What Is a Disciple?

What's Next?

Right about now, as you sit and read through this, you may be wondering, What is this going to mean for me? How is my life going to be different from this day forward? The Bible states that the person who trusts in Jesus as Lord is on their way to heaven. What an awesome truth! You can have peace in your heart knowing you will have eternal life . . . but what about today? What will change now that you are a Christian?

To be honest, the answer to this question is up to you. It’s quite common for someone to pray the prayer of salvation and commit their life to Jesus publicly, but the minute they walk out of the building, absolutely nothing changes in their life for the better. That’s because it’s not a magic spell that instantly makes you into a completely different person with never makes mistakes and lives perfectly. When you make the decision to follow Jesus, it means you have decided to live for Him every day until you go to heaven.

If you want to see true life change and experience the full, amazing, purposeful, satisfying life God has for His children, then you need to grow in your relationship with Him every day. You need to take steps to grow spiritually, to mature, and develop. Just like a child needs to learn to walk, talk, and become a productive, functioning member of society, believers need to learn and grow, to become followers of Jesus. This process of learning and growth is called discipleship.


What Is a Disciple?

There are two prominent words found in the Bible that we translate into English as disciple:

In the Hebrew, the word talmid

In the Greek, the word mathetes

They both mean the same thing . . . student, learner, pupil

So, in its simplest, most basic definition: A disciple is a lifelong student of Jesus Christ, one who follows after Jesus and learns to live, act, speak, and work like Jesus.

Let’s look at a few verses that demonstrate this:

John 8:31
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

John 15:5–12
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

We can only produce much fruit, and thus prove to be His disciples, if we abide in Him, in His love, and by His love keep His commands.


So, we've now shown you two passages that are filled with the word ABIDE. What does it mean?

ABIDE: meinēte (μείνητε)

From the Greek root menó. It means to sit in, to make your home, to lodge, to move in, to put down roots. It’s your forever home. When you move from one house to another, you have to pack everything you own up in boxes and bring it to the new place. You have to unload all the boxes from the truck and bring them inside the house. But all your stuff didn’t stay in boxes.

You unpack everything, you settle in, you hang up pictures, you paint, you may even do some renovation. You truly and completely settle in, and if you're lucky, you get to live there for the long haul.

That is what abiding is. It’s not like a hotel or temporary living situation. Abiding in Christ means making Christ your home, living and building and rooting your life entirely in Him.

Being a disciple of Jesus is a complete and all-encompassing commitment to building your life in Him.


What Is Discipleship?

“But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.”—Luke 6:40 (NLT)

The word discipleship is not found in the Bible. For many, the concept of discipleship is unclear and complicated; for some the idea of it seems daunting. But it doesn’t have to be!

At its most basic, the definition of disciple is a learner.

 

Ephesians 5:1–2 says, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.”

Bible scholar and professor Dallas Willard described it this way: “It means I'm with Jesus learning to do what he did. When you look at the first disciples, that's what they were doing. They watched Jesus and listened to him, and then he said, ‘Now you do it.’ . . . As his apprentices in Kingdom living and acting, we are with him learning to be like him.”

You see that? The process and journey of discipleship is simply learning how to follow Jesus, learning to trust Him, and learning how to live like Him more and more each day. So, how do we do that? We believe there are three things every disciple needs in his or her life: God's Spirit, God's Word, and God's People.

God’s Spirit

When you become a believer, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God indwells you. What that means is that He lives within you, speaking to you, teaching you, helping you, guiding you, filling you with the wisdom, comfort, peace, power, boldness, and compassion. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, intercedes on our behalf, He directs our path, works in us to make us more like Jesus, and He equips us with gifts to accomplish God’s will. He helps us in our relationship with the Lord and others, speaking to us continually, teaching us, and helping us in everything.

To find out more about who the Holy Spirit is and the work He does in your life, click here.

A key aspect of our relationship with the Lord is communication with Him through the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished through prayer. Our time in prayer is how we communicate with the Lord. He never gets tired of listening to our prayers. In fact, the Bible actually asks us to “pray continuously,” which basically means that you remain in a mindset of prayer, connected to God as you go about your entire day. You may be asking yourself, “How do I pray?”

