“An African American minister once prayed: “Lord, we can’t hold much, but we can overflow lots!” A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.” -Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 336).
As we continue this series on Discipleship I will attempt to define some of the basic characteristics of a disciple. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you will find in it some important, foundational character traits.
Characteristics of a disciple
- A disciple of Jesus is a person who is becoming spiritually mature.
Notice we used the term becoming. I don’t know if we ever reach full maturity as a Christian in this life. However, that maturity happens as the disciple knows his Bible inside and out. That’s what’s most important in our church: knowing the Bible. Having a hunger to thirst after God’s word. That happens in Bible study, in worship where God gives the gifts of His Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
- A disciple is a person who cares for the lost.
This is often a point of contention. We all want to see people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but we argue often over whose responsibility that is. Is that the work of the trained paid staff, the people in the pew or some combination? Here is what Jesus says to the disciples in Acts 1,
Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.
From Paul speaking to those in Corinth in chapter 15,
10 Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. 11 In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it was I or the other witnesses who brought you the message. What matters is that we keep preaching and that you have faith in this message.
A disciple regularly invites his friends, neighbors, and others outside the family of God to have a life-saving relationship with the Savior. We can be used as a vehicle so they can hear about this Jesus through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart of the not yet believer. That is the mission in a nutshell: to get people to hear the good news!
- A disciple is a person who is doing life together with others.
He has made all he has available to others in his sphere of relationships. He is focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community. He wants to right a wrong in the culture in the name of Jesus.
This is a difficult shift in our culture today. We have so many things that take us out of the “doing life together” mindset. Nevertheless, as disciples we need to find time in our hectic busyness to make ourselves available to others so we can develop authentic relationships. Imagine the impact of being focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community and doing this in the name of Jesus.
- A disciple is a person who loves the poor and marginalized in Jesus’ name.
From the moment I heard the passage from Matthew 25, read in the church it has always been on my heart.
King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.
37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
King: 40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
We as disciples are called to live and love like Jesus lived and loved. That means serve those who are poor, marginalized, those whom society has turned their backs on. We need to be especially kind, compassionate, and tolerant to people God has placed in our path on a daily basis. I love how Jesus made time for people others ignored or were annoyed with. When disciples model that behavior LOVE wins!
Other blogs in this series: