What is Discipleship?
In Luke 9:23 Jesus talks about whoever has the desire to be His disciple must deny themselves, carry their cross daily, and follow Him. Discipleship is a constant journey that we take to become more like Christ everyday. In that journey we have found three main areas to work on simultaneously to become more like Christ: Identity, Growth, and Contribution.
The Three Main Areas of Discipleship
In order to be a true disciple we must know who God has created us to be. We read in Psalm 139:13 that we are made by God down to our inmost being and we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Looking at all of creation we can easily see how God has a specific design, purpose, and love in its function, appearance, and place in this world; after all, in Genesis when He finished His creations He saw that it was good. When we were created He went a step further by creating us in His image unlike everything else He made. This brings the question attached with Identity: Who does God say I am?
This question has so many amazing answers that can be found in God's Word which talks about who we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, are created to be. When viewed through the expectation that we are to strive to be like Christ, this question makes us look into who God specifically says we are. All of us are made in His image, we also have different callings, traits, and characteristics that make each of us completely unique from each other. Learning more about who God says we are will help us find our place in the unified body of Christ.
In 2 Timothy 3:14-17 we see the apostle Paul giving Timothy instructions for continuous growth in what he has learned as well as the importance of how scripture will equip the servant of God for every good work. God desires us to grow in our faith through the reading, study, and application of the Bible. We believe that the very scripture we are told to read is God-breathed and therefore should be applied in our everyday life. God's intention is for us to grow and become teachers of the word (Hebrews 5:11-14). All of this brings the questions attached to Growth: What can I learn?
In Psalm 1 we see an example of the ideal Bible reader who meditates on the Law day and night. In Hebrew, the word meditate means to mutter or speak quietly. The meaning of these verses is to enter the life-long journey of reading and re-reading the Bible so that we may grow to reflect Jesus more and more each day. We don't read the Bible to finish, we read the Bible to change and what we can learn through our small groups, Bible studies, and fellowship in the Church is how we become the men and women that God meant for us to be.
Having Biblical wisdom has always been something that we are called to continuously acquire, but as James 2:26 says, we must have action to partner with our faith otherwise our faith is dead. As we look throughout Biblical history we can see in every example that godly men and women not only had knowledge of the scriptures but had action that they were called to do. God desires for us to live out our faith in our everyday lives which brings the questions that accompanies Contribution: How shall I live?
God gave us a wonderful breakdown of traits that each Christian should cultivate and apply in their life. The Fruit of the Spirit, 9 traits that we are all called to have (Galatians 5:22-23), are qualities God wants us to share with those around us in our everyday walk of life. Through living out a life that produces these fruits and putting what we learn into practice, we can portray to others Who the person of Jesus Christ is and the joy that having Him in our hearts and lives brings to all worldly situations. Through Contribution, we become the ambassadors that God wants us to be to the world.
Putting it all Together
In Ephesians 3:17-19 Paul gives an example of how being rooted in love we can be filled with the fullness of God. Jesus gives a parable of sowing seeds in Matthew 13:3-8, 19-23 and only the seed that is in good soil is able to grow and multiply. It is the same in Discipleship. Continuing the journey of discovery into who God made us to be gives us a strong foundation to grow and be filled with the fullness of God. Just like in plants, God makes the strongest and biggest of believers from those who have the deepest roots in the good and rich soil of His Word and Love.
As wonderful as it is to grow in Christ, God calls us to use what we have learned to be the Church and show God's presence to the World. James 2:26 talks about how faith without deeds is dead just like a body without the spirit it dead. We are not called to grow spiritually fat on the Word of God but rather use that wisdom to benefit our lives as well as others. In mentoring relationships, you can both learn from those who are spiritually wiser and share what you have learned with others as you help them to grow in their own faith. Jesus perfectly demonstrated a life of someone who had Godly wisdom and shared it with others through His teaching and example.
Knowing who we are in Christ helps us to know how to serve Him in this world. With these two areas together we have S.H.A.P.E. which stands for spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experience. Romans 12:3-8 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ but just like a human body has many parts that perform many functions, the Church is made up of people who's identity is in Christ yet have different strengths, abilities, and callings on how to serve Him. Developing and understanding our unique S.H.A.P.E. shows us where we fit in the body of Christ and how we can contribute in this world as the church.
The Goal of Discipleship
Practicing, learning, and growing in all of these areas in Discipleship are done with the goal of us becoming a reflection of Jesus Christ. The name "Christian" is actually defined as little Christ. Jesus was the only one who was able to live a life that was perfect and blameless in this world. In living that life, He gave us an example to strive for in our own walk. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave what is called the Great Commission in Mathew 28:19-20 which says: "Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." It is an impossible goal to be perfect as Jesus was for we all have sinned and fallen short, however, through Jesus' death and resurrection we have been forgiven and are made blameless not by our own works but by God's grace. In the Great Commission, God is calling us to share that grace to all corners of the Earth so that others may find that same hope and love that Jesus freely offers to us all. As we strive to grow in discipleship and help others to grow as well, we will begin to look more and more like the little Christs that our own lives and this world so desperately needs.