"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).
It appears to me that many "religious" people in our day have lost sight of the important concept of discipleship. Our English word "disciple" is a translation of the Greek term "mathetes" and means properly, "a learner; a pupil." Of all the terms which God uses to describe His people, the term "disciple" is the most common. We think of followers of Jesus Christ as "Christians" and that is an accurate designation (Acts 11:26), yet more often than not God refers to His people as disciples. In the first five books of the New Testament it is used some 225 times and that fact should impress upon our minds the relationship that we sustain to our Lord. We are to be learners, followers, and imitators of Jesus Christ, for those expressions are at the very heart of the concept of discipleship. When Jesus instructed the apostles to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19). He was instructing them to encourage people to learn from, follow, and imitate Him. That is the fundamental function of a Christian. After all, Jesus states in Jn. 8:31, "If you abide in My word, then you are My disciples indeed."
However, I fear that we sometimes lose sight of that all important goal. We seem to confuse "religiosity" for discipleship. "Religiosity" is simply "affected or excessive devotion to religion" and for many folks -- at least in outward appearance -- the concept of Christianity is really about devotion to some creed or tradition or religious organization. How else can you explain why some 85% of people in this country consider religion at "least somewhat" important to them (according to a 2002 Gallup poll), while we languish in dishonesty, alcoholism, sexual immorality, violence, and wickedness? I don't believe only 15% of people in this country are responsible for all the evils of our day. Yet, I know a lot of folks who "go to church" but who live pretty much the way that they want to. Being "religious" is not equal to discipleship.
So what's the solution? Read the above quotation from Lk. 6:40. A perfectly trained disciple will be like his teacher. My job is to be like Christ.
I spent an hour or two last week reading the gospel of Mark. No interruptions. No searching for sermon or class material. Just a simple consideration of the text. And when I finished, I was reminded of the simplicity of the gospel of Christ -- Who He was, what He did and what He wants. What He wants is salvation for all mankind through obedient faith -- discipleship. Who He was and what He did provide the example for those of us who want to be true disciples. And while volumes have been written about the qualities of Jesus Christ that are worthy of exaltation and emulation, I was impressed again with a couple of things that stand out about my Lord. And, as a disciple, these things I need to focus upon and develop more fully in myself.
Jesus consistently manifested compassion upon those who were in need. You cannot read the gospels -- particularly Mark -- without being impressed with Jesus' power. Yet, more often than not, that power was manifest in response to some pitiable man or woman in need. He saw those diseased, possessed, crippled, maimed, blind, hungry, or merely unguided, and "was moved with compassion" (Mk. 6:34). And that compassion for those physically wanting was merely the temporal expression of a God that is ultimately compassionate toward all of us because of our spiritual failures. Thus, the One Who raised others from death, willingly died because of His compassion for sinful plight. True discipleship demands that I develop such compassion for those in need, whether that need be physical or spiritual.
Jesus consistently manifested patience with His critics. The Jewish leaders of His day did not like Jesus, apparently because of His great popularity with the multitudes. Thus, He and His disciples are constantly hounded and criticized by the scribes and Pharisees. Yet, I stand impressed with His patience. He could have blasted them with heaven's fire, yet He calmly and pointedly tried to direct their minds toward truth. And this in spite of their own dishonesty and malicious intentions. I become so irate with those who abuse and ignore God's Word. And, like most folks, I'm inclined to be irritated with those who unjustly criticize me. My preferred designs in such circumstances are no source of pride, I'm afraid. But if I am to be a disciple, I need to imitate the Master in such situations. I need to learn patience.
Jesus consistently manifested a complete commitment to God's will. God's will demanded some difficult things of Jesus. The incarnation -- God coming to earth to live as a man. Humiliation. Scorn and reproach. Faithless followers. Self-serving multitudes. Stubborn opposition. Hunger and thirst. Disappointment. Ingratitude. A painful and violent death. Yet, through it all -- no matter what the demand -- He was devoted to the will of the Father. May God help me to learn and imitate my Master in the total and complete devotion to God's will. Discipleship demands it.
Let's remember, folks, God doesn't just want people who go to church on occasion, or offer lip service to religion. He wants disciples of Jesus Christ.
By Russ Bowman
Return to the General Articles page
Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /