Discipleship is an essential part of the Christian faith, emphasizing a deep and committed relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In its simplest form, discipleship involves following Jesus, learning from Him, and becoming more like Him in every aspect of life. The Bible provides us with numerous examples of discipleship, from the disciples who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry to the many individuals throughout history who have dedicated their lives to following and serving Him. Today, discipleship is still essential for believers to grow in their faith, to learn how to serve others, and to spread the message of the Gospel to a world in need. This process of discipleship often involves personal relationships, mentorship, and intentional community, where believers can come together to learn from one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another in their walk with Christ. In this sense, discipleship is not just a personal journey, but a communal one that involves the entire body of Christ. Through discipleship, believers can deepen their relationship with Jesus, become more like Him, and impact the world for His glory.
Discipleship is a term used to describe the process of becoming a disciple, or follower, of Jesus Christ. It involves not only learning from Jesus, but also becoming like Him and sharing His message with others. The concept of discipleship has its roots in the Bible, where Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples and sent them out to share His teachings with others. These twelve men were chosen specifically by Jesus and had a unique opportunity to walk alongside Him, witness His miracles, and learn from Him firsthand.
Today, the practice of discipleship remains an important part of the Christian faith. It involves not only studying and understanding the teachings of Jesus, but also putting them into practice in our daily lives. Discipleship is not just about acquiring knowledge; it is about transformation. It requires a willingness to let go of our old ways and to be shaped and molded by God into the person He wants us to be.
As we look at the lives of the disciples, we can see how their encounters with Jesus changed them in profound ways. They went from being ordinary men to being leaders of a movement that would change the world. They were transformed by their experiences with Jesus, and this transformation allowed them to fulfill the purpose that God had for their lives.
In the same way, discipleship today can be a life-changing experience. It requires us to be open to the work of God in our lives, and to be willing to let go of our own desires and plans in order to follow Him. It involves not only learning from Jesus, but also allowing His teachings to shape our thoughts, actions, and attitudes. By doing so, we can become the kind of people that God wants us to be and fulfill the purpose that He has for our lives.
Matthew, also known as Levi, was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Before his encounter with Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector, a despised and hated profession among the Jews. However, when Jesus passed by Matthew's tax booth, he called him to follow him, and Matthew immediately left his old life behind to become a disciple of Christ. As an apostle, Matthew witnessed Jesus' teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection. He went on to write the Gospel of Matthew, one of the four Gospels in the New Testament, which recounts Jesus' life and teachings. Matthew's Gospel emphasizes Jesus' teachings and his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and it continues to be a significant source of inspiration and guidance for Christians today.
Matthew 4:21 – 22
Jesus calls two of his disciples, James, and John, as they were fishing with their father Zebedee. Jesus says to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Without hesitation, James and John leave their nets and their father behind and follow Jesus. This passage highlights the power and immediacy of Jesus' call. James and John were not seeking to become disciples, but Jesus' words were compelling enough for them to leave everything and follow him. James and John were brothers and among the closest disciples of Jesus. They were both fishermen before they were called to be disciples. Jesus nicknamed them "Sons of Thunder" due to their fiery and zealous personalities. James and John were part of Jesus' inner circle, along with Peter, and witnessed some of the most significant events of Jesus' ministry, such as the transfiguration. They also had a desire for positions of power and prestige, as they asked Jesus to sit at his right and left hand in his kingdom. However, as they grew in their faith, they came to understand that true greatness lies in serving others, as Jesus exemplified. James was the first of the disciples to be martyred, while John lived to be an old man and wrote several books of the New Testament. This passage also illustrates the nature of discipleship - it requires sacrifice, leaving behind one's old way of life, and following Jesus with total commitment.
John 1:35 - 42
Andrew and Simon Peter were brothers who were both fishermen and were among the first disciples chosen by Jesus. The passage begins with John the Baptist pointing out Jesus as the "Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple, likely John himself, follow Jesus and ask where he is staying. Jesus invites them to come and see, and they spend the day with him. Andrew’s act of bringing his brother to Jesus shows his desire to share the good news of the Messiah with his own family. When Simon Peter meets Jesus, he receives a new name “Cephas” or “Peter” and a divine calling. Jesus saw something in Peter that no one else saw and had a specific plan for his life. Peter would become a significant figure in the early Church and his role as a foundation would play a crucial role in the spread of Christianity. This passage highlights the power of personal evangelism and the importance of each person’s unique calling in God’s plan.
John 1:43 – 51
Philip was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, and he had an interesting encounter with Jesus as recorded in John 1:43-45. Philip, who was from Bethsaida, was a disciple of John the Baptist. One day, as he was walking along, Jesus found him and called out to him, "Follow me." Philip immediately recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and he was overjoyed to be in his presence. The first thing Philip did after meeting Jesus was to go and find his friend Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew. Philip excitedly told Nathanael that he had found the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael was initially skeptical, but he decided to go and see for himself. When Nathanael met Jesus, he was amazed that Jesus knew so much about him, and he declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." This encounter shows how Philip's enthusiasm and faith led him to share the good news of Jesus with others, and it also demonstrates how Jesus can reveal himself to people in unexpected ways.
These Christ encounters are a powerful reminder that when Jesus calls us to follow him, it is not a call to an easy life or to simply add him to our list of priorities. It is a call to surrender everything to him, to leave behind our old ways and follow him wholeheartedly. But the reward for this sacrifice is beyond measure, as we become part of God's grand plan to redeem the world and bring his Kingdom on earth. The example of the disciples shows us that no matter who we are, what our background or shortcomings may be, Jesus can transform us and use us for his purposes. It is a humbling and inspiring truth that gives us hope and motivation to follow him with all our hearts.
