Summary: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? It starts with being a follower of Him. Then it gets better and better.
In April we spent some time as a congregation talking about reaching out to the community, and really what we were talking about was a question.
That question, which follows from the events right after the resurrection of Jesus, is rooted in a command, not a suggestion, a command...that Jesus gave His disciples just before He was taken up into heaven:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.
We talked about this, and then after our worship service we gathered to unpack what it was that Jesus is calling us to do specifically in our community in response to His command.
I expected maybe 4 or 5 people at the most to choose to be involved in that conversation.
I think that wasn’t an unrealistic expectation, perhaps 8-10% of a congregation being interested in a given topic and then actually having the time after the service to stick around.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. 20 of you participated in that conversation. that’s about 1/3 of those who were there on that particular Sunday. A few weeks after that we met again to flesh out more of what that means. I’ve gotta say I’m really very encouraged that so many of us are hearing the same thing, that we need to reach out beyond ourselves, that we are not here merely for ourselves.
We’re here as agents of the Kingdom, we’re here on a mission. We’re here as disciples who are called by Jesus to make disciples.
I’ve been thinking, though, that as much as we do spend time together reflecting on what it means to serve God and to be committed to live our lives as faithful gospel people, it’s been a while since we’ve taken an extended look at what it means to BE a disciple. You’ve heard it said that we’re not human doings, we are human beings. So before we spend much more time talking about making disciples, DOING something, let’s spend some time considering afresh what it means to BE a disciple.
The very first, the very most important quality of being a disciple is to be a follower, a follower of Jesus. Jesus equates fruitfulness with the capacity to follow. He said to Peter and Andrew: Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.Nicodemus is a very important person in the gospels. He was a leader among his people, with a plum position in the Sanhedrin, a group that controlled the way people thought and acted.
Nicodemus was ready to take his relationship with Jesus to another level, but it wasn’t that easy. It never is. There would be much to lose if he went public as a follower of Jesus. What would people think if they found out that Nicodemus was an admirer of this homeless-carpenter-turned-rabbi from a nothing town called Galilee?
At the very least he would lose his position in the Sanhedrin and his reputation as a religious leader. Being a secret admirer of Jesus cost him nothing, but becoming a follower came with a high price tag.
It always does. Matthew 16:24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
So it’s important to understand that to be a disciple, one must be a follower of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus is much more that simply making a decision for Christ, asking Jesus to come into your heart.
It begins with a decision that Jesus is Lord. That He deserves that position, and that He deserves that position in your life.
I get a little nervous with the language of ‘asking Jesus into your heart’, IF that is not expressed in a Biblical way, if we’re not letting people know the cost of following Jesus. We don’t ever want to be accused of ‘bait and switch’ or inauthentically presenting the gospel as purely an emotional thing. As disciples of Jesus, we are people who have chosen to follow Jesus, period.
To follow Jesus begins with a decision to do so, but it MUST be followed with the daily choice to walk after Jesus, to follow His ways, to live His teachings, to grow to love the way He loves. So is following Jesus a decision that you make or a direction that you go? It is, it must be, both.
Of course, if we really think about it, the challenge involved in following Jesus is too much for any of us to bear alone. That is why we need each other, we need other Christians to help us in our journey, and to ourselves help others.