abode (John 14:1-4).

Now if our Teacher or our Master was such a giver, then we too should strive to imitate Him in our giving as well.  This includes giving our time, attention, and affections for His cause.  But it also includes giving of our economic means to support the work of the church.  Isn't it wonderful how our contributions help orphans in Zambia, help missionaries in South Africa, help folks in Ghana to have clean water, help the children's homes here in our state, help the disaster relief team in Nashville, help to support a hospital and preacher in India, help a Bible school  in India, and help with other good works right here in our own backyard!  The more we give to help such works, the more good works we could be adding.  Our missions committee is always getting letters asking for help.  Your generous contributions are making a better world in Christ's name!

Discipleship involves sacrificial giving.

The “C” stands for corporate worship.  What a joy to able to have the blessing of worshiping together!  The word “church” actually means “assembly,” and to be the church, we must meet.  A congregation may have many weaknesses, but if it does not meet regularly, it won't survive.

When we assemble together for worship, there should be an awareness that God is the audience, Christ in our midst, and Holy Spirit is strengthening our inner being!  This is not a natural event; it is a supernatural one!  When we meet, we become the visible manifestation of the redeemed community for all people which Christ has created!

We are all united as His disciples, and we all long to give praise and thanksgiving to Him for what He has done for us!  When we meet for corporate worship, we show our separation from the world and encourage one another to be salt, and light, and love in a world of confusion, wickedness, and darkness!  In our corporate worship, we not only practice the five authorized acts of worship: singing, praying, preaching, giving, and eating he Lord's Supper, but we also rejoice over: new birth, forgiveness, stronger faith, spiritual growth, and fellowship!  There is nothing that can substitute for corporate worship.  Discipleship involves corporate worship.

The next letter “I” stands for intimate family life.  Hebrews 13:4 states: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”  Sadly, many in our culture have forgotten this truth, and divorce has been hailed and broadcast as a necessary part of modern American life.  Having an incredible marriage should be one of the greatest aims of those who are disciples.  Doesn't a great marriage preach a loud sermon for God's goodness and kindness and Christ's love for His bride, the church?  Failing marriages damage the church since unbelievers see that no real love or strength can be found there.  Shouldn't the lessons and joys that we experience in corporate worship first be applied in the home?  Shouldn't Christian families be models of intimacy, togetherness, and hospitality?  Are we helping each other as disciples to have better homes?  Are we holding each other accountable in developing good family relationships?  Are we paying attention to body language, little comments, and how parents are treating their children?  Do we treat our children as gifts from God who must be trained and admonished in the Lord?  Do we help our children to see that Christ, His church, His word, and His work of service to others, that lives of faith, and that the hope of heaven are more important than any other aspects or areas in our lives?  The apostle Paul exhorts us with these words: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter towards them and do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.  Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:18-21).”  Discipleship involves intimate family life.

The letter “P” stand for passion for God, for Christ, and for the Holy Spirit.  “Be imitators of God,” “Follow Me,” and “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:1; John 21:19; Ephesians 4:30).  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).  One good brother wrote these admonitions: “Disciples must be brought face to face with the Lord so they can hear Him say—I want you to live a holy life because I am a holy God. ... We are to love others in the same way Jesus loves us.  There is nothing cheap about Christ's love.  .... The instruction 'Be filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]' was written to those who had the Spirit.  This was a call for them to grow in their faith, to mature” (Coffey).  Our bad passions must be replaced with good passions.  We must say “No” to our evil impulses and “Yes” to a passionate relationship with God, His Son, and His Spirit.  Someone has observed: “Knowing God is more adrenaline-producing than anything else on earth. ... The deepest desire of the human soul is to touch the face of God. ... Only the thrill of connecting with the Almighty will be sufficient motivation in the long haul to keep us from sin” (Hunt).  Are we helping each other to live more holy, loving, and submissive lives and to go against the grain of our culture's evil?  Discipleship involves passion for God, for Christ, and for the Holy Spirit.

The “L” stands for loving and serving others.  Jesus taught that after loving God, loving others was the second great command of the law.  Our neighbor, according to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, is anyone who needs our help.  The apostle Paul told the brethren in Ephesus that Christians are “God's workmanship, and we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works,” and he also told the brethren at Crete that Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14).  Because Christ has blessed us so richly and was Himself the perfect example of one who did good works to serve others, we also want to imitate Him and be a people who loves and serves others in His name.  An active congregation has little time to fight.

It's so wonderful to see this congregation feeding others in Jesus' name, making repairs in Jesus' name, helping with disasters in Jesus' name, and teaching others in Jesus' name through the World Bible School materials and our House to House publication!  Do you see another way that we could serve others?  Share that with other members, and who knows, we might just start trying to pull it off?  Discipleship involves loving and serving others in practical ways.

The last letter “E” stands for evangelistic interest.  The authority of Jesus is behind His command to make other disciples.  Are we opportunists when it comes to helping lost souls?  Remember when the jailed house rocked in Philippi how Paul saw it as an opportunity to convert another?  He saw this opportunity to teach another about Jesus as more important than his own escape and safety (Acts 16:28ff)!  Put Paul in a jail in Rome, and he's preaching to his guards (Philippians 1:12-14).  Have we learned how to present the Gospel in our conversations in such a way that we are seen as reasonable people and not religious fanatics?  Are we praying for the conversion of others?  “Prayer is as vital to evangelism as oxygen is to life” (Coffey).  Paul tried to persuade others that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 28:23).  You know, there's one religious group that takes time in nearly every one of its assemblies to talk about how effective their strategies are in reaching others.  That kind of talk hasn't been heard too much around here.  We must be loving in our evangelism.  Someone has cleverly observed: “Love Won Another” (with the second word being spelled W-O-N).  The story is told about three men who banded together to convert Dan.  One took him to a ballgame, but never got around to asking him about his soul.  Another took him fishing, but never mentioned religion.  Another asked him to help work on a car, and said as he hooked up the battery cable: “We need to be hooked up to a Higher Source of Power too, don't we?”  And Dan replied, “Yes, I've been thinking about transcendental meditation myself.”  The three friends felt discouraged and vowed that they'd never turn evangelism into a game again but keep being friends and let God do the rest. Unexpectedly, Dan walked into the restaurant where the three men were and sat down with them saying: “You know, the Good Lord has been nice to give me friends like you.  Could you explain some more about what it means to be Christ's disciple?”  “Love won another.”  Discipleship involves evangelistic interest.

Have you accepted the tremendous challenge of discipleship?  It still requires some hard decisions and actions.  Will you be a lifelong learner?

Have we Christians taken Jesus' command to make disciples seriously?

Does our discipleship have actions like submit, memorize, learn, imitate, and progress?  Have we helped others to see that being a disciple involves discipline, intense brotherly love, sacrificial giving, corporate worship, intimate family life, passion for God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others, and evangelism?  “A disciple of Rabbi Jesus is one who totally surrenders to Him and His way of seeing and doing things.

As such, a disciple comes with a willing desire to conform all aspects of his or her life to the authoritative Lordship of Jesus Christ.”  Will you become His disciple today or will you confess your desire to be a better maker of disciples?  Let Jesus bless you today by making your need known!