Article: Desiring to be a Disciple of Jesus? | Jacob Varghese

Praise the Lord! Let me begin with a question. Who is a disciple of Jesus? Are all Christians called to be disciples? When we look at the gospels, we are all aware; there were two sets of people who came to Jesus. They were the multitudes and there were the disciples. A multitude is a very large number or a huge crowd. The word multitude refers to the common people, or the masses. But they were those people who came looking for Jesus, they came for blessings and they also came because they wanted to hear Jesus. They wanted to hear what he had to say and His word sounded good to them. Now the disciples, they came to stay with Jesus. We can see from the gospels how the first disciples were following Jesus and Jesus asks them what you seek. To that question they asked where do you stay- an indication that they want to be where Jesus is. The disciples came to be with Jesus to serve Him. The dreams of Jesus become their dreams. Jesus wants to build the kingdom of God and they want to serve Him, follow Him in building the Kingdom of God. So a disciple doesn’t come to Jesus to get something for himself but he comes to Jesus to be a servant of the Lord.

Now when we look at our context, when we look at the different types of people who come to pray, who come to church, we could roughly perhaps classify them in to three types. We have the Mercenary Christians, now the word mercenary has a strong historical context. When we look at the history of the nations, we study that there were certain people who are hired to fight in an army. They would fight for a king not because they belong to his kingdom or because they had a loyalty to him but because they were paid and in the next war if the enemy king pay them more, they would go and fight for that king. So their loyalties were only towards what they could get. In fact they had no loyalties at all. The same way there are some Christians who come to church, come to prayer meeting because of what they could get. They come because they need a blessing or maybe they are in a crisis and they would stop coming when God did not serve their purpose. God did not do what they required Him to do. Do you know there are people who tell like why should I come to church any longer? We come to church and prayer meetings but still we have so many problems. That means they come to God only because there is a reason and where there reason not fulfilled or when there is no reason or purpose, there is no need for God. It is not a coincidence that in our age, when we have become so utilitarian in our approach that both our relationship with God and also our relationships with each other have become so fragile. So this is the first category of those who come to church, the Mercenaries. And then we have the second category what we would call them as the Functionary Christians. Who is a functionary Christian? Functionary Christian is a person who lives his Christian life- who is available to serve God on his conditions, on his terms, on his timings because we have compartmentalized our life. You know we could have a church life, an office life or work life, a family life, a social life and a private life. So what is this mean? When I go to church, I dress differently, I speak high pieties and then when I go to work- money is my goal and I will do anything to make money, perhaps when I am in a party I want to be like everybody else, dressed like them, drink like them, crack joke like them and I could also have a private life and in those private hours that is my business where I do things which I feel I need to do.
There is no God in that area. So these types of Christians are we call as the functionary Christians.

Then we have the third type of Christians, they are the people who are on fire for the Lord. We could call them as the Missionary Christians. We had the mercenaries, we have the functionaries and now we have the missionary Christians. They have a purpose in life and their purpose is to live a godly life. They have a purpose to live for godly values. There is a reason for all they do- their waking up, lying down, when they speak, for their taking rest, there is a reason for them to live and there is a reason for them to die. They have a purpose based on their eternity. They are people who are on fire for the Lord. They have a vibrant life. In this context I was thinking of the martyrs in Orissa, I was wondering how they got that courage when they were challenged- you either renounce Christ or give up your life. That was a great challenge. Isn’t it? They could just say we are ready to give up our life but we will never renounce Christ. I thought how did they reach that stage? I was wondering, if I am similarly challenged what I would do then. The fact is for them their faith was in their blood. For them Jesus was their passion. They lived for Jesus, they lived for Christ’ love, they lived for those heavenly values that go to make the kingdom of heaven and that is why in a moment of trouble and trial, their value was proved. Such Christians are Missionary Christians. A missionary Christian is not necessarily a person who goes to the end of the earth and sacrifices their own desires and dreams and worldly goals to live for Jesus. We have seen such marvelous missionaries in the past. But a missionary is anyone who is willing to set aside his or her own comfort for a godly value. For sharing Christ’ love, of peace, of building another person. For example a mother who is exhausted working throughout the day and yet sleeps late and wakes up early to prepare a good meal for her family, for her children-she is a missionary. A friend who works the whole day and though would love to relax for a few hours in the evening; but still steps out to be with someone in a hospital or to help out someone in need such a person is a missionary. Now the fact is all of us live for something and all of us die for something. What we live for, we die for and that purpose of life is important for Missionary Christian.
But I realize there is something that the Bible is has to tell us; something in fact that Jesus wants to show to us. In the great commission Matthew chapter 28 verses 18-20; Jesus answers the question that we are discussing. In Matthew 16:24 we see “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Who is a disciple of Jesus? Jesus explains to us the purpose and the identity of the Christian Church. He says all power in heaven and on earth has given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have taught you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So what is the Lord telling us? The very fact that we are baptized, as Christians indicates that I need to be striving to live my discipleship because I have this identity of the belongingness to Christ. So I have to be a disciple. A disciple is not just one who hears the word of God but he observes the word of God. Jesus says teaching them to observe all that I have taught you- which means as a Christian I cannot say I am not a pastor or a priest, so I don’t need to pray. If I am a Christian, I have to pray, I have to have that relationship with Jesus that even pastors, priests and Apostles had. There is no such thing as an elite Christian or and an average Christian. I cannot say I am not a pastor, I am not a preacher and I am just an ordinary Christian so I don’t need to read the Bible. Because I am a Christian, I need to read the Bible. Because I have been baptized in the name of the father, and of the son and the Holy Spirit I need to read the Bible. Whatever Jesus taught, every word of it is for me. When He invites His disciples and says abide in me as I abide in you and then you will bear fruit that is a call to me and to you. John 15:4 says “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”. However busy we are, however involved we are in this world, in the responsibilities of life, the source of life is in Jesus. There is no such thing as a mercenary Christian or a functionary Christian. In fact mercenaries and functionaries are not Christians. If we are Christian, we are called to be Missionaries.

