Lessons in Discipleship (1) دروس في التلمذة

Table of Contents

Lessons In Discipleship #1

What is a disciple of Jesus?

          This is Dr. Ed Hoskins, welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith. In this first session we cover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

In this series, we want to talk about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Before we get started, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a retired physician. I spent 34 years in family medicine and student health. I became a Christian 50 years ago and I was helped early in my faith by a group called the Navigators, an international non-denominational Christian organization, whose goal is “To know Christ and to make him known.”  I’ve been on associate staff with that organization since 1980. Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned during that time from the Bible and under the direction of the Navigators.  Today’s session is on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

There may be a few questions you are asking about discipleship. First, what is the main characteristic of a disciple of Jesus? In other words, what do they look like?  Second, is discipleship ‘being’, or is it ‘doing’ or is it both?  Finally, what are the costs of being a disciple? Well, first off a disciple is a learner, one who is taught by another who is more experienced.

One interesting fact is that there are six places in the Bible’s New Testament where Jesus himself uses the words ‘my disciple’ or ‘my disciples’. The first three are in the gospel of John, beginning with  chapter 8, verse 31. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word then you are truly disciples of mine.” A disciple of Jesus listens to God’s word. In other words, that disciple obeys Jesus.

Second, in John 13:35, Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”  This is the hallmark of a disciple of Jesus, sacrificial agape love. Third, in John 15:8 Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” A disciple of Jesus bears much fruit.

What kind of fruit are we talking about here? Well, obviously it’s spiritual fruit.  One important type of this is other people coming into God’s kingdom, the expansion of God’s kingdom. But even more important, fruit has to do with character. The ‘fruits of the spirit’ are listed in Galatians 5:22 and 23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In the next three usages of ‘my disciple,’ Jesus gives warnings of what can actually hinder us from being a disciple of his. These three are in the gospel of Luke chapter 14.  In verse 26 Jesus said, “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.” Let’s be honest here.  Does this mean that Jesus wants us to go out and hate our relatives? Of course not! What it does mean is that, in comparison with our love for Christ, all other relationships, including family, appear like hatred.  Another potential hindrance Jesus lists in verse 27 of the same chapter.  “And anyone who does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Let’s focus on this. The cross was an instrument of death.  A disciple of Jesus puts to death personal ambition and self-love.  Basically, Jesus was saying, “Come and die with me.”  A final hindrance is given in Luke 14 verse 33.  Jesus said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”  Possessions are a potential hindrance in following Christ.

Does that mean that Jesus wants us to go out and liquidate everything we have so that we become beggars on the street?  No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  What it does mean is that everything we own belongs to Jesus for his use, for the purpose of expanding his kingdom.

Here’s another look at discipleship. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples in Matthew chapter 10, he gave them specific instructions.  In verses 6-8 he said, “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.’”

So what does this involve? It’s talking about sharing Jesus’ message of salvation with all people outside. It also means meeting the basic needs of others. Does this mean that everyone who follows Jesus is going to be casting out demons and cleansing lepers? No, but it does mean that we are to be involved in spreading his message.  We are also to be involved in meeting the needs of others, the people in need around us.

But there is another potential problem here in following Jesus.  It is not going to be easy or comfortable or even safe.  In Matthew chapter 10 verse 16 Jesus also instructed his disciples. He warned them, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”  And in that same chapter, verse 21, he says, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.” And, “All men will hate you because of me.”  This means there is going to be opposition. He further said in verse 24, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub (Satan), how much more the members of his household!”  I think that last portion is really important. The most important result of discipleship is this – a disciple becomes like Jesus.

Let’s summarize what we’ve talked about in this brief session. First, a disciple of Jesus is a learner, one who is taught by another who is more experienced. They are taught by Jesus. Second, a disciple spends time with Jesus in his word and in prayer.  He becomes like Jesus.  Third,  some activities of a disciple are evangelism, that is, sharing the message of Christ, the gospel, as well as meeting the needs of those around us.  Fourth, a disciple of Jesus is not focused on money or possessions.  Everything we own belongs to Jesus for his use.  Fifth, discipleship may involve persecution.  Some disciples will even die for their faith. We must be prepared for this. We must prepare other believers for this possibility. Sixth, the hallmark of a disciple of Jesus is sacrificial agape love. Seventh, discipleship is not just a ‘one and done’ deal.  It’s a lifelong process.

We will see you next time for another session of Lessons in Discipleship when we cover: Basic Assurances for a New Believer. Well, that wraps up this session of Lessons in Discipleship.  Until next time, keep following Jesus. He’s worth it.

Leave a Comment