disciple-defined disciple-definition-3

“Follow me.” Can you imagine looking up from your computer screen, and seeing Jesus before you with an outstretched arm beckoning you to drop what you’re doing and join him? Would you? Jesus actually pulled this stunt on all of his disciples, including Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19. They were fishermen by trade. While they were out for a routine catch, Jesus cried out to them from the shore: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Wow. That’s pretty enticing. I mean who wouldn’t want to fish for men? But wait. What does that mean anyway?

Back to Jesus. He’s there in front of you (in your mindsight) asking you to follow him. Would you? If we’re honest, you probably would want to know a couple of things before you just ‘up and take off’ with someone on a journey for an indefinite amount of time; Like, where He was trying to take you and if you’d ever be coming back. Should you run and grab some snacks or prepare a road trip playlist? I think you’re catching my drift. Most people think that Christ just asked the 12 disciples to follow him cold turkey, but he actually developed a relationship with them before he invited them to become his disciples. There’s that word again (plural version mind you), “disciple.” What’s that?

The word “disciple” in the original Greek is “mathētēs” (math-ay-tes), which translates as “learner.” Back in Jesus’ day, discipleship was a common aspect of the culture. From a young age, boys would petition a teacher, called a rabbi, and ask to become one of his disciples. Rabbis were highly respected because of their authority to teach the Law (a portion of the Old Testament) to the Jewish people. Once accepted, the disciple had to “totally submit to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Scriptures for his life.“1 The disciple spent most of his early years in the presence of his Rabbi. There were no lesson plans, but either the rabbi or the disciple could initiate teaching by raising a question regarding some aspect of the disciple’s life. The disciple’s end goal was to become like his rabbi in all respects of his life.2 

Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is an invitation to discipleship. (Can I just say how awesome it is that Jesus personally invites us to become his disciples. How cool is that?) So how do we define disciples?

disciple-definition-2So how does that flesh out? How does being a disciple of Jesus practically look in our lives? Let’s examine 5 characteristics of genuine Christ followers.
#1 Disciples follow Jesus.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Luke 6:40 ESV

The goal of the disciple is to imitate Christ. He or she follows the example that Christ sets for believers in the scriptures. Once you become Christ’s disciple, you must completely submit to His authority and truth in all areas of your life. This means it’s game over for calling your own shots if you truly want to be a follower of Christ. Throughout their lives, Christians go through something called “sanctification.” Sanctification is just a fancy name for the Holy Spirit’s work of making a disciple become more and more like Christ day-by-day. By no means is the disciple passive in this process. Christ followers must submit their will in obedience to Christ everyday, but the good news is that God helps us to delight in and actually want to do this.

“‎Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.”
Scott McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow

#2 Disciples love God and people.

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law’’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”
Matthew 22: 35-40 ESV

One major characteristic of disciples is the fact they love God and they love people. Genuine disciples don’t habitually practice sin, because they love God. This means that if someone is really living for Christ, they will turn away from sin and make a conscious decision to obey Christ on a daily basis. You won’t catch a disciple dissing the church or church membership, because disciples love their church fam. Christians desire to love and to serve their fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus declared in John 13:15, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (ESV).” Disciples don’t just talk about love, they demonstrate it with their actions.

“Fortunately, God made all varieties of people with a wide variety of interests and abilities. He has called people of every race and color who have been hurt by life in every manner imaginable. Even the scars of past abuse and injury can be the means of bringing healing to another. What wonderful opportunities to make disciples!”
Charles R. Swindoll

#3 Disciples bear fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Galatians 5:22-24 ESV

Disciples of Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit dwells in them and causes them to start obeying His word. As disciples seek God in prayer, the reading of the scriptures, and in fellowship with other believers, God matures them and they begin to bear fruit. Think of it like this. Jesus said that He were a grape vine, disciples are the branches on that vine (Joh 15:5). So as disciples grow in Christ, they should start producing fruit. That fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, listed in the verses above. It doesn’t mean that they are perfect in those areas, but it does mean that the fruit of the spirit are becoming more evident in their lives. For example, not long after her conversion, my best friend completely changed. Before she knew Christ she was really hard to get along with, but after she was saved she immediately began to treat others with more grace. It was a miracle! Seriously, y’all.

“Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee.”
– Kyle Idleman

#4 Disciples live uncomfortable lives.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV

Being a disciple isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There will be tough times, moments of doubt, and even times Christians will want to just cave into the pressures of the world. Because the message of the gospel is so offensive to those who don’t identify as Christian, serving Christ will definitely come with it’s share of sacrifices. Some have even lost their lives on account of their faith, but God is faithful to those who are committed to serving Him. Disciples recognize that submission to Christ by dying to their own selfish desires is the only way to gain life.

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”
– David Platt

#5 Disciples reproduce disciples.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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 28:18-20 ESV

Jesus was all about making disciples and teaching believers how to obey God in their daily lives. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus passes this torch on to His disciples. Disciples are commanded to share the gospel with the lost, and teach other believers to follow in the footsteps of our Master, Jesus Christ. Therefore, disciples pursue people with God’s love. They witness to others about Jesus Christ, and intentionally seek out other believers to mentor and encourage in the faith. The goal of discipleship is multiplication. Disciples reproduce other disciples that are able to begin witnessing and pouring into other Christ followers. The point is not to fill up seats in the church house, but to actually see peoples’ lives being transformed by having personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Fortunately, God made all varieties of people with a wide variety of interests and abilities. He has called people of every race and color who have been hurt by life in every manner imaginable. Even the scars of past abuse and injury can be the means of bringing healing to another. What wonderful opportunities to make disciples!”
Charles R. Swindoll


“Follow me.” Jesus is still here, you know. Here’s still graciously waiting for you to take him up on his offer to follow Him. So now that you have an idea of where Jesus wants to take you, will you accept his invitation to become his disciple? If you want to know more about Jesus’ teachings, and how to become a disciple of Christ you can start by hearing the Gospel. Have you already accepted that invitation? After reading this article, do you think there are some areas where you’re slacking when it comes to following Christ? Welp! There’s no better time than the present to start investing in your spiritual growth.

If you’d like upbeat & structured live training on how to start spending time with God click here! Your mission should you choose to accept it is to start following Christ, and LBE is all about helping you make it happen, Friend! So drop what you’re doing and start following Christ today!

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