Discipleship is simply the process of making a disciple. A disciple is defined as a learner; a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require; someone catechized with proper instruction from the Bible with its necessary follow-through (life-applications).1 Discipleship therefore requires we follow Christ’s teachings as revealed in Scripture, obey it and teach others to do same.
In Matthew 16:21-26 Jesus taught on a number of lessons worth our attention if we are to make progress in our walk of faith. Jesus foretells His death and the things He will “suffer from the elders and chief priests and scribes” which will eventually lead to His death(v.21). After, speaking about His death, Peter, one of the Apostles response, received, if you may, a stern rebuke from Jesus (v.23). From this point, Jesus taught the disciples what it means to be His follower or disciple.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (vv.24-26).
A Personal Decision.
“If anyone would come after me…”
“If anyone would come after me”…is a conditional clause and for every one of us, we must take the very first step of discipleship by placing our trust in Christ for the salvation of our souls (John 1:12-13, 3:16). Lets note that the disciples were at a certain time in their lives not followers of Christ. But one day, each of them encountered Jesus at a personal level. Recording the experiences of some of them, the Bible says “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20). Again, In Genesis 12, God called Abraham. In Exodus 3, He called Moses. Joshua was called in Joshua. In 1Samuel 3, Samuel was called. One truth is evident; all of us must answer a call to follow Jesus personally. Our experiences will differ, but there will be no discipleship if we don’t answer God’s call to follow Christ. There are only one of two decisions we must make concerning Christ: either we follow Him or we turn away from Him. And both have consequences–eternal life or eternal damnation. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”(Hebrews 4:7).
“…let him deny himself…”
Self-denial is gradually getting lost in our Christian vocabulary. In its place we have words like self-confidence, self-esteem and our language is sadly becoming self-preserving. It is not strange to find preachers and Christian authors offering a watered down gospel of comfort and freedom to pursue what makes us happy. Not that we have been called to a life of gloom; not at all, but when we live our Christian lives believing that all God calls us to, is our best life now–a life of no struggle and adverse circumstances, then we have created our own God according our depraved mind.
The call to Christian discipleship is a call to a lifetime commitment to Christ. As was said of Moses, he chose “…rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26). God demands our full devotion. He warns us of friendship with the world. And He commands us to be a light to the world.
Carry Your Cross
“…take up his cross and follow me”.
Becoming a disciple of Christ will cost us. We are bound to lose all rights to live self-pleasing lives. Christianity is a lifetime commitment and anyone who wants to follow Christ must indeed ponder the decision. Don’t come for a blessing. Don’t come for a breakthrough. Don’t come for a miracle. Come for the salvation of your soul; the forgiveness of your sins.
The cross is a symbol of suffering and each one of us who follow Jesus will have to bear our own cross just as Christ bore His own. We will encounter our own suffering which might even lead to death–the losing of our lives. I trust you have heard or read the various atrocities meted out to Christians in other parts of the world. Some have had to exchange their lives for their beliefs.
“…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”
Whatever a disciple does must have one agenda; pleasing Christ. A true disciple must come to a point of total abandonment where they seek to please Christ. Indeed, the end goal of discipleship is to be moulded into the image and likeness of Christ. Everything God is working in us is “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:39). For a true disciple, Christ is far beyond any earthly treasures. He is more to us than houses or earthly relationships or property; and in this side of eternity, Christ must be our utmost devotion and satisfaction.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
A true disciple understands life on this earth is temporal: “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Many go about life as if all there is, is the here and now. But a disciple of Christ understands we are on a pilgrimage. one day, we will depart this life. The question to ask, is where will you be?