“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
The first word for followers of Jesus was not “Christians” but “disciples.” Newcomers to the faith saw themselves in relationship to the risen Jesus similar to the way the first disciples saw themselves in relationship to the rabbi Jesus, before he was crucified. They wanted to learn to live the same life that Jesus did.
Many people believe they've become disciples of Jesus when they asked Jesus to forgive them of their sin. And though Jesus does forgive us when we repent of sin and trust his sacrifice on the cross as payment for it, forgiveness is not discipleship. But it can be a starting point. When we make our initial declaration of faith and ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, he will begin changing us from the inside out - giving us the desire and ability to understand his words and the power to live them out as his disciple.
Typically, a disciple of Jesus is anyone who learns his teachings and seeks to live them out. Disciples base their lives on the teachings of Jesus, because they have a relationship of trust, submission, and loyalty to him, who guides them and even lives in them by his very Spirit.
Discipleship is obviously not a common word in our everyday language, unless you are in Christian circles. But even if one is regular to Christian circles, there still tends to be confusion about the word "discipleship." It seems intimidating, especially because we also hear something about not only being a disciple but having to make disciples (see Matthew 28:19). We figure, "I'm just trying to figure out what is and how to be a disciple of Jesus, much less to make more disciples."
Still, any true disciple of Jesus will take him at his word and consider his command. After all, Jesus did say, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples" (John 8:31).
Starting Sunday, May 12, we will begin a new sermon series on discipleship: What is it? How do we follow Jesus? How can we disciple others? What are the keys to good discipleship? Can I really make disciples?
The greatest motivation for disciples is love for him who loved us first (1 John 4:19), and who gave His life for us. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).