After accepting Jesus as our Savior, many of us can naively think that our responsibilities end, thinking we can live however we want. Unfortunately, this misperception may happen because of a lack of mentoring immediately after salvation.
We’re All Kids
Consider the analogy of young mountain goats called “kids.” They are exceptionally playful and active creatures. But their romping can be hazardous living in the unsafe environment of steep mountains. One wrong move and they can fall to their deaths. So why don’t they end up falling to their deaths? Because their nanny goats stand between them and the steep mountain watching over them until they are old enough to care for themselves.
Maybe you don’t live on a mountain. But all of us are “kids” when it comes to starting out in our spiritual lives following Jesus. Every one of us needs someone more mature to look after us when we first start out. Because new Christians “don’t know what they don’t know!”
And without experienced Christians mentoring or “discipling” new believers, they could fall down a cliff of disappointment, disbelief, and doubt. And in the unfortunate circumstance that they leave the church, they typically become even more skeptical towards Christianity and its followers than they were before. So making a long-lasting disciple is of paramount importance.
What is a Disciple?
A Christian disciple is a follower of Jesus. Our aim is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, especially concerning obedience to and trust in God (1 John 2:6; Luke 6:40). Christlikeness starts with a total commitment to Jesus (John 10:27).
Importance of Mentors (Disciplers)
If you are a new member of God’s family, a more experienced Christian should be mentoring you (1 Cor 4:16). There is a variety of mentoring or discipling relationships. Discipling occurs between:
- Family members, especially parents and children (Eph 6:4)
- Pastors and church members or leaders (Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2)--whether in individual, group, or Sunday morning preaching settings
- Between more mature church members and newer or younger Christians (Ti. 2:4)
What If No One Asks?
If someone in your church family doesn’t reach out to disciple you, be proactive, and find someone yourself! Choose someone older in the faith, who lives a Christ-honoring life, and is well thought of by the church family.
Your mentor never takes the Holy Spirit’s role (being your ultimate authority or guide) but is present to teach, correct, encourage, and act as an example of what it means to live like a Christian (Phil. 3:17; 4:9).
Putting Off-Putting On
As a Christian, your goal is to live like Christ, being as distinct from the world as light is to the darkness (Matt. 5:13; Eph. 5:8). But becoming conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29) doesn’t fully occur immediately after conversion. You still carry your old self’s sinful baggage that must continually be “put off” (Eph 4:22).
And in its place, you are to “put on” your new “self,” created in the likeness of God (Eph. 4:24). As a result, you should daily seek to avoid sin and grow in love and good works towards others (Heb. 3:13). Your training must be intentional, and as any athlete knows, training involves the right resources and a good coach or mentor to succeed.
It should be evident that becoming an ideal disciple of Christ is a daunting task. But four resources can help in your quest to be more Christ-like?
1. The Holy Spirit
The balance between a Christian disciple living “in the world” but not “of the world” (John 17:15-16) is challenging to achieve and sustain. A thriving spiritual life is only possible with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
The indwelling Holy Spirit will shine truth from God’s Word to you (1 Cor. 2:9-16), showing you what is right (John 16:13-14) and bringing Scripture to your remembrance when you need it most (John 14:26). He gives you the power to share the gospel with others (Acts 1:8) as well as giving you a “spiritual gift” for building up other believers and the church (Eph 4:11-13; Gal 5:22-23).
What’s more, the Holy Spirit gives us hope (Rom. 15:13), comfort (Acts 9:31), and help in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27). And he teaches and helps us in pursuing Christ’s command to imitate him (John 15:13; 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1).
2. The Bible
God’s Word is meant to be studied, memorized, and used in your daily devotional reading. It contains everything you need to live life like Jesus (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Scripture is a powerful, living, and spiritual force (Eph. 6:11, 17; Heb. 4:22) that can defeat the sin that arises from:
- Our sinful desires
- The surrounding culture
- And Satan
As a disciple, we are called to “pray continuously” (1 Thess. 5:17). Jesus gave his disciples a pattern for prayer in what’s commonly known as “the Lord’s prayer” (Luke 11:2). And your prayers should be guided by the Holy Spirit (Eph 6:18), seeking God’s will for your life. As you pray, you can and should bring everything and everyone before the Lord with thanksgiving and without anxiety (Php 4:6, Col 4:2; 1 Tim 2:1)
4. Jesus’ Example
We aren’t left to guess at what the most healthy spiritual life is. We don’t have to figure it out on our own. Jesus shows us!
But every time we fail, Jesus is also the one that reminds us he is the only one who lived a perfect life and forgives us when we fall short. Your motivation to live like Jesus should never come from legalism, guilt, or shame. Those reasons make being a child of God burdensome. Instead, Jesus’ love for us motivates us to become more like him.
Getting That Mentor, Being That Mentor
Becoming a disciple of Jesus requires focused and disciplined effort. And it’s other mentors who help us get there.
If you’re a younger believer, find a more mature believer (whether they are much older in age or not), and invite them to help you grow as you see their life and have them help you in your spiritual steps. And don’t forget whether you have been a believer for one year or fifty years, we are also all called to become a mentor who disciples others as well.