There are many ideas on what prayer is, what it should sound like, or when it should be done, but it shouldn’t be that complicated. Prayer can happen any time and any place. You can pray short prayers or long prayers, as long as your prayer is genuine from your heart to God’s. The truth is God cares more about the heart behind your prayers than what your prayers sound like. So, if we want to know God’s heart on how we should pray, let’s look at the Bible.

Jesus gave us a model on how to communicate with the Father in Matthew 6:9–13.

“Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy . . .”
In this model prayer, we see that we’re allowed to address God in the most intimate of ways—by calling Him our Father. He then shows us to approach God with the respect, honor, and praise only He deserves.

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .”

Here we’re shown the importance of putting God’s plans and God’s purpose for our lives above our own. Why? Because His will is so much better for us, so much greater than anything we could ever dream of for ourselves.

“Give us today our daily bread . . .”

 In life, we may not always have what we want or want what we have, but we can be confident that our Lord will always provide everything we need! As we pray, we acknowledge that all we have is from Him and that we trust in Him to provide for us.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . .”

When we receive Jesus, all our sins are forgiven, now and forever. But just like we ask our parents for forgiveness when we mess up, knowing that love us and will forgive us, we also bring our mistakes, our sins, our failures before God and ask for His forgives while also asking for the Christ-like ability to forgive others when they sin against us.

“And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one . . .”
Before wrapping up, Jesus encouraged us to pray for God to protect us from evil and temptation. This is a request for the Lord’s protection as we encounter life in a fallen world.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

And He shows us that we should finish our prayer by glorifying God again, acknowledging His power, sovereignty, and glory above all.

This is a beautiful model Jesus provided us that will help us get the most out of our time with the Lord in prayer. Not all prayers need to look the same, though. Your prayer could be as simple as, “Thank You, God!” or “Lord, please help me get through today.” Or “Father, what should I do? I need Your guidance?” As you continue to grow in your relationship and make prayer a regular part of your life, talking to God will become as natural as breathing!


God’s Word

Reading your Bible is the second part of the communication process. It’s such a crucial step in our discipleship journey. This is the way God has set up for us to hear back from Him! If prayer is our way of communicating with God, then the Bible is the clearest way God communicates with us.

It’s been said that the quality of the Christian life is dependent upon the quality and consistency of a disciple’s devotional life. If we don’t spend time reading through the words of Scripture then we’ll miss out on hearing from God, experiencing a close relationship with Him, and seeing Him work in our lives in the way He desires to. This is a key part in the spiritual growth of a Christian. We believe that the more you study the Bible and apply what it says, the more your life will change. As you spend time in His Word each day, you’ll come to understand who God is on a deeper level, you’ll grow as a disciple, and you’ll become like Jesus.

There are many ways to study the Bible; many different study methods and guides to help you get the most out of God’s Word. One popular and easy way of personally studying the Bible is by using a tool called S.O.A.P.

Scripture: Choose a passage from the Bible to study.

Observation: Write down what this text says to you. What do you notice about what you’re reading? What is of personal interest to you?

Application: Now that God has spoken to you, write down how He wants you to apply what He said to your life? How can you take this passage to heart and make it real in your everyday life?

Prayer: Finally, end with writing out a prayer to God based on what you’ve read—something to ask for, something to confess, and something to praise Jesus for.

S.O.A.P. Sample

Scripture: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”–James 1:19 (NLT)

Observation: I feel this passage is encouraging me to control my anger, to be slow to anger, to think before I speak, and to make sure I’m always listening to others.

Application: I realize that, often, I get the two speeds out of order. I’m quick to speak and get angry and slow to listen. I think God wants me to work on this.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for giving me the perfect example of how to approach the people I come in contact with. Help me today with the people I encounter, that I may display Christ-like qualities to them. Amen.

You may find a method you are more comfortable with. That’s great!  There are many different models for studying God’s Word. As you begin to read and discover, you’ll find out exactly what works for you.

If you open your time in the Word with this simple heartfelt prayer, then your heart will be prepared to receive God’s guidance. Pray a simple prayer like this: “Father, please speak to me and direct me through Your Word today. I want to hear from You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

When you invite the Lord to speak to you and instruct you, we believe He’ll meet you where you are and do amazing things in your life as His Word begins to impact the way you live and view the world. We suggest you start by reading a small portion of Scripture each day, such as one chapter.

