When the eunuch confessed “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37) he was doing much more than just acknowledging acceptance of a divine truth. From that point on everything he would do and everything he would say would center around that fact (Colossians 3:17). He understood that he was no longer his own, but that he belonged to God and the life he was living was lived by faith (Galatians 2:20). He accepted that he would be a new creation, unlike anything or anyone he had ever been, molded and fashioned by the hand of God (Ephesians 4:24).
To many that believed on Him, one day Jesus said, “If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a true disciple should be our goal. Not just another Christian in name only but a true disciple of Jesus Christ. But what does that look like? What does it mean to be a true believer? There are three cornerstones in the Bible that define what true discipleship looks like.
Being a true believer requires commitment. Jesus said if we abide in His word then we are truly His disciples. That means our discipleship is contingent on the degree to which we are committed to living out His will. If we display a commitment to His will and expectations then we are true disciples, if not then how can we call ourselves one of His? This calls to mind a reality that so few grasp – being a believer goes beyond a generic belief in God. Being a believer implies absolute submission through obedience. A generic belief in God makes one no better than the demons who believe and tremble (James 2:19). But James went on to remind those saints “that faith apart from works is dead” (vs. 20). Why? Because “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). And it is with that absolute submission that we become the type of people we read about in Hebrews 11, those who “by faith” did great things for their God. So if we want to be true believers then it is going to require commitment.
Being a true believer requires sacrifice. Discipleship isn’t always pretty, comfortable, or convenient. God warned us that to be true disciples it’s going to cost us something: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). What does true discipleship cost? In short Jesus warned that it will cost us our lives, at least our lives as they once were. To the saints, seeking the kingdom and the righteousness of God comes first. Everything else, as important as it may be, must be secondary. My time, my energy, my family, my works, and my money are no longer my own. They need to all largely be used in God’s service. That willingness to sacrifice is part of our work as Christian servants in which we are called to be “sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). So if we want to be true believers then it is going to require sacrifice.
Being a true believer requires humility. Jesus had just chosen His apostles and was about to send them forth preaching and healing; but before He did He offered some words of wisdom about how they were to approach their work. This wisdom included a little bit of everything from who they were to concentrate on teaching to what they were supposed to do to how they were to deal with rejection, etc. But included in those expectations was some information about what it meant for them to be true disciples: “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord” (Matthew 10:24). And with that statement the disciples learned a needed lesson in humility (vs. 14-23). That humility would dictate, that even in the midst of all of their adversity that they would not bend, they would not bow, and they would not break. They were not above their Master, thus their ease would not trump His expectations. If they would humble themselves under the mighty hand of God He would exalt them in due time (1 Peter 5:6). So if we want to be true believers then it is going to require humility.
A church is only as strong as its commitment to discipleship. Too often a church is plagued by a membership where too many are trying to be masters. Christians should be more concerned with simply being true believers and humble servants. That is the true meaning of discipleship.