George Whitfield conducted outdoor evangelistic campaigns in the 1700’s throughout the American colonies, a period of revival called the “Great Awakening.”
Thousands responded to his Gospel message. Once he was asked how many were converted after one of his sermons. He replied, “We’ll know in five years.”
Whitfield was making the point that there’s a big difference between a momentary decision which may be superficial and genuine commitment to Christ. It’s one thing to be baptized, but quite another to be discipled.
Followers of Christ are identified as “disciples” 270 times in the New Testament. Contrast this with the almost exclusive term “Christian” used only 3 times. Jesus commanded in Matt. 28:19 “Go and make Disciples of all nations.”
So, what does it mean to be Jesus’ Disciple?
(1) A Disciple is one who learns. Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6:45). By definition a disciple is “one who is a pupil or learner, the adherent of the doctrines of another.” A disciple is a student who is a constant and continual learner.
(2) A Disciple is one who is trained. Jesus said, “A Disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40). Training is necessary. “Bill Hull said that discipleship is ”the intentional training of disciples, with accountability, on the basis of loving relationships.” While there is a personal accountability for our growth, there is also a collective obligation. But this takes time. Effort. Energy. Study. It’s not accidental. Or haphazard. It’s done on purpose. With intentionality.
(3) A Disciple is one who follows. The call of Christ to Philip was “follow me” (John 1:23). This was the same appeal to Peter. Andrew. James. And John. A faithful disciple follows the object of his discipline. Spiritual disciples who call themselves Christians, follow Christ.
(4) A Disciple is one who humbly serves others. Jesus forever taught this lesson in John 13 when he washed his own disciples feet. The scene was the last supper. Other accounts record that the apostles had been arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.
Following supper and without a word of rebuke, Jesus took a towel, a basin of water, and knelt to wash their feet. When he finished he asked, “Do you know what I have done to you?” Then he told them.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. (John 13:12-17).
Disciples serve. Minister. Get on their knees if necessary. Get their hands dirty. And don’t worry about who’s the greatest!
(5) Disciples love one another. Following the foot washing demonstration Jesus said, “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)
How did Jesus love? Selflessly. Sacrificially. Unconditionally. Patrick Morely was right when he wrote. “The height of our love for God will never exceed the depth of our love for one another”
(6) Disciples are Committed to Christ. How committed? To what extent? Jesus plainly teaches in Luke 14:23-26 that our commitment must be complete. Total. Absolute. Committed above possessions. Committed above family ties. Committed above trials. Even committed above one’s very own life.
(7) Disciples Bear fruit. Jesus’ discourse, on the way to the cross, about the vine and the branches clearly teach that He expects us to be more than faithful. We must be fruitful. He said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be my disciples.”
What about it? Are you a Disciple of Christ?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman