Definition of Discipleship

In a perfect world everyone who takes the name of Christian would be a disciple. Being a Christian should be synonymous with being totally devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately that is simply not the case. This is not a new problem either. Perhaps one could point to watered down religion or just too many choices of things to do outside of church for the root of this problem. The truth is though that even Jesus had people who followed Him but were not His disciples.

In John 6, the chapter begins with thousands of people gathered to hear Jesus speak and the feeding of the 5,000. Once Jesus began to offer the difficult teaching about the bread of life, many people left Him. When Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave Him too, Peter responds in John 6:68-69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

To understand who or what a true disciple is, we must set aside semantics for a moment and separate followers from true disciples. A follower is like a casual fan of a sports team. They are happy when their team wins and sad when they lose. But win or lose, life goes on and by the next day everything is pretty much back to normal. A fanatic’s life revolves around their sports team though. They are ecstatic when they win and devastated when they lose. The performance of their favorite team will definitely affect their mood the following day.

In terms of Christianity, God wants fanatics, not just casual followers. Our entire life should be invested in church so that we are very interested in its success. The major difference between following sports and following the Lord is that following sports is passive. No matter what a fan does, they won’t affect the outcome for their team. Church is active however. What we do as Christians absolutely has an effect on how our church performs. If our church isn’t doing well, it should bother us enough that we want to do something to improve the situation.

When Jesus instructed people to follow Him, He did not want observers who had an interest in what He was doing. He wanted people whose lives would be totally devoted to what He did. He didn’t just want people who would watch what He did; He wanted people who would do what He did. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out His disciples to perform miracles and to do the things that He did. This wasn’t just reserved for the twelve men who are formally known to us as disciples. Jesus later sent out a group of seventy two to whom He gave similar instructions.

Jesus was never quiet about what it would take to be a true disciple. In Conditions of Discipleship there are numerous verses that tell us that a person must be completely devoted to Jesus if they are to be a disciple. Nothing is to come before Jesus, including personal possessions and even family. Moreover a person must take up their cross daily and hold fast to the teachings of Jesus. Being a disciple is not a onetime event but a lifetime of work.

There are three main requirements to being a disciple.

  •  A disciple knows what God expects
  • A disciple does what God expects
  • A disciple teaches others so that they know what God expects and then does it

We can’t be an effective disciple if we have no idea what God expects of us. So a disciple must be diligent in the study of God’s Word. This means more than simply attending church on Sunday morning. Personal study is needed to truly understand God’s will for our lives. We wouldn’t be in good physical shape if we only ate once a week. It is the same case with our spiritual condition. Hearing a sermon once a week will not leave us spiritually well fed.

Simply knowing what God expects is not enough to make us disciples however. It needs to be applied. This happens both consciously and subconsciously. Consciously, we realize that a certain behavior is expected of us and we make corrections in our life to conform with those expectations. Subconsciously, by hearing the examples of love in the Bible over and over again, we understand that this is normal for a Christian and become more loving without thinking about it. The adage “one bad apple ruins the whole bunch” works in the opposite direction as well. By being around other Christians who are living out God’s Word, we are trained to live it as well.

The third requirement is critical to discipleship. It is possible to be a very godly person by following God’s commands but if God’s commands are not shared with others, Christianity is only one generation from extinction. Fortunately we have the Great Commission. One of the commands that we have is to go and make disciples. If we are obeying God’s commands we will be making more disciples.

Being a disciple is not an easy task. It is more than simply following, it takes hard work and devotion. Jesus Christ must come above everything else in life. A disciple must learn the commands of God, then they must obey them. Finally a disciple passes that knowledge onto others and helps them to obey the commands as well.

The Difference Between the Average Christian and the Pastor

For better or worse, all Christians are under the same pressure as the pastor to live the Christian life as well as they can, most just don’t realize the responsibility.  You’ve probably heard it said as often as I have that people don’t want to have anything to do with Christianity because they are hypocrites.  Fair or unfair that is the impression that a number of people have of Christianity.

When pastors fall from grace, it is high profile.  The media will latch onto the story and carry it wherever they can go with it.  It is bad publicity for the Christian community.  But the truth is that most people do not judge Christianity based on the slipups of a few wayward pastors.  They may read about the sins of a pastor but they are most likely to judge Christianity based on what they have experienced from Christians.  That means the average person in the pew goes much further in shaping others opinions on Christianity than a pastor because the average person knows many Christians but not many pastors.

