What is a Disciple?
A disciple is a follower or someone who adheres to the teaching of another. Training to be a disciple of Jesus begins as soon as we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus as our Lord (Acts 26:20). But every successful training requires the right resources. Thankfully, there are four resources for you to thrive as a disciple.
Unfortunately, too many Christians fail to succeed as disciples.
Because they don’t know how to use the resources God has provided them.
The Story of the Backwoodsman
Consider the story of an elderly backwoodsman who went to the hardware store. He needed to replace his worn-out saw. Seeing that he was an elderly fellow, the salesman sold him a more efficient chainsaw. The very next day, the old man returned, wanting his money back.
"Why?" the clerk asked.
“There is something wrong with this saw you sold me! Even though I worked as hard as I could, I only cut three cords of wood. With my old saw, I used to cut six without breaking a sweat!”
Thinking the chainsaw was defective, the salesman asked if he could take it out in the store’s back to discover the problem.
Once outside, the salesman pulled the cord, and the motor roared to life. The old man jumped back, exclaiming, “What’s that noise?”
The old backwoodsman didn't realize the power that he had in his hands with a chainsaw instead of a hand saw. It is a pity if Christians don’t correctly use the four resources God has provided for them.
How Does Training to Be a Disciple Fit with the 3 Stages of Salvation?
Salvation for a Christian involves three separate stages:
For our purposes, we are going only to discuss the first two.
Salvation begins when a person places their faith in Jesus as their Lord. This first stage is “justification.”
Justification means we become God’s child (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17), having all our past sins forgiven (Col. 2:13-14). Now we are seen as "just" in God's sight (Rom. 4:5).
Unfortunately, too many Christians misunderstand salvation. They believe salvation ends at justification.
But justification means we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) because we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us (Rom. 8:14). But what should we do as new creations? For that answer, we move into the next stage, sanctification.
Training to be a Disciple Happens During Sanctification
Following justification comes the second phase of salvation called “sanctification.”
Sanctification is a life-long process of training to be a disciple. Being a disciple means we mature in our faith. We seek to become more like Jesus.
The process is gradual because Christians are not made sinless after justification. We still carry baggage filled with our past sinful behavior.
But Jesus commanded us to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34). Denying ourselves means putting to death our previous sinful natures. And instead of living for ourselves, we are to live according to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13).
Training to be a disciple involves the “put-off”/“put-on” process. As Christians, we get rid of or “put off” the baggage of our old sinful nature (Eph. 4:25-32; Col. 3:5). And in its place, we are to put on a “new nature” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
We put on this "new self" by:
- Renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2) to understand God (1 Cor. 2:9-13)
- Taking all our thoughts "captive" to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and applying God’s truths to every area of our lives (Matt 7:1-5; Rom 12:1-2)
- Imitating Jesus all the time (Eph. 5:1–2) to avoid accepting the world’s evil ideologies (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 2:6-10)
Training to Be a Disciple Must Be Impossible!
Your first thought may be, “You are asking the impossible.”
You would be correct if you had to do this on your own, but you don’t!
Because God has provided four resources for every Christian.
These four resources for discipleship training include:
- The Bible
- The Holy Spirit
- Jesus’s Example
1. Use The Bible To Train As A Disciple
Mature Christians know how to handle God’s Word accurately (2 Tim. 2:15). By studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word, we can apply it to our lives (Jas. 1:22-25).
In training to be a disciple, familiarity with the Bible leads us to increasingly rely on Christ (Eph. 6:10-17) to accomplish and endure anything (Phil. 4:13).
By faithfully following Scriptural commands (James 1:22-25), we please God (2 Cor. 5:9; Col. 1:10). And by loving others in biblical ways (1 Cor. 13:4-8a), we act like Christ’s disciples (John 13:34-35).
2. The Holy Spirit Trains You To Be A Disciple
The Holy Spirit indwells believers (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14).
He illumines Scripture for our understanding (1 Cor. 2:9-16). He brings Scripture to our remembrance (Luke12:11-12; John 14:26), preventing us from sinning (Gal 5:16). And he helps us endure life’s challenges and trials (Jas. 1:2-4).
And everyone who is training to be a disciple wants to acquire the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).
The Holy Spirit also gives each believer a spiritual gift for God’s glory and the church’s common good (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
He also helps us evangelize (1 Cor. 12:3; Acts 1:8) and minister effectively (Acts 6:3, 13:9-12).
3. Prayer Helps Our Training To Be A Disciple
Jesus and his disciples emphasized another mark of mature Christians: prayer (Luke 11:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). Unceasing prayer guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:17-18).
The ancient “ACTS” formula for prayer (1 Tim. 2:1) includes:
- Adoration (Psa. 111:1)
- Confession of your sins (Matt. 6:12)
- Thanksgiving (2 Cor. 2:14)
- Supplication (asking) for your needs and for the needs of others (John 14:13; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15)
4. In Your Training To Be A Disciple, Follow Jesus’s Example
Living like Jesus means we humbly (Phil. 2:4–5) follow (John 10:27), serve (Matt. 20:25–28), obey (John 14:21) and live for Jesus (Rom. 14:7–8) and immediately respond to his commands (Matt 4:20, 22; 8:21–22).
Like Jesus, we seek to please God in all things (2 Cor. 5:9) by:
- Removing sinful behaviors and obstructions from our life (1 Cor. 11:28-31)
- Denying selfish desires (Phil. 2:4–5)
- Making costly sacrifices (John 12:26; 1 Pet. 4:1)
- Enduring challenges and sufferings (John 15:20; Heb. 12:3)
As Jesus’s representatives, we think of others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3-8), forgiving (Col. 3:13), and loving them in biblical ways (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
We worship regularly with fellow believers (Heb. 10:24-25) and restore brothers and sisters caught in sin (Gal. 6:1).
Believers evangelize and defend Christianity to non-Christians with respect (1 Pet. 3:15).
Through our Christ-honoring lifestyle (Matt. 5:16), we seek to engage outsiders’ interest in Jesus. We intend to create friendship, share the gospel and see them come to salvation. After that, we can then disciple them to a mature faith (Matt. 28:19-20).
In Training to Be a Disciple, We Are Becoming Christ’s Ambassador
Discipleship involves learning from and following Christ’s example (John 13:15).
Salvation begins with justification. The second phase of salvation is called sanctification. Sanctification involves our training to be disciples.
As disciples, we should live for and look like Jesus more and more each day. The four resources for training to be a disciple and live like Jesus are:
- The Bible
- The Holy Spirit
- Jesus’s example
Training to be a disciple means becoming Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). We live like Jesus. And there is nothing more powerful than the world hearing his message and seeing his character within us. This week, may we share his gospel and serve others with his humility and love (1 Cor. 15:49–53; 1 John 3:2–3).