It is not uncommon for us to misunderstand what it means to be a disciple. We see this in Jesus’ own ministry. Those who followed Him missed that discipleship wasn’t about being the greatest or sitting in the most privileged position (Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45). Some who followed Jesus early on did so because of what He could do for them not necessarily because He was the Christ (Mark 8:27-33). It is possible to misunderstand what it means to be a disciple. It happened in Jesus’ own ministry and it happens today.
How do we misunderstand what it means to be a disciple?
Many misunderstand church attendance for discipleship, thinking that if they come to church on a regular basis or every now and again, they are a disciple. Or they mistake their families church attendance for them being a disciple, they are in by connection. Some believe being connected to a social justice cause makes them a disciple. Still others believe discipleship is only for the super spiritual. Or that it is a program that we go through for a matter of weeks or months. There are many ways in which we can misunderstand discipleship.
Misunderstanding discipleship is not an agree to disagree type of misunderstanding. It is a base level understanding that those who call themselves Christians need to understand. Likewise, if we are going to be a church that makes disciple-making disciples, we must all be on the same page as to what we are seeking to make.
What is a disciple?
Over the next several posts, I am going to provide you with three characteristics of a disciple. We can add more to this list, but these are the three things I see in Matthew 11:28-30.
(1) A disciple is someone who seeks rest in Jesus
Look at Matthew 11:28-30 with me,
“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””Mt 11:28–30
I read and handed Gentle and Lowly out to my congregation this last year. The book is written as an extended explanation of these verses.
I believe Gentle and Lowly is an important book because popular culture has a tendency to paint Jesus as hard and harsh, especially towards those who are sinners. But that is far from the truth.
Jesus is Gentle
When we allow Jesus to tell us who He is, He reveals that He is gentle and lowly.In other words, He is not a hard and harsh taskmaster. He is not trigger happy, ready to smite us as soon as we sin. Instead, He is gentle. He is tender towards those who are caught up in sin.
Jesus is Lowly
Not only is He gentle, but He is lowly, meaning He is accessible. We don’t have to jump through hoops. We don’t have to clean ourselves up before we come to Him. He is not tucked away in a white castle surrounded by an impassable mote. He is lowly, accessible.
Jesus offers rest
We should come to Jesus, we should approach Him because He can offer us rest for our weary souls. Jesus is able to offer rest because He does what we can’t do.
I don’t know about you but sometimes as I am scrolling through Facebook, I come across these videos that highlight incredible workers. It is typically someone who is working with wood, stone, metal or tile. Their skillset is absolutely next level. They are able to make things out of these mediums that seem impossible. Sometimes I watch those videos in amazement. I find myself thinking, “I could never do that.”
The same thing I think about those workers and what they are able to accomplish, we need to think about Jesus and what He has accomplished — we can never do what He has done. No amount of effort on our behalf could ever get us to the same level as Jesus. It is when we try that we wear ourselves out.
When we compete with Jesus, what we are trying to do is earn our own salvation through our own self-effort. We need to stop seeking self-salvation. We need “to come” to Jesus for rest.
Why we need to rest in Jesus
True Disciples recognize they are sinners. It is their sin that hinders their relationship with the Father. God is holy — He is set apart from us. We can’t come into His presence on our own because we are unholy. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy. There is nothing we can do to pay our debt with the Father. The wages of sin is death. That is what we deserve. We deserve eternal death. Eternal separation from God and all that is good. But Jesus has repaired our relationship by dying on our behalf. All those who believe in Jesus experience rest.
True disciples come to Jesus for rest. Rest from the consequences of their sin and the burden of seeking self-salvation.
If you are weary, know that the only way you are going to experience rest and relief is by turning to Jesus. Working longer and harder, trying to be a better person, and giving more will not ultimately result in release. Only Jesus can provide you the rest you desire. True disciples recognize that and they come to Jesus for rest.
Want to keep learning?
Watch the sermon this post is based on.
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