Uriah Guenther, leader in C&YA, recently helped teach the "Cost of Discipleship" class to a group of prospective disciples. This class is intended to help young believers learn what the bible has to say about following Christ. "Disciple" is a word used to describe a follower in Jesus Christ. Uriah explores the seven character traits that the early disciples had that we should also adopt as we "count the cost" of following Jesus as a disciple.
What is a disciple?
Disciple is a word thrown around quite a bit in the church. Most are familiar with the history of it; there were twelve men who followed Jesus around during his time on earth. Those men would sit under his teaching and serve him whenever possible; they were available to do whatever he asked. These twelve men, called disciples, gave up their earthly positions, salaries, families and lives to be solely dedicated to the man they believed to be their Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ.
So, something we stress here at Midtown Baptist Temple, something ingrained in the root of our little plant in Kansas City, something that beats like blood from the pulsation of our hearts, is discipleship. The church here at 40th and Walnut has come to understand the truest commission of Christ. That truth is found in Matthew 28:19. Jesus says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
Do not misinterpret or misunderstand the message I am sending. We believe in the gospel, and that it is the center of everything. Jesus Christ and his message of salvation must be central to any work or you are not found in the center of Christ yourself. However, think of it like this: The saving work of Christ is, as he calls it, a second birth.
John 3:3 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
How would you react to a mother who gives birth only to immediately abandon the newborn baby in order to move on to the next pregnancy? I’m not saying that you can invest in only one person or salvation at a time, but consider: that newborn is helpless without its mother. It needs her, and it needs nourishment, protection, love, nurturing, family, milk. That baby is dependant on every thing and one around it. The spiritual newborn is very similar; we will not abandon babies here at MBT. We intend to do everything we can, give everything we have to give, in order to raise that child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
It is appropriate, therefore, to say that discipleship here at Midtown is the raising of a spiritual child. There is no shame or offence involved in calling someone a babe in Christ. The goal is to tailor spiritual truth to what you need right now. There are countless examples in the bible of men who used their lives to invest in those who came beside them. Moses poured into Joshua, Elijah poured into Elisha, David poured into Solomon, Jesus into the Twelve, Paul into Timothy and Silas and Titus and Onesimus.
How do we know who is ready to be a discipler, one of these Elijahs or Paul’s, a spiritual parent? In scripture we see “marks” or evidences of a disciple of Jesus Christ. These marks show us what manner of men we ought to be as followers of Christ, as well as what we ought to be reproducing when we disciple others. In this post my goal is to summarize for you the seven marks.
#1 A disciple loves Jesus more than they loves anyone else
We all know that we’re supposed to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But in Luke 14:25 Jesus also says that anyone who does not “hate” his father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, his own life, cannot be his disciple.
The gut reaction to this statement would be to sidestep and “redefine” what Jesus meant, or worse try and change what the Bible says. The first step in any study of God’s Word is always this prayer: “God, I know nothing on my own. I am nothing aside from what you make me. This world is wicked, my fleshly heart is wicked. Teach me your ways. You are truth; help me to see your truth.”
When our heart towards the word is right, we can go on to use tools like comparing scripture with scripture—the practice of not letting one verse or passage in the Bible stand alone or apart from the rest. When you take into account other commands of Christ, like “love thy neighbor” and “honour thy father and mother,” you start to see that maybe this statement has more to it.
How would hatred of everything be a part of being a disciple of Christ? Simply put: Both. To the world, the current you should look completely different from the old you. To your family, it should look like they aren’t your number one priority. Compared to the love a disciple ought to have for Christ, it may look like we hate the world. You should be contrary to worldly philosophy, because Jesus is. He is the number one, chief pursuit of your life.
#2 A disciple follows Christ unconditionally
This is speaking to the all the elements around you. It doesn’t matter if the Bible is taught according to your learning style, it doesn’t matter if the church pews are uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter if the guy next to you smells bad. More importantly it doesn’t matter if you are being beaten daily for choosing Christ. It doesn’t matter if you are physically suffering, because the call is to follow Christ with everything we are.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
It is a promise of scripture that if we are a true disciple of Christ we will suffer affliction. We must be willing to count Christ worthy of temporal suffering for the hope we have in him if we desire to truly be his disciples.
#3 A disciple loves Jesus more than they loves anything else
This is similar to the first mark, only the emphasis here is on things, not people. If Christ is the preeminent thing in your life, then your finances and career come after instead of before. There is almost always a job offer, old boyfriend, or some other thing that comes to tempt you away from Christ during discipleship. Ask any discipler: they will validate that claim.
Mark 10:21 “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”
Money is a tool to accomplish the mission. Careers/goals/dreams are tools to accomplish Christ’s mission. Spouses, while good things for many reasons, are ultimately a tool to accomplish Christ’s mission. These things are never—NEVER—to supercede Jesus as the occupier of the throne of your heart.
#4 A disciple is useful
This one can hurt a little. For a lot of people, calling themselves a Christian and going to church is just an easy way to have friends that care about them more than the average friend does. It’s a way to have regular activities and be a part of something “good”. However, salt is only good when it makes the food taste better. The olive tree is only worth being an olive tree if it bears olives. There is no point in the master filling his house with vessels for oil if never uses them.
Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
We are saved for Christ’s purposes, out of his love and grace. If we are not being useful to the mission—if we are not salting the earth with the Word of God—we are not disciples of Christ.
#5 A disciple is established in the Word of God
All of this truth and teaching comes from the Word. The Word has every answer you seek. The Word is our sustenance for life, it is the well that holds the water we desperately need to not dry up in this desert of a world. There is one authority: God. And God has chosen to let the Word be how he communicates that authority to us. The scripture says in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that the written-down word of God is more sure than his audible voice. It says that we can trust the words he has given us in the Bible over anyone or anything else.
God wrote you a book, a love story, a how-to guide that gives you everything you will ever need. The Bible is your growth, your sanctuary; you must abide there. If we are planted there, we will flourish later.
#6 A disciple is fruitful
This is the “Part B” to the fourth mark. If we are grafted into the branch of Christ (John 15), then we will produce His fruit. Once a limb has been transplanted into an apple tree, it will bear apples, or else the process was a failure.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
We have been made fishers of men. We have been called to bear spiritual fruit, and the Holy Spirit that indwells us performs that work. If we are walking after the flesh, we will bear fleshy fruit. But if we walk after the Spirit through the word of God, we will fulfil Christ’s call on our lives to bear spiritual fruit.
#7 A disciple loves Christ’s people
John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Jesus tells us that the world will know we are his disciples if we love other believers. We know from scripture that real love is Christlike. To die to your flesh is the most Christlike thing you can do, because it is exactly what Christ did for you and the rest of the world. When we die to ourselves for our brothers and sisters in the church, we are accomplishing this mark and the rest of the world will see that. They will be drawn to our sacrificial love.
Of course, to show love to other believers, we must be around them; this means not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is (Heb 10:25). We cannot love Christ if we do not have a love for his ordained structure of the local church. When the world sees the love our Christ-family has one to another, it will be used mightily by God.
Are these marks evident in your life? When comparing your life to what God declares the life of a disciple to be, how do you line up? We will never attain perfection until Christ takes us home, but that is not an excuse to be lax in our pursuit of Christ. We must be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and always aligning ourselves with the attributes Christ has laid out for his disciples.