What Does It Mean To Be A Disciple Of Jesus?
Do you think we are disciples of Jesus?
How do you know? Do you understand what it means to be a disciple?
Many Christians claim to be disciples who believe in Jesus. However, do they truly understand what those claims really mean?
Today, the church does a poor job overall of understanding and teaching discipleship and what it entails. However, it is essential to know or define what a disciple is.
A Brief Story About My Discipleship Journey
Throughout most of my life, I thought of myself as a disciple. I started in a Christian family and went to church like many people. Then I swayed away. I was influenced by the world.
Was I a disciple back then?
Years later, I came back. I believed there was a God, but I would find Him on my own this time. I searched and made the Bible say what I thought it was saying. I made Jesus my “friend.”
Was I a disciple now?
Eventually, we moved our family, and we intended to find a new church. So like most people, life took over, and we stopped going. We kept having problems that disrupted our lives, so we never had “time” to find a church or spend time with Jesus. So I left my “friend” Jesus behind…again.
So the point of this story for you is that just because I believed I was a disciple doesn’t mean I was one. Even if I was, I was not a very good one.
So what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus then? Let’s turn to God’s word, the Bible.
Defining A Disciple Starts With Scripture
So I’m sure you’re asking, what does it mean to be a disciple then? Are we disciples of Jesus?
Well, I am glad you asked. To understand what it means to be a disciple, we need to turn to the Bible. We should always look to scripture to understand God’s will and intentions.
When it comes to understanding discipleship, the are many scriptures we can use to understand and define this for us. Jesus provides us several verses we can use where He has called a disciple to follow Him.
One of the most commonly used scriptures for understanding what it means to be a disciple comes from Matthew Jesus called Peter and Andrew.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.” ~ Matthew 4:19
Seems simple right? But how does it answer if we are disciples of Jesus?
Well, there is much more stated in this single verse than you realize once you take the time to unpack what is being said. We can learn several key points about being a disciple in this single verse.
So what does it mean to be a disciple according to this verse?
Discipleship is Relational
Not only was Jesus inviting them to follow Him, but He was also extending an invitation into a relationship with Him. When Jesus, as a Jewish Rabbi, asked Peter and Andrew to “follow Him,” everyone knew what was being asked. According to Jim Putman in Discipleshift, Following Him means making Jesus Lord and master of our lives. The Jewish people would have understood this relationship.
While Jesus is not physically here with us today, we can still follow Him and His commandments. God gave us His word in the form of several historical documents that we know today as the Bible. God has provided us with everything we need to know Him in the Bible. We can continue to learn and build a relationship with Jesus as our Lord through proper study and reading of His word.
Discipleship is Transforming
When Jesus told them He would make them “Fishers of People,” he informed them that it would be life-changing if they chose to follow Him. Jesus presented this in a way they would easily understand as Peter and Andrew were both fishermen. (Matt 4:18) They would be given a new purpose. Furthermore, He was telling them that they would serve to bring people into the kingdom of God as disciples. In fact, Jesus issues this as a command to them in the Great Commission:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20
We are given a new purpose, but we are also transformed or reborn. Jesus tells us we need to be “born again” to see the kingdom. (John 3:4) Jesus is not talking about a physical rebirth but of a spiritual change. We are to change from our fleshy or worldly ways to be new creations in the spirit of God. (John 3:6)
Discipleship is Sacrificial
Peter and Andrew gave up everything to follow Jesus. They just left everything behind and went with Him. (Matt 4:20) This does not necessarily mean that they just gave everything away. After all, we know that Peter had a home. Additionally, they stopped there, and Peter’s mother-in-law waited on Jesus. (Matt 8:14-15)
Peter gave up the need or importance of his property and material goods. His priority was Jesus. He left all his comforts and life as he knew it to follow Jesus and obey him.
Sure, disciples may be called to let it all go. Jesus instructed us to give freely and happily. (Matt 6:1-4) It is a matter of where your heart is. Is your heart focused on fleshly worldly things, or is your heart focused on Jesus?
So what is a disciple, then?
By understanding the characteristics of a disciple in scripture, you should be able to see the three elements:
- A disciple of Jesus has a relationship with Him as their teacher.
- A disciple is fundamentally and spiritually changed or transformed by Him.
- A disciple of Jesus will put Jesus first and be willing to forsake everything else to follow after Him and fulfill His commandments.
Ultimately, a disciple is somebody who makes Jesus their Lord and master of their lives. They Seek to know and understand His will above their own and are willing to let go of the world to follow Him.
So What Does It All Mean To You?
I’m sure you are still wondering, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus then?
Again, I am glad you asked!
In my story, I thought I was a disciple. But I did not understand what that meant. Being a disciple is far more than just believing Jesus was real or making Him a part of my life.
It wasn’t until my life was falling apart and nothing could stop it that I indeed found God. I gave my life entirely to Him and sincerely promised to follow Him and His will. He was my only hope, and I put Him in front of everything in my life. At that point, everything changed.
For you, what does it mean to be a disciple? What does discipleship look like?
Here are the three points that should help you:
Jesus Becomes The Lord Of Your Life
On that day that my life seemed to be in ashes, I promised myself to Jesus. I accepted His invitation to follow him where ever He leads me. I made Him the Lord of my life. Scripture tells us Jesus is to be our Lord to be saved.
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; ~ Romans 10:9
This verse states that we are to admit or essentially testify that Jesus has full authority over us. He is our ruler. As disciples of Jesus, we should follow His commandments and act accordingly.
You Are Transformed Into A New Creation
When I finally declared Jesus as my Lord, I was reborn. I felt compelled to learn who He really was, not what I wanted Him to be. I began to know sin and tried to avoid it. I found peace. I learned what love is.
Jesus indeed sent the Holy Spirit as He promised to His disciples. (Acts 1:8) It came as a fire, maybe not literally but definitely spiritually. I had a desire to find and know the truth, both about God’s will and the validity of society’s arguments against Him. I wanted to know Him.
I began to understand the fruits of the spirit that Paul described to the Galatians. I’m still growing in them all, but I am truly a new creation today. Instead of rage and hate at the world, I now know love, peace, and hope. I can honestly say I was transformed.
You Are Willing To Let Go Of Everything To Follow Him
If Jesus is genuinely your Lord, then nothing is really yours. You must be prepared and willing to sacrifice anything for Him.
This is where people struggle with their commitment to Jesus as their Lord. They are OK with the easy stuff in their comfort zone, but they resist the call beyond that. Jesus is aware of this when he tells His disciples:
And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” ~ Matthew 19:24
A true disciple of Jesus understands that nothing belongs to them. We are simply stewards of God’s property. This also includes the material things of the world and ourselves and our very lives. We are to give all of ourselves to God and trust Him and His will.
So Are We Disciples Of Jesus?
Only you can answer that question. However, it would help if you were truly honest with yourself.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? It means you have accepted His invitation to be your Lord and Master, and you are willing to give up everything for Him. To say “No” to Jesus is to deny Him as such, and you are only deceiving yourself if you believe otherwise.
It took a long time and a lot of difficulty in my life to understand what discipleship meant. Once I realized Jesus wasn’t my buddy; He was my Lord, things changed for me.
Most people add Jesus into their lives. He becomes their buddy or pal. They turn to Him when they need Him or want to hang out. However, He isn’t their Lord. They may say the words, but that is different from confessing and letting their lives be the testimony.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
It means that you let Jesus be the ultimate authority in your life. You allow Him to mold you into who He wants you to be. You seek His will through His word in the Bible. You are willing to follow Him wherever He leads you and let go of your attachment to the world.
Are you a disciple of Jesus?