Discipleship Defined

It all started with twelve. Jesus was a beacon of light in a world that had turned dim. For those that were seeking the light, it was obvious what they needed to do. “Pick up their cross and follow.” (Matthew 16.24) Jesus’ original twelve had no idea about the depth, the power and the totality of what they were getting involved with in the beginning of their ministry together. They just knew that Christ was worth following. It was at the cross where their faith was challenged in a profound way. Will we follow this man to the grave? 

In large part, the answer was a resounding—“No, it’s too heavy.” 

Before we cringe at these disciples or turn our noses up at them, we all need to realize we’ve made that same call time and time again. It was only after the resurrection that the original disciples picked up their buried heads, strengthened their drooping hands and let God work through them. It was only after they realized the fullness of what Christ left with them that they became fearless, devotional and purpose-driven. 

It was only when the reality of Jesus’ resurrection hit them, that they understood. The disciples realized that if they didn’t carry Jesus’ ministry forward they were denying his resurrection. “Whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 10.33) The resurrection inspired those disciples to follow Jesus in the realest sense—bringing the truth and the love of God to everyone they came into contact with, no matter the cost. 

Embracing their call, those disciples did not sit on their hands. As one, apostles, elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, and all those entrusted with the saving power of the gospel begun to pour it out into every corner of the culture where they were. They did not employ clever sales strategies, manipulation or coercion. They did not merely debate their way into academic dominance. 

The first century disciples surrendered themselves. They bore with people. They had them in their homes, fed them, prayed with them, wept with them in difficulty and rejoiced with them through victory. They came alongside people who were missing out on the greatest gift ever and they spoke of the teacher who had changed their lives with great awe and love—and they did all this, no matter what. That’s discipleship. It’s bigger than “having church.” It’s bigger than “evangelism.” It’s the main thing. It’s following Jesus. 

Cain Atkinson

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