Characteristics of a Disciple of Jesus
Wedding season is cranking up. Hopefully we will see more normalcy this year with the pandemic easing. One element that always seems to be a part of the wedding ceremony is the giving away of the bride, or “the presentation.” It is a long standing tradition that goes back to biblical times. The Apostle Paul even referenced the idea when he taught about discipleship. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1.
The idea Paul is making is that God wants us to offer or present ourselves to Him. Paul makes clear that discipleship involves more than just acknowledging Jesus as God, accepting His grace and forgiveness; but discipleship involves presenting yourself to God as a “living sacrifice.” As His disciples, God expects up to be holy or set-apart; in other words, there should be something different or distinguishing about us as Christ-Followers.
So what is it that is distinguishing about disciples of Jesus? What evidence is there in our lives that people could look at and know that we are His disciples? In John’s gospel, Jesus offers three distinguishing characteristics of a disciple.
1. A disciple of Jesus will study and obey God’s Word. 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. John 8:31
Some translations say, “abide in my word”, with a key word being “abide”. This idea is that a disciple of Jesus makes studying and obeying God’s Word a habit. Do you have any habits? Most of us have a few bad habits; this one is a good habit! In a chaotic world, our time studying God’s Word can get minimized and marginalized. In fact, it is even possible to get so “busy” that we fail to take the time to “abide” in the Word.
You may be familiar with Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home. (Luke 10) Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach while Martha scurried around prepping for dinner and all. When Martha complained that Mary wasn’t helping, Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better,” (Luke 10:42).
There are plenty of things we can do in life that are good, but for a true disciple what is good can never take the place of what is better… in fact, sometimes you will need to say no to what is good in order to say yes to what is better or best. We can come up with plenty of good things to do in life, but taking time to study God’s Word on a daily basis, joining with others in a life group setting regularly to dig into His Word, taking time to study God’s Word one on one to be discipled or to disciple another, then obeying what you learn, is always better! Real disciples carve out time to study God’s Word and fully follow it!
2. A disciple of Jesus will love one another. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. What do you want to be known for? Jesus said, “I want you to be known by your love for one another.
Love for one another is a command… To be clear, love for one another is not a suggestion, or an idea; it is not something to think about or carefully consider… it is a command. The truth is that you may not always feel like loving someone. They may do something to make you really angry. You might even be tempted to retaliate or say something snarky or hateful, especially if you are hiding behind a keyboard. True disciples don’t respond to others in hateful ways, especially toward fellow believers. We are commanded to love one another.
When it is hard to love another, remember how much Jesus loves you. Jesus said to love as “I have loved you.” How much does Jesus love you? “Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus loves us sacrificially, unconditionally and graciously. When you are having trouble loving someone, think about how Jesus loves you; then love them like that!
When you don’t want to love another, love them anyway. Jesus says you must love one another. There are a lot of things I may not want to do… taking out the trash; weed-eating the yard; getting up at 5:30 every day; exercising… but I do those things because I must. Loving one another is not an option… It is a must.
Why? Because that’s how people will know that you and I are true disciples of Jesus. Most people won’t love like that; but Christ-followers will, no matter whether they want to or not.
3. A disciple of Jesus will bear much good fruit. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8. Jesus says that you will show yourself to be my disciples when you bear much fruit. In fact, when we bear much fruit, we bring glory to our heavenly Father! So what kind of fruit is Jesus looking for and how can we produce it?
Fruit is a metaphor that is used often in the Bible to describe the fruit produced in our lives. The truth is that fruit can either be good or bad. A true disciple, surrendered and committed to Christ, will produce good fruit in their lives. Likewise a person who is not surrendered to Christ’s leadership will produce bad fruit. (Galatians 5:19-20).
A true disciple of Jesus doesn’t produce that kind of fruit. They produce the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-24). Those fruits affect all our behaviors… our thoughts, our words, our actions. We are fruitful when we are humble, compassionate and forgiving. We are also fruitful when we do good work for Christ’s sake! When we serve in His name. (Ephesians 2:10)
There are plenty of ways that you can serve Christ as a disciple… you can serve in the local church, at Watermark! If you aren’t serving, get in touch with me or our staff and we will get you plugged in to serve. You can serve in other ways too. We are focusing this month on opportunities through our partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and with Samaritan’s Purse. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
For much more, click here to listen to Follow Me: Part 2 - What are the characteristics of a disciple?