The English language has a lot of quirks. There are bunches of rules and principles that are supposed to keep things separated and in order. Yet many times those rules and principles overlap in strange ways—even sometimes contradicting one another.
For example, did you know many English words can be used as both nouns and verbs? Think of a farmer milking a cow. The word milk acts as a verb in such situations; to “milk” a cow is an action that involves specific steps. But what do you get after the cow has been milked? You get milk, of course—milk as a noun. The same word goes in two separate directions.
Other words follow the same pattern. You might smell (verb) something wonderful in your kitchen and recognize it as the smell (noun) of baking bread. You can use a hammer (noun) to hammer (verb) nails into a board. Strange as it may sound, it’s entirely possible to chant a chant, broadcast a broadcast, and drink a drink.
Disciple is another word that can go in two directions at once. Those who have experienced salvation live and breathe each day as disciples of Jesus Christ. In this way, the word disciple defines who we are as Christians. At the same time, the term also defines much of what we do as Christians. As followers of Jesus, we’re called to disciple less-mature Christians by helping them grow in their relationships with Christ—even as we are discipled by others. This process is called “discipleship.” When you enter into this process you’ll learn what it means to find your identity as a disciple of Jesus. You’ll also learn (and experience) the benefits of discipleship in the context of deeper relationships with other Christians.
Jesus Has a Mission for the World
So what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Interestingly, the best way to answer that question is to focus not on the concept of a “disciple,” but on the identity of Jesus. In order to understand what it means to live as followers of Jesus,
we must first have a proper view of Jesus Himself.
John the Baptist offered several identifying factors for Jesus. For example, John claimed that Jesus existed before him, even though John was older than Jesus by several months (see Luke 1). More importantly, John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” “the Son of God,” and “the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
All of these factors point to a vital truth: Jesus is more than a regular person. In fact, Jesus is God in human flesh. One of the foundational concepts of Christianity is the doctrine of the incarnation, which states that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Jesus’ time on earth involved the fullness of God interacting with humanity and all of creation both physically and historically.
Jesus didn’t come to earth for a vacation, however. He had a purpose. He had a mission. And it was this mission John the Baptist referenced when he saw Jesus for the first time: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The world has been broken and corrupted by sin. We as individuals are broken and corrupted by sin. But Jesus came to fix the problem of sin. His death and resurrection opened the door for redemption—they allow us to experience forgiveness for our sins and live in a restored (or redeemed) relationship with God. This is the gospel.
Disciples Participate in Jesus’ Mission for the World
To live as disciples of Jesus, we must first understand His redemptive mission for the world. As with most things, however, it’s not enough for us to simply understand Jesus’ redemptive mission for the world. We must go further. We must take action. Indeed, to be a disciple of Jesus is to participate in His mission and purpose for the world.
John the Baptist wasn’t content with recognizing Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” John took pains to publicly proclaim the truth about Jesus on multiple occasions. He took action in order to participate in Jesus’ mission and purpose. And his participation produced fruit—men who had been following John were rightly convinced to follow Jesus, instead (see John 1:37-39).
In a similar way, verse 40 shows how Andrew—one of the two men who had been following John—participated in Jesus’ mission by sharing the good news with his brother, Simon. Andrew’s efforts went beyond words. He brought Simon to Jesus so that his brother could experience the truth for himself.
Discipleship happens in community
As you read through Scripture you’ll notice that Jesus’ disciples rarely engage His mission as individuals. Instead, followers of Christ typically work together in relationship with one another as they seek to advance His redemptive mission in the world. That was certainly Jesus’ preference during His public ministry. He didn’t recruit converts and then send them out to do His work in isolation. Instead, He gathered disciples to Himself so they could follow Him as
a community—even as a family.
Following Jesus is not something that can be accomplished in isolation—not for long. Instead, living as a disciple of Christ means living within a community of Christians. That community extends around the world and throughout time to include the church in all ages and all locations. On a more practical level, however, your local community includes the fellow disciples you connect with, worship with, and serve with each week.
This article was an excerpt from Disciples Path: The Journey, a Bible study that provides an intentional one-year path toward maturity in Christ. Learn more and preview three free sessions at DisciplesPath.com.