...attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13
He stood apart from the crowd, yet he wasn't aloof. He was warm, compelling, and controversial. His eyes could flash fire, yet they mellowed with affection. Children loved Him, yet others felt that His gaze went directly into their souls. His name was Jesus, and the way He approached things was so different from the way we build organizations today. Christ taught that a small group who were really dedicated to His cause could accomplish far more than could a vast army of religious workers who were committed only to their own little kingdoms, their own egos.
Jesus often talked about discipleship, and he really demonstrated a model for what commitment means. A study of what He said answers the question, "What is a disciple?"
First, Jesus said a disciple is a follower. "Take up your cross and follow me!" Jesus told His disciples. If there is a secret to the Christian life, it is the secret of daily renewal, of daily taking up the cross to follow Him. "The inward man," wrote Paul, "is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians. 4:16, KJV). Following Christ is merely a matter of living each day, trying to walk in His footsteps.
Second, said Jesus, a disciple is a learner. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for disciple, mathethes, comes from the word manthano, which means "to learn." Hence, a true disciple is a learner--one who learns because he is instructed by the Holy Spirit.
How much do you really know of God's Word? Do you know the difference between the Old Testament books and those of the New Testament? Have you any idea who wrote the Book of Hebrews, or why? If the Bible is our textbook, our manual for spiritual survival, we need to have more than a passing acquaintance with it.
Many Christians are like something called a bonsai tree. Standing only about eighteen inches tall, these tiny trees are perfectly formed but dwarfed, and will never grow into full-sized trees. Years ago, the Japanese discovered that if the root of a plant is cut and the branches are trained properly, you can produce a miniature--a plant that is fully formed but never gains full maturity or growth. That's the picture of a vast army of Christians today--bonsais who have never attained the full measure of Christ. You can’t grow to maturity, says I Peter 2:2, without “the pure milk of the word… that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
Third, said Jesus, a disciple is a lover. He must love his Master so much that his love for everything and everyone else is hatred in comparison. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me," said Jesus, "is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37).
Finally, Jesus announced that a disciple is one who has made Christ his true measure of life and values. David Livingstone, a great missionary of the faith, had as his life motto the words, "I will place no value on anything I have or possess except in its relationship to the kingdom of God."
Disciples are both born and made! We are born a disciple when we are born again and begin to follow Jesus, but we are made one as we live one day at a time, confessing our sin and failure, and striving to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. A disciple isn't a perfect man or woman; he has merely begun to follow a Savior who is perfect in love and humility. We're walking in His footsteps by God's grace, and although we may stumble, we're going to get up and keep following Jesus. That's what discipleship is all about!
Resource reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-20