The word “disciple” means “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher”.
A practical example
From 2013 and on, I got into this running technique called “ChiRunning”. This method of running is based off a combination of principles from Tai Chi and yoga. Supposedly it’s efficient, allows our legs to relax, focuses on alignment centered on our core, uses gravity as momentum, and reduces the overall wear and tear that “conventional” running does on one’s body regardless of how far you run. The guy who founded ChiRunning is Danny Dreyer in the early 2000’s. So far, he has helped thousands of runners overcome running injuries, even to those who stated that they could never ever run again. Even they had a comeback and eventually ran a half marathon or even a full marathon again. It’s an incredibly easy process but yet extremely difficult to get good at…
I have studied the ChiRunning technique in and out, and have even attended a ChiRunning workshop in 2014 and personally have met Danny Dreyer himself… I call him the “Chi Master” LOL. (If you are struggling with running, visit http://www.chirunning.com to check it out!). So you can say, I am a disciple (student) of Danny Dreyer. I have learned from him, personally have met him, and has taught and still am teaching other people in my life his technique of “effortless running”. With the ChiRunning technique, I have ran dozens of marathons and ultras and have usually resulted in minimal injury.
I use my personal experience of ChiRunning and meeting the Chi Master as a parable to describe something much greater and eternal.
A blast to the past…
I had been going to church for over a decade since 2003 while I was still in Dallas. I was invited out to church, started coming out, and the pastor asked me during an “altar call” to accept Jesus into my heart as my Savior. And then I got baptized. Later, I had moved to San Antonio for medical school, was part of another church there, and several more in my year in Houston and after I returned back to San Antonio.
I called myself a Christian because I accepted Jesus to be my Savior (Romans 10:9), but I had not fully comprehended what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.
In 2014, the church I was attending in San Antonio was “getting stale”… While there were a few encouraging, godly, and people who I now consider true disciples, the vast majority of the people I pretty much had little or shallow connections with. It’s like they’re talking about Jesus in church, and you walk out, and people go about their own ways. And… often I felt like a stranger, though I had been going there for a while. I also noticed that there was a high rate of “turnover” in who is there at weeknight service, in just a matter of a year.
Reached out by unicycle
In February of 2014, I finally had the opportunity to actually talk to one of my neighbors who was also my co-workers in the microbiology lab. I have seen him before often, both at work and around my apartment, but had never gotten to talking with him. Until one day, he saw me attempting to ride a unicycle (don’t ask me about how that went LOL). And (to his credit for attempting), he reached out and introduced himself to me. He himself was riding on a skateboard. I dropped my unicycle and got on a skateboard with him and tried to learn it… haha.
Then, he invited me to come to his church, for there was an “invite your neighbors day”. I was very hesitant to try out another church and wanted to say “no”, but because I was hungry for some authentic fellowship, I said, “why not, I’ll go check it out”.
When I stepped into his church the following Sunday, I immediately noticed something different. There were no “hype” about the worship service. It had an authentic and sincere feel to it. And everyone seemed like “it is what it is”. At the end of the service, I clearly remembered people wanting to talk to me because I was new, and it was sincere (not just pretentious or superfluous like my previous experiences). And I could not tell if this is a “white”, “black”, “Hispanic”, or “Asian” church, for there were people of “all nations” literally present. I then got invited out to Bible talk, where people got together in small groups. Again, at Bible talk, people took interest in getting to know me when I showed up. I honestly thought it was weird, and I wondered how do these people who seem so different come together like this? Are they pretending to blend in? Are they forcing their way together as friends when in actually they really aren’t?
Change in the making
These questions began to break away, and answered, as I was “studying the Bible”. What made these people unique and stand out in a world where church is associated with superficiality, hypocrisy, and something that you do on the weekends only?
Studying the Bible was actually quite “tedious” in the beginning. We did studies on “seeking God” and the “word of God”, and the “Kingdom of God”. And I was like, okay, I get it. Why are they trying to teach me stuff that I already know??!!
