It is no coincidence that the word “disciple” and the word “discipline” come from the same root word. The Latin word carries the meaning of “pupil.” The New Testament Greek word carries the idea further to include the idea of “becoming an apprentice” or “one who adheres to the teachings of a master teacher.” As I study what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I see at least 10 key commitments emerging from the Scripture. These commitments are not intended to be a legalistic way to measure what it means to be a disciple, but rather a guide to help us keep moving in the right direction as followers of Jesus.
1. The commitment to meet regularly with God. I put this first because I believe it to be the most important commitment. This is how we abide with Christ and make Christ “feel at home” in our lives. Meeting with Christ through time in the Word and in prayer makes it possible for Him to speak clearly into our lives as we grow to greater maturity. This commitment brings us a greater sensitivity to His Spirit’s conviction and guidance in our lives.
2. The commitment to learn basic teachings about God and His Word. Disciples should know the basics of the character and nature of God. We also need to know the basic doctrines of the Bible lest we be tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Disciples need to know the Bible! As we grow deeper in our understanding and application of the Word, Christ is seen more clearly in our lives.
3. The commitment to discover who I am “in Christ” and allow that to change my thinking and my actions. Knowing our new identity as Christ-followers is critical to our understanding of the Christian life. In Christ, we are redeemed, reconciled, accepted, justified, etc. people, and that changes everything. It changes our sense of worth and allows us to have real security in our walk with God.
4. The commitment to a biblical family life. So many of the New Testament writers emphasized the need for a biblical family life. So often, people come to marriage with the mind-set of getting their needs met rather than meeting the needs of others. As children are added to the family, God’s plan is for parents to become disciple-makers for their children. The love and harmony of a Christian home, enabled by the filling of God’s Spirit, is a powerful testimony to the world.
5. The commitment to a holy lifestyle. The chief character trait of God is holiness. God is love, but His love is holy love. He is patient, but His is a holy patience. When the seraphim fly around the throne of God, they cry out “Holy, holy, holy,” not “Grace, grace, grace.” All God’s attributes are consistent with His holiness. The disciple’s commitment is to be holy as He is holy, becoming separated from sinful thoughts, words, motives, attitudes and actions as we grow in Christ-likeness. Many will say, “Nobody is perfect” and “We sin every day,” but a real disciple sees that as no excuse for avoiding the commitment to grow in personal holiness.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is not accidental, but intentional. Spiritual growth, like any kind of growth, is not automatic. It requires steady effort and reliance on Christ. It requires discipline. He is the only One to live the Christian life without fault, and it is Christ in us who will enable us to mature in our faith as we teach others to mature in their faith.
David Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.