In 1967, The Beatles sang: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Or, perhaps you are familiar with the saying “there is strength in numbers.” In any case, there is a general recognition in the mind of mankind that it is better to go through life with others rather than alone. We all need someone. By God’s grace, the Father has in Christ made for Himself a body by the Holy Spirit. A body that is numerically greater than one. A body that is made up of all kinds of people. The church is multigenerational and multiethnic. There are whole families as well as singles. There are a broad array of lived experiences. In short, the church is a unified body of diversity. This is no accident. The reality is, Christ’s disciples need help from other disciples to help them follow Christ. Here are four reasons we need discipleship.
- Being a disciple is marked faith in Jesus and abiding in His teaching: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
- Being a disciple begins with the exercise of faith in who Jesus is, and it is a continuing in faith in response to Jesus’s teaching. We need someone in our life who will always point us to faith in Christ and will teach us. Likewise, we also ought to point other disciples to Jesus and teach them!
- Being a disciple is marked by love for each other: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
- Disciples love one another. The virtue of love holds a supreme place among all the other virtues. So important is this virtue that Christ emphasized it in a command to His disciples. Love one another does two things. First, as we love one another we reflect Christ’s love toward us; love between Christians reminds us of Christ’s love for His people. Second, when we love one another the world takes notice. Our loving each other points the world to the love of Christ. If we are honest with ourselves, though, we can be unloving. So, we need other disciples in our life who will love us and who will encourage us to love others. Similarly, we also want to then go to our fellow disciples and stock the flame of love among Christ’s body. If Christ loved us so, let us all love each other.
- Being a disciple is marked by sacrifice for Christ: “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
- Being a disciple of Christ means not being a disciple of the world. Christians are called to put sin to death and take up the cross and follow Jesus. A disciple sacrifices love of the world for love of God. We do the hard work of taking up our cross each day in faith and service to God. Fortunately, we do not do this alone. Primarliy, the Spirit of God gives us the grace and strength to work; this grace is purchased by Jesus in the gospel. But, when we are a member in a visible local church, can embolden one another to continue to press on in love for Christ above love for this world.
- Being a disciple is marked by practicing imitation: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
- You are what you eat. When we eat, we take in the food and it sustains us. This is good when it is good food. But, it must be good food. This is true for who we follow, listen to, and learn from. Imitation is the art of observing and adopting anothers practice as your own. As disciples, we ought to be in the practice of imitating Jesus, for His life and love were supreme. Paul knew this; He called Himself an imitator of Christ. However, He called others to imitate him as he imitated Christ. We need people in our lives that maturely pursue doctrine and a life of godliness. Someone who will be a strong guide in their successes and failures. Someone who will listen and say: “watch what I do; do what I do. I have learned to love Christ. If you pay attention, you will learn to love Him too.” Let us be led by examples in the church and lead others by example.
Friends, being a disciple is hard. There are many threats in the world that would pull us away from being a disciple of Jesus. So, if you believe and belong to Jesus and are His disciple, press into the lives of the disciples around you. We need each other. We are not at home in this world. We are traversing the world as strangers and sojourners. Let’s not allow western individualism determine involvement in each others lives. Christian, be a Christian with other Christians! Press into the strength that is in numbers.