How would you define a disciple?
Your answer will likely be influenced by the church or cultural traditions and values you have witnessed or that have impacted your life personally.
Cambridge Dictionary defines a disciple as; a person who believes in the ideas and principles of someone famous and tries to live the way that person does or did. With that in mind, a follower of Jesus who wants to be His disciple is one who believes the ideas and principles of Jesus and tries to live in such a way as to imitate Him.
Now, let’s be honest about the elephant in the room here.
Every disciple is a believer, but not every believer is a disciple.
I know that may seem strange but just ponder on it for a moment. It is possible to place your trust in Christ, receive His forgiveness, and devote your heart to Him, without making the difficult choice to discipline your life to imitate Him.
Being a disciple of Jesus calls for commitment and determination. It calls for a willingness to look honestly at your life, confess, repent, and commit yourself to the renewing of your mind daily through the teachings of Christ and by surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The first disciples of Jesus understood completely what was at stake when they were called to be His followers. The Hebrew word for disciple is Talmid. The word itself carries more than just the simplistic definition of being a student. The image portrayed by the word Talmid is to become the very Shadow of their Rabbi.
The aim of a first-century disciple was to learn what their Rabbi knew, to feel as their Rabbi felt, to see the world through the eyes of their Rabbi, and to live in such a way as to imitate every action of their Rabbi.
In fact, it was understood in their culture that for a disciple of a Rabbi to know they were advancing as a true Talmid, that disciple would have to be mistaken by someone in the community for being the Rabbi himself, instead of the student.
With that understanding, we can now have a clear picture of what the ultimate goal is for a disciple of Jesus.
The desire of a true follower of Jesus should be to become just like Jesus!
Here is a great example from scripture.
In the early years of the New Testament Church, Christ-followers were under persecution, yet even under immense pressure, the church spread. Believers had to leave Jerusalem and settle in other areas. One city where early believers landed was Antioch. Notice how Acts 11: 25-27 describes their testimony.
Acts 11: 25-27—Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
As a spiritual awakening was born in Antioch, the community noticed the way the Christ-followers lived their lives. They embodied the Rabbi that they were preaching. This is the first time in the Scriptures we find the word Christian. By definition, Christian means, “Little Christ.” What I love about this passage is that the disciples weren’t calling themselves Christian, it was the community who said that they were just like the Jesus they were preaching and called them little Christ!
Sadly, many followers of Jesus feel inadequate at the thought of becoming the very shadow of Jesus. The evil one is a master of reminding each of us of the reasons we don’t measure up to Jesus. So let me share a truth with you that I pray will encourage you.
In the first century, a disciple had to approach a Rabbi and ask permission to be their disciple. The Rabbi would then examine the potential student and decide if they had the ability and skills necessary or not. That’s not the process Jesus uses. You did not choose Jesus first….JESUS CHOSE YOU FIRST!
Look at the words of Jesus that John recorded. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16)
Consider this, the twelve original disciples that Jesus chose had already been disqualified by the traditional system. They were each already in a trade. However, Jesus chose the ordinary, even when they didn’t believe in themselves. What is the message here? It’s simple, Jesus believes in you and your ability to become like Him, even if you don’t believe in yourself!
It’s time for you to take the next step in your spiritual journey to become just like Jesus.