The bible tells us that a Christian is given many titles. Each of these titles holds a different significance to the Christian. Each of these titles highlights the different virtues a Christian ought to have. Let us examine these virtues and see if we live up to the standards of these titles.

In our previous post of this series, We learnt that the most common title of a Christian is a believer

But the most basic title is a disciple.  This title was  mentioned by Jesus

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end
of the age.”-Jesus (Matt 28:19-20)

Jesus did not say, “Make everyone a believer” but instead he tells us to make disciples for him. He wanted them to be his disciple. A disciple is one who learns and follows a master. In the old days, the disciple is a student of a master. He is supposed to live with his teacher and learn a skill from him.

Being a disciple is more than just believing in Jesus. He needs to be baptized, to come under the name of Jesus and learn the word of God. He need to serve God, and that is what it meant to be a disciple.

Today, many of us are baptised, we are in the Lord, but have we become his disciple? How do we know if one is truly a disciple of Jesus?

Fortunately, Jesus did define for us what it meant to be his disciple. If we are his true disciple, we need to learn from these and practice them in our lives

PT 1: A True disciple abides in the word of Jesus

“If you abide in My word,
you are My disciples indeed.”- Jesus (Jn 8:31)

When Jesus spoke these words, he is not addressing unbelievers. He is talking to the Jews who believed in him. In those days, and even today, there are Jews who believe, but are unable to follow his words. That is why Jesus tells us that only those who abide in his words are his disciples.

For one day Jesus will ask us “Why did you call me Lord and not follow my word? Are you really my disciples?”

There was a group of chickens who wanted to soar in the skies like eagles. So they approach an eagle and begged him to teach them how to fly. In the midst of learning, they suffered a lot, they fell and got bruised. But finally they are able to fly in the skies.

So the eagle is proud of his students, before he left, he told them “Now you can fly with your wings freely, you do not need to walk anymore”. After that, he parted ways with them and flew away. As he flew away, he was feeling proud and joyful. Since he had taught the chickens well and he wanted to see how well they are flying. But as he turns back and look, he did not see any chickens flying. Initially, he was surprised, he thought they have flown farther than the eagle, but as he look hard on the ground, he saw them walking on the ground. The eagle was disappointed, he shook his head. “Why bother to learn to fly if all they wanted is to walk?” the Eagle was wondering.

If a disciple of Jesus, cannot abide in his words, Jesus will ask why did he called Jesus Lord and refuse to do as Jesus commanded. If we truly believe in Jesus, we must abide in the words of the Lord. If we fail to do so, we will be cast out.

“ There will be weeping and gnashing
of teeth, when you see Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets
in the kingdom of God, and yourselves
thrust out.  They will come from the east
and the west, from the north and the
south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
And indeed there are last who will be
first, and there are first who will be last.”- Jesus (Lk 13:28-30)

The descendent of Abraham will be seated in the kingdom of God. But the bible tells us that some will be thrust out. That is because even though they have the faith of Abraham, they did not obey God. For if we do not abide in his words, we will fall behind, we will be thrust out. For there are people who are first who will turn out last.

No one likes to lose out in life, that is why we will change if we notice we are falling behind our peers. For they used to be walking behind us and now they are ahead of us. That is a good attitude to have. Why don’t we apply that to our faith? In the same where there are others who used to fall behind and now they are in front of us.

Jesus is not telling us to judge others, but rather we should consider if we are walking in front or not But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. That is why Jesus reminds us

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I say to you, will seek to enter
and will not be able.”- Jesus (Lk 13:24)

Will we be able to enter into the door? Or will we be thrust out?  We need to be a good disciple to enter through the door.

PT 2: A true disciple is one with love

“A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another; as I have
loved you, that you also love one another.
 By this all will know that you are My
disciples, if you have love for one
another.”- Jesus (Jn 13:34-35)

People will know that you are a disciple if you love one another. We know that loving one another is found in the bible, even in the old testament. Why then is this a new commandment?

