“And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23
Many years ago, I wrote an article based on this passage of Scripture. It was entitled “True Discipleship.” As would be obvious, many years have passed since then, and I would like to take this opportunity to further elaborate on the subject of discipleship. Please allow me to begin with a few opening remarks on this every important subject.
It should be the goal of every ministry to create disciples, regardless of size or affiliation, or whether it is the youth ministry, children’s ministry, or what I refer to as “big church.” We are not to make disciples after ourselves and after our liking, but rather after Christ (I Cor. 1:12-13).
A good definition of the word disciple is “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school; an early follower of Jesus.” We should consider ourselves disciples of Christ and not disciples of a preacher or any other man. We are to be those who model their lives after Christ. It should be the goal of every Christian, regardless of age, to emulate Christ in every part of our lives. Before we really get into what discipleship is, let’s take a look at what it’s not.
DISCIPLESHIP IS NOT A PROGRAM BUT A LIFESTYLE
First of all, discipleship has been so diluted over the last decade or so that it has been reduced to something that it was never meant to be. Discipleship is not a 12-week course where, upon completing the course, you receive a certificate stating that you have now passed a discipleship class. Neither is it something that needs to be attended once a week. It’s not going to a seminar on how to be discipled, and neither is it a dictatorship where one lords over another.
The best way that I can describe what discipleship is, and is not, is this: Discipleship is not a program, but it is rather a lifestyle. A lifestyle is something that is a part of our everyday way of life. It is a state of being. Its makeup is who we are as Christians. That very word Christian should stand for discipleship as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. We do this through our faith in Christ and the Cross, and we do it on a daily basis. This will conform us more into the image of Christ. As you know, this is something that is not done once a week for a 12-week period of time. It must be a daily occurrence that begins at our initial salvation experience and concludes with either the rapture or death.
Someone once said that we are not shaped in the time frame of a program but in the time frame of life. This means that what we experience cannot be experienced through a mere program, but it is through life lessons, difficulties, trials, and tribulations—the ups and downs of life. Someone else once stated, and rightfully so, that we do not learn much from our victories, but rather from our defeats. So, that which we are attempting to explain cannot be experienced through a program designed by man, but rather through life.
DISCIPLESHIP IS A COMMITMENT
Discipleship is not only a way of life, but it is also about commitment. The word commit means “to bind or pledge to a certain course; a long term relationship; dedicated.” That’s exactly what the believer must be—committed, bound to a certain course, invested in a long-term relationship with our Creator, and dedicated to His cause and purpose. One could possibly say about a Christian that he is bound to Christ, is in a long-term relationship with Christ, and is committed to Christ in all things. In other words, we are sold out, the whole route, and completely born again.
Too many Christians today are not, as stated in the previous paragraph, sold out. They do not have that commitment to serve Christ, to live for Christ, or to have a long-term relationship with Christ, but rather it’s more of a convenience. They have not bought in or sold out to developing a real, legitimate relationship with Christ, but it’s something that they do on Sundays and Wednesdays for church.
What I will be discussing is not something that you should be able to turn on and off as a light switch, but it is something that is now at your very core—the very center of your life. It is an ever-increasing desire to know God on an intimate level, and a desire for Him to take you further and deeper in your walk with Christ. The goal is to have a working knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us at Calvary’s Cross, which only comes through experience.
This is something that really cannot be taught in a classroom setting. I am not knocking that at all, but it’s something that has to be learned through walking with Christ on a daily basis. Let me add that just as the original Twelve were called disciples of Christ, if you have accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, then that makes you a disciple of Christ as well.
MAKING DISCIPLES AFTER CHRIST
Discipleship is not only a way of life and a commitment, but it is the responsibility of every believer to continue that thread of making disciples of Christ and not disciples of ourselves. It should be on the heart of every Christian to see others brought into the kingdom of God. Seeing our time is short, our number one priority should be expanding the body of Christ. This means that we are to ever be seeking the lost, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden, the sick, the despondent, the depressed, and the discontented. We must tell them there is a much better way, and that way is found in a person—Jesus Christ.
Over the next several issues, we are going to be diving into this very important subject. We are going to be looking into what a disciple is, and what our responsibilities are while here on earth.
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