The last post in [re]Defining Faith focused on the “World’s Collide” moment of belief in Christ and the decision of whether or not to follow him. As we’ve discussed, this is the first aspect of faith: Belief + Action = Faith. So, what happens when a person who believes in Jesus decides to follow him? What is the “Action?”
Discipleship is lacking in American Christianity. It’s just not convenient. We are bombarded with propaganda that teaches us to live according to our own morals and our own desire in order to do whatever we must to make ourselves happy and fulfilled. Meanwhile, we have generation after generation in the church who have to wade through the murky waters of faith trying to figure everything out without the background/training that could provide clarity to many of the questions that arise.
Discipleship is a core principle of the teachings of Jesus, it was his method of expanding and spreading his message. A contextual understanding of the progression of beliefs and writings that took place over thousands of years of history, eventually developing into Christianity after Jesus lived on earth is not something that can be fully understood simply by reading the Bible. The core principles can be skimmed, but societal/historical context is extremely important in properly understanding scripture. This is the reason so many weird beliefs have developed over the years. Protestants/Evangelicals lost an important aspect in faith after our split from the Catholic church: generational transference (knowledge passed down over the years). Many movements/denominations/churches understand this and are rapidly trying to educate themselves in a manner that is more sound doctrinally to correct this problem. This is why discipleship is just as important as it always has been to a healthy community of believers.
One of the main principles of Christianity is expansion. After all, if our communities have the greatest method of living and we follow a God who says he is “Love” (1 John 4:8), then why wouldn’t we want as many as possible to join with us?
“Evangelism” is the religious word for spreading this lifestyle to others. What should it look like for a follower of Christ? Fortunately, there is clear guidance in scripture regarding discipleship.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:19-20
The direction given: Make Disciples, then baptize them and teach them. It’s important to note that some of Jesus’ last recorded words were to “go and make disciples,” he didn’t say “Go and make believers.” He even clarified his meaning by saying “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
So, what is a Disciple? It’s actually a pretty simple definition: a pupil. A Disciple is a person who learns by submitting himself to the disciplines/teachings of a teacher. Not a very popular message in Western culture, but Jesus placed enormous weight on the notion of becoming committed disciples:
“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” -Luke 9:62
As I’ve said in my earlier posts, Jesus never taught a “cheap” faith. Potential followers were to consider the cost of what would be required, before making a decision to become one of his disciples. America today is much like Rome of Jesus’ time, following Jesus today is just as counter-cultural as it would have been then… and there is no less a cost involved. Here are some of the qualities (or “costs”) outlined in scripture of what it takes to become a follower/disciple of Jesus’ teachings:
- First, the person must submit to disciplined learning/lifestyle (requires humility), then…
- Be willing to continually learn (John 14:26)
- Live according to Jesus’ teachings (John 8:31)
- Forsake a self-centered mindset/lifestyle (Luke 14:27)
- Place greater importance on spiritual than physical (Luke 14:26)
- Able to endure being ridiculed, because of his/her faith (Matthew 10:24-25)
- Demonstrate actions of a godly person (John 15:8)
- Live a life that demonstrates love (John 13:35)
Sound like a big commitment? It is. This is why Jesus equated it to a builder sitting down and
figuring the cost beforehand to make sure he can follow-through. Jesus never sugar-coated his message of the requirement to be one of his disciples:
“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” -Luke 14:33
Following Jesus is a lifestyle commitment, it is not a one-time, drive-by experience.