Question: "What is Christian discipleship?"
Answer: By definition, a disciple is a follower, one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. A Christian disciple is a person who follows Jesus Christ and accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of salvation through Him. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the indwelling Holy Spirit to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words, and actions and compare them with the Word of God. This requires that we be in the Word daily—studying it, praying over it, and obeying it. In addition, we should always be ready to give testimony of the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15) and to disciple others to walk in His way. According to Scripture, being a Christian disciple involves personal growth characterized by the following:
1. Putting Jesus first in all things (Mark 8:34–38). The disciple of Christ needs to be set apart from the world. Our focus should be on our Lord and how to please Him in every area of our lives. We must put off self-centeredness and put on Christ-centeredness.
2. Following Jesus’ teachings (John 8:31–32). We must be obedient children and doers of the Word (James 1:22). Obedience is the supreme test of faith in God (1 Samuel 28:18). Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). Jesus is also the perfect example of obedience as He lived a life on earth of complete obedience to the Father even to the point of death (Philippians 2:6–8).
3. Bearing fruit (John 15:5–8). Christian disciples should live fruitful lives, displaying the fruit of the Spirit, good works, and “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Technically, producing fruit is not our job; our job is to abide in Christ, and the fruit will come (John 15:1–8). God’s goal is that we produce “much fruit” (verse 8), as Christ uses us to bring about blessed change in a broken, fallen world.
4. Loving other disciples (John 13:34–35). Love of other believers is an evidence of our being a member of God’s family (1 John 3:10). Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:1–13. These verses show us that love is not an emotion; it is action. In order to love, we must be doing something and involved in the process. One way to show love is to think more highly of others than of ourselves and to look out for their interests (Philippians 2:3–4). Another way to show love is to be patient and not take offense at every provocation (1 Peter 4:8).
5. Making disciples of others (Matthew 28:18–20). Disciples multiply. One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before His ascension was the command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This involves evangelism—sharing the gospel and urging people to repent and believe in Christ—but it also involves discipleship. Christians should be actively engaged in training people who will in turn train others. That’s the pattern we see in Jesus’ ministry: He trained eleven men who spent the rest of their lives as disciple-makers, training others to also become disciple-makers, and so on. We see this pattern also in 2 Timothy 2:2.
A Christian disciple is one who puts Jesus first, obeys the Lord, produces good fruit, loves others, and makes more disciples. Such a one is sure to make an impact in this fallen world for the glory of God.