As we have seen in these accounts that these men were deeply impacted when they had their Christ Encounters. So, what does this mean for us today? What can we learn and what can we take home with us?
The children's game "Simon Says" is a game about following what the leader, Simon, says. It's a game of imitation and doing what the leader or teacher tells you to do. Many probably do not realize this, but "Simon Say" is a game of discipleship. I'll talk more about that in a minute.
Today we are starting a four-week study titled The Definition of Discipleship. In the next four weeks, we will look at…
Discipleship is one of the most important calls for the Christian individual and the church. There are conferences, retreats, books, and seminars designed around the concept and importance of discipleship. But do we know what it means to be a disciple? Do we know how to effectively be a disciple or be involved in discipling others? These are relatively easy questions to answer, but the practical processes are more involved. In the next four weeks, we will define the terms and practically answer what it means to be a disciple and the importance of discipleship individually and in the church.
What is a Disciple?
The Greek word for disciple is Matétés and means a person who learns from another through formal or informal instruction—'disciple, pupil.
In the New Testament, it generally denotes the men who have attached themselves to Jesus as their Master. Thus, the process of Biblical discipleship is to be conformed to the image of Christ, which means we talk the way he talked, walk the way he walked, and respond the way he responded. In simple terms, discipleship is doing what the leader (Jesus) says; to imitate and emulate Him. It's about living your life worthy of the calling of Jesus by imitating Him! This brings us to the essential aspect of discipleship… If you don't know how the leader (Jesus) lived, then how can you imitate or emulate Him? Let’s take a look at how Jesus lived.
Last week I introduced you to the Sermon the Mount and when Jesus finished preaching, He went out and ministered to the people. He ministers by healing, (a leper, a paralytic, a blind man, a woman with a bleeding disorder, and Peter's mother-in-law) by performing miracles (He calms the storm, He casts out demons and evil spirits, and He brings a young girl back to life). He spent much of his time ministering, healing, and teaching to those around him and this is when Jesus introduces the concept of discipleship.
Matthew chapter 9:37- 38 concludes with Jesus' call to discipleship, he says, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Jesus notes there is plenty for the disciples to do, but there are not enough workers to accomplish the task he has set forth, so he tells the disciples to pray so the Lord would send them to the harvest.
Matthew 10:1 – 15 details Jesus’ call to his disciples to go out do what He has done. He commissions them to go to the lost sheep of Israel and announce the Kingdom of God is at hand. When the disciples go and proclaim the Kingdom, they are commanded to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Jesus commissions them to go out and do what He did. Jesus does what all good leaders do…He models discipleship (shows them) and then commissions them to go out and do as he does. This is called "The Law of Replication".
A question that is asked frequently is, "What are some good programs, courses, and models for discipleship?" It would be easy to point them to the thousands of books, courses, and models online, in churches and bookstores, but isn’t it better to point them to Jesus and His Word? Jesus showed us how to be disciples and I believe firmly that discipleship is caught and not taught. This simply means the best way to learn how to be a disciple is to be around other disciples who are following their calling as disciples of Jesus.
Matthew 10:16 – 25
Jesus’ call to discipleship involves obedience, courage, and abandonment. He tells the disciples he is sending them out as sheep among wolves! He warns that they will face opposition, intense persecution, and those who you love, and trust may oppose you because of your call. Jesus mentions that people won't hate and persecute them because they don't like them, instead they will hate them because they hated Him. Nevertheless, he gives them hope, assurance, and a promise, “everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” He instructs the disciples, when faced with opposition to leave and go to the next town. Jesus sends his disciples and clearly lays out what they will face in their journey.
Matthew 10:26 – 33
Jesus spent a good deal of time telling his disciples about the cost of discipleship, he encourages them not to fear the opposition. He encourages them not to fear those who can kill the body and who cannot kill the soul, they are to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul. In today’s terms it can mean do not fear those who try to control, bully, and intimidate you, instead, fear God because His kingdom, His righteousness, and His truth is what matters most. The kind of fear he speaks about reverential awe. This means that we know our place before a holy God. The fear of God always reminds me of the interaction between Mr. Beaver and Susan in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis
Mr. Beaver says, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..." Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
This is a perfect description of God. He holds the power of death and life; thus it does not make him safe, but He is also a loving God who cares deeply for us. He cares about the sparrows, the grass, his creation and He certainly cares about you. So, there is no need to worry or fear."
Jesus gives the disciples the charge to be bold about their faith. He warns of opposition and persecution. He cautions about betrayal and intimidation. He alerts that you may lose what is important and precious in your life for my sake. He then encourages, don't let that stop you… Be bold, be courageous, because if you acknowledge him before men, then He will acknowledge you as one of His own. If you deny Him before men, then He will deny you before the Father.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a disciple of Christ. Today, I gave a general introduction to the call of the disciple. I hope I accomplished my goal for today is to help you of understand you are all called disciples of Jesus Christ and the call to discipleship is not something just for the ultra-spiritual, it is a call for everyone.
My second goal is to help you practically discover a disciple is and how it can look for you today
What is a Disciple?
As I conclude this message, I want to encourage you to continue in your Bible Study guide in your bulletin and work through the daily reading and questions to help you continue discovering your call as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The life of discipleship is not an easy life, but it is a good life. Discipleship is not always a safe life, but it is a good life. Discipleship does not always go the way we think it should, but it's not about us… It's about Jesus and the Good news of His death, resurrection, and Kingdom.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 327.
 Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “Μανθάνω, Καταμανθάνω, Μαθητής, Συμμαθητής, Μαθήτρια, Μαθητεύω,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 441.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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