We believe that Jesus has called us to be disciplemakers, but his calling first and foremost is to be his disciples. What is a disciple and what is the disciple’s relationship to Jesus? Whether someone has been following Jesus for a short or long time, some foundational principles mark the life of someone seeking to know Jesus. Here are three key characteristics of a disciple of Jesus.
A disciple loves Jesus. A disciple has affection for Jesus. We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). In our busy culture it can be easy to let spending time with Jesus become another task to accomplish. Loving Jesus isn’t about giving him our begrudging obedience. It’s about delighting in Him. Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” David was content simply being in the presence of God enjoying Him. Jesus wants the same relationship with us, so much so that he gave His life to have us back. John 14:21 says, ”Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Love for Jesus fuels our obedience.
A disciple learns from Jesus. A disciple learns from Jesus. Maybe we’ll start with what a disciple isn’t. A disciple isn’t someone who has all the answers. Sometimes the hard part of being a disciple is admitting we don’t know something or need help. The word for disciple means “learner” or “pupil,” and Jesus has a lot he wants us to learn from Him. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The qualification for learning from Jesus is simply to come to Him. We learn from Jesus as we seek a relationship with him, engage with His Word, and invite Him to speak into every area of our lives. Being in community with other Christians is another way that we can learn. There can sometimes be a temptation to think the goal of the Christian life is to reach some pinnacle of maturity, but in reality a disciple never stops learning.
A disciple is loyal to Jesus. A disciple gives his allegiance to Jesus. Jesus isn’t a tyrannical and distant king. He’s a kind, compassionate, and powerful one. Jesus didn’t mince words though—being His disciple is and always will be costly (Luke 9:23) He will ask us to do hard things, and initially following Him if you haven’t before will be difficult. He wants first place in your life, and He may ask you to say no to things or yes to things. Making Him lord of your life may not lead to an easy life, but it will lead to a full one (John 10:10). Later in Luke 9, Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Following Jesus, although it’s costly, is worth it.
It’s hard to love someone you don’t know, learn from someone you don’t trust, or be loyal when you don’t know what’s expected of you. We can grow in all of these areas by knowing Jesus. Not just knowing about Him but having a vibrant relationship with Him. Here’s a resource for how to spend time with Jesus that could help you strengthen your relationship with Him.