Physical proximity of the student to his teacher was also implied in the meaning of discipleship, although there are instances when its meaning was extended to include pupils separated from their masters by centuries. John 9:28 they (blind men) reviled him … “you are His disciple; but we are Moses’ disciple.” Where Jews contemporary with Jesus called themselves disciple of Moses.
Discipleship is also a prominent and important concept in the New Testament. John the Baptist had his disciples, Matt. 9:14 why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”, the Pharisees theirs, Matt. 22:16 and they sent to Him their disciple … teacher we know that you are true, about taxes, even Paul his Acts 9:25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.
THERE ARE THREE BASIC QUALIFICATIONS FOR BECOMING A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS (John 8:29-32)
- I. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To believe is to have faith in Him. To have faith is to fulfill His will. It is a dynamic faith because faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Believing is to place one’s trust in God’s truth; one who takes God at His Word and trusts in Him for salvation. A belief that saves is one that rests in the finished work of Christ; it trusts God alone for salvation (John 3:16). Believers are those who have trusted Jesus with their will as well as their mind (Rom. 1:16; 3:22; 1Thess. 1:7) Rom. 1:16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes for the Jew first and also for the Greek; Rom. 3:22. Even the righteousness Of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference. Gen. 15:6 and he believes in the Lord, and He accounted it to Him for righteousness. Exo. 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord has done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believe the Lord and His servant Moses.
Believing involves commitment to His will for one’s life, therefore having faith in Him. According to Heb. 11 faith was already present in the experience of many people in the Old Testament as a key element of their spiritual lives. In this chapter, the various heroes of the Old Testament (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses) are described as living by faith. In addition, the Old Testament itself makes the same point. Abraham “believed in the Lord” (Gen. 15:6); the Israelites “believed” (Ex. 4:31); and the prophet Habakkuk taught that “the just shall live by his faith” (Heb. 2:4).
In the New Testament, faith covers various levels of personal commitment. Mere intellectual agreement to a truth is illustrated in James 2:19, where even demons are said to believe that there is God. Obviously, however, they are not saved by this type of belief. Genuine saving faith is a personal attachment to Christ, but thought of as a combination of two ideas – reliance on Christ and consistent to Him. Saving faith involves personally depending on the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice as the only basis for forgiveness of sin and entrance into God’s kingdom. But saving faith is also a personal commitment of one’s life to following Christ in obedience to His commands (2Tim. 1:12).
Faith is part of the Christian life from beginning to end. As the instrument of which the gift of salvation is received (Eph. 2:8-9), faith is thus distinct from the basis of salvation, which is grace, and from the outworking of salvation, which is good works. The apostle Paul declared that salvation is through faith, not through the keeping of the law (Gal. 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the lawno flesh shall be justified).
Finally, in the New Testament, faith can refer to the teachings of the Bible, the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). In modern times, faith has been weakened in meaning so that some people use it to mean self-confidence. But in the Bible, true faith is confidence in God or Christ, not in oneself.
- II. Abide or continue in His Word (John 8:31)
Why is it important for Christians to abide in His Word? Jesus said in John 15:1-7 “Apart from me you can do nothing”. And only through it we are able to bear much fruit!
The Word of God is the means by which He makes Himself known, declares His will, and brings about His purposes. Phrases such as “word of God”, and “Word of the Lord” are applied to the commanding Word of God that brought creation into existence (Gen. 1; 2Pet. 3:5 For this they willingly forget: that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water.) and also destroyed that same world through the waters of the flood (2Pet. 3:6); to God’s announcement of an impending or future act of judgment (Ex. 9:20-21) to the Word that declares God’s commitment and promises His blessings (Gen. 15:1, 4) Heir from your own body; and to a particular instruction from God (Joshua 8:27 only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as booty for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commissioned Joshua).
