Can you answer this question? I have been a Christian for over 30 years and this question still challenges me. How about you? If you are a disciple, how do you define the word disciple? Has the teaching of Jesus impacted your behavior?
A disciple is a person who follows the teaching of a discipler. In fact, the word disciple (mathetes) means learner. Disciples learn from the discipler. I am sure that most Christians would say that they are disciples based on this definition. Let’s see how the Gospel of Matthew illustrates this point. “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” (Matt 9:14) Matthew points out that there are three groups of disciples in this instance: the followers of John, the Pharisees, and the followers of Jesus.
We know that the disciples of John were taught that the people should repent of their sins and prepare to follow the Messiah when He came. The Pharisees were disciples of the teaching that by obedience to the Law, God would accept and cleanse the people from their sin. The disciples of Jesus were taught that Jesus is the Messiah, the final sacrifice for sin, and that obedience to the Law could not save people from sin.
We see that teachings of the discipler should influence the behavior of the disciples. The disciples of John and the Pharisees fasted. The Pharisees did not associate with practicing sinners. The disciples of John were taught that the Pharisees and other religious leaders were leading people away from God and they should not follow their teaching.
The disciples of Jesus were taught the He was sinless, was the only person perfectly obedient to the Law, and would become the only sin sacrifice that pleased God. Anyone who believed in the message of Jesus and repented from sin, would be forgiven and be accepted by God. The disciples of Jesus were not required to fast while Jesus was alive. However, they were expected to proclaim the gospel of the Lamb of God and demonstrate the power of the kingdom of God. “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Lk 7:22)
Not only do disciples follow the teaching of a discipler, they live with purpose – the teaching influences their behavior. Has the teaching of Jesus influenced your behavior?
Let’s see some of the remarkable ways that Jesus lived, based on His teaching. We are not all called to be Apostles or church leaders, but we have been equipped to serve and to love. Hallelujah!
“…but He said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Lk 4:43)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45)
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” (Matt 10:24)
“…that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Lk 7:22)
“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matt 9:13)
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:8)
“but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Phil 2:3)
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lk 14:27)
From the above list of verses, you can use what Jesus taught as His disciple. You can share the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can serve others and not expect to be served. Confess that Jesus is your Master and Lord. You can look for ways to awaken spiritual perception, enable others to walk in righteousness, lead others to the cleansing of Christ’s blood, be patient to impart spiritual understanding, and encourage others to be saved and made alive in Christ. Spend time with non-Christians and live out your faith, calling them to repentance. Obey the Lord’s will and not your own. Value others above yourself. Devalue your own life by dying to yourself and live as a disciple of Christ.
What are the attitudes of a disciple of Jesus Christ? Let me highlight a few of them. Seek God’s kingdom as your first priority. Value others above yourself. Look for ways to serve others. Be humble before God and others, be patient with others, and trust in God. God loves you and cares for you. Remember that the greatest in God’s kingdom is the servant of all. We all an obligation to offer ourselves as living sacrifices – you can in some sense be dead while living. How does this look in your life? “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…” (Phil 2:5,7) Do this challenge you as much as it challenges me?
Discipline. Professional athletes cannot excel unless they are disciplined. They avoid distractions and practice disciplines that contribute to and build upon succcess. Their success is no accident. Are you fulfill God’s purposes for your life? Have you tried to avoid distractions to spiritual growth and service? What disciplines have you embraced? Prayer, obedience, repentance, bible study, dying to self, gathering together with God’s people, doing good works, and loving God and others are important Christian disciplines. I believe an overlooked aspect of the Christian life is actually following Christ in the midst of your responsibilities. Non-Christians have responsibilities as well. But Christians have spiritual purposes above our responsibilities. What are yours?
Paul prayed that we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is unique to you and I. Paul explained the goal – that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. How I please God is unique. How you please God is unique. Are you fully pleasing God?
As we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, Paul wants us to determine what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. The Holy Spirit gave us practical guidelines – do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What are you conforming your life to? Are you renewing your mind in God’s word and by seeking Godly counsel?
You have been given spiritual gifts (charismata). There are gifts of grace, and the Holy Spirit gave them to you and He wants to use them through you. What are yours and are you using them? Abundant living consists of loving God and others and being used by God to bring His kingdom into this world.
Redeem The Time
Finally, we have just a short time on earth. If we are not careful, we can get distracted and become less productive for the Lord. Join me in committing to live more productively for the Lord. Paul suggested that we should buy up all the opportunities we can to be pleasing to God. “…redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” How does this selflessness benefit us? “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Abundant Grace And Unimaginable Blessings
In addition to receiving a steady supply of grace from God, God promises us unimaginable blessings. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Eph 3:20) God promises to exceed our expectations.
As disciples of Jesus, we learn His teachings and learning should lead to doing. As we follow Christ and put His teachings into practice, we need to make sure our attitudes and thoughts are becoming more Christ-like. With more focused action, we will experience greater fruitfulness. Practicing spiritual disciplines takes effort and intention. All this leads to a greater experience of God’s grace and should elevate our expectations of His abundant blessings. God promises to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Are you a disciple? Are you fully pleasing Him? Are you experiencing more of God’s grace? Are you seeing God exceed your expectations? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)