FYI, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The numerous repetitions of the word should cause us to dig deeper into its meaning.
It is worth noting that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renown twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11).
In the Great commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus charges his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.
So what does it mean to be a disciple?
A disciple is a learner-
The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner,” or “student.”
Jesus called his disciples to a new and different life. The new life called for a paradigm shift in their thinking, affections, actions, reactions, worldview and perspectives.
Disciples were taught life principles that were upside down from the conventional wisdom of the day. They were taught humility in a world that esteemed pride; in order to be first they were taught to be last. To be filled they must first empty themselves of human sufficiency; to live they must first die to self; to find they must be willing to lose; and in order to gain they must first let it go. Certainly, this needed quite some learning.
The disciples of Jesus were fishermen by profession, but they were called to be fishers of men. Their calling was more than a transfer of fishing skills; it needed learning.
Therefore a true disciple of Jesus needs to embrace learning as a lifelong activity.
Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead they are in constant process of learning and becoming.
Disciples of Jesus learn to love unconditionally, they learn to forgive without taking inventory, they learn to discern the will of God; they are students of the word of God. They learn how to live out their newfound life in Christ. They learn how they can please their Master.
Disciples also learn from valley of life and mountaintop experiences of life. They learn from successes and failures. They will say, ‘when I went through that circumstance…. God taught me this and that…” Also, they learn from both young and old.
Learners have a teachable spirit, they have inquisitive minds and have a receptive heart for God’s word. It is because of learning attitude that the disciples implored on their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray” Lk 11:1. Learners are always growing and transforming.
Jesus extends an invitation to every person to come and learn from him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, Matt 11:28-30.
The problem with the know-it-all believers is that they have no room for learning or a teachable heart. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t stand to be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. I
Therefore disciples of Jesus are in a constant process of learning and growing. If you are not growing in learning then you are not a true disciple of Jesus. Learn from his word, from life experiences he takes you through, and from young and old.
Remember, if you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling God’s greatness.