Who is a disciple? What constitutes a Disciple? Are you a Disciple, and if so who or what do you pursue? Unfortunately, there are those who follow no one and pursue nothing in life! The dictionary defines a disciple as: a student, learner, or pupil. In the Bible the word is used most often to refer to a follower of Jesus. The meaning applies to one who professes to have learned certain principles from another and maintains them on that other person’s authority. A “disciple” is not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher; < c.f. John 8:31; 15:8>. Jesus selected twelve men to accompany Him that He could teach and instruct them so they could continue His ministry after His death, resurrection and glorification .
There are six points related to discipleship that we will examine (of course there are others that can be added) :
1. MUST BE DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE .The disciple must be concerned with following Jesus, and not to be contaminated by worldly things . “Daniel, it seems, made this decision and purposed to execute it as a matter of principle, he initiated it requesting that he might be allowed to pursue the course <Dan. 1:12>, not wishing to offend or to provoke opposition. Daniel held firm to his religion. They had changed his name, but they could not change his nature. Whatever they pleased to call him, he still retained the spirit of an Israelite. He would apply his mind as closely as any of them to his books, and took pains to make himself master of the culture and language of the Chaldeans, but he was resolved that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, he would not meddle with it, nor with the king’s wine . This was not out of bitterness, or annoyance, or a spirit of contradiction, but from a principle of conscience. Perhaps it was not in itself unlawful for them to eat of the king’s meat or to drink of his wine”. (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary) Some years before Daniel, Ruth a gentile, made a similar decision to serve Naomi’s God regardless of the cost , and so did the Psalmist .Likewise, each and every disciple must be determined to follow Christ regardless of the cost.
2. MUST BE ZEALOUS FOR SOUND DOCTRINE “It is the policy of the tempter to send his solicitations by the hand of those whom we love, who we least suspect to deceive us, and who we are desirous to please and to conform ourselves to. The enticement here is supposed to come from a brother or child that are near by nature, from a wife or friend that are near by choice, and are to us as our own souls, . Satan tempted Adam by Eve and Christ by Peter. We must therefore be concerned to stand our guard against a bad proposal when the person that makes it pretends to have an interest in us, so that we many never sin against God in compliance with the best friend we have in the world”. (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary) False teachers and false prophets are nothing new to God’s people, Peter warned us of this The disciple should not be enticed with that which is sinful; we must learn to “test the spirits”
3. MUST DESIRE TO MATURE A fruit tree must mature in order to bear fruit . “It is here observed, that in order to mature, Christians must leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ. How must we leave them? We must not lose them, nor despise them, and we must not forget them. We must lay them up in our hearts, and lay them as the foundation of all our profession and expectation; but we must not rest and stay in them, we must not be always laying the foundation, we must go on, and build upon it. There must be a superstructure; for the purpose of laying a foundation is to support the building”. (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
4. MUST DISPLAY THE CHARACTER OF THE MASTER (a) Love To Each Other Disciples must display a genuine love to each other for this is the general trademark of those who are God’s children , and as His children we must be careful to display His love. The Apostle continues further in his letter to admonish his readers for their lack of love in the fact that they say they love God yet they hate their fellow believers. . Too often this is the case in our churches today; we come together to worship and praise God yet we hold grudges and display hate for our fellow-believers in the way we treat them or exclude them from our fellowship. This is definitely not the attitude of our Lord Jesus, and will never show to the world around us that we are His disciples. (b) A Light To The World . The disciples must bear witness to the faith through personal example. As lights to the world we obtain light from the supreme “Light Of The World”; but if our light is to shine in this world’s dark places, it must be in a conspicuous position and not obscured by “man-made objects”, just as a city positioned on a hill is visible to those at lower levels. It would not make sense to light a candle and put it under a bowl and expect it to give light to those in the house. So disciples must not hide themselves, but live and work in places where their influence may be felt, where the light that is in them is most fully manifested to others; not for their own glorification, but that others may see the light of real Christian goodness expressed in practical acts of loving-kindness and service: a light not of this world but coming from God, and may in consequence be led to give honour and praise to God. (c) Salt Of The Earth The disciples of Jesus must, by their very nature, be “peculiar or distinctive”. The most obvious characteristic of salt is that it is essentially different from the medium into which it is placed, and its power lies precisely in this difference. Likewise, the power of Jesus’ disciples lie in their difference from the world; we are as different from other unsaved people as the salt is different from the food into which it is placed. Other functions of salt are to preserve or to arrest decay, and to act as an antiseptic. Disciples are called to be a “moral disinfectant” in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing or non-existent; and can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their distinctive.
5. MUST BE TRUE AND SINCERE WORSHIPERS Is your worship of God only on the surface? Is it to obtain the praise and recognition of your peers and acquaintances? What kinds of sacrifices do you offer to God? Malachi, God’s messenger to Israel, spoke of ways in which the priests and the people had profaned God’s name and had offered blemished and defiled sacrifices on His altar , resulting in God’s severe judgment upon His people, and we as disciples today are not much better than the people of Malachi’s day. Wanda Jackson the country singer, asked a simple yet profound question in one of her songs:
“How do you treat God, how do you treat God;
Like a G-O-D or a d-o-g; how do you treat God?
Do you go down to His house one or two days every week, Do you throw Him a bone and then go home and live just as you please. Is He the master of your life or are you the boss of His?, Well you’d be surprised if you realized who your God really is!”
Yes, we treat our God like our dog and we throw Him our bones and scraps from the table, and take great pleasure in doing so, so that we can be “seen” by others as a worshiper or servant devoted to God. Let us therefore be “true and sincere” worshipers of God as He desires us to be.
6. MUST LOOK FOR, AND LONG FOR CHRIST’S RETURN FOR HIS CHURCH The work and witness of the early Church was inspired by this promise; and is displayed in the many accounts recorded in the Acts of the early Church. Many other Scriptures also encourage us to look for His return:. Our Lord spoke in a parable telling us our attitude toward His return: <Luke 12:36-38 – waiting, watching, ready>. Our attitude should be one of waiting in expectancy for the return of a loved one . H.A. Ironside recollects: “I was preaching about the coming of Jesus, and as I was in prayer I was conscious of a woman getting up and going out in somewhat of a hurry. When I finished my prayer and I went to greet the friends at the door, I found a woman pacing back and forth in the lobby. The moment I came she said to me, “How dare you to pray like that — “Come Lord Jesus?’ I don’t want Him to come. It would break in on all my plans. How dare you!” I said, “My dear young woman, Jesus is coming whether you want it or not.” Oh, if you know Him and love Him,
surely your heart says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Whether You Want It Or Not – Knight’s p603). Disciples today are so involved with earthly cares that the promise of Christ’s return seems so far away and unimportant. We have lost the expectancy displayed by the disciples of the first century, and since we no longer expectantly wait, the work of The Master is no longer a priority.
CONCLUSION: It is as if Jesus said, ‘I am not looking for crowds; I am looking for disciples.’ Jesus often drew a crowd, but He was not interested in attracting a lot of followers. He was looking for disciples.