Discipleship Untangled

If someone held a gun to my head and asked me: “what is the purpose of the Church?” I would respond back with something like this: “The sole reason that the Church of Jesus Christ exists is to make disciples of Jesus, who make disciples of Jesus, to the ends of the earth”. That is it!

This teaching is overwhelmingly clear in Scripture, it is absolutely central to our purpose, but it is also one of the most neglected truths in all of the Bible. Now, I believe the reason for this is not just willful disobedience, but I think it is because so many do not understand what it means. We ask questions like:

What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it look like to make a disciple? And how does discipleship fuel evangelism to the ends of the earth?

In this blog post, I want to untangle the web of what discipleship is and help make this abundantly clear for all who want to follow Jesus. I want to aid Jesus’ church by peeling back the layers and giving you the most simple and faithful understanding of what Jesus meant by discipleship so that you can have the confidence to begin doing it. Because if this really is the mission of the Church, if this is the reason why we exist, then I want there to be no confusion on what it means.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.

This passage is called the great commission, 

not only because it is the greatest work we could ever do, it is a commanded work that we must do. It is not, as many have quipped, “the great suggestion” that applies only to those who get around to it or feel like it.

So how do we obey this great commission? 

The text offers us 6 non-negotiable ways.

1. Surrender To His Authority

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, a feat no other human being could ever accomplish, He states the obvious. I have all the power. I have all the authority. The prince of this world has now been defeated, His rule and reign are coming to an end, and I am now the sovereign King. Therefore, the first aspect of being a disciple of Jesus is being totally surrendered under His rule.

What does this mean? It means that He is Lord. We are not. He is the Master. We are not. He is in charge. We are not. He calls the shots. We do not.

You see, being a Christian, right from the very start of it, looks nothing like American democracy. We get no votes. We get no filibuster. Our only and proper response is to surrender our lives over to this loving, holy, all-powerful, King.

2. Carry Him With You

Go therefore

In light of His resurrection from the dead and His inauguration as King, we must be a people who are on the go! In a sense, Jesus is saying, "don’t just stand there looking at me... go! Get on with it! Go out and tell the world who I am! Go into your families and tell them this Gospel! Go into your jobs and share the hope you have. Go into all of the places that you were already planning on going, but now I want you to go with me!"

Because of the Spirit in us, we carry the Spirit of Christ with us wherever we go. Our new life goal is not to think of ourselves and our own interests, but to be mindful and looking for opportunities to introduce people to Him. He is now our purpose and our new strategy in life is to make Him known. 

And guess what? No one is off-limits from Him! Christ wants us to be looking for ways to share His Gospel with everyone we meet until everyone on earth has heard. And since He is the single most important and exciting thing in our lives, this will become a very natural thing to speak about Him. 

Give yourself that freedom!

If He is the light of the world, then take Him wherever there is darkness. If He is the bread of life, then carry Him anywhere people are hungry. If He is the way, the truth, and the life and if no one can come to God apart from Him, then we must bring Him to where lost people are, where spiritually dead people are, so that they may live!! 

3. Be Baptized

“...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

Before we can make disciples we must first be disciples. And to be a disciple of Jesus means that we not only surrender, and not only carry Him with us, but also it means that we must be baptized! A follower of Christ who has not ceremonially participated in His death, burial, and resurrection, through baptism is living in disobedience to our all-powerful King. So if you want to be His disciple, you must be baptized.

4. Learn To Obey All Of His Commands

...Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The fourth non-negotiable aspect of being a disciple is to obey ALL of Jesus’ commands. How do we do that? Well, we must know all of His commands. Then we must make sure we are obeying all of His commands. And even more than that, we must ensure we are obeying all of His commands rightly!

It is not enough to simply gather a definitive list of everything Jesus commanded, memorize it, and start trying to religiously obey it. Jesus tells us that there is a certain way that we must obey Him, and it is not out of religion but love. In John 14:15 Jesus says:

...If you love me, you will obey my commands

He is saying that real God-honoring obedience must arise out of love for Him. Here is the point, we do not obey Him to be loved by Him. He already loves us! And because we are loved by Him, we grow to love Him. And it is because we love Him that we long to obey Him. And it is out of that same love and passion for Jesus that we learn all of His commands and then joyfully obey them.

Thus, to be a disciple of Jesus we must love Him enough to obey Him and we must learn everything the one we love has commanded us.

For a helpful list of His commands, check out this helpful document

5. Rest In His Presence

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

As we submit our lives to this all-powerful King, taking Him wherever we go, and as we give ourselves to be baptized and obedient in all things, the most obvious result will be resting in His presence. While doing everything that discipleship requires may sound like a thoroughly busy life (it most certainly is!!) it is also the only way to have true rest.

Jesus doesn't promise health, wealth, and success if we obey Him. And He does not promise true rest if we neglect His commands. Instead, He promises to those who will be His disciples that He will be with them. His presence is our true reward! When we follow after Him, we get Him!

And while being a disciple will cost you your life, it will cost you your time, it will cost you your goals, it will interrupt your plans, and it will override your comforts; it is totally worth it because we are promised Him!

6. Teach Others To Do This

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.

The final command of Jesus, before He went back to heaven, was for you and I “to make disciples”. Truly, if we are going to obey everything He commanded, then we must also obey this final command! 

How do you do this? 

You take them through the 6 steps you have already gone through.

  1. You ensure they are submitted to Christ alone for their salvation
  2. You help them understand what it means to take Jesus with them wherever they go
  3. You encourage them to get baptized
  4. You teach them everything Jesus commanded
  5. You point them to the truth of Jesus’ ongoing presence and comfort
  6. And you commission them to go out into their world and to do these things for others.

This is what being a disciple is. This is what it looks like to make disciples. And this is how a multiplying movement of disciples-making-disciples will impact all the nations.

My prayer is that Christians would read this blog and be encouraged to enter Jesus’ mission. I pray you will follow His 6 steps. I pray you would feel His nearness and presence. And I pray you would take these things and multiply them for His Kingdom, honor, and glory!