Although the word Christian is only found three times in the New Testament, the word disciple is found over 250 times. Scripture has much to say about being a disciple, and yet it is not often mentioned in current church settings. We know what a Christian is, but what is a disciple?
The definition of the Greek word translated disciple is “to become a pupil.” Disciples were people who sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from His teaching (Matthew 5:1), but they were also people who followed Him and imitated His actions. To be a disciple of Jesus is to desire to be like Jesus in every way, even in suffering. Peter wrote, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
Discipleship is about transformation. It is learning to live like Jesus. It means we must continually study the teachings of Jesus so that they become a part of who we are. It also means we must surround ourselves with people who are living like Jesus and have been doing so for quite some time. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1). In the same way, we must spend time with seasoned disciples and imitate them as they imitate Jesus.
In addition to these things, Jesus points out three characteristics that His disciples will have. These characteristics are found in John’s gospel. Jesus says His disciples will “continue in His word” (Jn 8:31), “love one another” (Jn 13:35), and “bear fruit” (Jn 15:8). How would you grade yourself in these areas? Are you doing the things that Jesus said a disciple of His would do?
I hope that you understand that becoming a disciple is going to require more time than an hour or two a week. We cannot expect to become a disciple of Jesus simply by attending Sunday worship. We must spend time in God’s word, and we must practice living like Jesus. We must devote ourselves to daily training. “’Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’” (Luke 14:27).