By Jason Bowman
We must ask ourselves how often we think of the Christian life in terms of discipleship. Why? Because in the gospels those who follow Jesus are referred to by the term “disciple” over 200 times, making it the most common designation for them. While I hear this term thrown around today, and I use it myself at times, the real question is whether or not we consciously and regularly think of ourselves in this way. When you consider your faith, do you most naturally define yourself as a disciple of Jesus or as something else (i.e. a Christian, a believer, a person of faith, a denominational title, etc.)? If the Bible identifies followers of Jesus as disciples, we should seriously consider the meaning of such a title along with its ramifications for our lives.
Let’s begin by defining discipleship. The Greek word (μαθητής) refers to someone who engages in learning from another, especially from someone who holds a particular set of views. In the first century world there was a master/disciple relationship. That is not language we typically use today. It might even make us uncomfortable to think of having a master. Today, we could use the term apprentice. The purpose of discipleship involves gaining knowledge, but it is for the purpose of transforming a person’s life so that it reflects the life of the one we are being trained by.
Consider the call of Jesus to the crowds to come after him. Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Notice that to be a disciple of Jesus requires saying no to oneself, being willing to suffer for others and then doing the things Jesus did. At the heart of discipleship is walking with Jesus in order to become more like Jesus.
Over the next few weeks, we want to explore the various contours of discipleship. The gospels present numerous pictures of what it means to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. As we look at a few of these examples, we will ask the Holy Spirit to train us that our lives might become a better reflection of the life of Jesus.
Today, think about the words of Jesus from Luke 9:23. What in that verse stands out to you? What seems especially difficult? Where do you need to grow in order to follow Jesus like he calls us to?
As you think about this verse throughout your day, begin to consciously label about yourself as a disciple of Jesus because that is our real identity.