What does it meant to be a disciple of Jesus?
I have always believed in God. As a kid I would ask to go to church on my birthday, Christmas, Easter and any other holiday that called for church. You could say that I started out as a “special occasion” churchgoer. At this age, I really didn’t understand what church was about, I just knew that it was a place that felt good to be at. It wasn’t until years later (recently really) that I realized that the Holy Spirit has been calling me my entire life, even as subtly as a child’s desire to go to church.
Fast forward a few years. My parents were going on vacation and I was headed to stay with my cousins for the week. This just happened to be the week that they were signed up for church camp, so next thing I know, I too am signed up for camp. I was nervous. Even as a kid, nerves of judgment from the other kids for not really being a Christian overwhelmed me. I borrowed a Bible from a friend (not having any idea what to do with it), and off to camp I went. To say this experience was life changing is an understatement. This experience was soul saving.
For the first time in my life I wept during worship. I prayed to God as if I could see Him standing right in front of me. I was so filled with the Holy Spirit that it felt like light was literally beaming from me. I learned about Jesus and what He did for me so that I could be saved from myself and the world. I found out just what the purpose of that Bible was. And I knew. I knew that Jesus was the only way for me.
I came home on fire for the Lord! I wanted to tell everyone! My vision was that I would share this good news and that whoever I told would have the same feelings I did and drop to their knees and pray. Because, how could you know about Jesus’ love and sacrifice for you and NOT be convicted?! Unfortunately, this was not the case. I told of what I learned at camp and was met with, “I’m so glad you had a great time!”. I was so discouraged, because that wasn’t the point. The world and its people have a way of dimming our flames or even completely extinguishing them, often times even unintentionally.
I went to camp a couple more years and had the same amazing experience each time. And each time I returned home, my flame burned out again until the next time. Over the years I became that “throughout the week sinner, Sunday morning Christian”. The stereotypical college lifestyle consumed me and I lost touch with God. I wasn’t in church, I didn’t read the Bible, I didn’t surround myself with Christian people. I was happy and having a great time, but I was lost. That’s how the devil works. He entices us with a sinful lifestyle full of thrills and fun, and we may even be happy enough, but ultimately we find ourselves spiritually empty.
Fast forward a few more years. I left my hometown and planted myself a couple hours away in the middle of nowhere. (This may be the best decision I have ever made for my soul, but that’s a different story for a different day.) For nearly a year, I lived within two miles of a church, but never engaged. One Tuesday after work, I pulled off the highway and I decided to turn left to the church instead of right to my house. My intention was just to see if there was a sign that had service times so I could maybe go sometime. As God would have it, services were Tuesday evenings at 7 and the associate pastor was just walking in as I pulled up. I stopped and spoke with him and he invited me back for the service. So I went. Since I had already had the soul saving experience several years earlier, I call this the beginning of my journey as a disciple of Christ.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? I didn’t know when my journey began. With every service I attended and every minute I spent with other Christians, I began to see that it’s more than a title or just the 12 disciples. we are. Disciples. By definition, a disciple is a follower or student of a teacher or leader. Being a disciple of Jesus is more than following though, it is a way of life. It shapes how you spend your time and with whom, how you use your gifts and talents, how you spend your money, the way you view your relationships, what brings your joy and sadness, your very thoughts. And as are your thoughts, so are your actions.
The Bible tells us that the choice to be a disciple does not come without sacrifice. In Luke 14:33 Jesus says, “you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” As disciples, it is our mission to lead the lost to Christ by our example. It is easy to speak of all of the benefits and blessings that come with living a life for and with Christ, but it doesn’t sell as well when discussing the sacrifices that ultimately come with choosing this path. There is a cost that comes with being a disciple that must be talked about if we are to be true disciples of Jesus.
Luke 14:25-30 “The Cost of Being a Disciple”
“25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”
Hate our own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, our own lives?! That’s some pretty heavy stuff! Thankfully, this is not actually a command to hate all of these things, rather a comparison of the status God should have in our lives versus the status of everything else. Being a disciple is a complete rearrangement of our priorities and the removal of all things not of God. In this scripture, Luke is reminding us that God is to be our number one, beginning and end, the most important thing in our lives. Our relationship with the Father must come before all earthly relationships, all earthly possessions, our desires and our sin-riddled life as we know it.
Being a disciple requires clean up. This clean up does not have to be a big dramatic change where you actively change everything about yourself (because that’s not realistic) and it doesn’t have to happen overnight (again, unrealistic). It can be as simple as: Step 1 - Start attending a Bible-believing church. Step 2 - Get involved at said church (Or a different church if your first stop isn’t the one for you. Find somewhere that feels like home!) This could be a bible study, serving, building relationships with those you meet outside of church. Step 3 - Prioritize praying regularly. So far, you haven’t given anything up. Cool, right? Here is where God and his disciples come in. If you start with these three steps and make a real commitment to them, God WILL change you and he will use those around you to do so! First you’re just going to church then next thing you know your language is changing, your outlook is improving, you aren’t as quick to anger, you see people and situations more clearly, your heart is softening, your priorities are shifting, your “crowd” is different, you are cutting toxicity and sin out of your life, you find yourself experiencing more joy than ever, the list goes on! So, while being a disciple does come at a cost, it does not feel so “costly” when we just start by making a commitment to God and He completes the transformation in us. The rewards we receive as disciples far outweigh the costs, but we must hold ourselves accountable to live by His commands if we are to reap all of the benefits that He has for us.
I believe that we tend to be like those we surround ourselves with. So as disciples of God, we have a major responsibility to practice what we preach, live and love like Jesus, freely give of ourselves, share grace and forgiveness with others and be the light of the world! If we aren’t doing this, certainly nobody else in this world is. In Matthew 28:19-20 we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It is up to you and me to allow God’s holy light to shine through us and be His hands and feet to reach others. Be an example of Jesus today! Be a disciple!