What is a Disciple?

At our church, we have begun the Disciple Challenge. Essentially, we have broken down the targets we have for disciples (Grow, Give, and Go) and are using the challenge to teach our congregation how to live as a Christ-follower.

It has been a great few weeks walking through this challenge with our church, but it has brought up an interesting question: What is a Disciple? Is a Disciple simply someone who lives out these characteristics? Do you become a Disciple just by doing these tasks?

I would submit to you that Jesus answers this question for us in Matthew 4:19. Jesus is formally beginning his ministry by calling the first disciples. He is walking along the Sea of Galilee and he sees two fishermen. These two men are Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew. You may think that Jesus will call his first disciples with a grand gesture. Perhaps Angels come down from the Heavens and sing an angelic song as Jesus calls these two men into ministry? Maybe we see the Spirit move in a powerful, visible way? If you are expecting something like these possibilities, Jesus might disappoint you. He simply says “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Yet, these simple words changed these men’s lives. Jesus calls them to become disciples and they were never the same. Let us look at these words to understand what a Disciple is.

Follow me…

Jesus calls these men to begin their journey with him by saying “Follow me”. As we look at this verse, the journey of discipleship begins by following Jesus. It is important to understand that following Jesus means trusting Him as your Lord and Savior by repenting of your sins and receiving the free gift of grace.

This also suggests to us that the journey of discipleship is one in which we are always pursuing Christ and his character. The Christian life should be one of continual growth, of becoming more and more like the Christ we serve. If we are not growing to be more like Christ, we must examine our lives to determine if we are even following Jesus.

And I will make you…

Here, we see Jesus placing the work of changing your life directly on himself. He is taking one hundred percent responsibility for your life changing if you are his follower. This portion of the verse is why we referenced self-examination previously. Jesus has assured us he will shape us into a fully formed follower of God. The focus here is not upon the tasks that we will do but on the finished work of Christ.

The transformation that takes place is called sanctification. Jesus has saved us (Follow me) and now he is changing us to love sin less and love him more. Sanctification leaves us with new desires, new passions, and a new mind. While this is all done by the power of the Spirit, it is not done alone. It is imperative for a follower of God to be involved in the local church. The local church is the vehicle through which the Spirit works to change our life. Corporate worship, prayer, bible study, etc. are the tools through which God works to change us.

Fishers of men

As we finish our study of this verse, we see that Jesus is calling us to follow him while being transformed. However, this begs the question: why? It most certainly is for his glory and honor that he calls us to himself but there is something else happening here. We are being called to follow Jesus while being transformed in order to proclaim and display the Gospel to the world. Our salvation story begins with the grace of God and we go forth to tell the world of the grace that has been provided. God receives honor and glory through this process of worship, also known as evangelism. Our role in this process is to allow our story to be shared among those we encounter so that they may hear of the good news of Jesus Christ. This includes a clear articulation of the Gospel (God, Man, Sin, Faith), sharing of our testimony (our salvation story), and serving the least of these in their affliction (widows, orphans, etc.).

Living as a Disciple begins with repenting of our sins and turning towards the redeeming work of Christ. This journey does not just begin with repentance but is centered on the finished work of Christ. We are able to follow Jesus, only because he is leading us. I pray that you would wrestle with where Jesus may be leading you and that you would faithfully follow him as Peter and Andrew did.

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