Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples”. This was Jesus’ final command to his disciples as He left this earth to return to the Father in heaven—five simple words that form one small statement. But this final command of Jesus summarizes His purpose for those who call themselves His followers, His disciples, those who wish to learn from Him. While this commission from Jesus has been performed for millennia since the ascension, it is often vague or misunderstood so that those who believe themselves to be “making disciples” really are not. So what does a disciple-maker do? What does it look like for one to make a disciple? In order to make disciples one must know what a disciple is, what the characteristics of a disciple are, how Jesus made disciples, how one will make disciples, as well as what success will look like in making disciples. This series will engage those topics continuing with: The Internal Characteristics of a Disciple. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus lays out the internal characteristics of a disciple which include a desire to follow, a denial of self, and a decision to suffer.
First, true disciples of Christ have an overarching desire to follow Christ. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says, “would”. This is not a “well if you want to” type of word. It means a strong desire. It means to want strongly. Jesus is telling us here that a disciples attitude is that of strong desire to follow Him. Too often this is not the case, as Jesus records an instance in Matthew 19:17-21. In this passage a rich young ruler comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life and be perfect. Jesus’ answer is simply “if you would enter life…” and “if you would be perfect…”. After each of these statements Jesus gives all that is required for someone who wishes to have eternal life and to be perfect. But in saying “if you would” Jesus is actually testing the young rulers desire. Jesus is describing the relationship between actions and attitude. He is saying if the desire was really as great as you say it is, you would be coming. If someone truly desires, strongly desires to follow Jesus. They will come! They will take action. They will move. But that action, that movement will be motivated by a deep desire! Disciples desire to follow Jesus.
Second, genuine believers in Jesus Christ are willing to deny themselves for the sake of Christ. The attitude of a disciples is that of rejection and refusal. It is an emphatic refuting of something. Peter gives us an example of just what denying actually is. Three times on the night Jesus was arrested Peter denies Jesus. Matthew 26:69-74 records the resulting denial of Peter. As Peter is addressed three separate times, he denies Jesus. However, with each inquiry to Peter’s association with Jesus, he grows more and more emphatic in his denial. By the third time, Peter is so enraged and does not want to be regarded as with Jesus that he even changes the way he speaks by swearing. Peter is an example of what denying is. It is with all our might and actions refuting and refusing to accept something. But the disciple of Jesus does not deny Jesus, his denial is of himself. It is giving up what he wants, what he desires, what he is tempted to take. All people must remember there are only two options in denying people, Jesus or yourself (Luke 12:8-9). Disciples deny themselves.
Third, Jesus are people who decide they are willing to take up their cross and suffer for the sake of Christ. This decision is a grabbing, a raising up, a lifting up, and decision to carry something. The willingness to suffer for Jesus sake is something one decides to do. It is similar to my decision to willingly carry my eighteen month old son (who happens to weigh 30 pounds) while my wife and I go on walks. While we walk, if my son gets tired, one of us has to decide to suffer (i.e. carry 30 extra pounds) so that the walk may continue. But here is the thing:picking up my son affects how I walk, how far I can go, and how much work it will be. But the desire to keep walking, to keep going is so great that it is worth carrying him. My love for him and my wife causes me to quickly get over and often even overlook the fact that he weighs 30 pounds. My desire drives my decision! The decision to willing suffer as a disciple is to bear ones cross. The cross was an instrument of death. It was an instrument of torture. It was a symbol of your own demise. To take ones cross was to march to one’s own death; which is exactly what Jesus did for all of us (John 19:16-18, 30). Disciples Decide they are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ.
So are you a disciple? Are you evidencing the internal characteristics of a disciple? Do you find yourself desiring to follow Christ? Is there a denial of yourself in any area of your life? Finally, have you decided that you are willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ?
Make sure to stop by next week where this series on discipleship continues with the external characteristics of a disciple!