Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The last words that Jesus spoke before ascending in to heaven were that of a command to go and make disciples. This was a command given to all believers and it is the responsibility of every believer to go and share Christ with the world. It is a responsibility given to each of us regardless of our gender, occupation, personality type, status, circumstance and the list goes on.
What is involved in being a true disciple of Jesus? To find the answer, we have to look no further than what Jesus says about being His disciple.
To start, we must define what the word disciple means. The word disciple literally means "a learner" and according to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, it translates as "one who follows another's teaching." A disciple is not just one who learns what they are taught but also puts in to practice what they have learned. They become an imitator of their teacher with a goal of wanting to be like their teacher. Jesus Himself said that
"every disciple will be like his teacher" - Luke 6:40 If we claim to be a follower of Christ and claim that we are obedient to His word, then that makes us responsible to share and disciple those around us. He is our perfect teacher and so we should strive to be just like Him.
"We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ." Colossians 1:28
According to the apostle Paul, God's purpose of the redemption of man is that they be conformed to the image of His Son - Romans 8:29.
Jesus gave us some "identifying marks" of discipleship that can help us to recognize whether or not we are a disciple of Christ. One of the first attributes of being His disciple is that we are abiding in His Word.(John 8:31) This means we are a student of Jesus, carefully studying His word and taking time to meet with Him daily allowing Him to speak truth into our heart which leads to an intimate relationship with Him. Another attribute is that of being a doer of His word. This means that we do not just talk about what Jesus has done or talk about what we believe to be true but that we put these things into practice and live a life reflective of who He is in our lives. In other words, a true disciple does not just talk a good talk but they put it into action within their lives. A disciple is also one who loves others. John 13:34-35. They have a love that is patterned after Jesus and a love that is visible to the world. A disciple takes every opportunity to get to know, encourage and draw closer to other believers through time in small groups and fellowship because that is where we teach one another and provide accountability to one another. They would not fail to read or study the Word and would not refrain from opportunities to study with others. We have to remember that a disciple is one who wants to be like Jesus and so we sacrifice our time and our effort in order to draw closer to Him and become His true reflection. This is the desire of a disciple.
"Jesus told us that we would be known by the fruit we produce. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Notice the word "much". This is important because scripture also tells us that if we fail to bear fruit, we will be cut off from Christ. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2. Now I do not believe that this means we lose our salvation but I believe it does mean that we have fallen away from the will of God, put ourselves on the throne and negate the blessings He has for us.
So far, do you recognize these attributes as being evident in your own life? Do you have a desire to follow Jesus?
Being a disciple of Jesus comes with a cost and is not always easy. Ultimately He must always come first in our lives and we must love Him above all else.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26.
He must always come before our family, our friends and even ourselves because we cannot serve two masters. Not only must we love and serve Him above all else but we must be willing to suffer for Him. We must be willing to lose our lives to Him and all that our lives encompass. We must be willing to give up our "stuff" in order to follow Him. Our desires for our worldly possessions have to be put to the side and our contentment has to be found in Him alone. We must be willing to give up everything in order to follow Him.
"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me."
Choosing to follow Him in an ungodly world can bring about persecution and ridicule.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2 Timothy 2:12.
The world will come against us and abandon us at times but there is joy and peace in knowing that our life is being lived to glorify and honor God and above that, there is nothing else.
Following Jesus means a radical redirection for our lives. It means turning against all that the world considers "normal" and walking in a different manner and keeping our focus upward and our eyes upon the cross. Living for Jesus is a radical, passionate, exciting and consuming adventure that changes your life forever. He should be our first love and once we have truly experienced the abundance of Him in our life, we will never be the same, we are forever changed and our desire will be to share it with the world.
"Father give me a hunger and passion for Your word so that my desire in life is to follow you alone and share You with the world. May I be filled with a consuming love for You that flows out of my life and into the lives of those around me always and may I want nothing from the world because my contentment and worth is found in You."