Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
Jesus spoke with people who believed in Him, but, evidently, believing was not all that He was looking for. He was looking for disciples.
The word disciple was translated from the original word μαθητής (mathētēs), which means a learner, a pupil, or a student. Many religious leaders, such as the Pharisees, had disciples in those days. Those disciples followed their teachers to learn from them as much as they could: they listened to them, watched them and emulated them, because they admired them and wanted to become like them.
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40
What Jesus had in mind was to train followers to be like Him: to speak like He did, do the works that He did, obeyed the Father as He did, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit as He was.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. John 14:10
Abiding in His Word is the way to become a disciple; that means dwelling in the Word, spending a lot of time in it until it impacts your mind to think like He did. Paul calls that the renewing of the mind in Romans 12:2. His Word is life and Spirit (See John 6:63)
Jesus trained those men, simple as they were, to carry on His work after He went back to the Father. Although those men were perceived to be uneducated and untrained by the religious leaders of the day, they realized that they were with Jesus, (See Acts 4:13) and that made all the difference. They became true disciples and did the works that He did!
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12
Before Jesus left for heaven, He gave some last instructions to His disciples – vision if you will – in the verses below:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
This is the vision and mission statement of the church, given by the Head of the church Himself: become disciples and make disciples, over and over again. Imagine how much the church could have done if it followed this simple vision for the 2000 years of its existence! Instead we introduced many works programs and activities – all good things – but distractions from our real calling.
Just as the church took its first steps, the first apostles were already confronted with distractions. While the church was growing, complaints were brought to them. The Hellenist widows among them were neglected in the daily care:
Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4
Urgent as the matter was – and a good thing to do – they continued to focus on their call and delegated this work to “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”
I doesn’t matter what your talents, gifts, skills and preferences are, your calling is to make disciples. As you apply your gifts and talents, always make sure that it leads to making disciples in the end.
Now, as we approach the end of the church era, there is a new urgency to return to the simplicity of the vision that Jesus gave to the church. Will we be able to do it? There is an urgency in the air for men and women to become true disciples, and raise disciples again. The world is waiting for them.
The Simple Church. Let’s do it.
Also read Part 3 here