What Is Discipleship?

Dr Pierre Coovert

When I was a young Christian, over fifty years ago, Christians were much stronger and more faithful than today. One term we hear so much today was seldom heard then. The term was discipleship. In spite of this, Christians were much stronger, lived more holy lives, and knew the Scriptures better than they do today.

The whole attitude toward God and the Lord Jesus Christ was different. In those days God was the almighty Creator of the universe. He was holy and greatly to be feared. Today He is just a buddy we can go to when we need something.

Jesus Christ was LORD. That means we made every effort to live lives that were pleasing to Him. His commandments were the principles upon which we based our lives. Today He is just a friend, a pal to enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, Christians were no more perfect then than they are today. They were still capable of all kinds of sinful things. What I am talking about is a question of attitude.

When people went to church they were going to the “House of God”, not to an entertainment center. They dressed like they were going somewhere important, not to a sporting event. They showed much more respect for the things of God.

Somehow, without discipleship classes and a bunch of programs, the Christians of the early centuries of Christianity managed to turn the world upside down. Even just fifty years ago Christians had enough influence to keep homosexuality, adultery, abortion, and many other sins in the closet. The politicians had enough fear of the Christians to conduct themselves properly.

What has changed? Why aren’t our discipleship programs working? I think the answer is found in our understanding of what a disciple is. Most of us think that just being saved makes us a disciple. While it should, it does not. Disciple has the same root as discipline. A disciple disciplines himself according to the teaching of his master.

Let us take a look at what the Bible has to say about disciples.

Matthew 10:24-25 “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”

This passage reminds us that if our Lord suffered, we should expect to suffer. If He was rejected by the world, we should expect to be rejected by the world. If He was called by bad names, we should expect the same. We cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God (James 4:4).

Luke 14:26-27 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Note the key phrase in this verse; “he cannot be my disciple.” If anyone, even one’s own life, comes before the Lord Jesus Christ he cannot be His disciple. That is pretty strong language, but it is not the only thing that can keep one from being a disciple of Christ.

Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

This verse also uses the phrase “cannot be my disciple.” This time those who will not forsake all that he has cannot be His disciple. This is not just talking about physical things. Although we have liberty in Christ, we do not have the liberty to believe whatever we want or to live however we want.

Most of the New Testament, with the exception of maybe the Gospels, is about how Christians should live. Today most of those who call themselves Christians have the attitude that there are no rules except to love and not judge others. They think they can live and dress anyway they want, with no thought of godliness and modesty. They think they can believe whatever they want regardless of what the Bible says. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone say that they knew what the Bible says, but they believe something contrary to what it says anyway.

Acts 11:26 “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

Notice that this verse says the the “disciples” were called Christians. It does not say that the believers or the saved were called Christians. Don’t you think that there may be a reason God chose the word “disciples?” They were called Christians because their lives were patterned after their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 16:24-26 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The life of a Christian is a life of self-denial, not a life of self-interest. There are two ways a person who puts his life in this world first can lose it. The first is that he can be condemned to the Lake of Fire because he never trusted Christ for his salvation. The second is that the Christian who puts the things of this world first can have a life that is totally wasted. He will lose his reward in heaven.

Those who are willing to lose their lives for Christ will truly find them. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing we have lived lives that please our Lord. In addition to that, we will receive reward in Heaven for our faithful service.

2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

The world persecuted Christ and put Him to death. Should we expect better treatment than our Lord?

Acts 5:41 “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

Today most Christians complain about suffering for His sake. In the New Testament they rejoiced that they were counted worthy.

Luke 6:26 “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

If the world speaks well of you it may indicate that something is wrong. The most popular non-Catholic religious leader in America has proven the truth of this statement with what he has said about Catholicism.

John 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

The world loves its own and hates those who are Christs.

True disciples of Christ will not be liked by this world. They are not formed by discipleship classes, they are formed by teaching sound doctrine and godly principles from the pulpit. Pulpits that put all their emphasis on soul-winning and political issues will not grow strong disciples. Soul-winning is, of course, very important, but a steady diet of this from the pulpit will grow weak Christians. If you doubt this read Ephesians 4:12ff.

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved