I am presently taking part in an online discipleship course. There are discussion forums where we are able to engage with each other on the topics presented each week. I would like to share with you one gentleman’s post and then mine and his subsequent dialogue:
In all honesty before God, would we have to confess that we have stopped somewhere short of that which is the New Testament standard? Discipleship to Jesus Christ means that Jesus Christ has an absolute right to one’s life, to do with it as He sees fit; and, while we have given Him certain rights and allowed Him to control in certain phases, we have retained rights to certain areas ourselves. we are not disciples. Discipleship means that Jesus Christ possesses every material thing that I have, it is His. It isn’t a question of what I am willing to give to Him; it is a question of what I hold back from Him that is rightfully His; and until I can recognize that everything I have belongs to Jesus Christ, I am not a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has the right to be the one object of my affection; and until Jesus Christ is paramount and preeminent in my affections, I am not a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has the right to fill my mind with knowledge and the truth of Himself, and as long as I let my intellect rule and trust it, I am not a disciple of Jesus Christ. — J. Dwight Pentecost, “Design for Discipleship: Discovering God’s Blueprint for the Christian Life”, p. 16
This was my response:
Very interesting, albeit radical definition of a disciple. We know we are a disciple of Christ when we “receive and believe” and make the choice to follow Jesus. Discipleship is a process, a relationship that matures and develops. Disciples can fall anywhere on the spectrum of growth in Christ.
So I’m not sure if we fall short of the NT standard in the way you describe. I may be wrong. I am thinking that Jesus came to push-back the legalistic rigidity of the Jews, and while what you have shared is beautifully said, it doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of the NT disciples I read about in the bible. If you look at Jesus’ immediate disciples they were mucking it up all over the place! That is what grace and forgiveness are for and why we call our God a long-suffering God.
I hope you can see where I am coming from. Discipleship is a process, a relationship, and it takes time and patience. I surely thank to Lord daily for his forbearance with me, because while I fall short often, I am still a disciples of our Risen Lord and King!
Jesus said there was one way that all people would know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35), it is by our love.
I do believe what you posted is an ideal that we should all be mindful of and seek to attain, by the will and work of Jesus in our lives.
“Let’s compare our opinions to Jesus’ qualifications…you cannot be His disciple unless you meet His criteria…this was discouraging to many of those who followed Jesus within the crowd…is there a difference between a believer and a disciple from Jesus’ teaching?”
He sites Jesus’ call to weigh the cost and carry the cross: Luke 14:25-35
I appreciate you sharing this portion of scripture, this is one of the first places we run to when discussing the utter surrender that is required to follow Christ, or better said, become a disciple of His. Also, I do not see anywhere in scripture that there is a difference between a believer and a disciple; we become a disciple the moment we turn toward Christ and decide to follow Him. The last thing Jesus said was “Go make disciples. Baptize. Teach” Jesus did not say make believers and disciples, they are not separate or distinct. Jesus puts the same call on everyone’s life that chooses to follow Him.
Yes, I understand Jesus’ call to radical obedience and surrender, but when I look at just one of the original 12, Peter, I see a lot to be desired in the area of obedience and surrender. Jesus names Peter “the rock that the church will be built on,” (Mat. 16:18) and then Peter lies to Jesus (the enfleshed living God’s face!), telling him he will never leave Jesus even if everyone else runs away, and be willing to die for Him (Mat. 26:33). Peter goes on to deny even knowing Jesus while Jesus is in front of the Sanhedrin, not once, but three times, as predicted (Mat. 26:69-75).
This sounds like some messy discipleship! Peter ran the other way! But after Jesus’ resurrection He “restores” Peter because of his heart and LOVE for Jesus (John 21:15ff). Jesus clearly is not restoring Peter for his obedience, dying to self, or “counting the cost” during His trial and crucifixion. Yes, we are called to follow Jesus with every ounce of our being, but we mess up sometimes, but it does not disqualify us from being His disciple.
It is really all about the love (John 13:34-35). I am convinced that our being a disciple of Jesus is based on the direction of our heart, not how straight we walk the line, by the grace of God and to His glory.
Do you have any thoughts on this dialogue?
How do you know if you are a disciple of Jesus?