My church is currently being challenged to read through the entire New Testament of the Bible in 8 weeks. I wrote up the following after reading through week 5: the book of Matthew. We are all reading a version of the New Testament called The Books of the Bible, which uses neither chapter nor verse references. So, I apologize for the references below being pages numbers rather than verses, but they are all from Matthew, and I’ve provided links to the actual text I am referencing.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
In reading through the gospels, it seems that God is calling me to discover the true meaning of discipleship. I studied the book of Luke in one of my bible studies last year and God really impressed upon me to pursue true discipleship. I decided while reading through Matthew to take note from this gospel, as well, what Jesus says on this topic. Since Jesus is training and instructing his first disciples throughout the gospels, it provides good insight into what Jesus expects from us as his followers. Jesus’ expectations are set high, and I am challenged to evaluate my own life to see where I still need to grow.
The first thing I noticed when Jesus is calling his disciples is that he does not accept excuses. On page 252 we see people who wanted to follow Jesus, but who were also unwilling to let go of other things in order to do so. We see also on page 271 a rich man who wanted to inherit eternal life but was too tied to his earthly possessions. These people were saying, “Jesus, I want to follow you, BUT…” Jesus wanted no buts about it – Follow Him. Period. We see examples of this in his twelve chosen apostles, who, when called, immediately left what they were doing and devoted themselves to Jesus.
The Cost is Great
The second thing I noticed about discipleship is that the cost is great. And that’s an understatement. Jesus tells us this up front: it’s not going to be easy. On page 256 Jesus explains that we must love him above all else and literally be willing to give up everything for his sake. “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” He reiterates this again on page 267. To be Jesus’ disciple, to follow him, means we have to “un-follow” the ways of this world and give up the idea of living our lives focused on ourselves. That means giving up my plans, my ambitions and my life as simply my life. My life needs to be devoted to Jesus, and that is a better life.
Decision, Determination, Devotion
It’s easy to say these things, but it’s much more difficult to actually do them. I’ve found three words that I think help to sum up the ways we live out a life of discipleship. The first word is decision. We have to make the decision that we are going to follow Jesus and commit our ways to him. We have to decide in our hearts and in our minds to value the things of God rather than the things of this world. Jesus instructs us on page 249, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in haven, where moths and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The second word comes into play after the decision is made – that word is determination. We must be determined to stay the course, to not be swayed and to endure the trials of our lives. On page 255 and again on page 279, Jesus tells his disciples the types of things that they will suffer because of their faith in him. He says that “you will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Finally, I chose the word devotion to describe the working out of God’s will through our lives. We must become devoted to his ways so that our actions show us to be disciples and show that we are not speaking empty words when we claim to be followers of the Christ. Throughout the book of Matthew, Jesus gives a lot of practical examples of what it looks like to truly love others, and he says that we will be recognized as disciples by the “fruit” that we bear. On page 250, Jesus says these sobering words: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
The Reward is Greater
The cost of discipleship is great. It will cost our very lives. But Jesus promises that the reward is greater. On page 271, he says that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” The challenge is to recognize that what we are “giving up” – this life that we imagine is our own – is really nothing compared to what we gain by having a relationship with God and walking in step with Jesus.
The Final Charge
After his resurrection, before he returns to heaven, Jesus leaves his disciples with one final charge that I still take as our mission as Jesus followers today: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” After we make the decision to follow Jesus, and as we learn how to work that decision out in our own lives we are also called to bring others to discipleship and to teach them the very things that God taught us. It’s a tall order. All of it. But we are not alone in this mission. I love the last line of the book of Matthew where Jesus tells us, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Happy Gilmore. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!