The term Word of God is also used of the ten commandments given from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 5:5); of the whole Mosaic Law (Is. 2:3); of specific parts of the Old Testament (Rom. 9:6 But it is not that the Word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel) 1Tim. 4:5 for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer); of a more personal communication from God (1samuel 3:21 then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himslef to Samuel in Shiloh by the Word of the Lord; 1Sam. 15:10 now the Word of the Lord came to Samuel saying, v.11 I greatly regret that I have set up Saul, etc). of the directive of God that set in motion John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:2 Annas and Caiphas being high priests, the Word of God came to John the Son of Zacharias in the wilderness); of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God (Luke 3 8:11 Now the parable is this: the seed is the Word of God); of the gospel as preached in the early church (Acts 4:31 and when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all field with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness); and finally of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Rev. 19:13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name ids called the Word of God)
God’s Word is the primary means by which he is present and working in the world. He is not Himself part of this world but He acts in it by means of His Word. He becomes personally known through His Word (1Sam. 3:21 Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the Word of the Lord). His Word is powerfully creative (Ezekiel 37:4 Again He said to me, “prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!) and, its purposes are irresistible (Isaiah 55:11; So shall my Word etc.; Jer. 23:29 “Is not my Word like a fire? “Says the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”. God’s Word is totally dependable; it represents His permanent commitment (Isaiah 40:8, The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever). When heard and responded to, His Word meets deep needs in the human heart and provides joy, satisfaction, and confident direction that can be achieved in no other manner (Deut. 8:3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord); Ps. 119:162 I rejoice at your word as one who finds great treasure); Jer. 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your Name, O Lord God of hosts). God’s word has the power to penetrate all pretense and discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
God’s speaking of His word reaches a culmination in the sending of His Son (John 1:1, 14; Heb. 1:1-2). All that is true of God’s earlier word is supremely true of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, in a special way, the word of God as it makes known and brings into operation the reconciliation with God that is His purpose for mankind (2Cor. 5:18-19). So central is the gospel to the purpose of God in this world that the successful spreading of the gospel is the growth of the Word of God. (Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.)
Not only Jesus’ message but also all that He is communicates God to us. He Himself is described as the Word of God (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13). Jesus brings the presence of God to a new level – the personal presence of God in the world in a human life.
- III. Know the truth ( John 8:32)
Truth is conformity to, or faithfulness to an original or to a standard. In the Old Testaments and New, Testaments, truth is a fundamental moral and personal quality of God. God proclaimed that He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Ex. 34:6) He is a God of truth … without injustice (Deut. 32:4). Furthermore, all of His paths are “mercy and truth (Psalm 25:10). Frequently in the Psalms, God’s mercy and His truth are joined together (Ps. 57:3; 89:14; 115:1). All of God’s works, precepts, and judgments are done in righteousness and truth (Ps. 96:13; 111:8). Truth is a moral and personal characteristic of God: He is “the God of truth” (Is. 65:16). The psalmist declared, “Your law is truth” (119:142), “all your commandments are truth (119:151), and “the entirety of your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160). Because of His perfect nature and will, God has to speak and act in truth; He does not lie (1Sam. 15:29; Heb. 6:18; James 1:17-18).
Jesus the word of God who came in the flesh, “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). All Jesus said was true, because He told the truth He heard from the Father (John 8:40). He promised His disciple(s) that He would send “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13); a Helper who would abide in the Christians forever (John 14:16), testify about Jesus (John 15:26), guides Christians into all truth (John 16:13), and glorify Jesus (John 16:14).
God is truth, the Spirit is truth; and Jesus is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Jesus and the revelation of the Spirit of truth given through His apostles are the final, ultimate revelation and definition of truth about God, people, redemption, history, and the world. The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
Jesus explained that when people know the truth, the truth will set them free (John 8:32). He Himself is the truth (John 14:6). Jesus also declared that if He, the Son of God, sets person free, they would be truly free (John 8:36). Sin enslaves; Christ sets free.
The apostle Paul pointed out that the law when not properly understood, also enslaves. A mechanical sense of compulsion to obey the law binds and restricts one’s freedom. Christ loosens the hold that the law has on Christians. (Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. V.13 for your brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another).
