When the eunuch confessed that he believed Jesus was the Christ the Son of God he was doing much more than just acknowledging acceptance of a divine truth. He was expressing his willingness for that truth to be the center of his life. From that point on, everything he would do and say would be with Jesus’ authority (Colossians 3:17). He would no longer be his own. He would belong to God and the life he was living would be a life lived by faith (Galatians 2:20). He accepted that he would be a new creature, unlike anything or anyone he had ever been; molded and fashioned by the hand of God (Ephesians 4:24). He was committing to be a disciple, a true disciple.
But what does it mean to be a true disciple? There’s a lot that could be said to answer that question but I want to focus on 3 specific verses where Jesus addressed exactly what discipleship demands and how it applies to our attempts to be true disciples.
Discipleship demands commitment. In John 8:31 Jesus said, “If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples…” If implies that this is a conditional statement. That means our discipleship is contingent on the degree to which we are committed to living according to His will. That means that being a believer goes far beyond a generic belief in God. It implies absolute submission through obedience. A generic belief in God makes one no better than the demons who believe and tremble (James 2:19) because faith apart from works is dead (vs. 20). We are Christ’s workmanship (Colossians 2:10) and that requires the commitment to abide in Christ’s word because if we abide in His word, then we are His disciples.
Discipleship demands sacrifice. Discipleship isn’t always pretty, comfortable, or convenient. God warned us that to be true disciples it is going to cost us something. In Matthew 16 Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it” (vs. 24-25). Discipleship will at the very least cost us our lives as they once were. That’s because to be a true disciple seeking the kingdom and the righteousness of God comes first (Matthew 6:33) – everything else, as important as it may be, must be secondary. My time, my energy, my family, my works, my money are not my own anymore – they must largely be used doing what God wants me to do. Christians are told to be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill our ministries (2 Timothy 4:5). So if we want to be true disciples than it is going to require sacrifice. We must deny ourselves take us our crosses, and follow after Him.
Discipleship demands humility. Just before sending His disciples out to teach, preach, and heal He offered them some wisdom about how they were to approach their work. Included was some information about who they were to concentrate on teaching, what they were supposed to do, and how they were to deal with rejection. But included in that wisdom was some information about what it means to be a disciple – “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord” (Matthew 10:24). They had to learn humility because of what they would face. Jesus warned them that they would face rejection (vs. 14), that they would be as sheep send in among wolves (vs. 16), that they would be delivered up to councils and be scourged in synagogues (vs. 17), that they would be brought before governors and kings (vs. 18), that their work would put them at odds with their families (vs. 21), that they would be hated of all men (vs. 22), and that they would be persecuted (vs. 23). But humility would dictate that even in the midst of this adversity they would not bend, bow, nor break. If they would just humble themselves under the mighty hand of God He would exalt them in due time (2 Peter 5:6).
A church is only as strong as its commitment to discipleship. Too often a church is plagued by a membership of masters. Christians should be more concerned with simply being true believers and humble servants. That is the true meaning of discipleship.