Based in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Growing in Grace is a blog by Pastor Matthew Molesky. His posts explore the Bible, theology, ecclesiology, culture, books, family, and life.

What It Means to Be a Disciple of Jesus Christ

A post with my church family in mind.

This last Sunday, we heard from Jesus about the characteristics which must be common to those who are true followers (Luke 14:25-35). They are sobering in their scope, and I ended the service asking all those in attendance to take some time in the coming week to sit down and count the cost of what it means to be a true follower. Maybe by asking the question, 

"Are these 'components' (again, Luke 14:25-35) present in me so that I am the 'salt' that Jesus describes I must be in this world?"

And then, this question came in a few days ago, 

"Is being a disciple different than being a born-again Christian? Did [Sunday's] message infer that you can lose your salvation?"

These are good questions in light of what Jesus has said. In response to the first: being a disciple is not different from being a born-again Christian. You can't be one without the other. In other words:

You can only be a disciple of Jesus if you have been born-again. And, if you have been truly born-again, you are a disciple of King Jesus (being a disciple means you follow him, obeying all that he teaches, and living in the way that he commands).

And, in response to the second: only the listener can decide if I inferred you could lose your salvation. I did not say that, and I don't think I inferred it. But allow me to clarify. Maybe one would come to that conclusion by thinking something like this in response to what I said, 

"If this is what Jesus is saying it means to BE a disciple, to be truly born-again; if these things must be qualities I possess to be his 'salt' in this world, and I don't have them, I I truly his disciple?"

To that question, consider...

(1) None of us are perfect followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we may ponder the challenge of Jesus in this text (Luke 14:25-35), and in the parables following which display his heart and mission priority (Luke 15:1-32), and find ourselves lacking in what he describes. And in response, we might repent, with the desire and commitment to bring ourselves into alignment with his expressed will. All the while, doing so as true disciples. 

I pray it may it be so; that as good disciples of Jesus Christ, our response to such teaching is repentance and growth in obedience.

(2) However, it may be that some in the church family have been fooling themselves. This is a good conviction to come under, and is a grace from the Holy Spirit. For Paul writes to the members of the church that we should examine ourselves, to see whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

Jesus, in Luke 14-15, is giving ways in which we might proceed in that examination. And the point is not that we despair, but that we can actually come away with increased assurance that we are indeed in Christ when we pass the test. Or if we do not pass the test, then we submit to Christ and become truly his.

Charles Spurgeon dealt with this in his day, and felt he needed to react to the easy-believism present in his context. You see, there were vast numbers of people professing faith in Christ, but so few who showed clear signs of salvation. Their lives were not in alignment with Jesus and his mission. They weren't bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. He spoke of it in this way:

I am glad that there is some trouble in being a Christian, for it has become a very common thing to profess to be one. If I am right, it is going to become a much less common thing for a person to say “I am a Christian.” There will come times when sharp lines will be drawn. Some of us will help draw them if we can. The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long.

Tim Challies, who recently quoted this, elaborates:

And I guess he was wrong, at least to some degree. Because today there are still so many—too many—who call themselves Christians even though they display so little evidence to back their profession. Those sharp lines remain to be drawn.

Which brings me to the text for this coming Sunday, and the teaching of Jesus contained therein. In the three parables found in Luke 15, Jesus only ups the ante. He describes two major qualities of our heavenly Father, which he himself displays as the exact imprint and image of the invisible God.

  • God the Father and God the Son are engaged in a never-ending, never-failing quest after the lost of this world.
  • God the Father and God the Son, find great joy in this mission; so much so that they rejoice when even one lost sinner is found. They even throw a party to express that joy!

Jesus wants us to see something. Namely, his disciples display the heart of the Father and the Son by joyfully joining them on the mission. His disciples are engaged in a never-ending, never-failing quest after the lost of this world, and are so filled with joy when even one lost sinner is found, they throw a party to express that joy!

Are you in?! Will you follow?

Take some time with Jesus to prepare for our gathered worship this Sunday.

  15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 
    So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
    “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
    And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 
    “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 
    “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

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