Disciples for Christ
By Pastor Bill Snider
One of the last commands Jesus gave the Church before He was taken up into heaven was that they go and make disciples of all nations. "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, '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 (Matthew 28:18,19).'" That command is still in force for the Church today, and it will be in force until it is fulfilled. However, you can't make disciples for Christ unless you are one. And you can't become a disciple without knowing what one is.
First of all, the word "disciple" is rarely used and when it is it's all too often associated with cult activities and religions. That's really unfortunate because within that word lies everything we need to know about what it means to be a Christian and a believer. And just because we fear being associated with a cult we won't investigate what discipleship is about. You have to understand that during Jesus' time there were at least as many cults as there are now. Moreover, all the followers of those cults were called disciples. Yet it never threatened Jesus in the least bit to call his followers, disciples, because that's what they were. And that's what you must become if you're going to follow Jesus.
It's not good enough that you prayed the prayer of salvation, and now call yourself a "Christian." Too many have the idea that God owes them something because they accepted Christ. They think that they did God a favor by becoming Christians. They think they can fit Him into their lives and schedules when it's convenient to them, and He's totally fine with that. Many of them think they've hit the jackpot and can live in the lap of luxury. When they want something they expect God to be "Johnny-on-the-spot," or else.
These people, if they're even actually born-again, are in for a rude awakening. God doesn't do anything based on our agendas. He loves us, and desires to comfort and bless us, but He will never be manipulated nor threatened by our expectations or demands. He will never be moved by our arrogant attitudes or ultimatums. God will never pamper us nor indulge our whims like I see so many parents do, today. God requires us to follow Jesus. It will be costly and painful. But make no mistake about it; you must become Jesus' disciple.
"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.'" Luke 9:23-26
In order to know what makes a disciple of Jesus, we need to define what a disciple is. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, a disciple is "a learner." Moreover, it denotes "one who follows one's teachings." If you're to become Jesus' disciple you must, first of all, be a learner of what He taught; and not just what others say He taught.
As a Pastor, I expect the baby Christians to mimic what I teach, because that's how they start learning. But when the older and supposedly more mature Christians are still spouting knowledge based on quotes from what I've taught, I get very concerned about what they're really doing on their own. Sure it honors me that they're paying attention. However, there comes a time when every Believer must personalize the Word of God for himself, or he will never become the person God's called him to be. Every one of us is called to accomplish things for Jesus, and that's a requirement. My job is to help you get started, but you must become a learner of what Jesus, Himself, is saying to you. I succeed as a Pastor when your dependency on me becomes less and less until you're alongside me helping with the babies.
On top of that, a disciple is "one who follows one's teachings (Vine's)." It's not good enough to just be a learner, you must also be a doer of what you've learned if you're to be a disciple of Jesus. James 1:22-25 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
It's time we stop basing our sense of maturity on what we think we know, and start basing it on what we're doing. I tell my church all the time that they don't really know something until they're doing it. And if they're not doing it, then they don't really know it. Which means that the knowledge of the Word cannot benefit us until we're doing it. That's what it's saying in the above verse in James: "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
Vine's goes on to say that the disciple "was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher." That goes for us. We must become imitators of Jesus. We must do like He did, if we're to be His disciples. Jesus actually says this in John 14:12, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."
Did you get that? As His disciples, we're to do the same works that He did. That means we should be healing the sick, casting out demons, setting the captives free, healing the broken-hearted, preaching the Gospel to all creation, and bringing great glory to the Father. It seems we've got a lot of catching up to do.
As you grow in discipleship there will be three things that will mark you as a disciple of Jesus. Actually, these three things are what prove that you really are Jesus' disciple. Moreover, you must carry all three of these marks if you are to be considered by Jesus to be His disciple. Just one or two of them won't cut it.back to the top
"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31,32
The first mark of Christ's disciple is that he continues in the Word of God. We've basically pointed this out, but I need to elaborate on it some more. For the disciple, the Word is his life. He loves it. He lives in it. He thinks it, breathes it, speaks it, lives it, and gives up anything that hinders him from getting it. The reason the disciple is like this is because the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is a field full of treasure - treasures of truth, which he must dig out. He continues in the Word, because in it he knows that he will find the truth. And when he finds the truth, he knows that the truth will set him free.
