Matthew 4:18-22 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Our small group Bible Study began a new volume of lesson in the Ray Vander Laan “That the World May Know” series. Lay teacher and facilitator Steve led the faithful Wednesday evening group in this week’s interesting lesson of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. The lesson taught that “discipleship” was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, so it’s not surprising that the word disciple is used more than 250 times in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is the story of disciples written by disciples who wanted to make disciples. And those disciples dramatically changed their world.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
But is the disciple-making mission of Jesus and his followers as clear, compelling, and effective nearly two thousand years later? Not really. Discipleship as Jesus and his followers knew it is not part of Western Christian culture today. Contemporary Christianity does not always make discipleship central to the faith. Sadly, many who call themselves Christians don’t even know what a disciple is. While they readily agree that it is essential to believe in Jesus as our Savior, we tend to treat his lordship in our lives (to observe all things that I have commanded you) as a desirable option, nice, but not essential. If we don’t recognize the importance of discipleship, we tend to think that obeying God’s commands is a worthwhile goal, but is less important than “being saved”.
John 8:31-32, 34 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”
Jesus and his disciples has a very different view of discipleship. They made no distinction between “being saved” and living in obedience to God. To be saved was to be totally committed to a life of obedience – to walk as Jesus walked, to become like Him. They did not do this in order “to be” saved, but rather because they “were” saved. Thus the goal of the community of Jesus is not to make converts but to make disciples. Salvation, of course, is essential, but it is the entrance to the path of discipleship rather than the final destination That is why the apostle James wrote: “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead” – James 2:17.
Just as God miraculously blessed the early disciples’ desire and commitment to become more like Jesus, God desires that same of us. He calls us to reclaim the ancient practice of discipleship that was central to Jesus’ life and message. Discipleship begins with belief, but that is only the beginning. A disciple obeys the Rabbi’s teaching. A Christian disciple not only believes Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God, and Savior but also is passionately devoted to doing what Jesus commands. So come, let’s walk in the footsteps of ancient disciples.
In Christ, Brian