Are You A Disciple?

by Jan 16, 2018

Are you a disciple of Jesus? Many people are comfortable calling themselves “Christians,” but get a bit more uncomfortable calling themselves “disciples.” We don’t use that word a ton, but it’s all over the Bible. In fact, in the Bible the word disciple more than the word Christian to describe followers of Jesus. There’s no real distinction between “Christian” and “disciple” in the Bible. So what exactly is a disciple? Let’s look how Jesus interacted with his first few disciples to find out more:

Mark 1: 14 says this: “After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” We know Jesus was a great teacher, a great communicator, and that he had a specific message for people to hear. I was a teacher for 5 years, and I remember how frustrating it would be to pour my heart out teaching my students, just to have them come back then next day and either totally forget what I’d taught them, or remember it the wrong way. Jesus taught the same message his whole life, but so many people not understand what he was talking about. Well, Mark’s a man of few words so look at how he summarizes Jesus’ message: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! This is the teaching, the message, that disciples of Jesus believe.

It would literally be impossible to be a disciple of Jesus, a follower of Jesus, if we don’t believe his message. It’d be like playing for a coach but saying you won’t run his plays. Like being in senior management of a company but not believing that they make a good product. Or signing up for a gym membership but hating exercise. That one might be all of us. This is Jesus’ message: Repent and believe the Good News. That word repent means to reverse course, or to turn away from something. Specifically, Jesus’ message is for us to turn away from the things he hates and turn toward the things that he loves. So Jesus message involves a life change, and a new belief. To believe the good news. The good news that something’s happened that’s so good that it’s worth changing your life for.

So who’s going to believe Jesus’ message? Who’s going to follow this guy who’s saying this?

Mark 1:16 says: “As he passed alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. “Follow me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people.” These guys were called by Jesus to follow him and be his disciples. Now, this would have been really unique and kind of crazy in this culture. During this time, there were teachers, rabbis, all over. And most Jewish dudes would want to learn from one of those rabbis. And the way to do that is that a Jewish young man would seek out and find a rabbi he wanted to follow and learn from, and then HE would approach that rabbi and ask to be his disciple. Rabbis never initiated people to follow them. It was seen as below them. People should beg rabbis for the honor of studying under them. And then the rabbi would decide, yes you can follow me, or no, you have to go back and learn your father’s trade. Most of the time, the answer was no. That’s probably what’s happened to these guys, Simon and Andrew. They were probably turned away from studying under a rabbi, so they are fishermen.

And Jesus does the totally unexpected. He goes to them, seeks them out, and calls them to be his disciples. And by doing that Jesus is showing us the only way that we can be his disciples. He has to call us. He has to stir in our hearts. He has to pursue us, even when we’re not pursuing him. If you’ve already given your life to Jesus, it’s because he pursued you first.

Now, this is also strange because of the kind of people Jesus is calling here. He called these guys to follow him as they were living their normal lives, doing every day things. They weren’t impressive people, they were regular dudes, fishing all day. Just like Moses was a shepherd watching out for sheep. Gideon threshed wheat. Elijah was ploughing a field. Jeremiah was scared to speak to people about God because he was so young. These disciples were fishermen. Often people will think, “Well, I’m not the kind of person that Jesus would call to be his disciple.” Over and over again we see Jesus calling very normal people to be his disciples. Not the kings and princes and CEOs and famous people of the day, maybe the people you’d expect if you want to start a movement, but people who are doing normal, everyday work.

Has Jesus called you to be his disciple? Calling you to follow him and learn from him? If your heart is stirring thinking about that, then guaranteed that Jesus is working in your life, and he wants you to pursue him more.

Mark 1:18 says: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat putting their nets in order. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” These guys are already transformed just from responding to the call to follow Jesus. They left their job, and they left their family. Fishing wasn’t the greatest job, but it was pretty stable. And a person’s identity was completely wrapped up in their family. So Jesus is really transforming these guys for them to become his disciples. And this makes us really uncomfortable. Because this seems pretty radical, even fanatical. If we’re going to follow Jesus, do we really need to quit our jobs, and walk away from our families, like it seems these guys are doing? Good question. No. Not at all. We actually know these guys did fish again. And they did continue to interact with and spend time with their families. So what’s Jesus saying here?

He’s saying here that to follow him means that he, Jesus, has priority over all of life. And that can be really hard for us to grasp. For people in the West, it’s going to be really hard to give Jesus priority over their careers. For people in the East, it’s going to be really hard to give Jesus priority over their family. So, you know what a lot of people do? They don’t give Jesus the top priority. They just add him to their life as just one more thing.

What a lot of people do is accept Jesus into their heart, but never become his disciple. It would be like Jesus coming to these guys fishing, and saying, “Follow me.” And they say, “Ok, we believe in you, we accept you into our hearts, but we’re going to keep pursuing our plan for our career. We’re going to stay in this comfortable place with our family. Keep it moving Jesus. We have you in our heart, but don’t ask for more than that.” Some people want Jesus to be just a part of their life, but they don’t want to make him the most precious part of their life. They don’t want to actually be his disciple.

But what’s wrong with that? Why can’t we do that? Well, look at what Luke 14 says: “Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” What in the world is this about? Is Jesus telling us to hate people? The people we feel the most love for? It can’t be. Because we see in so many other places that disciples of Jesus aren’t supposed to hate even their worst enemies. Jesus says to love our enemies! So what’s he saying here? He’s not calling us to actively hate anyone, but he is calling us to hate comparatively.

It’s kind of like this: I really like to eat the macaroni and cheese out of the box. Just good ol’ Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m so down with just having that as my dinner. I would never complain if you invited me over to your house and scooped some mac and cheese on my plate. I’d be pumped actually. BUT, I stinkin LOVE my grandma’s mac and cheese. She uses these thick noodles, and kind of like a white cheese sauce, and the sauce to noodle ratio is so on point. If I compare my grandma’s mac and cheese to Kraft mac and cheese, the Kraft stuff is like dog food man! I hate it in comparison! I’d NEVER, ever chose the Kraft stuff over my grandma’s because hers is so, so much better.

That’s the idea. Jesus says that he wants us to follow him so fully that all of our other relationships and attachments don’t even compare. The love that we feel for Jesus and receive from Jesus makes all of our other attachments feel like hate, because there’s just no comparison. Because guys, Jesus knows that many people are going to say, “I’ll follow you Jesus if…my career is stable…if everything is ok with my family…if I have good health…if you don’t mess with my future plans that I have for my life.” Jesus knows that there are many good gifts in this world, gifts that God has given us, that we feel more attached to than we do to Jesus.

But following Jesus is greater than all of our earthly attachments. And when we realize that and believe, Jesus actually becomes the most precious thing in our life. Because he’s done for us what no one and nothing else can do! He promises to love us more than we could ever imagine our family loving us. He promises to bring us more fulfillment and purpose than our jobs could ever give us. He promises that he has plans for us in the future that are better than we can even dream for our selves. He gives us our identity, as his children and friends. He’s taken care of our sin problem, giving us forgiveness. That’s why following him is such great news. When you follow him, you get everything!

Mark goes on to describe how Jesus’ teachings and miracles were astonishing to his disciples. They got to witness all of it first hand. And Mark writes in 1:27: “They were all amazed, and so they began to ask each other: “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once the news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.

And that can be each of us as well. If you give Jesus your life and follow him, become his disciple, you’re going to be amazed by his teaching, and amazed by the things you see him do in your life.