Are you a disciple? Your immediate reaction to that question might have involved a quick mental snapshot of a man in a fishing boat with a long, flowing robe on. If you define “disciple” as one of the 12 men who followed Jesus personally, then your answer would be, “of course not.”
But is the word “disciple” limited to those 12 friends of Jesus in the first century? The answer is no. Take a look at this definition of discipleship:
Disciples are “persons who conscientiously, as our life project, walk with Jesus, learn from him, worship him and the Father through him, and maintain obedience to him, conforming ourselves to his recorded attitudes and example up to the limit of the Holy Spirit’s enabling” (Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett).
There is a lot to digest in that thoughtful definition. Over the next few days, I’d like to try to unpack the ideas in this definition of a disciple. I’ve simplified the definition into 3 parts: Disciples of Jesus are dependent learners… followers… and worshippers.
Let’s start with the first idea…
Disciples are learners. Disciples learn from their masters like students learn from a teacher. Disciples place themselves under the teaching of a master, learning all they can from the master’s life and instruction. Need a new mental image? Think of Mary of Bethany in Luke 10, sitting there at Jesus’ feet with persistence written on her face and hunger in her eyes.
Like Mary, Christian disciples also claim Jesus as Master. Therefore, we sit at Jesus’ feet, placing ourselves under his teaching. Just as the original disciples spent a lot of time with Jesus learning from him, so we, too, apply ourselves to learning all we can from Jesus’ life and instruction.
Unfortunately, we can’t walk beside Jesus through the fields, listening to His stories firsthand. But we do have an amazing gift in the Scriptures, a place where we can return day after day, feeding on the bread of life we find there. We, as his disciples, can learn directly from him.
But don’t forget, disciples are dependent learners. This means we are not conducting an independent study, rather, we recognize that without the Holy Spirit, we can learn nothing. We are hungry students, kneeling at Jesus’ feet, depending upon the Holy Spirit to explain what we cannot understand.
So it seems that we are disciples of whoever we’re learning from… whatever we’re hungry for. So who are you learning from? What are you hungry for? Whose disciple are you?