Discipleship. What does that mean? What is a disciple? Discipleship is a follower or student of a teacher or leader. A disciple is a learner who learns to apply wisdom following the teachings of the one who is teaching. In the kingdom of God, discipleship means being committed to following Jesus and is a key to abundant life. It is a person who is learning to bring his life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Being His disciple means that we study, learn and follow His teachings, and examples of the life that He modeled for us; to live them out so that we become like Him and then go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 10:24, 25; 28:19, 20).
We come into God’s Kingdom when we have been born again of the Spirit (John 3:3, 5, 6) and are then children of God (John 1:12). After receiving Jesus as our Savior, we are delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13, 14).
Jesus wants us to be His disciples – to be all in; to forsake all. We must die to self daily (John 12:20-26; 1 Corinthians 15:31) including our own ambitions and desires. Totally dependent upon the Lord. Fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; following Him and obeying His Word; putting God’s will before our own. Praying for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13).
Our entrance into the kingdom was assured forever when we placed our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and our salvation is free but becoming a disciple of the kingdom costs something i.e. how we choose to spend our time, talents, etc. for God’s glory rather than our own.
Disciples are needed to impact and change the world and nations they live in. Disciples should live for and share Jesus! We are to impact our communities, our neighborhoods, our churches, workplaces, etc. for the kingdom of God. However, many believers turn away from following Him because of the cost. We saw this even in the ministry of Jesus (Luke 9:57-62; John 6:60).
Jesus gave us the first mandate of discipleship in Luke 14:25 – 33. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Jesus says that whoever does not bear his cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:27).
What is our cross? Typically, it’s something we don’t want to do that He is asking us to do! Denying ourselves isn’t the same thing as submission. We deny ourselves so that we can submit to God. It is not the situation that is the cross but our response to that situation that is the cross.
There may be some suffering involved but we don’t look for it. He told us that we would be persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10) and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). He told us to remember that the world hated Him first. Jesus said that in the world we will have tribulation but to be of good cheer because He overcame the world (John 16:33)! When we totally give ourselves to Jesus as His follower, we will experience the abundant life He has promised us (John 10:10).
Let’s look at 5 stages of a Christ-follower. Everything we are looking for in life is further down the path to abundant life.
1) Salvation- born-again believer
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9, 10 (NKJV)
For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NKJV)
2) Self – living for yourself; walking in the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21)
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:5, 6 (NKJV)
Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 (NKJV)
That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)
3) Sacrifice – surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:5-8)
I beseech you, therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1 (NKJV)
And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves, slaves, to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? Romans 6:13, 16 (NKJV)
I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. And, those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16, 24 (NKJV)
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)
4) Servant – a mature disciple of Christ; submitted to God first then to each other; giving of oneself; being continually led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment is the only pathway to spiritual maturity (Romans 8:14)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NKJV)
“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” John 12:26 (NKJV)
“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 13:14 – 16 (NKJV)
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 (NKJV)
5) Slave or bondservant – owned by the master and does His will no matter what the cost; absolute loyalty to Him; even to the point of death
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5 – 8 (NKJV)
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
Follow me as I share a brief testimony of my walk with the Lord.
I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to come into my heart and life to be my Savior at a young age. However, much of my walk with the Lord in my younger years was based on performance instead of freely receiving His grace. It was more about trying to be good in order to be approved and accepted by Him and others. But I could never be good enough. Instead on being based on the relationship, it was all about keeping rules which is legalism or religion.
I knew a lot about Him from growing up in a Christian home, reading the Bible and attending Sunday school classes, but I didn’t really have a relationship with Him where I knew His unconditional love, and grace. I would consider it more intellectual knowledge rather than a relationship with Him. Even though I wasn’t living like the rest of the teenagers and young adults of my day i.e. taking drugs, having sex, and listening to rock ‘n’ roll; I wasn’t living for Him either but for myself. It is what the Bible calls walking after the flesh or the world instead of walking by the Spirit of God.
