As Christians, we are commanded by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. Unfortunately, we have redefined discipleship to only mean evangelism. Although it is extremely important to witness to loss people and pray that God will redeem them from their sin, we must never top with seeing a person saved. We must continue teaching them to fully obey all that God has commanded them to do in His Word.
I was reading through some old notes that I had made about the importance of discipleship and was reminded about what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Of course, the Bible tells us some specific things that a disciple must do.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)
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 (NKJV)
In these few verses we see several characteristics that mark a true disciple of Jesus.
- A disciple must die to self.
- A disciple must take up his cross.
- A disciple must follow Christ completely.
- A disciple must be willing to lose his life for Jesus’ sake.
- A disciple must take up daily residence in God’s Word.
- A disciple must know truth and walk in freedom.
Our children and youth are not merely looking for people who call themselves Christians. They are looking for the real deal. They want to see authentic Christians who are true disciples of Christ.
In my notes on discipleship, I came across the following concepts. First, true discipleship is nothing less than bondage to Jesus Christ alone. Paul often referred to himself as a bond slave of Christ. Living our lives in bondage to Christ can only take place through total obedience to God’s Word.
The response of a disciple to God’s call to “follow Him” must be an act of obedience. It cannot be merely a verbal confession of faith in Jesus. We have lost this sense of God’s call on our lives that requires total surrender. Bonhoeffer put it this way.
The upshot of it all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, has freed me from that.
This loss of the meaning of true discipleship has led us to a perverted view of holiness and sin. We read what Peter wrote about our need to be holy but don’t think about what it actually means in our everyday lives.
…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)
To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God. To be holy is to live a life in conformity to the moral precepts of the Bible and in contrast to the sinful ways of the world.
Instead of striving to be holy as God is holy, we embrace cultural holiness. Cultural holiness is merely adapting to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around us. God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like Himself. The holiness of God is the absolute absence of any evil in Himself. Of course, we can never be completely holy like God is because we are all human beings, incapable of perfection.
I find myself more concerned about my own “victory” over sin than the fact that my sins grieve the heart of God. God wants me to walk in obedience — not necessarily in victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward myself. Victory must always be seen as a byproduct of obedience.
As I continued reading through these old notes, I realized afresh that I must look at all sin as an offense against a holy God, instead of it only being a personal defeat. Every time I sin, I am doing something that God hates. God hates my lustful thoughts, my pride, my jealousy, my outbursts of anger, and my rationalization that the end justifies the means.
Holiness is required for fellowship with God which, in turn, marks me as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. As I reflected on these notes, I found myself convicted in several areas of my life where I had embraced cultural holiness and, therefore, had fallen short of the requirements God has set forth in His Word for me to be His disciple.
It is my desire to, once again, be a bond slave to Christ and see the fruit of being His disciple. It will become a reality only when I fully surrender to His Spirit and obey His Word.