A Call to Discipleship
Jesus called the first disciples in Mark 1:16-20. Discipleship is conformity to Christ and the process by which a believer is trained to carry on the work of Jesus. It is learning to follow Him in every aspect of our lives. All believers are called to be and make disciples.
Jesus will Have Disciples
Discipleship was practiced throughout scripture. Jesus will train people to carry on His work, those who are willing to learn and in turn train others. Discipleship is declared in the great commission, “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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Every believer is called to be and make disciples. We see discipleship taking place immediately following the day of Pentecost, “Those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:41-42).
Paul commissioned Timothy, “The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This passage exemplifies the discipleship process. We are trained by someone, we in turn train someone, and they in turn train someone. The key is “faithful men.” The Psalmist cried, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men” (Psalm 12:1). Unfortunately, there is very little true discipleship going on today. We are not learning and growing, which enables us to teach others. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you” (Hebrews 5:12). Many people go to church their entire life without being discipled.
The church needs a renewed call to discipleship. We see discipleship carried out in the lives of Elijah and Elisha. Elisha was busy plowing in the fields when Elijah threw his mantle on him, calling him to follow. Elisha used the yokes to start a fire, cooked the oxen, gave it to his friends, and left to follow Elijah. He burnt all his bridges to the past when he began to follow Elijah, there was no turning back. A true disciple’s anointing, victory and achievements will far surpass that of their mentor. In 2 Kings 2, three times Elijah told Elisha that he was going on a long, difficult journey to Bethel, Jericho and Jordon. Each time Elisha responds by saying, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” (2 Kings 2:2, 2 Kings 2:4, 2 Kings 2:6).
When they arrived at the Jordon, “Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you? Elisha said, Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. So he said, You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:7-10).
Notice, “If you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” We must continue following our mentor and not let anything detour us if we expect to advance beyond them in our anointing, victory and achievements. Shortly thereafter, Elijah was taken away in a whirlwind. His mantle fell on Elisha, and he received a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Elisha performed twice the miracles as that of Elijah. It was said of Joshua, “As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15). This is an example of a disciple’s faithful obedience. Moses delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, but was unable to lead them into the promise land. Joshua did what Moses was unable to do.
Jesus Chose Simple People
Abraham Lincoln said, “God must love common people, He made so many of them.” Most of the disciples were rough fishermen. Levi was a tax collector and was pilfering off the top of what he collected from taxes. David’s followers were a collection of men who were in distress, debt and discontented (1 Samuel 22:2). Isaiah said, “Let My outcasts dwell with you. Be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler” (Isaiah 16:4). The best disciples are normally the most unlikely candidates. People who don’t always have it all together (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Jesus Chose Workers
The disciples were busy working when Jesus called them. They put all they had into what they were doing. Though Levi was dishonest, he was still a hard worker. Paul said he labored more abundantly than all the rest (1 Corinthians 15:8-10). Hebrews 6:11-12 says, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Elisha, likewise, was hard at work when Elijah called him.
True Disciples are Servants
Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). Elisha was a servant before he received his double portion. It was said of Joshua that he was Moses’ servant (Joshua 1:1). Jesus said, “If you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own” (Luke 16:12)? Paul wrote concerning Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-11). Disciples are always servants. Elisha was plowing behind twelve pair of oxen when Elijah called him.
Disciples Are Willing to Give up Everything
The disciples left their father’s fishing business, including their hired servants, and followed Jesus (Mark 1:20). They stood to inherit a very lucrative business, yet they still left all to follow Jesus. Would we pay such a price? Jesus was being followed by a large crowd of people. Most today would have preached something slightly more encouraging to keep them – Not Jesus. He preached the kind of message that would likely thin out the crowd. He in essence was saying, “let’s how many of you will continue to follow me now.”
Requirements of Discipleship
Jesus gave three requirements of discipleship, without which, we cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:25-33).
- We must hate those close to us. He was not telling us to literally hate anyone, but that He must be first in our lives above everyone.
- We must take up our cross. The cross was a sign of death. He was saying we must give up all personal and earthly ambitions and put Him first.
- We must surrender our possessions. When we become His disciple, all we have becomes His. From this point on we are merely stewards of what He has placed in our care. Elisha sacrificed all he had when he followed Elijah (1 Kings 19:19-21). We must do no less.
As a note of encouragement, when we forsake all and follow Jesus, the return we receive far out weighs what we leave behind. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Disciples are Called to a Life of Uncertainty
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Abraham was called of God to leave his father’s land and go to a land which God said he would show him (Genesis 12:1). “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38). All we have are the promises of God.
Disciples Are Fishers of Men
“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Notice the inevitable, when we begin to follow Jesus, we inevitably begin fishing – soul winning. If we are not fishing, we inevitably are not truly following Him. The true follower of Jesus is always fishing for the souls of mankind. A few important points about fishing:
- Start where you are. We may not know a lot at the beginning, but each of us has a testimony to share (Revelation 12:11). The blind man merely said, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
- Resist fear. The devil will attempt to strike fear in our hearts about sharing our faith, which we must resist. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The writer of Hebrews said, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).
- The Holy Spirit saves people, not us. It’s not our job to save people. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin and the need our Jesus (John 16:8-9). We must, however, develop a deep rooted persuasion in the gospel’s power and ability to change lives. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Paul was persuaded that if one truly believes, the gospel will transform their life (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Bible says, “Be imitators – followers of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). We mimic God as we familiarize ourselves with Him in scripture, and then do our best to be like Him, following His example. 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” People are not perfect and at times fail. That’s why Paul said, “as I also imitate Christ.” We follow them only as they follow Jesus, not where they fall short.
Peter failed miserably in his denial of Christ, yet, on the day of Pentecost, it was Peter who stood and boldly proclaimed the gospel. Acts 2:14 says, “Peter, taking his stand with the eleven.” As Peter rose to preach, the eleven stood with him in full support in spite of his failure. When our mentor or leader falls short we are to stand with him and follow him as he follows Christ, not where he falls short. The eleven followed Peter, in spite of his failure, because they were confident of his call.
God uses marred and imperfect vessels, which gives us hope. When David was hiding from King Saul in “the cave Adullam… every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:1-2). These became David’s mighty men. God calls those the world would never think could be used and makes them fit for His service. This way none can boast before Him and He gets all the glory.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).