For love in the New Testament had a new standard. We need to love one another with the love of the Lord. The disciple of Jesus will not love with the love of man, but love with the love of the Lord. Why is this so? For the love of man is selfish and incomplete. A man will love those who love them. They will love only when others bring benefits to him. Such love is troublesome, it had the risk of turning bitter and having disappointment.

The love of Christ is perfect, selfless. If one love with a love of God, there will be less problems, it will reduce unhappiness. It can bring more joy and more hope. In the past we love with the love of man, but now as disciples of Christ, we love each other with the love of Jesus.

Let us look at what that love means

“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor
  and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies,
bless those who curse you, do good to
those who hate you, and pray for those
who spitefully use you and persecute you,[
 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
for He makes His sun rise on the evil
and on the good, and sends rain on the
just and on the unjust.”"- Jesus (Matt 5:43-45)

It is easy for us to love our neighbor and hate our enemies. Everyone one Christian and non Christian alike can love those who love us, and hate those who hate us. But now we need to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors.

The latter is hard, for how can we love someone who hates us? We always wanted revenge, we wanted their life to be miserable as well. But the fact is, we will never be sure if we inflict any damage or hurt to the other part. But one thing is for sure, those who hold on to that hatred, will be unhappy. Whenever we think about that person we hate, we will lose our appetite and our sleep. By choosing to hate them, we wanted to make their life miserable, but the truth is, we are the ones who are suffering.

To forgive is to release yourself.

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged.
Condemn not, and you shall not be
condemned. Forgive, and you will
be forgiven.”- Jesus (Lk 6:37)

To forgive here  ( ἀπολύω  G630) also carries with it a meaning of release. To forgive someone is to release yourself from the pain and suffering.

How To Forgive?

We often think that by granting forgiveness, we are allowing the aggressor to win, and that feeling makes us indignant. But if we allow hatred to bind us we will be even more unhappy. If we take the advice from the bible and forgive, on the surface it appears as if we have taken a position that is disadvantaged.

But the fact is that we have released ourselves from the anger, and found true freedom and peace. The  Chinese character for anger is very interesting.

This character is formed by 2 separate Chinese words. 奴(Which means “Slave”)  and 心 (which mean “heart”). A person who is bound by anger enslaves his own heart. This was understood by the ancients and they constructed the word in such a manner.

This is easy to understand as theory, but the question is, “"How do we forgive our enemies? How do we love them?”

Loving your enemies is not about hugging them like lovers or long lost friends. I understand that it is difficult to do, kudos if one can do it sincerely and well. But all the Bible requires us to do is to pray for them. We need to forgive them in our prayer. If we can release ourselves of that hurt, we will not remember the hurt he had cause us. Then we will be able to greet him with a natural smile. There is a difference between a natural smile and a compelled smile.

But isn’t love a matter of choice? Can we be compelled to love? Why did Jesus command us to love like this?

There is a big reason why this love comes as a commandment. For it is easy and natural for us to love someone who love us. But in life we will encounter people who are just plain unlovable, someone who is petty, selfish, proud and bad tempered. By instinct, we will stay away from such characters. For they are hard to love

There is no need for God to command us to love the ones who love us. Since we can do this willingly, with joy and without any complain. But love as a command is targeted at those who are unlovable, whom we deem are unworthy of respect. It is targeted at these people who we will avoid by instinct.

That is why Christians are given the command to love those we can’t love, our enemies. We want them to experience the love of God, hopefully one day they will change. We want our own love to grow and not be selfish. If we are true disciples of Christ, we need to love them with the love of the Lord.

PT 3: A true disciple bear fruits

“By this My Father is glorified, that you
bear much fruit; so you will be My
disciples.”- Jesus (Jn 15: 8 )

Jesus said that his disciples will bear fruit. In verse 5 he was describing himself as a vine and the disciples being the branches. The value of the branch lies in its ability to bear fruit. If the branch does not bear fruit, it will be a waste of the nutrients from the tree. That is why that branch will be cut off, so that the other branches will bear more fruit.

