Discipleship is the process of devoting oneself to a teacher to learn from and become more like them. For the Christian, this refers to the process of learning the teachings of Jesus and following after his example in obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship fundamentally involves all of one’s being, not just the mind or intellect. All of the biblical terms used to convey the concept of discipleship involve more than just academic engagement. Moses made clear that the teaching of the law was meant to result in obedience to what it said rather than just intellectual acceptance (Deuteronomy 4:5). The obedience is reflected when, as Moses directed, we “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Jesus’ expectation for discipleship goes beyond an individual standing before others and telling them they believe and want to follow Jesus. He expects commitment to knowing and doing.
In Chapter 8 of the Gospel of Matthew we can read about an encounter Jesus has with people who tell Him they want to follow Him. Jesus offers two thoughts regarding expectations that sadly cause many want-to-be disciples to freeze in their tracks. In verses 18-22, He shares that it will be tough and requires immediate commitment. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”, reveals that our basic comforts will be challenged. His response “follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” seems harsh to the individual who asks, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” but it does suggest the commitment is now. Consider what this man asked, did his father just die? Was there a sense of urgency to get home to bury him and if so, why was he stopping on the way to listen to Jesus talk. Was he asking to be allowed to fulfil his obligation to an elderly parent until his father died and then he would be free to follow? Scripture shares that family is important but it should not be our excuse for inaction. We can love God as He intended and we can be disciples while life happens around us.
Discipleship begins when we believe that Jesus is that path to salvation and that His truths are the guiding light. Discipleship can be wrongly perceived as a set of steps that one completes in order to achieve discipleship status. That approach allows us to think we are able to delay them until we have completed whatever else we think needs to be done first. Regardless of how wonderful and meaningful this activity may seem they become excuses that prevents the commitment God desires. Becoming a disciple requires a mindset change. Discipleship is not something that occupies the time in-between our work, our pleasure or even our Sunday worship. It must become a way of life where we are mindful of Jesus’ teaching and God’s expectations causing us to want to apply them as we work, play, and worship.
Lastly, discipleship not only involves the process of becoming a disciple but of making other disciples through teaching and evangelism. As followers of Jesus we should be able to identify three phases of our journey, which we can share with others. We know what our life was like before we chose Jesus; we know the circumstances that led us to choose Him; and we should know what our life is like since we became followers. Wanting and actually sharing this discipleship journey with others should be a response to being a follower.
There is intentionality required to identify Jesus’ teaching in order to understand and apply them. Scripture study is necessary, so is communication with God (prayer), and so is fellowship with others. There are numerous books, studies, tools, sermons etcetera that are available and accessible. They help us understand discipleship as they often consolidate Jesus’ teaching into a package that allows us to comprehend, grow and apply His teachings. We can assist you with recommendations as to what tools you might consider however only you can decide to become a disciple. Becoming a disciple requires we learn and follow the teachings of Jesus. The Holy Spirit wants to empower us to do so. Choose the path you want to be on now. Choose to be a 24/7 intentional disciple of Jesus.