Introducing People to God by Knowing, Living, and Sharing the Gospel

What is a Disciple?

What is a Disciple?

In our society here, we have created this idea that says you can be a Christian and not worry about being committed.  In fact, you can be a Christian and not even be a disciple.

Those who teach that would say, “Yes, there’s no question in the New Testament about Jesus assigning a tremendous cost to discipleship.  But you don’t need to worry about that, because that’s second-level Christianity.  First-level Christianity doesn’t really have any particular cost at all.”

They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable, but not enough to be uncomfortable.  Their religion is a great, soft cushion.  It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience.

We are going to see a picture of what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ and a few things that are the foundation – What is a disciple?

When you look in the New Testament you see the word disciple mentioned about 269 times. Just by way of contrast or comparison, you see the word Christian mentioned three times. “Disciple” is mentioned over and over and over again. What is a disciple? When the New Testament talks about disciples, it talks about disciples in different ways. I want you to see three main categories.

1. When you see the New Testament talk about disciples sometimes it is referring to the casual listener – people who are in the crowds following Jesus, listening to what He is saying.

2. Then you take a step deeper and you see some people referred to His disciples more along the lines of being convinced listeners. By that I mean they are not just casually listening. There is some “buy-in” there. Okay, I believe what this guy is saying. I am embracing what he is saying. I am convinced He is who He says He is. So, you have got convinced listeners.

3. Then you have got a deeper level beyond that not just casual or convinced listeners, but you have got a committed life-long learner and follower described as a disciple in the NewTestament. When you get to this idea of a committed lifelong learner and follower, the number gets a lot smaller.

I believe we have a situation where we have created discipleship to be optional in the church, an atmosphere where it is okay to become a Christian but not a disciple. I think that is a problem biblically.

I am convinced about this need in the church today, because that picture is reflected in the stagnancy and spiritual weakness of the church across the Western world. I am convinced the need in the church today is not more money. It is not more power. It is not more prestige. It is not even more people. It is not more education. It is not more political influence. I believe the greatest need in the church today is more men and women and students who believe in Jesus Christ and embrace Him, to rise up and be the disciples Scripture teaches us to be. I am convinced it is not only the greatest need in the church, I think it is the greatest need in the world.

Luke 5 depicts what a true disciple looks like.

A True Disciple

[5:1] On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, [2] and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. [3] Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. [4] And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” [5] And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” [6] And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. [7] They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. [8] But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [9] For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, [10] and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” [11] And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Now Jesus comes on the scene here. This is probably not the first time these guys have met Jesus. A lot of people think that John 1 gives us the initial picture of these guys being introduced to Jesus. This may have been the second or third occurrence where they interacted with Him. But Jesus comes to them and he says two words: follow me. Literally, come after me. In those few words, we begin to unpack what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

  • Jesus asks Peter to help.
  • Jesus shows him who he is in spite of Peter and his crew being professional fishermen.
  • Peter has a realization of who this being is.

Significance: Fisher of men

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

What we see here is that that Jesus gave them a new purpose in life. They had been so focused on making the family business a success, but now Jesus was calling them on a new adventure.

Look at Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” You might say, “I don’t feel like I’m a fisher of men”, then the question to ask is, are you following him closely?

We often look to something more exciting, more engaging, a deeper kind of experience, and yet we refuse to do the one think that He has called us to do and that is make disciples. The one thing that all of us are in search for when it comes to life is finding significance. Its trying to find purpose in life. That is why when Rick Warren wrote the Purpose driven life, believers and non-believers rushed to buy the book. Why? We are all in search for significance and yet when Jesus calls us to come follow Him – He gives us a new mission.

Sacrifice: The old life is left behind

[11] And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything…

They left everything behind. They left their boats, their desires, their dreams, their way of life. You see they had a process they had a rhythm of you will of life, but Jesus called them to leave that behind. He called them. When it comes to following Jesus or being a disciple of Jesus what he calls for is that we leave our old way of thinking behind, our old way of life behind, and completely surrender.

Obedience: Follow the call

[11]…and followed him.

So, these guys were unhesitant in their response. “at once they got up and followed Him. These guys, they lacked a lot of things. But one thing they had was obedience. Their hearts were fired and ablaze for Jesus and their minds were gripped with the mission to establish the Kingdom on earth that Jesus of Nazareth would be the King of. That mission compelled them. It gripped their entire destiny of life. It drove them.

