Walking As A Disciple

By Colin Salter

Some years ago my wife and I hosted a discipleship class1 using an acrostic: 

Submission to
  • Disciples are followers of someone or something. 
  • Famous people in our world have thousands of followers on social networking sites. 
  • Followers find out as much as they can about their heroes. They dress like them, listen to them and begin to think like them.

The Very First Followers Of Christ 
Our Savior started His life’s work by calling people to become His followers (Mt. 4:18-22, 9:9-13). These individuals left what they were doing and followed Him. What the disciples did can be seen by reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We then can see that they fulfilled the dictionary (Macmillian School Dictionary) definition of a disciple:

  1. They paid attention to what the Lord Jesus was doing.
  2. They did what He commanded or advised them to do.
  3. They went along in the same direction as He did.
  4. They were interested in His progress.
  5. They began to really understand what He was saying.
  6. They did the same as He was doing.
  7. They showed in their own lives the truth of His life.

R. C. Sproul defines Christian disciples as “those who are committed to follow Jesus as their Master” (The Gospel Of God). Commitment tells of a cost, as one serving his master.

Followers Have To Chose 
Christian men and women who want to be genuine disciples have to make many decisions every day. They are constantly called to choose between their way of living and God’s way. We are faced with the choice: remain like the world or become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

For all believers there is a wrong way and a right way to live. This is the spiritual struggle into which true Christians are born again. It begins in our minds – with our thoughts. These then influence our words and actions.

Let’s read Romans 12:1-2 (NIV, italics mine): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Having given the theology of the gospel in Romans 1-11, Paul makes immediate application in how to live for Jesus Christ – with Him as our Lord. The Old Testament sacrificial system of the tabernacle and temple was replaced by the New Testament command (and yes, it is a command – it is not optional) to “put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God.”2 We do not sacrifice to make ourselves Christians, but because we are Christians we sacrifice ourselves.

Followers Change 
Being a true disciple, this kind of sacrifice will affect every part of my life. My family life will be patterned on God’s Word whether as a loyal and loving husband, a spiritual and submissive wife, or an honoring and obedient child. My work life will reflect God’s values: not stealing time or materials, breaking business confidences or telling lies. My ethics will be those the Lord Jesus Christ would have in my situation. I decide to care for my friends and neighbors, putting their welfare even above my own and meeting their needs as I am able. I ensure that my Christian service will mirror my Lord. I will sacrifice myself using my skills, health and time for the spreading of the gospel by word and deed. The way I use my money and other resources God has loaned me will honor Him and His ways – thus being totally different than the non-Christian people around me.

A new believer who wants to know God’s will for his life will find it by prayerfully reading and studying the Word of God. This will help him to start thinking like God, and his new mind will develop new values. In everyday life these values will soon make him stand out from the crowd. By what he does he will be known to be a follower of Jesus Christ. When a man knows what God loves and hates it is quite easy for him to choose what to do – one’s choices following the pattern of His thoughts which are now becoming his own!

Followers Cultivate 
Figuratively, we who are Christian disciples live near the foot of the cross of our Lord Jesus. We learn to cross out the wrong and to cultivate the right in our lives. Yes, we do make mistakes. But we learn from them and seek to avoid them in the future.

Using definitions from our dictionary we see that “cultivate,” to prepare ground for growing crops, is an important word for Christian disciples. Through the Holy Spirit we prepare ourselves to produce spiritual fruit. Digging, weeding, feeding and protecting are all involved. A cultivated person is well educated and knows how to behave politely. We might say that a cultivated Christian lives a style of life that radiates the holiness, grace and love of Jesus Christ to everyone with whom he or she has contact. As in gardening or farming, preparation is the key to producing a good crop.

The Follower’s Cost 
Our Lord told His first disciples that following Him would not be easy. Through them He likewise warned us: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it” (Lk. 9:23-24). Jesus Himself counted the cost and lived every day in God’s honor. The cross on which He was executed was part of following His Father’s will, and in Gethsemane He chose crucifixion rather than release (Lk. 22:42-44). Giving honor and obedience were seen throughout His life – even as a child of 12 years (Lk. 2:49; Mt. 3:17, 17:5; Jn. 15:10). Notice that in Luke 9:23 the decision to follow Jesus had to be made at least once every 24 hours.

The Followers “L”In many countries, people learning to drive have to have a red letter “L” attached to their motorbikes or cars. 
Here are seven “L’s” of the first disciples: 
• Let go of their old ways in life,
• Lived with Jesus Christ, the traveling teacher,
• Learned from Him as He explained Scripture (the Old Testament) to them,
• Listened to Him,
• Looked at Him,
• Looked more and more like Him as time went by, and
• Loved God with their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbors likewise (Mk. 12:30-31).

Followers Speak Without Words 
When Christians live as followers all day, every day, those around will take notice. Could it be that some do not follow Christ now because we do not follow Christ closely enough? True Christian discipleship speaks every language in the world and no one is beyond the reach of believers who live like the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:12, 2:1-2; 1 Jn. 2:6, 3:1-3).

1. These studies became my first book, Raising The Standard, at www.colinsalter.net. 
2. Debbie Dodd, Dictionary of Theological Terms In Simplified English (Evangelism and Missions Information Service, Wheaton IL ) 2003, p. 48.