By Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong
‘Disciple’. There are multiple times in the Bible where this word is mentioned. But what is the essential meaning of the word ‘disciple’? Quite simply, a disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ.
In Jewish culture, where Rabbis (teachers of the law) are well-respected, the children would already be memorising the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, around the age of 8-10. Yet being a disciple is not just about reading the Bible, but being disciplined to live the life it describes. So what does it mean to be a disciple in our current day? Are we true followers of not just His teachings, but in how we choose to live our lives? Let’s explore this.
‘Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?’
A Single-Minded Decision
At events, in the midst of ‘large crowds’, people tend to get excited. The atmosphere, the lights, the music! But I love how the words of Jesus always cut right through all the hype and go straight to the heart. It may be easy to say ‘yes’ when everyone around you is doing so. When all the hype is stripped away, without the influence of crowds, how will you choose to live? Being a disciple means to single-mindedly dedicate yourself to follow Christ, without being tossed back and forth. Luke 9:62 says: ‘But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”’ It’s a firm decision; a decision that is your own to make, without regret (looking back). Know that it’s no longer about you or your preferences, but about complete obedience to God.
Carrying Your Cross
It’s interesting that Jesus mentioned the cross in this passage, even before His crucifixion. He was talking about the pain, suffering, humiliation, and sacrifices that may come upon giving God your ‘yes’. The Kingdom of God is not for the faint-hearted. To truly know Him, there are things we have to be willing to go through. Jesus made it clear for us so that there need not be any second-guessing; if we want to follow Him, there is a cost.
Pain brings an understanding that there will be struggles, but also that our strength is not our own. Humanly, it’s impossible to live this life without the power of the Holy Spirit. Pain keeps us reliant on Him as the source of all our strength and ability - it refines and humbles us.
Accountability to Spiritual Authority
Godly governance is done in the context of Family. That’s why God implemented spiritual authority - our fathers and mothers, leaders, elders, etc. As we grow as disciples, it’s important that we maintain accountability to those in spiritual authority over us. Their authority is not given so they can rule over us, but to help us grow in maturity and teach us to obey the commandments in the Bible.
So let’s ask ourselves: Am I willing to lay down my rights and agendas for His? Am I willing to turn away from my old lifestyle? Will our decision to follow be half-hearted or single-minded? Our responses to these questions will determine the trajectory of our discipleship journey.