Set free from sin, the believer is able to choose service for God (Rom. 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life). Using the phrase “The Lord’s freedman”, Paul emphasized the spiritual freedom that belongs to believers (1Cor. 7:22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freeman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave). The spiritual freedom of others becomes the concern of those who have been set free by Christ.
REQUIREMENTS OF JESUS FOR HIS DISCIPLES (Matt. 16:24)
Christ, having shown His disciple/s that He must suffer and that He was ready and willing to suffer too and be ready and willing. It is a weighty discourse that we have in these verses.
- Here is the law of discipleship laid down, and the terms fixed, upon which we may have the honor and benefit of it v.24 He said this to His disciple/s, not only that they might instruct others concerning it, but that by this rule they might examine their own security.
- What are the great things required of those that will be Christ’s disciples; . . . (If any will come) If any may be willing to come. It denotes a deliberate choice, and cheerfulness and resolution in that choice even in sufferings as well as in other things, and therefore when you sit down to count the cost, reckon upon it.
Now what are these terms?
- Let him deny himself – Jesus’ birth, life, and death, were all a continued act of self-denial, a self-emptying (Phil. 2:7-8). If self-denial be a hard lesson, it is no more than what our Master learned and practiced before us and for us, both for our redemption and for our instruction; and the servant is not above his Lord: it is the strait gate, and the narrow way; it is necessary for learning all the other good lessons that are there taught. We must not admire our own shadow, nor gratify our own egos; not lean on our own understanding, nor seek our own things, nor be our own end; we must deny ourselves for Christ and His will and glory, and the service of His interest in the world; we must deny ourselves for our brethren, and for their good; deny the appetites of the body for the benefit of the soul.
- Let him take up his cross – These may be providential afflictions, persecutions for righteousness’ sake, every trouble that befalls us, either for doing well or for not doing ill. The troubles of Christians fitly called crosses, in allusion (figure) to the death of the cross, which Christ was obedient to; and it should reconcile us to troubles, and take off the terror of them, that they are what we bear in common with Christ, and such as He hath borne before us:
- Every disciple of Christ hath his cross, and must count upon it; as each has his special duty to be done, so each has his special trouble to be borne, and everyone feels most from his own burden. Crosses are the common lot of God’s children, but of this common lot each hath his particular share and makes the best of it. That is our cross which god has appointed for us, and a Sovereign Providence has laid on us, as fit for us.
- Every disciple of Christ must take up that which the wise God has made his cross. It is an allusion or figure to the Roman custom of compelling those that were condemned to be crucified, to carry their cross; when Simon carried Christ’s cross after him, this phrase was illustrated.
- First, it is supposed that the cross lies in our way, and is prepared for us. We must not make crosses to ourselves, but must accommodate ourselves to those which God has made for us. Our rule is, not to go a step out of the way of duty, either to meet a cross, or to miss one. We must not by our rashness and indiscretion pull crosses down upon our own heads, but must take them up when they are laid in our way. We must so manage an affliction that it may not be a stumbling block or hindrance to us in any service we have to do for God. We must take it up out of our way, by getting over the offense of the cross.
- Secondly, that which we have to do is, not only to bear the cross, not only to be silent under it, but we must take up the cross, must improve it to some good advantage. We should not say,”This is an evil, and I must bear it, because I cannot help it”. But this is an evil, and I will bear it, because it shall work for my good”. When we rejoice in our afflictions, and glory in them, then we take up the cross. This fitly follows upon denying ourselves; for he that will not deny himself the pleasures of sin, and the advantages of this world for Christ, when it comes to the push, will never have the heart to take up his cross.
- Let him follow Me – suffering saints must look unto Jesus and take from Him both direction and encouragement in suffering. We therein follow Christ, who bears the cross before us, bears it for us, and so bears it from us. He bore the heavy end of the cross, the end that had the curse upon it that was a heavy end, and so made the other light and easy for us. Self-denial and patient suffering are hard lessons, which will never be learned if we consult with flesh and blood; let us therefore consult with our Lord Jesus, and see what advice He gives us.
