Summary: Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is a lifelong journey of growing and learning from Jesus, and applying His teachings to your life to please God.
In my last post on spiritual formation, I discussed the essentials of living a life of worship. This is one part of how to live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this post, I will talk about what discipleship is and what disciple life is like.
Many people claim to be disciples of Jesus. The word “Christian” means to be like Christ. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. You cannot be a Christian in name only. Discipleship is a lifelong process of growing to be more like Jesus. Let’s dive deeper into discipleship and becoming lifelong learners of Jesus.
What Is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the process of learning from Jesus and your spiritual mentor and teaching others what you have learned by modeling it before them. You learn by taking in the lessons and information Jesus taught and applying it to your life.
Jesus’ disciples in the Gospels lived with Him for three and half years. They ate with Him, walked behind Him, watched what He did, and were unleashed by Jesus to do it themselves. A true disciple of Jesus does not just admire His teachings, but does what He did.
That’s a scary thought when you think about it. It’s one thing to listen to Jesus’ teachings and try to do them yourself. It’s another thing to succeed at doing what Jesus did and model it for others. But that is the full circle process of becoming Jesus’ disciple. And you never stop learning, growing, and teaching others.
The Cost of Discipleship
Being a successful disciple of Jesus is not easy. Growing takes time, commitment, and energy. It takes sacrifice, and many begin the process but can’t finish it because they are not committed. You must take up your cross daily and walk with Jesus (Luke 9:23).
Taking up your cross to follow Jesus happens every day when you commit to the sacrifice it takes to follow Him. Each disciple of Jesus must humble themselves, burying their pride and crucify their worldly desires. Your worldview gets turned upside down.
You must keep your desires in check. You will find over and over temptations along the way. You must learn to understand what Jesus teaches and apply it to your life. And even more scary, you must model it to those who are following you as you follow Christ.
The Reciprocal Relationship
Discipleship is a relationship between learning and becoming like Jesus and giving to others what you have learned. Paul told us to share the good things we learn with our teacher (Galatians 6:6). We need to be people who give as much as we get.
Unlike the business world, we should share freely with one another the great things we learn about Jesus. As you are growing from your spiritual mentor, you should be helping someone else grow. That way, we all grow together into Christ.
It starts with learning from your spiritual mentor, who is more mature in Christ than you. You can’t give to someone else what you don’t have. So you must grow first before you can give to someone else.
You will be growing for the rest of your Christian life. Until you are found in Christ in the glory of heaven and the fulfillment of your eternal life, you must keep learning and applying what you learn about Jesus to your life.
First, you learn about Jesus. Then you apply what you have learned. You practice every lesson you gain about Jesus. You grow in godliness and work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
Next, you need to take someone under your wing and teach them what you are learning. You grow even more when you teach someone else what you have learned. Each of us is on a different level in Christ, a different rung on the ladder of spiritual growth. Your mentor is more mature in Christ than you. But you are more mature than others who are not as far along on the road to glorification as you.
So take someone under your wing and disciple them as you have been discipled. Your ability to grow in Jesus is not complete until you are giving to someone else everything which you have received. Your growth truly takes off when you become the student and the teacher.
Every good thing you learn about Jesus you need to share with your spiritual mentor and your spiritual mentee. You only grow when you give as much as you take. It does no one any good for us to hoard our knowledge and experience.
As Jesus teaches you, teach others. Our teaching doesn’t it involve us telling others what we have learned. We best teach by modeling what we have learned before others. The best kind of learning is on-the-job training. You don’t just learn the principle. You teach it by doing and telling others how to do it.
So get out there and find someone less mature in the faith than you and take them under your wing. Show them what you have learned in Christ. Pay it forward to the next generation. Let us all grow together in Christ and in unity of the Spirit.
The Discipleship Cycle
Learning, doing, and teaching others is the way of Jesus’ disciple. The discipleship cycle is a circular process of giving and taking. I will lay out how at each stage you are learning and giving to others.
Step one involves coming to know Christ and beginning to walk the path of His disciple. You have been evangelized by someone else. It’s natural for that person to become your spiritual mentor. They should guide you in learning to walk with Jesus.
But in step one, as you have grown in Christ, you lead others to Christ and become their spiritual mentor. After you have gone through the five-step process, your fifth step of witnessing to others about Jesus will be their first step.
Step two is to learn Jesus’ teachings, glean from the experience of your spiritual mentor, and practice in your life what you have learned. Simultaneously, you are teaching what you are learning and practicing as you walk with Jesus to your spiritual mentee. So you are growing as you learn and give to others.
Step three involves seeing your spiritual mentor model Jesus and His teachings, and following in their footsteps. As you are learning to do as Jesus did, you are showing an modeling that same teaching and practice to your spiritual mentee.
In step four, continue to do what Jesus did and what your spiritual mentor models. You will stumble along the way, but you will learn to walk with Jesus. You are also modeling everything you learn and practice to your mentee.
When you teach what you learn, you grow even more. Your goal is to see your spiritual mentee become a mentor to other people. Teaching them how to witness to others and lead others to Christ is their graduation. But they will continue to learn from you.
Step five is to continue leading others to Christ and becoming their spiritual mentor. But you will continue in this five-step cycle. You never stop growing, and you never stop teaching. Everyone is watching you to learn from you. That’s how discipleship is a lifelong process.
What step are you on your walk with Jesus? Do you have a spiritual mentor? Do you have spiritual mentees? Take the time to find both and began learning and giving. What do you have that you have learned that you can give to those learning from you?
Now that we understand what it means to become a disciple of Jesus, we need to discuss what happens after salvation, for we will spend our lives becoming like Jesus in the path of sanctification.