What Defines a Christian Disciple?

John 8:31 
Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’  

Introduction 
While Webster’s Dictionary describes a disciple as “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school of religion, learning, art, etc,” a Christian disciple follows Jesus. A Christian disciple is one who loves God with everything one has. A Christian disciple, by God’s grace, becomes more and more like Christ through a life of faith and obedience.

Life Example 
Have you ever met someone who claimed to be something, but acted another way?  Have you ever encountered someone who contradicted what they said they believed?  Think of a person who claims to be a huge fan of a certain sports team, but then turns on the team when they lose several games in a row. Think of a more serious example.  We often hear stories of women who are abused by men who claim to love them.  If one’s actions contradict one’s words, which is true?  In Christ’s eyes, it is our actions that speak to what we believe. So, in following Him, we must hold to His teachings in our daily lives.

When we look at the New Testament Gospels, we see that those who followed Jesus truly were His disciples. Because of their love for Christ, many left their jobs, homes, and security to walk with Him as He ministered to people throughout Palestine. They had the benefit of walking with Christ in the flesh.  So, what does it look like now – with Christ risen and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us – to be Jesus’ disciple?

Characteristics of a Christian disciple: 

  1. A true disciple of the Jesus worships God.  If you are a new creation in Christ, you are someone who brings glory to God and recognizes His honor.
  2. A disciple must be confident in the efficacy of Christ’s death and resurrection for his salvation.  He must know that he is a child of God and Christ dwells within him.1
  3. A disciple walks in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is responsible for everything that happens in the life of a believer—his new birth, daily walk, understanding of Scripture, prayer, etc.  He produces the fruit of the Spirit in us, which enables us to live holy lives and witness for Christ.2
  4. A disciple demonstrates love for God, neighbor, fellow disciples, and enemies.  Jesus commands us to love God with every fiber of our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves.3
  5. A disciple is one who knows how to read, study, memorize, and meditate upon the Word of God, to store its truths in his heart.  It is impossible to walk in the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit without understanding God’s Word.  The reverse is also true: you cannot understand God’s Word without the Holy Spirit.4
  6. A true disciple of Jesus is a man or woman of prayer.  Jesus models throughout Scripture that communicating with God is one of the most important things in a Christian’s life. He models that those who are children of God seek the Father.5
  7. A disciple is one who obeys the commands of God in a lifestyle that honors Christ.6
  8. A disciple is one who trusts God and lives a life of faith. Scripture reminds us that,  “without faith it is impossible to please God.”7
  9. A disciple understands God’s grace.  God loves us unconditionally, whether we obey Him or not.  This is the opposite of legalism – a heretic way of thinking that urges us to try to obey God’s laws in our own wisdom, strength, and power.8
  10. A disciple is one who witnesses for Christ as a way of life.9  If you love Jesus, you are spurred on to tell people about Him, testifying to what He has done in your life.

Application Questions

  1. What are some characteristics of a true Christian disciple you are noticing in your own life?
  2. What are some characteristics of a true Christian disciple that you struggle with?  Have you given that over to the Lord?

Memory Verses 
Luke 14:27
John 8:31
John 13:35 

How does this study reinforce your belief in the gospel? 

References

  1. 1 John 5:13
  2. Galatians 5:22-25
  3. Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 5:43-48
  4. Psalm 119
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  6. James 1:22-25
  7. Hebrews 11:6
  8. Romans 5:1
  9. Matthew 5:16
 

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Other Resources

Here are a few websites we recommended you use to receive further training and help aid your worship of Christ:

The Gospel Coalition
for Theology and Worldview

The Resurgence
for Theology and Worldview

Desiring God
for Theology and Worldview

God Squad
for Campus Ministry and Evangelism

Gospel Centered Discipleship
for Accountability

FCS Urban Ministries
for Urban Ministry & Community Development

CCDA
for Urban Ministry & Community Development