Pastors are held to a higher standard by people who know them.  People expect a pastor to be “holier” than them.  But the non-Christian world isn’t basing their view of Christianity on pastors, they are basing it on the average Christian in the pew.

Paul instructed his readers to imitate him.  Paul writes just this in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”  As a pastor, Paul knew that everyone was looking to him as an example.  He could only set this example so much as he imitated Christ however.  In the end, Christ is the standard for all of us.  Others will judge Christianity based on what we do for better or worse, whether we are pastors or average Christians.  All we can do is do our best to imitate Christ in all that we do.

The Cost of Discipleship

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matt. 4:19

It should come as no surprise that as Jesus called His disciples, He had some expectations for them.  The same expectations that Jesus had for His disciples, He has for us now.  They are lofty and not easily met.  Nevertheless, if we want to be disciples of Jesus, we must strive to meet them as they are the conditions of discipleship that Jesus gave us.

Self-denial

Matt. 10:38 – …and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matt. 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34 – Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Luke 9:23 – Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 14:27 – And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

To be a disciple of Jesus means self-denial.  This means doing things that we don’t always want to do and going places where we don’t always want to go.  Even Jesus had to deny Himself as the road to the cross was not one that He would have chosen for Himself.  This is why He prays for the Father to take the cup from Him but ultimately decides “not My will but Yours.”

Renunciation

Matt. 19:21 – Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Mark 10:21 – Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Luke 18:22 – When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Some preachers are preaching a gospel that is very different from the one that Jesus taught.  They teach that a person with faith only needs to ask and God will make them prosperous.  Instead Jesus taught us to renounce the pursuit of material wealth and concentrate on following Him.

Leaving all

Mark 10:28 – Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

Luke 14:26 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.

Matt. 8:22 – But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Luke 9:59 – He said to another man, “Follow me.”  But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Luke 9:61 – Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

Luke 14:33 – In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Jesus does not actually advocate hating one’s family but is rather stating what our priority should be.  Jesus Christ comes first in our lives, ahead of everything else, including family.  Those who want to follow Jesus but still hold onto other priorities that are equally important to them are not really following Jesus.

What Makes Education Christian?

Christian education is a very broad topic.  In general, Christian education could be considered any education that is based upon a Christian worldview or teaches Christian principles.  The word intentionally should be added to this definition however.  Even our public school system teaches some Christian values such as honesty and integrity without endorsing Christianity as they are generally accepted good traits.  Moreover, because the US has a Christian heritage there will always be some Christian principles taught even if they aren’t acknowledged as Christian in origin.

What is Christian education will vary based on the context of whether it takes place in a school setting or within a church.  In formal education it is impossible to make math Christian but overall the school may strive to grow students into mature Christians.  This would make it a Christian school and one would receive a Christian education there.  In the context of a church, Christian education should only have one goal, make fully functional disciples of Christ.

There are four things that separate Christian education from other types of education – people, purposes, products, and processes.  In respect to people, Christian education is different because it involves Christians.  Christians are the students and more mature Christians are the teachers.  This can be found in any public school in America however, so that is not all that is required.  The most important person in Christian education is the Lord.  God is involved in the education of Christians, both as the subject of the education and as the giver of spiritual gifts.  The spiritual gifts are then used for the glory of God, completing the circle.

The purpose of Christian education is different because it involves the reconciliation of our relationship with God.  All Christians have already been forgiven and that part of our relationship with God has already been restored.  However we continue to sin and need to continue to ask for forgiveness.  We are taught to seek God in prayer and to worship Him.  The more we do this, the more we attain spiritual maturity.

The products of Christian education is brought as a result of the purpose of Christian education.  As a believer is brought into maturity, they will worship the Lord more deeply and whole heartedly.  As they attain maturity, they will seek out others to pass on their knowledge and begin the discipleship process over again, this time as the teacher.

The final thing that makes education Christian is the processes.  This is probably the biggest separation from secular and Christian education.  The Bible is the core textbook in Christian education.  The people are devoted to one another in a way that is not found in normal teaching.  As a result of using the Bible as the authoritative textbook, the education is Christ-centered and focused on the disciplines that Jesus taught.