Discipleship is essential to the success of the Christian; we see in Jesus’ three years of ministry that he surrounded himself with twelve men and actively discipled them day after day. This truth alone is enough to cause us to consider the importance of discipleship in our own lives as well as those around us. So let’s look into what Jesus had to say on this topic.
What did Jesus teach on discipleship? During his earthly ministry, Jesus gives us clear instructions on what it means to be a Disciple of God, as well as a Biblical model of what discipleship and mentorship look like. In Luke 14 Jesus tells us that to be his follower we must do three things:
- Count the cost
- Give up everything and follow him
- Love the Lord above the world
Along with this, Jesus walks with his twelve disciples teaching them the right way of living each day and pointing them to the truth.
We’ll take a deeper look at both of these elements of discipleship, beginning with what Jesus considered to be the criteria and cost of being His disciple.
What it Means to be a Disciple of God
In Luke 14 it says that large crowds were following Jesus and as they were following him he addressed them and explained what it means to be His disciple.
When I read this particular passage of scripture I see three points that Jesus is emphasizing, I listed them above but I’ll expand on them further here. The first is counting the cost.
Count the Cost of Being His Disciple
Jesus highlights the need to consider your decision to follow him. He teaches the people that this is not a whim, or a feel-good decision, but an actual life-altering decision.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’Luke 14:27-30
This passage of scripture reminds me of a character named Pliable in The Pilgrims Progress. The author, John Bunyan, tells a story of how this man named Pliable set out on his journey towards heaven with “Christian,” whom the story is centered on, but once they came to a difficult trial–”The Slough of Despond,” he gave up and turned back the way he came.
But when he got back to his hometown, he was mocked and ridiculed and had no place there any longer, his own family had no respect or love for him anymore.
This all points toward a deep and weighty understanding of what true discipleship is. There will be trials beyond compare so understand exactly what you’re giving up and understand that the reward is worth it.
Give up Everything to be His Disciple
Next comes the actual decision. The decision to be a disciple of Jesus is to give up everything for Him.
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
In verse 27 it says that if we do not bear our cross we cannot be his disciple. Our cross is the sacrifice and denial of our flesh and worldly desires. Jesus is, therefore, showing that there cannot be a divide–one foot in the world and one foot in His presence.
Love God Above the World
And finally, Jesus’ first words when He is speaking to the crowds is instructing them that to love family, or anything above Him is not a characteristic of a true disciple.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26
This verse is not saying that we are to literally hate our family and friends, instead, He is saying that in comparison to God, it should appear that we hate our brothers. Or, in other words, our love for God should the center of our lives and that we place Him above our loved ones.
He is calling us to be obedient to Him over that of our love for those who are dearest to us, as well as to be obedient to him over the opinions and ideas of man.
Jesus’ Example of Discipleship
Now, that I have covered what Jesus considers His follower, let’s take a look at the example He set forth during his three years of ministry.
But first, let’s properly understand the importance of discipleship.
Discipleship is the process a person goes through to go from being an unbeliever to a committed believer in Jesus Christ. As an unbeliever, people are mainly committed to their own joy and fulfillment but committed believers are committed primarily to bringing joy to God.Kenny Ortiz
Kenny Ortiz, who holds an MA in Divinity from Midwestern University, explains why discipleship is import in a very straightforward way, and in another post that gives an expanded view, you can find a more in-depth definition of why discipleship is so important as well as its origins.
But for now, let’s understand that Discipleship is designed to deepen our walk in Christ and bring us closer into his likeness. Therefore it is essential to the body of Christ to practice it.
Discipleship Through Daily Living
Jesus set forth discipleship through daily living. He ate with his twelve followers daily, they had fellowship, they prayed, they worshiped, they did ministry together, they simply did life together.
Have you ever heard the expression, “you are who you hang out with?” Well, that is the case here. Jesus demonstrated that by living a Godly life of obedience to His Father, He would then show them what righteous and holy living actually was. The disciples saw how their teacher lived, and thus modeled their lives after Him.
Likewise, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” Discipleship is to be done in the same way. The disciple follows the example of the person who is discipling them.
Discipleship Through Teaching
Over and over again in the Gospels, we see Jesus taking every opportunity to pour into his disciples. He would show them the deeper meaning behind His parables, and when they had questions He always gave them answers.
He also took scenarios and times when He faced opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees and used them to teach.
Discipleship Through Rebuking
Another aspect of Jesus’ discipleship was through rebuke. He corrected the disciples when they fought over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom and also rebuked Peter when he tried to admonish Him for saying He would suffer much.
And of course, Jesus did all of this our of love in order to keep them on track and on the road of righteousness.
All throughout the four Gospels, we find examples of Jesus displaying what modern discipleship should look like, and how central it is to the faith. Not only this, but discipleship is a picture of what it means to draw near to God.
The more time spent in the presence of God, the more we conform to His likeness, the more we become committed, surrendered, obedient, and in love with our Creator.
So, if you are wondering whether you should seek out discipleship in your own life, or whether you should begin discipling someone, let this post and the example of Jesus’ life encourage you to confidently make the decision to pursue it.