The Call of Discipleship
Jesus famously said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). And with different language but the same purpose He also said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
The challenge to “follow” Jesus is a call to discipleship.
And unless we think these were unique moments we need to remember that Jesus’ final charge to His church is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The call of Jesus to the early disciples is the same call Jesus lays upon the Church today. A Christian who is not a disciple is a contradiction in terms! The lifeblood of the church is discipleship. The mission of the church is to glorify God by making disciples. You cannot make sense of the Christian life without understanding the indispensability of discipleship.
Everyone is a Disciple
And yet what most Christians overlook is the fact that the culture around us is also calling us to a different form of “discipleship.” The world we live in invites us to take on the yoke of a different set of practices. The word “disciple” essentially means “learner.” Our culture is relentless in its attempts to teach us the ways of the world and make us learners of man-centered priorities, self-centered ideologies and superficial philosophies.
Of course not all culture is bad, but far too many of us who claim the name of Christ are unable to discern truth from error. And the reason for this, we must say it, is because we have had our moral imaginations shaped by the broader culture around us rather than the story of Scripture. All of us, for better or worse, are being shaped and formed. The question is not whether or not we are disciples, the question is “What, or who, are we disciples of?” Jesus? Or the World?
A Mature Disciple of Jesus Christ
Many people have attempted a description of a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. This is a really important exercise because the question the church must answer is this: “Are the things we do as a church, the programs we run, the activities we do, actually producing mature disciples of Jesus Christ?” And if we are not producing mature disciples of Jesus then the church needs major renovation.
The elders of North Bay have been working on this question, “What is a mature disciple of Jesus Christ?” And even though we have not come up with a perfect description, and even though this description will inevitably change, we identified seven marks of a mature disciple.
7 Marks of a Mature Disciple of Jesus Christ:
- Loves the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
- Makes disciples of Jesus Christ who likewise make disciples.
- Puts on the yoke of Christ through spiritual disciplines.
- Takes up their cross daily.
- Shares their faith in word and deed with their family, in their neighborhood, at work, in the city and to the world.
- Serves their local church community
- Embraces the power of the gospel for everyday life.
Now more than ever the church needs to return to the Master and hear again His call to “follow” Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the heart of discipleship better than most people when he wrote,
“Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.
Indeed. The call of discipleship will cost your life, but in dying to yourself you will find true life (Luke 9:24).
A New Sermon Series on Discipleship
It is because discipleship is so important that as a church we are excited to start a new sermon series on Sunday January 3 called Follow Jesus: Discipleship According to the Gospels. In this sermon series we will look at four different demands that Jesus Christ requires of anyone who would follow Him.
- Jan 3 – A Disciple Put’s on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:25-30)
- Jan 10 – A Disciple Take’s up the Cross of Christ (Mark 8:34-38)
- Jan 17 – A Disciple Loves Because of the Forgiveness of Christ (Luke 7:36-50)
- Jan 24 – A Disciple Abides in the Person of Christ (John 15:1-11)
I cannot think of a better way to begin 2021 than with a fresh look at what Jesus says about following Him. We would love to have you join us at North Bay for this exploration of the heart of discipleship!
Photo Credit: James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum) – LINK