“Every branch in Me that does not bear
fruit He takes away; and every branch
that bears fruit He prunes, that it may
bear more fruit”- Jesus (Jn 15:2)

There are 2 types of cutting off, one is to cut away the branches that bear no fruit, the other is to prune the branch so that it will bear more fruit. A branch may be able to bear fruit, but its yield may be less. In order to make the branch bear more fruit, its useless stump will have o be removed.  That is because these stump make use of the nutrients from the tree and bears no fruit. By cutting these off, the nutrients could be used to make more fruit.

How To bear more fruits?

In order to bear more fruit, we need to accept the pruning from God. It is meant to remove our weakness and imperfections within us.

Take for example

Every Christian had the heart to bear fruits for the Lord, many are willing to offer to God. But because they had many other desires which requires money, they often find it hard to offer. But if these desires are cut off, they will have more resources to offer to God willingly.

Every Christian wanted to be able to serve God and spend more time in the ministry. But sometimes we do not have the time. The fact is, God had given everyone 24 hours, and every Christian need to work and take care of their family. But some are able to find time for God while others don’t. This is more a question about how we use our time, if we have used them on things that are important.

If we want to handle our lives well to cut waste and to find time to serve God, we need to be able to free up our time and resources. Sometimes our desires hinder us from getting what we need to serve God.

How to be pruned by Jesus?

But how does God prune us so that we can bear more fruit?

“For the word of God is living and powerful,
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the division of soul and
spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is
a discerner of the thoughts and intents
of the heart.”- Author of Hebrews (Heb 4:12)

The word of God is living and powerful, it can pierce through our hearts, discerning our intentions and thoughts. It will point out what is not good within us, what is unnecessary and where to prune. It is not meant to hurt us, for that is the pruning of God to help us identified the aspect of us that need improvement. God’s word is like a sword that pierce our hearts, but it is not meant to hurt us, it is meant to prune us, help us improve ourselves.

Today, if we feel hurt when listening to a sermon. Let us not be unhappy and offended by it. For that is a good thing and we have discovered where our weakness is.

There are 2 common responses we see in people, some will continue in their wrong, and pile more sin and mistakes on top of it. Others will acknowledge their mistakes and repent. If the word of God is right and we are offended by it. Do the fault lies in the word of God or in us?
How should we go from here?

That is the exact moment when the word of God prunes us.

If we allow the word of God to prune our character, if we listen to it and repent, we will be renewed. Perhaps we may repeat our mistake in our moment of weakness, but if we turn to God he will help us overcome it.

That is why, if we feel that the word of God had hurt us, we should submit to it, give thanks and allow it to pierce into our heart. It will bring about change and it will cleanse us

You must be joined to Jesus the true vine to bear fruit

Besides allowing God to prune us, we must be joined to the Lord to bear fruit.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in Me, and I in him,
bears much fruit; for without Me you
can do nothing.”- Jesus (Jn 15:5)

We need to ask ourselves if we are abiding in the Lord or not. Abiding in the Lord is not about our church attendance . It doesn’t mean that those who are not physically in the church building do not abide in the Lord.  For many are able to come and sit in the church hall, but their hearts are far away from the Lord.

Is our hearts in the church? Have we examined ourselves?  Sometimes our hearts can run around while we are siting in the hall. But Jesus wanted our heart to be in service as we are gathering  in church.