During the process, my skateboarding friend who invited me out encouraged me to keep going, keep seeking, and don’t give up.
On the subsequent study on discipleship, when they asked me had I been a disciple, I kinda gave them a blank stare. For I had not heard much of anyone use that word during a conversation. It was a word that is typically used during church or a sermon. Then one of the brothers asked me “when did you repent?” And I gave them another blank stare.
In the process, I was challenged and confronted with regards to my faith. I had thought I was a disciple/Christian all this years, but there wasn’t a true repentance. It’s like my heart wasn’t right. It was a long six month process as some of the brothers led me through additional studies including sin and repentance, light and darkness, the cross, the church, and so forth. But I still wasn’t ready to be baptized.
But finally, I saw it. I remember breaking down in tears with other brothers around me during a study and shared what I now see. What made these people different? Why were they “welcoming” and more “friendly” when I first came to church? They were expressing the love of Christ in them and being obedient to His Word. That is the hallmark of a disciple. A disciple is a Christian. A Christian is a disciple. Why do people compartmentalize the two in our day and age… I don’t know. A Christian is someone who lives their life around Christ. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. And they don’t just follow for the sake of “doing it”. They follow because they sincerely believe that Jesus loved them first, through the cross. And thus, they produce fruit because their hearts were mended, and they continue to hold on to Jesus’s teachings. Disciples and Christians – aren’t they interchangeable?
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” – John 15:7-10.
“If you hold on to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32.
Going back to the example of ChiRunning, what good is it for myself and the others around it, if I can simply recite the rules and principles of the running technique, yet never put it into practice? I had the desire to change, but my running technique will never improve unless I put what I learned to good use and hold on to them. When it gets hard and tedious, I ought to keep doing it, holding on.
Back to discipleship with Jesus – what good is it for me to know all these Scriptures and yet never put them into practice? Good as dead. Not only there’s no growth, but now I would’ve put myself in a state automatic disobedience. For I have heard and read Scriptures clearly and it is telling me to obey. Not because I have to, but because:
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Discipleship is not following rules of “don’t do this, don’t do that, we can’t do this, we can’t do that”. That is missing the point and has become a bunch of mere “rules”. Discipleship is following, loving, and learning from Jesus, and other disciples that He has placed in our lives. The greatest commandment trumps all, and the “rules” become second nature for us with Christ centered first.
The cost and benefit analysis of repentance and discipleship
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father or mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24
So what is this going to cost me? What is holding me back? To name one example, I would often reminisce on the opportunities that I would be “missing out” with other women. It even “disqualifies” me from dating other girls from other churches because perhaps many of them have not been up to the same “standard” as I have been through. What would I gain as part of the kingdom? Godly relationships with other sisters (in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined at that time), brotherly love, accountability, and discipling one another. This “gain” is not out of selfish ambition but rather spurred out of our desire to love and obey God wholeheartedly. Repenting from sins and various old ways of life and old ways of thinking is not just “stop doing it”, but rather, replacing with something even better.
Another major sin that I repented from was gluttony and overindulgence. It’s something that I have to pay extra attention to even now because of my past. And I’m not motivated by “don’t do it”, but rather by a Scripture from 1 Corinthians that my body is a “temple where God lives” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
I saw that the people who were entering into my life loved God, loved me, and I want to do likewise. I was faced with a decision to truly repent of my old ways, get baptized, in order to become a (true, authentic) disciple. Is baptism necessary for salvation? Well, if we truly obey the Scriptural principles, then yes. It is necessary because that is how we show our love and obedience towards God. If we love God, when why not just do it versus testing him over his word? What’s easier… seriously… lol
On 11/5/14, this picture is from the day of my baptism into a true disciple of Christ. He died for my sins, so that I can gain eternal life and live the rest of my days as his disciple. Amen.
Disciple of Jesus = one who changed his/her life in order to love Jesus by obeying his commands, and teaching others to do likewise.