Love and Discipleship of Jesus
Dr. Saji Kumar K. P.
The Greek word for disciple is “MATHETES” which means one who learns instruction from another. It was used in the secular Greek world for an apprentice to a tradesman. A disciple was not only a pupil but also an adherent; hence they were spoken of as imitators of their teachers. Every Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus and this means they will follow Jesus and put the claims of Jesus first in their lives, regardless of the cost to themselves. So a Christian disciple is a person who is determined to follow Jesus Christ, with the desire to learn from Him and live according to His example.
A disciple is a person who lives continually by the word of Jesus. We must put into practice what has been revealed for us to do through God’s Word. The main thought behind discipleship is not one of inspiration but instruction. The need of a stable foundation of obedience to the Word of God is the basis of discipleship. A disciple is a person who commits his life completely to the Master. Jesus has the right to demand this commitment as He laid down His life for us. Jesus is totally committed to us and He wants the same commitment in return. This means living lives according to His will in obedience.
A disciple is one who lives in a fruit-bearing relationship with Jesus (John 15:4-5). Without this sort of fruit bearing in our lives, the kingdom of God will not be expanded and the Body of Christ will not grow. A disciple is one who is committed to unconditional, sacrificial love for others (John 13:34-35). This is no ordinary human love but the love that God demonstrated towards us. The Greek word for this love is “agape” which means selfless love, where God and others are more important to us than our own selfish desires.
Self-love as a hindrance to discipleship
One of the marks of discipleship which is enacted by Jesus in John chapter 13 is the ability to overcome self love. The self is melted and disappeared when someone like Jesus the great master is ready to wash the feet of the disciples. " If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). This does not mean that we should ever have animosity or ill- will in our hearts towards our relatives, but it does mean that our love to Christ should be so greater than all other love. Actually, the most difficult clause in this passage is the expression, " yea, and his own life also." Self-love is one of the stubbornness hindrances to discipleship. Not until we are willing to lay down our very lives for Him are we in the place where He wants us.
" If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..." (Matthew 16:24). Denial of self is not the same as self- denial. The latter means forgoing certain foods, pleasures, or possessions. But denial of self means such complete submission to the lordship of Christ that self has no rights or authority at all. " If any man come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross..." (Matthew 16:24). The cross is not some physical infirmity or mental anguish; these things are common to all men. The cross is a pathway that is deliberately chosen. The cross symbolizes shame, persecution and abuse which the world heaped upon the Son of God, and which the world will heap on all who choose to stand against the tide. Any believer can avoid the cross simply by being conformed to the world and its ways. " If any man come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, (Matthew 16: 24). To understand what this means, one need to simply ask himself: “What characterized the life of the Lord Jesus?" It was a life of obedience to the will of God. It was a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a life of unselfish service for others. It was a life of patience and long-suffering in the face of the gravest wrongs. It was a life of zeal, of self-control, of meekness, of kindness, of faithfulness and of devotion (Gal. 5: 22, 23). In order to be His disciples, we must walk as He walked. We must exhibit the fruit of Christ likeness (John 15: 8).
A fervent love for all who belongs to Christ
Jesus not only did wash the feet of the disciples but also asked them to follow the same lead in washing one another’s feet in John Chapter 13: 12 -15. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). This is the love that esteems others better than one self. It is the love that covers a multitude of sins. It is the love that suffers long and is kind. It boasts not itself and is not puffed up. It does not behave itself unseemly; seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things (I Corinthians 13: 4-7). Without this love, discipleship would be a cold, legalistic asceticism.
The disciple in Christianity is a follower of Jesus Christ, desiring to learn his ways and apply them to his life. He is a follower who desires to learn. Being a learner involves perceiving concepts, building principles in our life, and acquiring knowledge. Paul told the Philippians to put into practice what they had learnt from him through observation (see Philippians 4:9). Paul not only communicated with what he taught, but he was a model to the Philippians in what he did. Paul reminded another church: "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so “you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). They imitated the model they had been given—the Apostle Paul— and in turn became models to other believers in the two provinces. We have to be sure that the model we follow is Jesus Christ, even as Paul did. "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Christian disciple must be both a learner of biblical truth and a visible follower of Jesus Christ. That unbeatable combination makes a great impact on others.
The challenge of total submission
Real love comes from submission to the full authority of Jesus. In John chapter 13: 6-10 there is an interesting note of event in which the disciple resists the washing of feet as it looks to be possible embarrassing. But Jesus says if you don’t submit to me in whatever I do you can never continue to be in discipleship with me. The real love comes from total submission. Multitudes of people appear willing to come to Christ and turn over their troubled, ruined lives to him. But they hesitate to turn over their lives to him. Some say, "You mean God wants me to be a puppet in his hands? Never I". Many want him as Savior but not as Lord. Christians may acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord with their lips. Yet few live with Jesus Christ as the Lord of their daily lives. Tragically, when Christians do not acknowledge Christ's lordship, they leave behind ruined lives of mediocrity and uselessness.
