Summary: What does Jesus expect of His followers?
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DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST
Question: How many times are the words “Christian” or “Christians” found in the New Testament?
Question: How many times are the words “disciple” or “disciples” found in the New Testament?
Answer: Almost 300!
Do you consider yourself a disciple?
• Every true Christian is a DISCIPLE of Jesus Christ.
The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
“Disciple” was the original name for all those who accepted Jesus as the Christ (not just the Twelve). “Christian” was a name invented by nonbelievers (Acts 11:26). Believers didn’t start calling themselves “Christians” until the second century.
The other two occurrences of “Christian” in the NT also suggest that it was nonbelievers who popularized this name: “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’” (Acts 26:28); “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
“Christian” means “Christ follower.” The people of Antioch may have said, “Look at those strange people who follow that man Jesus. Wasn’t he crucified? And they still believe he is the Christ? That’s ridiculous! Let’s start calling them Christians.”
The earliest recorded use of “Christian” outside the NT is by Tacitus when he wrote that Nero blamed the “Christians” for the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Nero picked the “Christians” as his scapegoat because they were an easy target.
• A disciple’s primary duty is to IMITATE Jesus.
“A student [disciple] is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Jesus didn’t tell His disciples, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He said, “Do as I do. Be like Me. Let’s play Follow the Leader. Whatever I do, you copy.”
Someone has said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” You may not totally agree with that statement, but you can’t deny that the hypocrisy of professing Christians discourages many people from embracing the Christian faith. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
FOLLOWING OUR LEADER
What did Jesus say about discipleship? (This week I read the Gospel of Luke and took note of everything Jesus said about discipleship.)
1. A disciple is TOTALLY committed to doing God’s will.
And [Jesus] said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Many people think that Christianity is merely a guaranteed ticket to heaven. “I’ll say a prayer, get my ticket to heaven, and that’s it.” But the word “follow” in the original Greek is in the present tense. Jesus was saying, “Keep on following Me.”
What does it mean to “take up [our] cross”? Leon Morris writes, “We minimize the force of this with sayings like “We all have our cross to bear. Jesus was not talking about minor discomforts. Those who heard him utter these words knew what taking up a cross meant; they knew that it was the prelude to that person’s crucifixion. Jesus was speaking about a death to a whole way of life; he was talking about the utmost in self-sacrifice, a very death to selfishness and all forms of self-seeking.” (The Gospel according to Matthew, p. 431)
To “take up your cross” means to be so committed to doing God’s will that you would be willing to die for Him. For the first disciples, choosing to follow Christ meant opposition from the world. The book of Acts tells us that believers were arrested and imprisoned (8:3); Stephen was stoned to death (7:57-60) ; and James was beheaded (12:2).
“[The Sanhedrin] called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42).