Before Christ ascended to the heavens, He laid out objectives for His disciples. He called them to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, and to teach these new disciples everything that He had taught them.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? These are only a few key aspects.
The very word “disciple” means student or scholar and has the same root as “discipline.” After salvation, we become a perpetual student of the Gospel. God’s Word is so simple that a child can grasp it, yet profound—deep enough for a theologian to study his whole lifelong and remain in wonder. A disciple will be forever learning about the beauty of God’s character.
Jesus said it would be known that we belong to Him by the way we love one another (John 13:35). A disciple is marked by sacrificial love for their brothers and sisters. Our love for each other should be so apparent that when the world sees us, it’s as if they look through a window at the family of God and exclaim, “Wow! I’d love to be a part of that!” Though we’re weak and broken people, through the grace of God, we bring a witness of what heaven looks like on this side of eternity through our devotion to each other.
A disciple’s affection also extends outwardly, as we share the Good News to those who don’t know God and take care of those who can’t fend for themselves (Mark 16:15, James 1:27). We are the very hands and feet of Christ—who multiplied fishes and loaves to meet the needs of thousands of hungry people. We aim to be like Jesus in this regard, that our love for the lost would be on full display so that the world may know the Father.
A disciple possesses a burning heart for God. We want to be those who have our breath taken away by the beauty and loveliness of Jesus. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we want to burn with fascinated hearts as the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us through the Word. When we have the correct perspective of Him, everything else falls into place. We will pursue holiness because it means dwelling with Him, serve without grumbling because He is the Servant of all, worship because we behold Him, and weep because He weeps… We will embody these characteristics of a disciple when and only when our hearts are burning with desire to come after Him.
Finally, a disciple must live a surrendered life. The first thing Jesus said a disciple must do to follow Him is costly—He asks us to deny ourselves, saying “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). There is a true joy that comes from following Jesus, but, first, we must say no to ourselves. Our fleshly desires scream to be satisfied, yet we respond by nailing them to the cross. We embrace our cross daily by looking to Jesus, the author, and the perfecter of our faith.
What was in the heart of Jesus when He took up the cross? We can know with confidence that there was profound joy in His heart! The sting of death did not compare to the everlasting joy He would find in being with those He loved. Likewise, when we lay down our lives for the Gospel, we understand the eternal implications of the decisions we make for God.
Dwight L. Moody said, “Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.” There is a true joy found in surrender.
When Christ comes again, He is coming for those whose hearts are completely loyal to Him. Jesus requires His disciples to live unashamed of Him and His cross, saying “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (Lk 9:26). Let us live completely devoted to Him, boldly following after Him.