The lordship of Christ is the daily submission and surrender of our entire self to the authority and leadership of Jesus Christ, recognizing his sovereign right to rule predominantly over us. The acknowledgment of Christ's lordship is the abandonment of self from the throne of our life and the enthronement of Jesus in self's place. The lordship of Jesus Christ in a believer's life is the most crucial issue in Christian love. It is absolutely necessary and foundational to Christian discipleship. In fact, this major doctrine of Christianity determines how useful a person will be to God. All of our aspirations, blessings, and joys of the Christian life are absolutely dependent on our submission to Jesus Christ as Lord of our life. We cannot experience the fullest in Christian living until we commit ourselves unreservedly to the lordship of Christ.
When we take the decision to yield to the lordship of Jesus Christ, we immediately find ourselves in a battle, a spiritual struggle. We are constantly opposed by Satan and by our own will. Many Christians are not willing to enter the battle. Obedience is tied into a lordship decision. You cannot separate obedience and submission. The struggle of submitting to God in various areas of our life is quite evident. In fact it is a constant struggle. Practicing Christ's lordship is the first essential of becoming a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the most vital one. You can know the fullness of Christian living only when Jesus Christ is Lord in every area of your life. This means we need to give ourselves fully to a holy life. Only out of a complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, can a person lead a holy life. God's plan for us is that we should become like Jesus Christ. And when we think of his life, we realize that he was totally submissive to the Father. Jesus said that his whole purpose in life was "to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34). And that's what God asks of us. If we are to be like Jesus Christ, then we must be submissive to him at all times. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (Romans 8: 29).
The moment we come under the total submission to Christ, we will be willing to love others selflessly. Then the control of our will is handed over to the directives of the love of Christ. It will be the love of Christ becoming the driving force in our lives. That is the joy of Christian life.
Purity, the solid foundation of Christian love
The activity of the washing of feet in John Chapter 13 symbolizes need of purity. Washing is primarily connected to cleansing. The love is selfless and clean with no hidden motives when the person is pure from within. There will be no hidden agenda in that context of pure love. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Since we have these promises, Dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). We need to realize that there are sins of impurity in the spirit, in the mind—impure things that we think about. If our mind is under the control of the Holy Spirit, it will make it easier for us to keep our body pure. But we must still work hard at it nevertheless because temptations will surely come, particularly in our sensually oriented culture. Paul spoke of this when he wrote, "It is God's will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
One of the worst things a Christian can do is to start thinking and daydreaming about impure things. Job is an example of what we must do. He said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl" (Job 31:1). We need to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5). It all begins with a thought. Since our thoughts are subject to sin, they too should be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. How are you doing in your thought life? We are to seek purity in our speech. Questionable jokes or stories should not be part of the Christian's conversation. The Apostle Paul warned, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29). "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Eph 5:4). In other words, we ought to think before we speak. If we would just think, then many of the things we usually speak would never pass our lips because we would realize that they are not thoughtful, truthful, and pure.
This involves honesty. In our materialistic society men and women in business often do things in dishonest ways. It is easy for Christians who are not alert to get trapped into conducting business in the same dishonest way. In the New Testament we are urged to be industrious and honest toward men, business, and government. Our relationships with our friends must be based on purity. We need each other, for as the Bible says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27: 17). Solomon also said, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18; 24). One honest caring friend is more valuable than many casual acquaintances. Real friendships result from sharing our life with other people.
Purity is absolutely vital in a marital relationship. Each of us who is married must constantly ask ourselves the question, Am I faithful to my marriage vows? Many believe that infidelity and dishonesty in the marital relationship are the causes of the rampaging divorce rate in India today. In ever increasing numbers, Christians are becoming part of those tragic statistics. Quite often it is due to the fact that men and women have not made a solemn vow to God that they would remain faithful to their spouse. Purity in the marriage relationship is an absolute must for a Christian. The battle for purity is a matter of choice, a matter of obedience to God, a matter of commitment to him to live his way. But when we do fall, we need to recognize that we have sinned, then confess it immediately and seek God’s forgiveness. We can then know that the sin is forgiven, our life is cleansed, and that God accepts us on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
A disciple has love and fellowship regularly with other believers displaying Gods love and unity. Christian fellowship is vitally related to the local church. Their local congregation provides the only fellowship they experience. Others, however, find fellowship in both their church and in home, Bible study groups or other special groups that meet on a regular basis. Christian love and unity is an absolute necessity in the life of every believer, whether it is totally tied to a local church or includes other interchurch activities. Fellowship is carried on wherever a body of believers gathers together. Whenever a Christian is isolated from others who have a similar relationship with Jesus Christ, there is something missing from his or her life. Even though that person may have love to Christ through the word and prayer, the mutual encouragement and strengthening that comes from association with other believers in the Lord is missing. That is where the aspect of love is important in discipleship. Love and unity also are absolute necessities if there is going to be true biblical fellowship. Paul wrote to one of his churches, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Philippians 2:1-2). For true fellowship to take place there must be love and unity among the participants. There is no disunity or lack of love when the Holy Spirit is in control. When a group of Christians have surrendered to the will of God and are letting the Holy Spirit control their lives and govern their situations, the result will be Christian love among the disciples.