We need to worship in Spirit and in truth, our hearts must be joined to the Lord. This is important, especially when we sing a hymn, pray or listen to a sermon.  For Jesus continues to tell us

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
you will ask what you desire, and it shall be
done for you.”- Jesus (Jn 15:7)

Whenever we gather in churches, read the bible, pray or listen to a sermon, we are abiding in his words, we are attaching our hearts to the Lord. Some may think that coming to church is a habit, for they come in and leave on time. It is a good habit, but good habit does not help one grow in faith. If our worship of God is a habit, it is a good habit to have, but we cannot allow our faith to become a habit. For faith is a communion with God and his words. It is through prayers, hymns and listening to his word,s we have communion with God.

Do we only focus on how well we sing? Do we sing with our hearts and mean what we sing? We may be singing about being a disciple, but are we truly his disciple?  IF through the hymn we examine ourselves, discover that we are far from the standards of God. If we repent and ask God for forgiveness and mercy, than a simple hymn is all that it needs to bring us closer to God, to have our hearts aligned with God.

But its sad, ‘since we often sing with our lips and our hearts are not there, we may come to church but we lead our own life outside of church. One who is truly joined to the Lord will sing with his heart and his faith. Those who practice this will have a different life of faith, they will improve over time.

We do not sing a hymn or speak for the sake of receiving applause from man.

The same principle applies to prayer, the truth is there is no rules in the bible that demanded people to pray for a specific length of time, but we know that if left by ourselves, our prayer will only last for seconds. What is important is not about the length of prayer, but whether we prayed with our hearts. If we pray with our hearts, we will feel the Lord before us. There are times when we pray and it felt as though God had left, but that is usually because we have many other things that had replaced the position of God in that prayer.

These are all lessons we need to know, if we can do this well, we can bear more fruit.

PT 4: A True disciple loves God above everything

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his
father and mother, wife and children, brothers
and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot
be My disciple. ”- Jesus (Lk 14:26)

In order to be disciples, we must love God above our family. This is one of the hardest verse in the bible and the one that draws the most irk from readers. But the bible is not saying that Christian are not to be filial nor love their parents.

But today if our parents or family obstructs us from believing in Jesus, and they stop us from serving God. We need to overcome their objection. There is no need for us to openly disobey them, or to say hurtful words to hurt them. But  we need to make our stand clear. If our family object to our faith as Christians, that is not right. While we can submit to them on many occasions, but we should not give in for this is wrong. There is no need for us to fight them but we ought to make our stand clear.

Let us learn to persist in our stand and be loyal to God. Let us not betray the Lord

Finally, let us consider

And whoever does not bear his
cross and come after Me cannot
be My disciple”-Jesus (Lk 14:27)

We need to bear our own cross as disciples. Every Christian has their own problem and their own troubles. Some are easy to solve while others add on to sorrows. Perhaps we may have prayed about it often and it appears that God remained silent.

So sometimes we murmur against God and ask why he did not help his disciples.  But Jesus had already told us that his disciples need to carry their cross.

Indeed, there are times we need to bear the cross, and it is a trial for us. Trials are like exams, while we will gladly help a friend with their assignment interfering with their exams will bring harm to them. In our life of faith, there are crosses we near to bear.

It is true that sometimes we can choose to throw the cross away and stop believing in Jesus. We can do whatever we want, and be as low and dirty as some may play. We can choose to ignore conscience and not care about anything. We can defend ourselves and get back on our aggressors. As long as we are cruel enough, we can resolve many problems. That is the way of the world

Sometimes being a disciple is hard, by choosing to hold on to our faith, we bring trouble upon ourselves. We cannot do what the people of the world do. But we must be willing to carry that cross. For Jesus bear the cross for us in the first place.

The gospel is the message of the cross, its followers tread on the way of the cross. We need to be willing to bear the cross and walk down that path. For we know that no matter how heavy the cross is it is worth it. It is worth more than our lives.

For the end of that path is the glorious heaven, that is the way that Jesus had walked.  If Jesus had to walk on that path to be glorified. How can his disciples be spared of it? Jesus had already carried the cross on our behalf so that we can receive this glory. Let us carry our cross and follow the Lord

May God grant us this faith, may we truly be his disciples.