Let us remember even the multitudes love to hear the word of God. It is not enough I listened to a few talks on YouTube or on a gospel channel. It is not enough. I need to live that. We see that the rich young man in the gospels and several others like him want to know how we get that eternal life. This story appears in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17–31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18–30. Then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” How do we become a disciple and Jesus tells three things. 1. Renounce your possessions 2. Take up your cross and 3. Follow me. We have an instinct of the flesh to grab, to accumulate, to possess but Jesus says renounce it, relinquish it. To be a Christian is to be one who is not looking merely at the gifts but who is able to raise his eyes from the gifts and to contemplate the giver, consider and think of the giver. When I look at my God, my giver, when I contemplate Him, with love I want to take up my cross. When you love someone very much even though you may not be part of their success and celebrations but you very much want to be a part of their sufferings. You would want to be with them in their bedside when they are sick. You would want to support them when they are being attacked. The sign of love is to want to share in the sufferings of the other. That is why Jesus says I am teaching you how to love. Renounce, relinquish and empty yourself, take up your cross and follow me. When Jesus is the star of my life, I am so focused on following His ways and I am not interested about my own ways.

I remember hearing this beautiful reflection of an elderly Christian leader. He was asked how do you want people to remember you. What would you like people to speak about you? When you leave this earth, what do you hope that people will have to say about you? And this elderly Christian leader said when I leave this earth; I am not concerned about what people have to say about me, that is not my concern. I don’t want them to say anything about me. What I want is to hear my God my Jesus saying well done my good and faithful servant. To have our eyes focused on Jesus and to follow Him that is the beauty of Christian life.

Finally let us look at Mary the mother of Jesus. According to a Catholic Deacon Keith Fournier Mary is known as the first disciple of her own son and our savior and Lord Jesus the Christ. She was the first evangelizer. She gave the first gospel testimony to her cousin Elizabeth, without words. Though there are very few records of Mary’s explicit words in the Bible, we see her presence at the most significant events in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore in the great events of salvation history. She always encountered God in profound ways- from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ life. She enters the history of salvation and she is being hailed as favored by God. Imagine this young woman chosen by God, called to be the mother of the son of the most high God. But you look at the life of Mary, when she accepted the call to be favored by God, what followed was renunciation, she had to renounce all the things she possessed, when she became the mother of Jesus, she did not have the basic comforts that any woman would have. She was not surrounded by family, she had no place to give birth to her child and we see that from there she lives the life of uncertainty, live as a refugee and then she watches her son grow up and He is hated by everyone and rejected. What would happen when she sees her son betrayed by those who were closest- denied, abandoned by his friends. She would see him condemned, hated, put to death and then we see she walk with him right up to Calvary. She was stood by Him till the very end and there at the foot of the cross. She became the first disciple setting before us the glorious call to set our sights on eternity. To live for Jesus to be someone who will set the world on fire.

Let us remember what the Lord tells us in Revelation 3:15 &16 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. We are not called to live a lukewarm Christian life. We are called to be a people who are on fire for the Lord, whose life will be offered up as a sacrifice to glorify God. May the Holy Spirit pour the love of God in our hearts that every one of us can discover the joy of loving God, that every one of us can live for that highest passion of love of Jesus! God bless you.




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