Since the celebration of Jesus' resurrection on April 5, I have been on a journey. My sermon text for Easter Sunday was from Matthew 28, and it was during my preparation for that sermon as well as the days after that God has sent me on a journey wondering what it means to "make disciples".
My question is this: If a disciple is a learner, what must a person learn in order to be a disciple of Jesus?
Most often I have answered this question with information. I believe people need to know who God is, and what He has done for us in Christ, place true faith in Him, be completely forgiven of all sin, and receive eternal life.
Yet this is more about the end than the journey itself. One of the greatest benefits we receive by believing God's promise fulfilled in Jesus is the Holy Spirit Himself. According to a document from my tradition called the Heidelberg Catechism, "Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him." (Q&A 1)
So what does it mean to live for Jesus? Is it only about sharing information or is there something more?
As I have considered this question in light of the scriptures, I have found Paul talking more about formation than information in making disciples. In Philippians 2, Colossians 3, Ephesians 4, Galatians 5, and Romans 12, Paul clearly highlights what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It is about unity, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. It is about being formed into the image of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet for what purpose?
Jesus calls us to be disciples so that we can "make disciples of all nations", so the disciples we "make" should also begin to look more like Jesus. But how will know they know what it means to be like Jesus? They have to see it in us.
As we follow Jesus, and are formed into His image by the Holy Spirit's power, we bring Jesus to every person with whom we come into contact. As we then bring Jesus to people, God will bring them to Christ through true faith, so that they too can be formed into the image of Jesus.
As we begin to look more like Jesus, in both what we say and what we do, God will draw people to Himself and more people will place faith in Christ.
So what do you think? What does it mean to "make disciples"? And if a disciple is a learner, what must a person learn to be a disciple of Jesus? I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the Way ...