The six “my disciple” statements from Jesus are found in four main passages in the New Testament. One is in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14:25-33) and the other three are in John’s Gospel (John 8:31; 13:35; 15:8). These four passages present four main characteristics that every disciple of Jesus will manifest in their life to some degree or another.
One of the things you’ll notice about these four things is that they are characteristics more than they are behaviors. You might think of them as postures of the heart.
They are not activities that a disciple does every now and then but rather dispositions in which every disciple lives.
When I saw my friend in East Asia draw these four things out on a napkin I felt like it was a special gift from the Lord. Have you ever had one of those moments?
I had read so many books on discipleship leading up to that trip. It seemed like so much of what I had read only served to further complicate discipleship instead of simplifying it.
Where was the simple, biblical, easily reproducible vision of discipleship that could help us create a movement of multiplication in our church? To be honest, I had almost given up hope.
My problem is that I was looking to the experts for a discipleship pathway when I should have just been looking to the Scripture itself.
That’s what I love most about the four things that I’m about to show you. They’re not from some discipleship expert doing cutting-edge ministry in the 21st Century. They come straight from the lips of the greatest discipleship expert who ever lived: Jesus of Nazareth.
They’re simple, biblical, and reproducible.
In the past, when I had read books about discipleship and disciple-making the definition of discipleship always seemed to revolve around certain behaviors. It was almost like a top ten list.
The behaviors pointed to spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible, praying, giving your tithe, sharing your faith and things of that nature.
I always though to myself, “You could be a non-believer and still do all of these things. Are these the things that really make you a disciple of Jesus?” When I saw this vision of discipleship given by Jesus it relieved that tension and pointed me in a different direction.
These four things by Jesus are not merely spiritual disciplines. They’re spiritual dispositions.
They are orientations of the heart. You cannot do these four things without also being a born-again believer.
On top of that, these four things come straight from the lips of Jesus. Isn’t it time that we embraced a vision of discipleship that didn’t come from some modern-day expert who is helping pioneer the next great thing?
I’ve got nothing against those kind of men and women. They’re a great gift to the church. But what do you tell the guy who gets dropped off in a third world country with nothing but his Bible and he hears from the Lord, “Now go and make disciples.” What would HIS discipleship plan look like?
These four things are simple but not simplistic.
According to Jesus, discipleship isn’t just a list of behaviors. It’s not 10 do’s and 20 don’ts. It’s much simpler than that.
That isn’t to say it’s simplistic. I find these four things deeply profound. These concepts certainly aren’t shallow. But they are simple. And simple is what’s necessary if they’re going to gain traction and start a movement of multiplication.
Over the next few weeks we will address each of the four things one by one. Before we delve into each passage, though, let me show you all four things right up front.
Disciples of Jesus…
- Walk by faith,
- Abide in the Word,
- Love one another,
- And bear much fruit.
These four things are not one time events. They are states of the heart. The heart walks or lives by faith. The heart loves continually. The heart abides in the Word. The heart bears much fruit.
Think of the spiritual life of a disciple as you would the physical life of a plant. If all the systems are healthy then these kind of things are being produced.
These are the meta-structures from which spiritual disciplines are derived.
These are the life systems on which the spiritual body depends.
Think of walking by faith as the muscular or skeletal system. Think of abiding in the Word as the respiratory or cardiovascular system. Think of loving one another as the nervous or immune system. Think of bearing much fruit as the reproductive system.
Like the systems in your physical body, these spiritual systems depend on and interact with one another. If the health of one system improves then the other systems will benefit. If the health of one deteriorates then the other systems will suffer as well.
The “my disciple” statements of Jesus give us a comprehensive and powerful vision of what a disciple is and how a disciple grows.
We want to filter all of the programs in our church through the lens of whether or not they’re helping people grow in these areas. In the articles that follow, we will examine each of these things on their own and then think through how they interact with one another.