The Oxford English Dictionary is a 20-volume behemoth. If you dive in you better be wearing a life preserver. It's going to take a long time to swim to the other side. There are 500,000 words, 290,000 main entries, and 249,300 etymologies.
With so many words it is understandable that we lose some along the way. Words that once carried clout in their prime of life wear out with time and fade away. I think "disciple" is one of those words. We just don't use it much anymore, but we should! Jesus likes it.
And Jesus came and said to them, “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.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
If "disciple" is a lost word to you let's pull it out of the mothballs, dust it off, and take a fresh look . A disciple is:
- A follower of Jesus.
- Someone who hears, understands, and obeys Jesus.
- Someone who identifies with Jesus in baptism, and becomes a life-long, follower, learner, and disciplier.
As I dig into Jesus' Great Commission, I see nine characteristics that mark the life of a disciple. Today I am looking at my life to see how well I "fit the bill." Let me encourage you to do the same:
- Disciples have a new allegiance. Jesus said to baptize them in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. "'In [or into] the name' means declaring allegiance to or becoming associated with the power and authority of Jesus." That means I no longer call the shots, Jesus does. I belong to him.
- Disciples are in community. In our highly individualistic culture sometimes we think we can be a disciple without being a part of the people of God. Not so! "Jesus came and said to them." There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. Jesus calls us to lock arms with brothers and sisters in Christ in this disciple-making enterprise.
- Disciples are submissive. Yes I said the "S" word, so think with me about submission. Jesus said, "all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." Wow! Pretend you're a worker at a 200,000-employee organization and the CEO shows up at your cubicle. The big boss drops a file on your desk and says, "Hey, I need this by the end of the day!" What is your response? Unless you're are in search of the pink slip, you push everything else aside and say, "On it!" Do we respond the same way to Jesus, the one with ALL authority? Not according to Francis Chan. He puts it this way: "Simon says, 'Pat your head.' We pat our heads. Jesus says, 'Go therefore and make disciples,' We memorize that verse."
- Disciples are themselves. I took my first Greek class when I was an undergraduate student. Like a beginning skier we started in John, the bunny hill of the New Testament. John was a fisherman, a simple guy using simple language. Paul, on the other hand, was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar. Interestingly, God did not send John to grad school, nor did he dumb-down Paul. He just told both to "Go." The word, "Go" is literally "as you are going." John was going fishing, Paul was going to the classroom. Where are you going? God wants to work in and through you where you are. Be yourself.
- Disciples are indiscriminate. Oswald Chambers said, "Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections -- some people we like and other we don't like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule our Christian life." This applies to making disciples. Jesus said, "make disciples of all nations." The person sitting next to you may be one of those people you "don't like." Get over it. Part of the wonder of making disciples is seeing God show up when and where we least expect it. Be open to the Spirit's work whenever and wherever you are.
- Disciples are seeing life change. Jesus said, "baptizing them and teaching them." Hmm, seems like he was expecting to see you and me grow, share the faith, and then see new followers pursue him in baptism and spiritual formation. Are we?
- Disciples are obediently sharing the faith. Many followers of Jesus operate with a faulty view of what it means to "love Jesus." We hear "love" and think emotion. Jesus says "love" and thinks action. He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15 ESV). Disciples respond in love to Jesus' great commission by making disciples.
- Disciples are expectant. When Jesus promises us something we can take that promise to the bank. He said, "Go and make disciples" so I can be very expectant. There is no situation too difficult for Jesus to be at work, no person too hardened for Jesus to change. I should expect that he will use me to help people where I live, work, and play to know him and to follow him. That's exciting!
- Disciples are confident. Confidence, not cockiness, marks the life of the follower of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus promised, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." The one who calmed the sea, raised the dead, died and rose again promises to be with us right up till the end. That's cause for humble boldness wherever we are.
Jesus was walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee when he said to Peter and Andrew, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19 ESV). Jesus invites you to the same adventure. Disciples follow him and then call others to follow him too!
Look back over the list. Where does Jesus want you to grow as his disciple? Surrender afresh to him today.
"'In [or into] the name' means... From Blomberg, C. (1992). Vol. 22: Matthew. The New American Commentary (432). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.