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Follow Me - Being a Disciple of Jesus

December 3, 2018
by Ty

Sunshine glinted off the Sea of Galilee as its waves lapped at the feet of Peter and Andrew, two hard-working, uneducated fishermen. It was just another day, and they were hoping for nothing more than a decent catch. But they were about to get more than they had ever imagined! The disruption that would change everything was arriving on the scene: Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Man everyone was talking about, was walking up the beach. He approached these two unremarkable fellows and offered a simple invitation, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19, NASB). And everything started to change.

Two thousand years later, Jesus invited another unqualified nobody to be His follower—me. It was the start of my journey of becoming a disciple of Jesus.

What does it mean to be a disciple? Jesus’ invitation to follow Him makes it clear that a disciple is a follower. However, that’s somewhat ambiguous: is a disciple a student or an apprentice? They’re not the same: a student learns to recite what his Teacher knows, and an apprentice learns to do what his Master does. On my journey, I started as a student, and now I am an apprentice. Here’s what happened:

Coming into the Christian faith, I knew nothing and had a lot to learn. I went to a Bible Church, and they took the Bible very seriously. I learned a lot about Jesus, the Bible, the Church, local ministry, missions, and so on. I applied a lot of what I learned, too, and in those early days, my behavior changed radically. Jesus gave me new priorities, new friends, a different lifestyle, upgraded moral standards—indeed, old things had passed away and everything was made new.

Discipleship - holding a Bible and pointing to ScriptureAfter a while, I was ensconced in the Christian community. We had Bible studies to increase our biblical knowledge. We did devotions and listened to sermons to learn new stuff too. Not to mention Christian books, Christian radio, Christian TV and Christian movies. All of it to amplify our understanding and assure our holiness, while unfortunately isolating us from the culture around us. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a problem. We were learning a lot, which was good, but where was the fruit? Not many people were coming to the church to meet Jesus. I started to ask myself if we were missing something.

I often wondered about Jesus’ followers from 2,000 years ago—how did they accumulate all the knowledge a disciple needs to know? They didn’t have books, and couldn’t read even if they had them. No technology either. The church had only a few “great preachers” and was mostly made up of regular folks meeting in houses. What did it look like for them to be disciples, to follow Jesus? And how did the Church grow?

A while later I got involved in a project in a developing country where simple, uneducated, indigenous people were making a huge impact in their communities. They were disciples who made disciples, and those disciples then made more disciples, and so forth. Thousands of people were becoming disciples of Jesus, hundreds of churches were being started—it was out of control! It looked just like the Early Church. It inspired me to rethink my approach to being a disciple by reexamining the way Jesus and His earliest followers did it.

My indigenous friends and the early disciples knew that Jesus is the reason for everything. His arrival on earth as a man is the story of the Old Testament and His mission until His return is the point of the New Testament. Most importantly, His invasion of my own life was what changed everything for me! So, I decided to dig into Jesus more than I ever had before.

So, I started reading the Gospels in all of my Bible-reading times with a desire to focus my attention solely on my Savior, Jesus. I didn’t want to know more about Him; I wanted to know Him and how to be like Him! Bottom line, I wanted a spiritual reboot in which I could do life in the Jesus way, which, when it’s all said and done, is really being His apprentice.

It has been a wonderful time of growth and joy for me. Here are the four most life-changing truths I have been confronted with on this journey from student to apprentice:

• Jesus’ message and agenda were to establish the kingdom of God. And of course, the reality that He is God’s chosen King is the key element of the kingdom.

• Jesus’ disciples were not just students; they were apprentices. They spent all their time with Jesus, listened to everything He said and learned to do life His way.

• Jesus’ greatest desire for His apprentices is that they would obey His commands. After all, the King is to be obeyed, right? He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15, NASB). And in the Great Commission, His mandate for future disciples is that they would "obey all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20, BSB). Though we know every biblical principle is important and helpful, the true measure of our life as a disciple is obedience. Knowing little and obeying much is better than knowing much and obeying little.

• Jesus takes being a disciple very seriously. As King, He expects that no one or nothing would be of greater importance to His followers than He is. He is the pearl of great price; He is the treasure in the field; He is the One for which we must abandon everything so we can be with Him. Jesus requires ultimate allegiance. This is why He says on many occasions, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23, NASB).

If you’re a knowledgeable Christian, that’s a good start. Maybe it’s time to leave the classroom and enter your apprenticeship by focusing on Jesus, embracing Him as King, living out His Kingdom life and asking Him to help you emulate and obey Him in every circumstance. I can’t wait to see where this journey leads us!