“As the soldier follows his general, as the servant follows his master, as the pupil follows his teacher, as the sheep follows his shepherd, just so the Christian ought to follow Jesus” (J. C. Ryle). The term “disciple” basically means, “a learner, a follower, an understudy or apprentice.” The basic expressions occur approximately 270 times in the New Testament (but only in the Gospel accounts and book of Acts; it does not occur in the letters). In a way discipleship is much like the children’s game “Follow the Leader,” except it’s not a game but all too real. Maybe we ought to often ask ourselves, “Am I truly following Jesus?”
In the fullest and most biblical sense, discipleship involves (1) living close to Christ, (2) being fully attentive to His words and ways, (3) being willing to sacrifice on His behalf because we love Him and (4) being deeply desirous of reflecting His love and glory to others. Jesus set forth the path of discipleship in Luke 9:23 when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Following our Leader and Lord Jesus, traveling the path after Him, is –
(1) Universal – available to “all” (cf. Matt. 11:28-30) or to “anyone.” No one has, or will ever live who could not greatly benefit from following Him.
(2) Perpetual – “daily.” Not just when we feel like it or when we might want to.
(3) Personal – “deny self.” No one can do this for us! To “deny” means “to say no to something or to refuse.” See John 13:38; Hebrews 11:24. To deny oneself means to increasingly say no to self and yes to Jesus in life. It’s impossible to get more personal than that!
(4) Painful – “take up his cross.” Our will and desires are to daily be put to death so that we live ONLY to follow Him. There’s no such thing as non-impact or lowimpact discipleship! See Romans 8:18; 2 Timothy 3:12.
(5) Practical – “Follow Me.” At the heart of this expression is love, direction and obedience.
Were we put on trial for being a disciple of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict us? For the real disciple, there can ONLY be one Leader, and His Name is Jesus!