By: Michael Kaplan, author of "7 Pillars of an Unshakable Christian Faith"
The path of Christian discipleship is not an easy one; Jesus made that clear to the multitudes and His disciples. He did teach, however, that the reward of Eternal Life in the presence of God the Father made the cost worthwhile.
As you prepare to pursue your own path - as one who disciples, or one who is being discipled – there are steps you can take to overcome many common obstacles you’ll encounter during the journey. These seven practices apply to all Christian disciples, in any capacity they serve.
1. Share the Gospel at every opportunity: Sharing the Gospel of Christ is the hallmark of making disciples, being a disciple, and attracting potential disciples. It fulfills the command of Scripture, increase the faith of those sharing the message, and shows by example your willingness to be a leader in your faith.
Preach the word; be ready in season and
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort,
with great patience and instruction.
~ 2 Timothy 4:2 ~
2. Practice radical obedience to Christ: The Scripture is your instruction manual to a life centered around Christ; read it, use it, and follow it. A disciple isn’t a believer who shows up to church once a week and puts faith on like a sweater when it’s needed. Radical obedience to Christ guides your actions from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed for the evening. It shows God you take Him as seriously as He takes Himself.
Let your light shine before men in such a
way that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:16 ~
3. Live like Christ in word and deed: Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him meant to practice radical purity, love, sacrifice and obedience. That’s not something a disciple can fake; it requires an inner change, a change of the heart. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit works in the believer as a progressive process of Sanctification, but actively imitating Christ – as did the apostle Paul – helps to guide and shape the transformation.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now
I praise you, brethren, that you remember
me in all things and keep the traditions
just as I delivered them to you.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 ~
4. Practice spiritual disciplines daily: Nothing in the human experience is accomplished without training and practice. The same holds true for spiritual disciplines. They help to develop the believer’s new inner being, and support the transformation that accompanies Salvation in Christ. Each of these disciplines – such as Abstinence, Confession, Fasting, Fellowship, Prayer, Sacrifice, Service, Study, and Worship – are found in Scripture, and were practiced by Jesus and His disciples.
For the Spirit God gave us does
not make us timid, but gives us
power, love and self-discipline.
~ 2 Timothy 1:7 ~
5. Serve as the standard, model, and example: Credible testimony happens when a believers words of faith match their deeds in the world. Excellent leaders and teachers like Jesus lead from the front; they set the standard, model the action, and serve as an example to those who follow. By the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus’ disciples trusted that He was the Christ, and therefore believed in Him. That level of trust – the type of trust for which a person would give their life – doesn’t come from words or doctrine. It comes from showing and doing. Rule #1: set the standard even when no one is watching. Rule #2: someone is always watching – see Rule #1.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word
of God to you. Consider the outcome of
their way of life and imitate their faith.
~ Hebrews 13:7 ~
6. Be a humble servant, prepared to serve: Jesus made His mission clear to His disciples: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In any field, the best leaders began as excellent followers; their leadership style reflects their commitment to serve. Jesus gave God the Father glory for everything, and kept no glory for Himself. A faithful disciple of Christ does the same.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who
do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility;
perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
~ Zephaniah 2:3 ~
7. Practice full transparency and accountability: During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He had nothing to hide, nothing to hold back, from His disciples. A faithful disciple of Christ cannot be double-minded, engaged in sin in the darkness, while practicing faith in the light. That type of duality leads to fear, guilt and weakness. Every believer will sin; that’s a certainty. Once those sins are confessed they are removed, the slate is wiped clean, and a clear conscious is left in its place. Habitual and intentional sin, however, cannot be hidden forever, nor should it be. Transparency and accountability builds the level of trust needed for others to believe in the Gospel of Christ, and to follow it as Jesus’ disciples did: without questioning, wavering or quitting under pressure.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and
will not come into the light for fear that their
deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by
the truth comes into the light, so that it may
be seen plainly that what they have done
has been done in the sight of God.
~ John 3:20-21 ~
I pray that the Holy Spirit guides you in your studies, and brings you to a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Be Blessed.