What Is True Discipleship ?
1. Denial of self in order to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-26). Picking up one’s cross and denying oneself and following Christ is not stage 2 Christianity, it’s stage ONE Christianity. Too many churches today mangle the great commission and instead of seeking to make disciples, they only seek to make converts, with optional discipleship. But when Jesus spoke to large multitudes both in Luke 9 and in Luke 14, He reminded folks that they needed to ‘count the cost’. Those who only put lip-service to their supposed belief (Luke 9:58-63) were not and are not considered ‘fit’ for the kingdom of God. To use a modern analogy from a movie series we all know and love: there are no padawans that don’t train continuously in the process to become Jedi. Likewise, there is no Christianity without Christ’s Lordship – and He demands we forsake ‘all’ for Him.
2. Adhering to Christ’s teachings and correct teachings about Christ and God (2 John 7-11, 1 John 4:1-3). The Christian faith has content to it. It is not enough to simply mention ‘Jesus’ and claim that anyone who mentions Jesus is a Christian. To be sure, there are many who teach ‘other Jesuses’ (2 Cor. 11) and ‘other gospels’ (Gal. 1:6-9). So simply saying ‘we believe in Jesus’ proves nothing these days. Do you believe Christ is the second Person of the Trinity ? Do you believe He is fully God, fully Man ? We find agreement. So Christ cannot be Michael the Archangel, the ‘first creation’ of God, another name for God the Father or the spirit-brother of lucifer. All of these beliefs places one outside the boundaries of Christianity no matter how sincerely you may hold to them. And that’s why the apostle says in 2 John 7-11 that if one comes to your home or church not teaching truth, you are not to welcome him/her as a believer or even wish them ‘Godspeed’ – even to wish them God’s blessings is to SHARE in their WICKED work. Let those words sink in carefully and you’ll see how important sound doctrine is.
3. Replicating the cycle of discipleship via evangelism and making other disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). God didn’t save you to simply sit around like a bump on a log, and live ‘your best life now’. He didn’t save you so that you could get the best parking spaces, a nice retirement account and enjoy life. No, He saved you for His purposes (Titus 2:11-14) so that you could be His representative on earth, whether rich, poor, sick or well, to show forth His glory in the earth and point men toward Him as the all-satisfying goal of all human desire. We do this by evangelism, teaching, and equipping others to both know the truth (see point #2) and then teach others the truth. Too many churches drop the ball at this point, thinking that (for example) a car wash = evangelism. While there are SOME activities that can rightly be called evangelism, the purpose of evangelism is not just ‘conversion’, but to make more disciples. And unless you’re confronting men and women with the gospel, you’re just doing a community service project when you have these activities.
The Lordship of Christ in the life of the believer is the foundation of Christianity. Correct teaching about Christ, God, salvation, etc… (all coming under the umbrella of ‘sound doctrine’) form the content of correct discipleship. Outreach and evangelism including what James calls “religion pure and undefiled before God” are the practical outworking of discipleship.
Hope that makes sense to you.
Soli Deo Gloria,