My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Daily Christian discipleship' section.
Some years ago my wife and I hosted a discipleship class using an acrostic:
Disciples are followers of someone or something.
Famous people in our world have thousands of followers on social networking sites.
Followers find out as much as they can about their heroes. They dress like them, listen to them and begin to think like them.
The very first followers of Christ
Our Saviour started His life’s work by calling people to become His followers, Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9-13. These individuals left what they were doing and followed Him. What the disciples did can be seen by reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We then can see that they fulfilled the dictionary definition of a disciple (above). I can see:
1.They paid attention to what the Lord Jesus was doing.
2.They did what He commanded or advised them to do.
3.They went along in the same direction as He did.
4.They were interested in His progress.
5.They began to really understand what He was saying.
6.They did the same as He was doing.
7.They showed in their own lives the truth of His life.
R. C. Sproul defines Christian disciples as “those who are committed to follow Jesus as their Master”. Commitment tells of a cost, as one slave serving his master.
Followers have to choose
Christian men and women who want to be genuine disciples have to make many decisions every day. They are constantly called to choose between their way of living and God’s way. We are faced with the choice; remain like the world or become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.
For all believers there is a wrong way and a right way to live. This is the spiritual struggle into which true Christians are born again. It begins in our minds – with our thoughts. These then influence our words and actions.
Let’s read Romans 12:1-2 (italics mine): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of (true and proper) worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will”.
Having given the theology of the gospel in Romans 1-11, Paul makes immediate application in how to live for Jesus Christ – with Him as our Lord. The Old Testament sacrificial system of the tabernacle and temple was replaced by the New Testament command (and yes, it is a command – it is not optional) to “put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God”. We do not sacrifice to make ourselves Christians, but because we are Christians we sacrifice ourselves.
Being a true disciple, this kind of sacrifice will affect every part of my life. My family life will be patterned on God’s Word whether as a loyal and loving husband, a spiritual and submissive wife, or an honouring and obedient child. My work life will reflect God’s values; not stealing time or materials, breaking business confidences or telling lies. My ethics will be those the Lord Jesus Christ would have in my situation. I decide to care for my friends and neighbours, putting their welfare even above my own and meeting their needs as I am able. I ensure that my Christian service will mirror my Lord. I will sacrifice myself using my skills, health and time for the spreading of the gospel by word and deed. The way I use my money and other resources God has loaned me will honour Him and His ways – thus being totally different to the non-Christian people around me.
A new believer who wants to know God’s will for his life may find it by prayerfully reading and studying the Word of God. This will help him to start thinking like God, and his new mind will develop new values. In everyday life these values will soon make him stand out from the crowd. By what he does he will be known to be a follower of Jesus Christ. When a man knows what God loves and hates it is quite easy for him to choose what to do – one’s choices following the pattern of His thoughts, which are now becoming his own!
Figuratively, we who are Christian disciples live near the foot of the cross of our Lord Jesus. We learn to cross out the wrong and to cultivate the right in our lives. Yes, we do make mistakes. But we learn from them and seek to avoid them in the future.
Using definitions from our dictionary we see that “cultivate”, to prepare ground for growing crops, is an important word for Christian disciples. Through the Holy Spirit we prepare ourselves to produce spiritual fruit. Digging, weeding, feeding and protecting are all involved. A cultivated person is well educated and knows how to behave politely. We might say that a cultivated Christian lives a style of life that radiates the holiness, grace and love of Jesus Christ to everyone with whom he or she has contact. As in gardening or farming, preparation is the key to producing a good crop.
The follower’s cost
Our Lord told His first disciples that following Him would not be easy. Through them He likewise warned us: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it”, Luke 9:23-24. Jesus Himself counted the cost and lived every day in God’s honour. The cross on which He was executed was part of following His Father’s will, and in Gethsemane He chose crucifixion rather than release Luke 22:42-44. Giving honour and obedience were seen throughout His life – even as a child of 12 years Luke 2:49; Matthew 3:17, 17:5; John 15:10. Notice that in Luke 9:23 the decision to follow Jesus had to be made at least once every 24 hours.
The followers “L”
In many countries, people learning to drive have to have a red letter “L” attached to their motorbikes or cars. Here are seven “L’s” of the first disciples. They:
Let go of their old ways in life
Lived with Jesus Christ, the traveling teacher
Learned from Him as He explained Scripture (the Old Testament) to them
Listened to Him
Looked at Him
Looked more and more like Him as time went by
Loved God with their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbours likewise Mark 12:30-31.
Followers speak without words
When Christians live as followers of Jesus all day, every day, those around will take notice. Could it be that some do not follow Christ now because we do not follow Christ closely enough? True Christian discipleship speaks every language in the world. It is a picture for everybody to see our Saviour. No one is beyond the reach of believers who live like the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:12, 2:1-2; 1 John 2:6, 3:1-3.
First published in Grace & Truth Magazine, April 2015.