What is True Christian Discipleship?

There was a time in my life when I thought of discipleship as a study I went through to learn more about the Bible or a specific theology. I could complete the discipleship course and check it off my list.

Done. I had been discipled.

As I am finishing up my first year of mission work, Christian discipleship is starting to take on a different meaning. I am watching Jesus transform a group of Chinese students with no previous exposure to the Bible into women who desire to obey God’s commands. As we read the Bible each week together, they are discovering the character of God, his love and desire for relationship, and also his plan for redeeming the world. Through this, my friends Liu Yang and Fang are experiencing remarkable life changes.

What is true Christian discipleship?

Here are some examples of Liu Yang’s and Fang’s lives displaying obedience-based discipleship:

  • Each week we read and discuss a new story from the Bible. They are eager to call their parents and family back in China and share what they have learned. They are so excited about what God is doing in their hearts that they can’t wait to share with people who do not know Christ!

  • Fang had a conversation with her father for the first time in months last week. She said they have had a rocky relationship for years. But after what God taught her during one of our Bible studies a few weeks ago, she was convicted of her pride and idolatry toward her father. She called him and asked him to forgive her of her impatience toward him all these years.

  • Here is a quote from Liu Yang from last week as we discussed the cost of discipleship. I asked her what was stopping her from becoming a believer. She replied,

“I know once I choose to become a believer, God will change my life completely. I will not be the same person, and I guess that really scares me. Not because it will be bad, because I know it will be wonderful to always feel loved and have that as part of my identity. And I would love to have the Holy Spirit help direct my life. But for me to have a completely different life is a big change, and I am afraid of the unknown, even if it a good change. And God may ask me to do some hard things that will cause disappointments. I may wonder if I would have had those disappointments if I hadn’t chosen to follow God’s laws.

So, it is just a really big decision to make. I don’t want to take it lightly because I know everything will be different for me. I think eventually I will become a Christian because I feel like God will continue to pursue me until I choose to believe. But I’m still afraid right now.”

This is a woman who understands what it means to read Christ’s commands and then obey what she has read. She is counting the cost of discipleship. Please help me pray for Liu Yang!

Essential elements of Christian discipleship

In thinking about what true Christian discipleship is, there are a few things that are essential to think about:

  • Loving others
  • Making sacrifices
  • Being obedient to Christ’s commands
  • Sowing the gospel
  • Discipling others

To me, it is amazing that these girls are getting this as an obvious outflow of believing in Jesus. It’s challenging to me — a long-time believer — to implement obedience-based discipleship at a deeper level in my own walk with God. I pray it can encourage all of us to do so.

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