A disciple of Christ is called to be a student who emulates the Master
Philip P. Eapen1
Jesus did not call you to become a mere ‘believer’ or a ‘worshipper.’ He wants you to follow Him along the path of obedience. ‘Learning to obey’ is indispensable.
“Where are your students?” Mary asked Jesus as she opened the door of her Nazareth home to her son. “Where’s that written in the New Testament?” you may wonder. It’s from The Chosen TV series. I like the way Dallas Jenkins portrays Jesus’s disciples as His students.
You may still like to refer to Jesus’s followers as “disciples.” But remember, it was a few Antiochian disciples of Christ who were at first nicknamed “Christians.” Today, does the word “Christian” remind you of discipleship? Christian jargon, such as discipleship, is not without its problems. Simpler words that effectively convey meaning are always a relief. That’s why I like the word “student.” Disciples are students—students who learn to emulate their Master.
Jesus invited people to become His students. “Come to me, … Take my yoke on you and learn from me ….” His Jewish audience knew what it meant to “take up a yoke.” To them, the yoke represented Judaism and its laws. Jews commit themselves, at an early age, to lifelong learning and adherence to the Law. Jesus offered a lighter burden—much lighter than the yoke of Mosaic Law, loaded with rabbinic interpretation.2 He offered them rest for their souls. This ‘rest’ is not a state of inactivity. It indicates the end of a soul’s wanderings in search of God. Those who come to Jesus find God.
Come. Learn. Rest. We know what it means to come to Jesus. Do we learn from Him? Does that learning lead us to a life of obedience? More often than not, Christians who come to Jesus embrace spiritual complacency because the Church is not implementing the Great Commission. The Lord Jesus commanded his apostles to “make disciples of all nations.” He didn’t ask them to make “believers” out of “unbelievers.” Faith is necessary, as is repentance. But a forgiven sinner must be enrolled as Jesus’s student for life. He must be taught to obey everything that Jesus commanded.
The lack of ‘true discipleship’ is widespread in the global Church. The prayer guide Operation World points out that the Church in every country is plagued by immaturity. Rapid growth in numbers, accompanied by a lack of training for new Christians in the Word, made the global Church an ocean that is just ankle-deep! We have not been able to ‘disciple’ every soul that came to Jesus because we were not taught well, in the first place, by those who led us to the faith.
Sadly, in most church services, Christians are offered spiritual ‘fast food’ — high in empty calories, low in the ‘meat’ of God’s Word. Sermons have given way to pep talks and presentations. Few church members have the time or inclination for serious Bible study. Pastors are busy shoving comfort foods and pacifiers into the mouths of “baby Christians.” They grow up to become unstable, immature, rebellious “Cretans” who are badly in need of “the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority.”3 Did I hear someone say, “Rebuke? Ssshh! That’s not permitted in our churches!”
Each local Church should be much more than a “worshipping and witnessing” assembly. Every fellowship of Christians – regardless of what you call it and where they meet – must be the arena where Jesus’s students are trained to obey their Master.
You may now wish to read the Discipleship Training Manual of the early Church, known as The Didache (+15 minutes).
For further reading on what it means to follow Christ:
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This article was first published in GoodNews Illuminer, Feb 2023.↩︎
“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” Acts 15:10 ESV.↩︎
See Titus 1:10-12; 2:15.↩︎
Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers; he also runs a small ‘tent-making’ business. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.
Date: Jan 25, 2023