A most common mistake concerning discipleship revolves around the actual definition of the word disciple. The word disciple is translated from a Greek word commonly known as mathetes.The most common definition is leaner, followed by pupil. This word is used some 268 times in the New Testament in this sense.
According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament it “denotes the man who directs his mind to something.” The earliest known usages of this word took on the idea of someone who is or has become a pupil. Another way of saying this, is that someone has become a learner or adherent of a teacher or master.
A great amount of ink and no doubt blood has been spilt regarding discipleship. Even with all that has been written and said about disciples and discipleship there seems to be a fog that shrouds this tremendously astute biblical term. No doubt that one must be a learner or pupil of Jesus Christ in order to learn all that He taught and to become like Him.
If we take just a moment and allow our minds to turn to Luke 9:23 and focus our attention on what Christ said I think we will find that we can “define” a disciple by carefully examining the key traits of a disciple.
“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (ESV) If you look carefully you can define a true disciple by three (3) key traits. It may very well be that these three (3) key traits are what keeps most people from becoming a true disciple.
Look carefully at these traits:
1. A disciple must “deny himself”
This is a powerful word. It means that the one who come after Jesus affirms that he no longer has an acquaintance or connection to himself. It means that you forget yourself, you lose sight of yourself and your own interests.
The most chilling example that we have of this word is from Peter’s experience when he denied knowing Jesus. He emphatically three (3) times affirmed that he had no acquaintance with Jesus. He made it clear that he had no connection to Jesus at all. Of course Peter did have an acquaintance with Jesus and he did have a connection with him.
Herein lies the rub. Our nature does not want us to deny any connection or acquaintance with it. Our nature desperately wants us to acknowledge an acquaintance and connection with it so it has an avenue or vehicle to satisfy its craving and sinful desires.
2. A disciple must “take up his cross daily.”
We know what Jesus was requiring with this key trait. Those whom Jesus was speaking to and all of us know what he meant by the cross. The cross is an instrument designed for one task – a means of execution. The cross is a symbol of death. Jesus was stating that if one truly wants to be a disciple, not only must he or she make a once and for all time decision to determine that there is no more connection with our own interests, but he or she must die.
Jesus is not demanding that we commit suicide, he is demanding that a true disciple everyday puts to death their own ego-centric desires and lives only to accomplish the will of God. Putting our own desires, dreams, and designs to death is not easy. They do not die quietly, quickly, or simply. It is a painful struggle that is carried out each and every day of our lives. Thank God that He gives us the grace to pick up our cross and by the strength He provides enables us to hack to death our own desires.
3. A disciple must “follow Me.”
What does it mean to follow Christ? Well our Greek word means to follow one who precedes you or to join someone as his attendant and to accompany him. The idea is a little more detailed than this. Our word is actually a compound word that joins together the idea of union and road. It gives us the idea walking down the same road.
That is an interesting concept isn’t it? I once followed my father and mother’s car in my car on a joint vacation to Austin, Texas. We drove from San Jose, CA to Austin to visit my brother and his family. As I followed my dad down the “same road” or the same highway I found that I experienced the same thing that my dad experienced. I hit the same rough road, drove through the same blinding rain. I experienced the same darkness and fog that he experienced. In other words, all that my dad encountered and underwent so did I. Why? I was in “union” with him driving down the same road.
Here again is the rub, isn’t it? We don’t mind the road Christ walked until we hit the pot- holes that He hit. When we begin to experience the same thing as He experienced, i.e. persecution, rejection, false accusations, abuse, and etc., we have the tendency to want to abandon His road and find a more suitable highway.
As this year winds down and the new year looms large on the horizon take stock and see how well you conform with these three (3) key traits of a disciple. One more thing, the first two demands are in the aorist tense. In addition to being a one time with lasting results decision at a past time, they are the basic orientation of a true disciple. The last demand is present tense command. With a basic orientation of denial and death, a true disciple continually follows Christ.
What do you think? Thanks for dropping by and stopping in – please leave a comment, let me know you were here!