It was only after I went through a difficult and hurtful experience that my true relationship with God was revealed when it was put to the test. I discovered that I couldn’t trust Him and even believed that He had allowed these bad things to happen to me. (I now know that God is good and there’s no evil or darkness in Him – Mark 10:18; James 1:17; Nahum 1:7; 1 John 1:5).
Because of what happened, I walked away from Him for three years and did my “own thing.” However, the Holy Spirit continued to pursue me to draw me back to the Lord. On July 29, 1979, I turned my life back over to the Lord by repenting of my sin and making a commitment to follow Him. It was remembering His goodness that prompted my decision (Romans 2:4). Fellowship was instantly restored!
I was in love with the Lord and I spent time with Him in worship, prayer and studying His Word. I wanted to get to know Him so I could fully trust Him with my life. You can’t really trust someone if you don’t know that they are trustworthy! I grew in the Lord and after being baptized with the Holy Spirit, I began to serve in areas of ministry such as witnessing to those around me and evangelism.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit gives you power for ministry as well as enabling you to walk victoriously (Acts 1:8). Each life challenge I came up against gave me an opportunity to grow in faith and to trust Him more. I also learned about spiritual warfare and intercessory prayer.
In 2014, I came to the realization that I was not living the abundant life that Christ had died to give me. My life had problems in just about every area i.e. physical health, relational, financial, and work-related. I had let my guard down and the enemy came in like a roaring lion seeking to devour me!
I drew close to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me for not walking in the Spirit. I was trying to do things on my own; in my own strength, wisdom and righteousness which is pride. Jesus drew me deeper into a relationship with Him, and I grew in grace and in intimacy with Him. I discovered a new relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.
I had another epiphany in the Spring of 2016 when I realized I had not fully surrendered my heart, will, and life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I hadn’t realized that surrender is something that needs to be done on a daily basis. He was asking me to put Him first and to do His will instead of my own. I consecrated my life to Him followed by daily surrender.
He is showing me what it truly means to lose your life and live for Him! I still have trials and tribulations, but each day I have His presence, love, joy, peace, and grace as I daily surrender to Him; walking in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is transforming me into the image of Christ as I cooperate with Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I am a woman of the Word and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13). I am growing in the things of the Spirit and stirring up the gifts He has given me. He is the One who brings revelation and helps me to apply the Word to my life. I am maturing in the Word rightly dividing the Word of truth and studying to show myself approved (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16, 17). I am also a teacher of the Word and have been released into ministry.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13, 14 (NKJV)
I believe I am stepping into the destiny and purpose that God created me for at this time in my life for such a time as this. It’s been a long and difficult journey but the Lord never wastes an experience. He uses it all for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:4-6; Philippians 1:9, 11; 1 Peter 4:11) and He has promised to work out everything for our good (Romans 8:28).
I am becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ; fully surrendered and committed to doing God’s will no matter what the cost. In his book, “Kingdom Disciples,” Tony Evans describes discipleship as being similar to being in the military, where a soldier is expected to obey every command, i.e., when to get up; when to go to bed; what to eat; how to dress, stand, walk, location to be in; even get sent to the front line if necessary and killed in the line of duty. Believers should be willing to do whatever our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ asks of us as His followers.
The goal of discipleship is to become conformed or transformed into the image or likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) in our character, conduct, attitudes, and actions. People should be able to tell by our walk and talk that we are followers of Jesus (Galatians 5:22 – 26; John 13:35; Ephesians 4 – 6).
Have you counted the cost of discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ? He is calling you to come deeper in Him. He is saying that “If you are going to follow Me, you have to put Me first. Your love is for Me first before anyone or anything else.” The cross is an instrument of death. We must die to self and take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Make no excuses!
We are the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:27), and He has a mission for us in advancing His kingdom on earth (Matthew 28:19, 20). Stay tuned for part two of “Kingdom Disciples” to find out how we have been equipped to carry this mission out!