WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
YOU ARE! In the coming months at WPC, we will be addressing the issue of ‘discipleship.’ You’ve done a great job at memorizing key Bible passages on discipleship this past year. Christian discipleship is central to the work of revitalization. Perhaps you feel a bit overwhelmed with the whole conversation coming at you at once, and it feels like you are taking a drink from a fire hydrant.
Back quite a few years ago, there was a movie entitled, “What About Bob?” Richard Dryfus played a psychiatrist, Leo Marvin, who wanted to spend a nice family vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. However, Dr. Marvin ended up spending his vacation being stalked by a client, Bob Wiley, played by Bill Murray. One of the enduring lines from that film was the phrase ‘taking baby steps,’ a theory used by Dr. Marvin to help his clients, including Murray, to overcome debilitating phobias. Well, when it comes to this focus on discipleship, we are taking ‘baby steps’ as we go along. We also call them ‘one-degree shifts.’
So, what is discipleship? I came across a simple and good definition of disciple: “A disciple is someone called to ‘live in’ Christ (salvation, continually abiding in); equipped to ‘live like’ Christ (sanctification, spiritual formation and growth); and sent out to ‘live for’ Christ (to love and serve our neighbors, to bear fruit).” Another way of understanding this is to consider your head, heart, and hands. As we come to faith through the grace of God and by His mercy, our minds (heads) are renewed. Then, the Holy Spirit fills us, and we experience growth in Christ, and our hearts are changed (hearts). Finally, God uses us to be His ambassadors and witnesses to the world by the living out of the Gospel (hands).
This concept of discipleship is clearly seen in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [Calling - head]. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [Equipping - heart] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work [Sending - hands] (This past Sunday, Andy Withrow spoke of how The Table Church in Victoria, BC is focusing on these same three aspects of discipleship).
Consider these three characteristics of a disciple:
1. To Live in Christ (calling): A disciple of Jesus must be a follower of Christ and a person who trusts in His grace for salvation: - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-7).
2. To live like Christ (equipping): A disciple of Jesus should always be maturing in the faith. We will have seasons when the growth is very evident; but, we will also experience those times when we may feel we are not maturing at all. However, a disciple’s aspiration ought to be consistent – experiencing continual growth in Christ. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:1-3).
3. To live for Christ (sending/serving): A disciple of Jesus is always following the directives of the Master who said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus promised us that He would make us powerful witnesses in the world - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). But how can we be a faithful witness to Jesus? He tells us in Matthew 5:16: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Both these passages point to the fact that we can never be effective witnesses unless Jesus, by His Spirit, is working through us.
As we continue to make discipleship a priority in our church, we should expect to see all three of these things happening simultaneously (and we need to pray to that end) – to know Christ, to grow in Christ, and to go out in service for Christ. Overwhelming? Just remember, baby steps.
In God's Grace,