What Does Being a Disciple Mean Today?

By Matt Dawson

I’m a Christian. Cool… but who cares! What does that even mean?

To be honest, I’ve never been that impressed with people who identify themselves as a “Christian.” Why? Not 100% sure, other than the fact that most of them felt the need to identify themselves as such, and that alone made it weird.

The early church never worried about such titles. As a matter of fact, the label “Christian” is what people OUTSIDE the church (Antioch) gave to us, and it was actually not a positive label. The church, however, over time did embrace it as a positive identifier for a follower of Jesus.

I guess the primary issue that I have is that there is really NO definition for what “Christian” really means. It means many things to many people and reaches from full on legalistic religious practices to liberal prosperity gospel teaching. We’re all Christians!

The real definition of a follower according to Jesus was quite simple and targeted. The term was used to help identify who was and who was not a follower of Jesus in every sense of the word.

The definition was simple – Disciple.

Being a disciple meant one thing – you FULLY and WHOLE HEARTEDLY followed the teachings, will, and instructions of someone else. It was VERY specific to who you were a disciple of. It dictated your actions, your belief system, and your motives.

So what does being a DISCIPLE look like today?

Actually, it’s not that different than it was 2000 years ago. To be a student, and to follow in the footsteps of someone else? Sounds too simple.

My friend (let’s call him Bill) wrote this on his Facebook wall last week and I thought it was a great example of what it can look like today. (paraphrased from a longer post)

“When I was a kid and I’d get mad at someone I’d think to myself “f#$k y&o d-(k.” But now I’ve been enlightened to the wonder of Jesus Christ and I find myself in a pickle. I can’t tell if I’m being called to destroy the problem (person) in front of me or if I should pray for their salvation.

I won’t try to pretend to know the answer to when mercy should be withheld and/or grace bestowed. I’ll just say that I still want to destroy the human problem in front of me, yet now my spirit wants to extend the grace I’ve been given which I don’t deserve.”

Bill is a disciple. He’s struggling with what that means in his life today… to react the way he’s always reacted OR follow a path, plan, and grace given to him by his savior. The fact that there is a struggle at all is a reflection of Jesus at work in his heart!

Click to Tweet – The fact that there is a struggle at all is a reflection of Jesus at work in his heart!

One of my all-time favorite verses that I feel helps best define the life of a disciple is Hebrews 13:7-

7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In this case, I replace “leaders” with Jesus (who speaks the truth of God to all of us). Consider the outcome of JESUS’ LIFE and imitate HIS FAITH. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus would tell the crowd of two different occasions when He did what the Father said to do and spoke what He heard the Father saying. Jesus was a MODEL of being the ultimate disciple for you and me.

The life of a disciple reflects 3 things.

  1. Sharing the Word of God with Others
  2. A Way of Life that Looks Different because of Jesus
  3. A Faith Worth Imitating

To be honest, I’ll spend the rest of my life working on those 3 things for my family and those that I contribute to leading spiritually.

Being a disciple is simple but it’s not easy!

CLICK TO TWEET – Being a disciple is simple but it’s not easy!

It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, and Jesus said you really can’t even do it in your power, which is why you will need the Holy Spirit to help you.

So – how do you identify yourself? Christian? Disciple? or both?

How would others around you identify you?

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