Jesus modeled discipleship. Mark 1:16-22 reads:
“16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
Jesus made disciples who in turn made disciples. After Jesus ascension, the Holy Spirit came and the disciples made even more disciples, thousands of disciples. Discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit to become more Christ-like. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God.
Four characteristics that identify disciples:
1. Have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A disciple is a Christian. There are a lot of people who are trying to live the Christian life without being a Christian. They are trying to follow the teachings of Jesus without having the supernatural power to do so. You see, a non-Christian cannot be a disciple of Christ because they are not a child of God. Jesus says:
“5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5
There is a barrier between us and God, and that barrier is sin. The reason Christ died for you and me is to tear down that barrier. Also, a non-Christian lacks the supernatural resources to be a disciple. You need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, who comes into your life when you’re saved. So first of all, a disciple is someone who has made that foundational decision to receive Christ as his Savior.
You can grow in biblical knowledge without having faith in Christ but you will never grow closer to Christ unless you have a personal relationship with him.
2. Have a growing relationship with Christ. To have a growing relationship with Christ means that you know God better today than you did a year ago. Your relationship with God is not static; it’s dynamic.
You grow by committing to attending church every week. For 2000 years believers have been gathering together for discipleship, encouragement, and to express love for one another.
Make time to read the bible every day. People who read their bible at least four times a week are 228% more likely to share their faith than someone who only reads the bible a few times a year.
Commit to joining a group. At Freshwater we have over 400 people who are currently in some type of growth group whether it’s a small group, celebrate recovery, or other group.
3. Strive to honor Christ in every area of life. Jesus said we are to teach disciples to observe all things He commanded us. A disciple of Jesus is intent on applying all of Christ’s commands to his life. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word . . . He who does not love Me does not keep My words” John 14:23–24.
God says to tithe, so disciples tithe honoring God with their finances. Jesus says to love our enemies so we do our best to love our enemies and see them like Jesus. Jesus tells us to forgive so we forgive. Jesus tells us to pray so we pray. Jesus says to be wise so we seek the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in every single decision that we make. This is what it looks like to honor Christ with your life, to put biblical principles into practice in your life every day.
4. Be making new disciples. If you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ, then you will take seriously these final orders from Jesus: go into all the world and make disciples. Jesus made disciples and commanded his disciples to make disciples. That is the process of discipleship.