You can always tell a true disciple of Jesus, who has the mark of the Word. His words resonate with truth, and his life with freedom. You'll find yourself drawing life from his words, and deliverance from his presence. You will want to be like him, and have what he has. You'll leave his presence hungry for God's word, and desiring to help to others. You'll walk away knowing that the truth is in the Word just waiting to be discovered by you. You won't want to just know about Jesus, you'll want to really know Him, so you can also imitate Him.back to the top
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, 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
The second mark of the disciple of Jesus is the mark of love. Many believers will tell you that the way the world will know that you are Christians is by how you dress, act and talk. However, Jesus said the way the world will know you are Christians is by how you love one another. When we love one another, even the world recognizes that we're following Jesus. When we walk in love, the world begins to respect us and desire what we have. We show the world that Jesus is worthy of our trust. They may not be able to accept Him, but they sure want He's given to us in that love. However, when the Church isn't demonstrating that love for one another, the world stands back and mocks us, and Jesus falls into great disrepute because of us.
What is the mark of love? Love overcomes evil with good. Love covers the multitude of sins. Love forgives. Love yields and shows mercy instead of judgment. Love works no ill will toward any. Love edifies. Love prospers others. Love heals. Love promotes. Love destroys oppression. Love casts out fear. Love is aggressive and powerful for changing situations. Love breeds faith. Love breeds obedience. Love breeds peace. Where love prevails strife dies. Satan has no power in the face of love. Love leads us into repentance and change. Can you imagine the revival that would break out if Christians would walk in this kind of love for each other?back to the top
"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." John 15:8
The third mark of the disciple of Jesus is the mark of bearing much fruit. Most believers, if they were to be totally honest with themselves, do not expect God to use them very much. They don't expect to bear much fruit in their lives. Yet, have you ever seen any healthy fruit trees only bear one or two fruit during their fruit season? Of course not. When the time comes those trees are expected to bear much fruit. And if they don't, they're cut down to make room for trees that will.
God, the Father, intends for us to be like healthy fruit trees - bursting with fruit. If you expect to be a disciple of Jesus, then you have to get used to the idea of producing fruit. The fact is that God called you to it, and He's set you up for it. He has instilled in your spiritual make-up the ability to bear good and lasting fruit.
The only thing that stops you is not doing what the Holy Spirit puts in your heart to do. We tend to put very little stock in what comes up in us to do. If it runs in line with what you know Jesus would do, then do it. As you begin doing things like encouraging someone to believe and stand firm in what they know, praying for someone to be helped, healed or delivered, sharing with someone what Jesus has done for you, then you'll begin to see your life produce fruit.
There are really several ways that the disciple of Jesus bears fruit. One is through reaping souls into the kingdom of God. Jesus said to His disciples after the Samaritan woman left to go get her husband, "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together (John 4:35,36)." We need to realize that the fields are ripe for harvesting. There will always be many who can be reaped into the kingdom of heaven. So, when a disciple takes the good news of what Jesus has done for us out to the lost and dying world, he will reap. That's a promise. And the fruit he bears will be eternal, lasting forever.
The second way that the disciple bears fruit is in character development. As the character of Christ begins to form in him, he will begin to demonstrate fruit from his growth. He will demonstrate consistency in love, joy, peace, faithfulness, diligence, faith, patience, self-control and virtue. All of these will be the fruit of Christ being formed in him. (Compare Galatians 5:22,23 with 2 Peter 1:5-8)
The third way the disciple bears fruit is in righteousness, as Philippians 1:11 says, "being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." In order to bear the fruit of righteousness, the disciple must walk in his rights and privileges as a child of God. He must walk in the power of faith. He must walk in his authority over circumstances, sickness and death. He must walk in his authority over Satan and all his forces. He must walk in the power and authority of the name of Jesus. He must walk in the power of intercessory prayer. And he must walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Becoming a disciple of Christ is a total sell-out commitment. And you must come to the place, like Jesus, where you can boldly say, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work." However, you also need to realize that God doesn't expect that kind of commitment out of you overnight. And even if He did you couldn't produce it anyway. All God seeks from you to qualify you for discipleship is for you to take the first step - commit yourself to become Jesus' disciple. Then, one by one, take on the marks of a disciple of Jesus Christ - realizing, above all, that because you've set yourself to the task of learning to be like Jesus, you've already made yourself the disciple you never dreamed you could be.back to the top