Consider the weight of that eternity which depends upon our present choice (v. 25); whosoever will save his life, by denying Christ shall lose it; and whosoever is content to lose his life, for owning Christ, shall find it. Here are life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse set before us.
- The misery that attends the most plausible (apparently right) apostasy. Whosoever will save his life in this world if it be by sin, he shall lose it in another; he that forsakes Christ, to preserve a temporal life and avoid a temporal death, will certainly come short of eternal life, and will be hurt of the second death, and eternally held by it. The life saved is but for a moment, the death shunned is but as a sleep; but the life lost is everlasting, and the death run upon is the depth and complement of all misery, and an endless separation from all good. Now let any rational man consider it, take advice and speak his mind, whether there is anything gained, in the long run, by apostasy, though a man save his estate, or life, by it.
- But those who will lose his life for Christ’s sake in the world, shall find it in a better, infinitely to his advantage. Note, First many a life is lost, for Christ’s sake in doing his work by laboring fervently for His Name; in suffering work, by choosing rather to die than to deny Him or His truths and ways. The gospel is handed down to us, sealed with the blood of thousands, despised their lives (as Job speaks in another case), though very valuable once, when they have stood in competition with their duty and the testimony of Jesus, (Rev. 20:4). Secondly, though many have been losers for Christ, even of life itself, yet never any one was, or will be a loser by Him in the end. The loss of other comforts, for Christ, may possibly be made up in the world (Mark 10:30); the loss of life cannot, but it shall be made up in the other world, in an eternal life;
- The worth of the soul which lies at stake, and the worthlessness of the world in comparison of it.
EVERY TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS SHOULD OBSERVE AND FULFILL THE FOLLOWING FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Prayer is directly addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Almighty, Lord God, the Son Incarnate, Perfect Man, and all in all because He is the personally manifesting God, the focus or point of reference and over all mediator or channel of every one in all of reality. Prayer cannot be replaced by good works in a needy world. Important as service to others is, at times we must turn away from it to God, who is distinct from all things and over all things. Prayer involves several important aspects.
- 1. Faith. The most meaningful prayer comes from a heart that places its trust in Jesus. Assured by scriptures that God is personal, living, active, all knowing, all –wise, and all powerful, we know that God can hear and help us.
- 2. Worship. In worship we recognize what is of highest worth – not ourselves, others, or our works but God. Before God, angels hide their faces and cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts (Isaiah 6:3).
- 3. Confession. Awareness of God’s holiness leads consciousness of our sinfulness. By sinning we hurt ourselves and those closest to us; but first of all, and worst of all, sin is against God (Ps. 51:4 against you, you only, have I sinned and done this evil in your sight – that you may be found just when you speak, and blameless when you judge). We need not confess our sins to another being. But we should confess them directly to Jesus, who promises to forgive us of all our unrighteousness (1John 1:9).
- 4. Adoration. Our love for God should be expressed in both deeds and words. People sometimes find it difficult to say to others and to God, “I love you”. But when love for God fills our lives, we will express our love in prayer to the one who is ultimately responsible for all that we are.
- 5. Praise. The natural outgrowth of faith, worship, confession, and adoration is praise. We speak well of one whom we highly esteem and love. The one whom we respect and love above all others naturally receives our highest commendation
- 6. Thanksgiving. As sinners, we are not people of God by nature. We have no claim upon His mercy or grace. Nevertheless, He has forgiven our sins, granted us acceptance as His people, and gives us His righteous standing and a new heart and life. In everything, even for the discipline that is unpleasant, we give thanks (Col. 3:17; 1Thes. 5:18).
- 7. Dedicated action. We render service to the needy in a spirit of prayer. Authentic prayer will be the source of courage and productivity, as it was for the prophets and apostles.
