“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you,that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – (John 15:1-6 ESV)
There is much confusion today about what it means to be a Christian. The Bible doesn’t teach a difference between becoming a Christian or being a disciple. Being a Christian is more than just believing, even demons believe (James 2:19). The indwelling Spirit begins a process of changing our character at conversion, and this is a sign that we are being discipled by Jesus. There are many in Catholic and Protestant churches that are not experiencing transformation of the inner man, nor are they following Jesus.
A true disciple is learning to abide in Jesus who is the Vine, and that Jesus is our life and source of power. The disciples devotional life produces Christ-likeness. Meditating on Scripture and then seeking to obey it by the power of the indwelling Christ, produces fruit in due season. And everything has a season. If you are expecting instant maturity you will be setting yourself up for failure.
As the life of Christ is formed in us, we discover sin and brokenness from past experiences that the Holy Spirit is seeking to bring healing to. We must allow God to do this work so that we can move forward in our “apprenticeship with Jesus.” Our need to be forgiven, and to forgive others is an ongoing process. As we embrace the teachings of Jesus we are confronted with the impossibility of living this life apart from His empowering grace. A disciple never walks alone. He walks with Jesus and other disciples on the journey
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. – ( Luke 14:26 NLT )
The call to follow Jesus is a call of total commitment. As we embrace loving Jesus more than our own family, we will ultimately love them more than those who don’t follow him. God expands our hearts and teaches us about self-sacrificial love.
I believe it is possible to feed the poor, fight for the rights of the oppressed, and go to the mission field while avoiding intimacy with Jesus. In our zeal for ministry and serving God, it is possible to be distracted from His presence. We can work for God while grieving the Holy Spirit who wants to do a deep work of exposing the motives of our hearts. If we seek God for the truth about ourselves, we can become uncomfortable with what He shows us. God is not condemning us, He is trying to free us from our personal idols.
Disciples are first and foremost called to be with Jesus. Many of us at the time of our conversion were never taught to count the cost of following Jesus, and that He requires complete ownership of our lives. We “accepted” Him as our Savior who forgives us of our sin, but did not understand that He requires more than Church attendance and just “cleaning up our act.” He can’t be Savior without being Lord.
Recently I have refocused my attention on discipleship and the kingdom of God. I have been pondering this question: What is a disciple? I believe a disciple is always looking for and seeking to walk in the rule of God. A disciple of Jesus has found the pearl of great price and loves Him more than anything else. While a disciple seeks to be a part of fulfilling the great commission, his inner life is being transformed by the Holy Spirit and meditation on Scripture. His ministry is fueled by prayer.
While the disciple is a learner, he is also called to be a doer. Therefore we read the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles and seek to walk in them. The true follower of Jesus makes other disciples as he travels through life, and teaches others the path of freedom and wholeness in Christ. They pray for the sick and use their spiritual gifting and spiritual authority to confront evil, build up the Church and advance His kingdom.