Throughout the Gospels, discipleship emerges as the primary catalyst for spiritual formation in the lives of those who follow Jesus. It's no different today. We can't grow spiritually if we're not keeping company with Jesus, if we're not connected to the Vine (John 15:5). Neither can we grow spiritually if we're not connected to other people who are keeping company with Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25). The rugged individualism that's so pervasive in our culture falls away when you become a follower of Christ. Discipleship happens in the context of relationship — not in isolation, but in community.
One of the things I love about Jesus is that He modeled a lifestyle of both witness and with-ness (Mark 3:14). He knew that in order for His mission to continue after He was gone, He would have to proclaim the Good News and empower His disciples to do the same. But he was also keenly aware of His responsibility to be with the Twelve — mentoring, motivating, and, ultimately, mobilizing them to continue the all-important task of making disciples. Jesus knew that the future of His movement, what we call the church, was dependent on those first disciples understanding what it means to be His apprentices, and then sharing what it means with others. And if the book of Acts is any indication, I think He succeeded — with the Holy Spirit's help, of course.
We could spend hours talking about what it means to be Jesus's disciple. And I think there's great value in having that kind of discussion. After all, discipleship is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. But discipleship is more than just fodder for dialogue; it's a way of life. And it's a way of life characterized by allegiance, obedience and trust. These are the irreducible minimums of discipleship.
A disciple is someone whose ultimate loyalty and devotion belong exclusively to Jesus (Romans 10:9); a disciple is someone who is putting Jesus's teachings into practice (Matthew 28:20; John 14:15); and a disciple is someone who habitually relies on Jesus (John 15:4-5). Does that describe you? Does Jesus have your full allegiance? Are you putting His teachings into practice? Do you habitually rely on Him?
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