Note sure where to begin? Try opening up the New Testament to either the Gospel of Mark, a book that focus on the life, teachings, and work of Jesus. Most

days, your reading will take about five minutes. But in that time, we’re

confident that God will speak to you and work powerfully in your heart and life.

After you’ve prayed and invited God to direct your day, and have read your Bible, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you read. Here are a few simple questions to reflect on each day after reading . . .

What does this passage say to me about God?

What does this say to me about myself?

Based on this verse, what do I need to do differently? What changes do I need to make?

What's my prayer?

It’s our heart that you invest in your relationship with God; we know that you won’t be disappointed. God will meet you right where you are and guide you as you live a life devoted to Him in relationship.

This is key to every disciple’s journey; it’s essential to experiencing a healthy, fulfilling, joyful Christian life. If you make prayer and Bible study part of your regular daily routine, in a very short time you’ll actually come to see a major difference in yourself, the way you interact with others, and the way you view the world!


GOD’S PEOPLE

Ephesians 4:11-13 (PHILLIPS emphasis added) says, “His gifts were made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service, that the whole body might be built up until the time comes when, in the unity of the common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturitythat measure of development which is meant by the ‘fullness of Christ.’” What does this mean? Well, it means that we’re better together! God made us to live in community, to live in relationship with others. As a Christian, surrounding yourself with other believers is not only important, it’s vital to your maturity and growth.

As a new believer, developing discipleship relationships with others who are further along in the journey is so beneficial. We encourage you to find a group of people to come alongside you and help you grow as a disciple as you learn from them the same way they learned from others when they were new to Christianity.

Is there a believer in your life whom you would consider approaching to mentor you? Are you looking for a group of amazing Christians in your area to help you grow in your faith and walk through life together? Go to JoinAGroup.org. We’ll help you get matched up with a group that will help you grow and experience all that God has for you!

As you find a group and begin to engage in a discipleship relationship, here are some great conversation questions you can have to learn about their story and how God has worked in their life. This will help you get a better understanding for who they are, what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and what you can expect from your time with them . . .

  1. How did you become a believer?
  2. Who did God use in your life for discipleship?
  3. How has your life changed since you became a disciple?
  4. What is the greatest thing God has ever done for you?
  5. How are you growing in your relationship with Jesus today?

What are Some Aspects of Discipleship?
The process of discipleship is an ongoing process. In fact, it’s a lifelong process. We should never stop learning and growing in our relationship with Christ. Just like the New Testament disciples who chose to follow Jesus, we should also find ourselves continually, daily learning and growing stronger in our personal relationship with Him.

Being part of a healthy discipleship relationship involves consistently meeting together, discussing life together, being open and honest, being accountable to one another, studying the Bible together, praying together, serving together.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV), the apostle Paul tells the believers at Corinth to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This is key to a successful discipleship relationship. As you connect with other believers, learn from them, pick their brain on what it means to be a believer, and watch them. Watch how they pray, how they interact with others, how they speak, how they deal with problems and difficulties, what they value, how they serve others.

What they model for you can be used by God’s Spirit to bring you closer to Him, to help you grow spiritually, and to help you draw others to Him, too. This provides the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship so you can introduce them to God’s love and grace.

Discipleship takes commitment, persistence, humility, vulnerability, and availability. Like most of the best things in life, discipleship requires energy, time, and hard work. It is costly. But it is also purposeful, fun, and rewarding. It is one of the greatest joys of the Christian life. Through it, we develop deep, lasting friendships, grow closer to the Lord and become more like Jesus, and have the ability to make a lasting impact on others.

During your time together, the goal is to see what it means to be a devoted follower of Jesus and to understand how you can live that out practically. Here are some key things to discuss as you meet with your mentor or group:

  • What God is teaching you from His Word right now.
  • How God’s Word is making its way to application in your life.
  • Specific areas in your life where you need prayer.
  • Areas you’ve identified in your own spiritual life where you need to grow.
  • What is happening in your world at the moment.
  • A specific sin area in your life that you are seeing change.

Consistently ask your mentor or group about the following:

Have they detected any area of sin in your life?
The most dangerous deficiency you have is the one you can’t see.

How have they seen you grow over the past few months?

What is one area they think you may need to grow in?

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