“Followers of Christ”. If we were to take a survey, and ask born again believers “What does it take to be a disciple” I am afraid that many would answer that a disciple is merely a follower of Christ. Though this is true in one sense, it falls short in another; to follow Christ--to really follow Him--entails much more than walking in a crowd that is headed in the same direction--it is giving Him our all, our entire self, from a heart of dedication and a faith that is sincere, and true, and fruitful.
There are six verses in the Bible that tell us exactly what a disciple is, or what it takes to be a disciple. Three of them are in Luke, and three in John. The three in Luke are of a negative aspect, saying unless we do these things, we cannot be Christ’s disciples; the three in John say if we do those things, we will be, or shall be, Christ’s disciples. Let’s look at these verses one at a time:
Luk 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
What an unusual thing for Christ to say! It seems contrary to all He taught, that we should hate our family members, but if you realize that, in His eyes, the love we have for them ought to look like hate compared to the love we should have for Christ. The love of God, particularly our love for Him, ought to be so great that there is no comparing it to our love for temporal things, or for anyone in a body of flesh. We ought to be willing to forsake our closest friends and family for the cause of Christ. Of course, we may never have to, but we need to have the willingness to do so, should it come to that, even to the loss of our lives. This is a very hard thing for most of us to do, and one cannot really know for sure what he will do until he is tested in it. If “family” keeps us from serving God in some way, then we need to forsake them and follow Him anyway, lest they become more precious to us than the Lord.
Luk 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
We need to have that “follow” attitude, but not only be willing to follow Him withersoever he goeth, but also to bear any, and every cross that we must bear for His sake. Cross-bearing can be physical suffering or mental distress, or whatever comes our way. We ought to let nothing hinder our serving Him, or distract us from our service and duty. He suffered all for us, we need to be willing to suffer all for Him. Without a certain amount of sacrifice, the love we have for the Lord will wane and lose it’s power in us. We need trials; we need temptations; we need to overcome them by the Spirit of God and we need to press on toward the mark of the high calling of God, as paul was wont to write in Philippians 3:14--”I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Luk 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
In verse 26, we saw that we had to be willing to forsake people, here we need to learn to forsake things. Christ owned nothing, and needed nothing. We ought to be careful of possessions, lest they possess us, instead of us possessing them. Materialism is not conducive to good discipleship. Let us say with the Psalmist “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” These are “lifestyles” that we must adapt to “walk in the way of truth”.
Now, we go to the Book of John for the next three, which are things we must do regularly to become disciples of Christ; they are deliberate works that we must perfect day by day, and indeed, moment by moment. I do not speak of working to be saved, If we accept Jesus as our Savior, and invite Him into our lives, we are saved, but I am referring to the next step, after salvation.
Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
“If” we continue in His Word; this does not mean read it occasionally, when we are in trouble or need; it does not mean that we are to only read our Bibles on Sunday mornings or in the church services only, it means stay in it, all the time. Only a disciple will do so, and anyone continually reading the Word, will become a disciple. Notice that Jesus was speaking to those who believed on Him, and not to the unsaved crowd. This is for you and I, we must continue, all the time, in the Word of God. Eat, drink, and sleep it, as they say.
In an interview with Michael Jordan of basketball fame, he was quoted as saying “I lived for basketball. I ate with a basketball in my hands, I slept with a basketball, and I gave my entire life to basketball”--friends, that is what we must do to become true disciples of Christ--eat, drink, and sleep Christ. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Love proves our heart, whether it is true or not. Love cannot be faked for very long, it will reveal us if it is not true. This is the evidence that we are disciples, and it is clearly seen by others. We need to love one another. All men will see real love, and they will just as easily be able to discern fakery and sham. Love manifests itself through works, and our works will not be hidden. I like to say that “love responds to love”. If we will love others, they will reciprocate that love most of the time; those who do not are “of all men most wretched”. To fall in love with the unlovable, we need to fall more in love with Jesus.
Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
“By their fruits shall ye know them” (Mt. 7:20), or whether they are disciples or not. Fruits can come in many different kinds, and “flavors”; they are a product of works, and are produced from our every action. Fruits that glorify God are good evidence that we are His disciples. Just as it takes much work to pick, peel, boil and can and process fruit that we buy in the markets, so it does in the spirit, but the fruit produced is beneficial and profitable unto us. Not only are we made disciples through fruit bearing, but we glorify God in it. What a great deal! “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)