Did you know that believers are called Christians only 3 times in the Bible? 193 times we’re called the brethren. While 274 times we are called disciples.
What does disciple mean historically? The word disciple means someone taught; a student. In Bible times, discipleship began between 6-10 years old. At this age, children would memorize the first 5 Bible books (the Pentateuch). From age 11-14, they would memorize the rest of the entire Old Testament. At 15, they would present themselves to a rabbi. He would evaluate them, like an entrance exam. If he felt that the person could cut it, he would say, “Come, follow me.” If they weren’t up to par, he would tell them to go pick up a trade.
Jesus used a different way to call disciples. He called those who had been rejected by rabbis and told to work a trade to come and follow Him.
Disciples are not perfect people. They sleep when they’re not supposed to, get afraid, and forsake (Matt. 26:40; John 20:19; Luke 9:54; Matt. 26:56). Just like the disciples of old, we often fail.
Yet, disciples are always striving toward certain goals:
1. Disciples forgive. Mark 11:25.
2. Disciples make other disciples. Matt. 28:18-20. This verse gives us the formula for making disciples = “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” That’s not easy. If there’s one thing that we do naturally, it’s sin and break the commandments. We can’t teach others to obey if we are openly, defiantly breaking them. Which leads to point 3:
3. Disciples are obedient. John 14:15. Our goal to keep every one of the commandments every day. When we slip, we ask forgiveness. Keeping the commandments is the same as loving (1st 4 represent love for God, and last 6 represent love for others). By our love [obedience to the Ten Commandments], all will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).
4. Disciples take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Matt. 16:24. Charles Spurgeon once said that to tell about Jesus without the cross is to betray Him with a kiss. The cross is the single most important event in the universe. We even count time by it: BC & AD. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that each one of us rightly deserves. However, it’s not just an event; it’s the way of the Master. If we are not willing to deny ourselves, take up OUR crosses and follow Him, we cannot be His disciples. There’s more to it than just picking up a cross and carrying it. Where do you carry your cross to? The same place Jesus carried His: Calvary. To a crucifixion. To be put on it and die to self, the monster inside of us who wants everything his own way. This inward death to self is symbolized outwardly through baptism.
5. Disciples are born again. John 3:3-7. Jesus said to Nicodemus (paraphrased): “It’s impossible to just teach you the gospel mindset. You have to be born again–start over. You can try to be in a disciple in your current condition, but you’re going to fail.” We are born again by the word of God. It’s an daily experience, not a one time event. To be a disciple of Jesus, we have to be born again every day. It’s hinged on surrendering all because you LOVE Him.
Disciples follow their rabbi. Disciples study their Bibles every day, pray, and put others first. This is difficult to do… if you’re trying in human power. We must believe that if the Rabbi tells us to do it, He will give us the power to do it. Jesus has told us to do something humanly impossible–love, forgive, live righteously–but it is possible because He has called us to it and will give us the power to complete it.
God can do amazing things through normal people like you and me, if we are willing to heed His call to be His disciples and follow Him.