Christian Discipleship

They are on the road to Damascus, determined to stand up for the truth, determined to fight the false prophets who deny the faith of their fathers with every available means. They have neared the city when suddenly a bright light from heaven surrounds them. And this is where Saul is converted to the faith he had tried to stamp out. You can read about it in Acts 9. While he is lying on the ground, he utters with fear and trembling the question that will dictate his life from that point forward: “Lord, what do You want me to do?” This is the central question of Christian discipleship. Dear reader, God does not immediately take you to heaven once you become His child. He leaves you on earth because He wants to have people here who follow Christ, people who are becoming more like Him, people who are fulfilling God’s commission as light and salt of the earth, and people who bring forth much fruit to the glory of their Master.

But what does it mean to follow Christ? Jesus Himself tells us: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Discipleship means three things: denying oneself, taking up the cross, and following Jesus.

Denying oneself means to stop asking what we want, and start asking what God wants. It means to do what God wants even if we would rather be doing something else. It involves admitting that life in this world is no longer solely about us; rather it is about Him. In our prayers, it is no longer just a matter of what the Lord can do for us, but more and more about what we can do for Him. Self-denial culminates in complete consecration (Please read Romans 12:1.)

Taking up the cross has the following meaning: Life with God will bring us hardship. First, we become the prime target of Satan. He will apply every effort to bring us back into sin’s bondage. At the very least, He will want to shift our focus away from Jesus. We will also experience hardship from those around us. (Please read John 15:18-20.) Taking up one’s cross means to go through these attacks and persecutions just as Jesus did, and not be diverted from the heavenly goal.

Following Jesus is best understood by looking at what the disciples did when they travelled with Him in Galilee and Judea. They were together with Him; they listened to His words. They lived in communion with Him. They accepted His advice and admonition. They were obedient to Him when He gave them an assignment to fulfill. They learned a lot by following Him. In order to follow Jesus we must do the same. We need to read the Gospels—read the words He spoke. We need to accept His instructions and admonitions. We must be obedient to Him when He calls us to action. Because He is risen and lives, we can live in communion with Him through prayer. Then like the disciples, we too will learn much by following Jesus.

In another place, Paul describes life in Christian discipleship as follows: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul repeatedly encouraged his readers to take Jesus as an example. You can read about it in Ephesians 5:1-2, Philippians 2:5, Romans 15:1-3, and in many other places. Following Christ’s example means that He is on our mind and that we think about Him often. He must be as precious to us as Paul describes Him in Philippians 3:7-8 and in Colossians 2:3. He must become the goal of our prayers, as Paul prays in Ephesians 3:14-19: “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

User Login

You are here: Home Biblical Doctrine Christian Discipleship