I am convinced that in the church today we have stalled, and we have left this mission. I want to challenge us to rise up and at once, immediately take hold of this mission.

What is the plan? How do you do this? Well, we follow Him and as you follow Him you say to others, follow me. Don’t miss it. Christianity just went to a whole new level and understanding right there. Now, following Christ is not about my life and what is going on with me. Now, my relationship with Christ, I am accountable for showing others too. I am accountable for leading others to see His goodness, His glory, His grace and His mercy. Christianity is now shifting from being self-centered to others-centered for the glory of being God- centered.

Commitment: Die to self

When it comes to following Jesus, what we see in essence, is continually dying to self on a daily basis. It requires that we die to the flesh and put sin to death.

[23] And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [24] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We have often heard…come and know Jesus and you’ll have a place in heaven and that is absolutely true. We hear come to Jesus and he will give you health, wealth, and prosperity. We say come to Jesus and He’ll make all your dreams come true. Yet, when we hear the words of Jesus, what we hear is come “follow me”. Its almost as though, we have created a new kind of Gospel that says Jesus will make your wildest dreams come true. And it is unfortunate that a selling point has to be sugar coated and manipulated to know Jesus.

The invitations of Jesus to the lost were always direct calls to a costly commitment. Jesus calls for total commitment.  What does it mean? I’ll give you three thoughts.

  1. It means confessing Christ before men.  Verse 32, “Everyone therefore who confesses Me before men, I will confess before My Father who is in heaven.  Whosoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”  It is a confession of public confession.
  2. A disciple not only confesses before men his Lord, but prefers Christ over all others.  Verse 34 starts to talk about the family, and how the sword comes down between father and mother and sister and brother, and enemies become people in your own household, and “you cannot love father or mother more than Me and be worthy of Me.  You cannot be My disciple if you’re not willing, if need be, to cut those relationships off.”
  3. The Lord Jesus Christ must not only be the one we prefer above all else, but the one for whom we would willingly give our lives.  Verse 38: “He who doesn’t take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life shall lose it, he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”

The Challenge

Well, there it is. It comes down to the question, “Will we follow Jesus?” I want to challenge you to consider two things:

  1. Consider very seriously the cost of discipleship. Your life is not your own anymore. You have surrendered every right to determine the direction of your life. That is a great cost.
  2. Consider the Cost of Non-discipleship. What if we don’t give ourselves to follow Christ and let others follow us? What if we don’t give ourselves to make disciples of all nations? What if we sit back at The Rock Church for the next 10 or 20 years and coast and live out the American dream and enjoy the pleasures of this world and maybe even grow as a church and leave the mission on the side? With our eternity secure, what if we take that route?

Well there is a cost there for us and the cost for us is we will miss out on the peace and the grace and the power and the mercy that God desires to show us, and that God desires for us to experience. We will miss out on His very presence, Matthew 28:20. We will miss out big time on the abundance that Jesus came to give us.

Not just us. The cost is also for our community. If we coast out and ignore the mission and the City of Mansfield gets a great institution called The Rock Church that people come to once a week but that has little to no real effect on the social or spiritual conditions of people living throughout Mansfield and they miss out on seeing His glory and thousands miss out on coming to know His grace.

Not just for us and not just for our community, but to consider the cost for the world. If we coast, then next year, 47 million more children are born into un-reached people groups that have no knowledge of the gospel and the next year 47 million more and the next year 47 million more and the next year 47 million more. And while 100’s of millions of people in the world go on without having even heard the name of Jesus, we sit here thousands of miles away and have our comfortable services, business as usual Sunday after Sunday. Yes, the cost of discipleship is great but I am deeply convinced that the cost of non-discipleship is much greater. So which will we pay?

I do want to invite you to say I am ready to go from being a casual or convinced listener to being a committed lifelong learner and follower of Jesus Christ and let Him make me these things.

You don’t have to be there now. You have to be willing to go there. We need to be reminded that Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Christ has commanded us to make disciples. I want to give you the opportunity to say, “I am committing to more fully understand biblical disciple-making and to adjust my life to serve as a living example of Christ to others in 2015-16.”

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Disciple One Page Resource



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