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What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple?

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What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple?

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In teaching about the Gospels at Ambassador Bible College, one concept I often stress is what it means to be a disciple. To a disciple, his rabbi was his master, teacher and lord—and we see Jesus referred to by all these terms in the Gospels.

We tend to view the rabbi-disciple relationship as like that of a teacher to his students. But it goes far deeper than that. A student wants to know what the teacher knows. But a disciple wants to become just like his rabbi/master/teacher in every way.

This is a far deeper commitment than a teacher-student relationship. This is why Jesus’ disciples were always traveling with Him. They wanted to not just know what their Teacher knew, but to become just like Him in every way.

For this reason they literally accompanied their Master everywhere He went. They did this to see what their Rabbi did in every circumstance of life. How did He pray? How did He meditate? How did He teach? How did He study and understand God’s Word? How did He apply that Word in everyday life?

It’s no coincidence that in the Gospels we repeatedly see Jesus telling someone, “Follow Me.” It was an invitation, but also a command: “Follow Me and be My disciple.” To be a disciple meant to literally follow the Master wherever He went, to walk as He walked, to live as He lived, so that the disciple might become just like his Master in every way.

Although not among the original disciples, the apostle Paul well understood this relationship. He had trained under the famous rabbi Gamaliel until he was called to follow a far greater Rabbi who personally trained him. Paul knew we are to become like our perfect Rabbi in every way, which is why he described our goal as “reach[ing] unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and becom[ing] mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×
, New International Version, emphasis added throughout).

Paul was clear as to his role model, and pointed Church members to that example: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 1 Corinthians 11:1Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
American King James Version×
, NIV). As a disciple tried to live just as his master lived, Paul tried to live just as Jesus Christ lived. And by following these examples, members of the Church could see what they needed to do to transform their lives.

If we are to be such disciples, where do we begin? What steps can we take to become like Jesus Christ in every way? The path is the same as what Jesus’ own disciples did in the first century. Let’s look at three aspects.

1. A disciple must spend as much time as possible with his Master.

The goal of a disciple wasn’t just knowledge, but personal transformation. Jesus’ disciples followed Him everywhere, literally living with Him much of the time, as their hearts and minds were changed. He constantly challenged His disciples’ way of looking at God and at other human beings by His words and actions.

But it took time for these men to change—a lot of time. The changes that Christ worked in His disciples’ lives didn’t come instantly or easily. The Gospels record many examples of Jesus instantly heal­ing people, but we see no examples in which He immediately cured an ugly habit or character defect for one of His followers. Instead, He simply continued to teach and gently correct them, giving them time to mature and change.

This is how God works in our lives. He continually teaches us, gently correcting us, giving us time to grow and overcome. The inner transformation to the new man or woman can only be achieved over time. That’s the way God works. It’s the way a disciple becomes more like his Master and Teacher every day. A disciple needs to spend much time with his Master to become more and more like Him.

How do we measure up in that regard? As disciples of our Rabbi, Jesus Christ, how much time do we spend with Him? In the Bible we’re given a whole book of His teachings, His thoughts and His truth. What are we doing with it? Are we daily making it a part of our mind, our thinking, our character, or do we let all kinds of other things get in the way?

2. A disciple must be totally committed to his Master.

This leads to the second aspect of what it means to be a disciple, and that is that a disciple must be totally committed to his master.

In Luke 9:57-62 Luke 9:57-62 57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go. 58 And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head. 59 And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60 Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go you and preach the kingdom of God. 61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62 And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
we read where Jesus told several individuals, “Follow Me.” But all came up with various excuses as to why they couldn’t. Jesus told them that to become disciples they needed to leave everything behind to show the depth of their commitment.

His way of life was to serve God through committing His life to teaching people about God. It was a challenging existence. The disciples would’ve shared this difficult life, but they also would have experienced great joy. After all, they were the disciples of an extraordinary Rabbi, learning from Him the deep things of God that no one else knew and that stunned those who heard those things.

This spending so much time together and the complete commitment of a disciple to his master produced a very strong bond. Jesus Christ’s disciples understood this as well. We see this from scriptures such as Mark 10:28 Mark 10:28Then Peter began to say to him, See, we have left all, and have followed you.
American King James Version×
, where Peter tells Jesus, “We have left all and followed You.” Peter’s words reflect the deep devotion and total commitment disciples felt for their rabbis. This closeness and commitment was essential to becoming like the Master in every way.

3. A disciple must serve and obey his Master.

A third way a disciple can become like his Master is to serve and obey that Master. As Jesus told His follow­ers in Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
American King James Version×
, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” He clearly expects His disciples to serve and obey Him.

Disciples were to learn from serving their masters. They would learn humility, which was a requirement for proper growth. They would learn to submit to their master’s will. And they would open themselves to being guided and corrected by their Master. All of these were crucial to becoming just like their Master.

Start Becoming Like Him

We are to transform our lives so that we become like our Master and Rabbi, Jesus Christ. We are not just to learn from Him; we are to become like Him in every way.

Who or what do we want to shape our lives? Something is always shaping us. Will it be the culture and the world around us, or will it be our Master and Teacher, Jesus Christ?

Will you spend as much time with Him as possible, be totally committed to Him, and serve and obey Him in every way? This is what it means to be Jesus Christ’s disciple!