- 8. Request. Prayer is not only response to God’s grace as brought to us in the life and work of Jesus and the teaching of scripture; it is also request for our needs and the needs of others. For good reasons God’s holy and wise purpose does not permit Him to grant every petition just as it is asked. Prayer is request to a personal Lord who answers as He knows best.
II. Meditating on the Word of God day and night.
A most rewarding act of worship; of spiritual renewal, of mental refreshing, and of divine communion (Ps. 77:3, 6; Ps. 19:14; Ps. 1:1-3)
What is the law of God to us?
- 1. The entire affection which a good man has for the law of God: He delights in it, though It be a law, a yoke, because it is the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, and so delights in, after the inner men (Rom. 7:16 if, then I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that is good, v.22 for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man). All who are well pleased that there is a God must be well pleased that there is a Bible, a revelation of God, of His will, and of the only way to happiness in Him. “… And in His law he meditates day and night. For what we love, we love to think of (Ps. 119:94 “oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day”); to meditate in God’s word is to remember the great things contained in it with determination till we are suitably affected with those things and experience the Savior and power of His words in our hearts. We must have a constant and habitual regard to the word of God as the rule of our actions and the spring of our comforts, and we must have it in our thoughts accordingly, upon every occasion amiss or inappropriate for meditating on the word of God. We must not only set ourselves to meditate on God’s word day and night, at the entrance of the day and of the night but these thoughts should be interwoven with the business and converse of every day with the repose and slumber of every night “… when I awake I am still with thee” (Ps. 139:18).
- 2. An assurance given of the godly man’s happiness, with which we should encourage ourselves to answer the character of such.
- In general, he is blessed (Ps. 5:1 give ear to my words, O lord. Consider my meditation). God blesses him and that blessing will make him happy. Blessedness is to him, blessings of all kinds, enough to make him completely happy. When the psalmist undertake to describe a blessed man, he describes a good man, for after all, those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy, and we are more concerned to know the way to blessedness than to know wherein that blessedness will consist. Nay, goodness and holiness are not only the way to happiness, but happiness itself (Rev. 22:14 blessed are those who do His commandments; that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city). Supposing there was not another life after this, yet that man is a happy man that keeps in the way of his duty.
- His blessedness is here illustrated by a similitude Ps. 1:3 He shall be like a tree, fruitful and flourishing. This is the effect:
- of his pious practice; he meditates in the law of God actualizes it and that makes him like a tree. The more we converse with the word of God the better furnished we are for every good word and work
- of the promised blessing; he is blessed of the Lord, and therefore he shall b e like a tree. The divine blessing produces real effects. It is happiness of a godly man, a tree planted by the grace of God, etc.
Heb. 10:25 “… not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” It is the will of Christ that His disciples should assemble together, sometimes more privately for conference and prayer, and in public for hearing and joining in all the ordinances of gospel worship. There were in the apostles’ times, and should be in every age, Christian assemblies for the worship of God, and for mutual edification. And it seems even in those times there were some who forsook these assemblies, and so began to apostatize from the faith. The communion of saints is a great help and privilege, and a good means of steadiness and perseverance; hereby their hearts and hands are mutually strengthened. To exhort one another, to exhort ourselves and each other, to warm ourselves and one another of the sin and danger of backsliding, to put ourselves and our fellow-Christians in mind of our duty, of our failures and weakness, to watch over one another, and be jealous of ourselves and one another with a godly jealousy. This, managed with a true gospel spirit would be the best and most cordial friendship. That we should observe the approaching of times of trial and be thereby quickened to grater diligence: so much the more, as you see the day approaching. Christians ought to observe the body of the people rejected by God for rejecting Christ. This would be a day of dispersion and temptation to the chosen remnant. Now the apostle puts them upon observing what signs there were of the approach of such a terrible day, and upon being the more constant in meeting together and exhorting one another, that they might be the better prepared for such a day. There is a trying day coming on us all, the day of our death, and we should observe all the signs of its approaching, and improve them to greater watchfulness and diligence in duty.
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