WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
What is a disciple? The dictionary says a disciple is a student. This is true, but it is not the whole truth. When I was in seminary, the school was fortunate enough to have Dr. Fred Craddock as their Professor of Preaching and New Testament. I marveled at the man, and I guess you could say that I was a disciple of his. I took every class that he taught and picked his brain at every opportunity. In sharing with other believers, I have found that all believers tend to be a disciple of somebody. We like watching or listening to certain sermons. We read everything certain folks write. I am a big Charles Spurgeon and Oswald Chambers fan. I also like to read Andrew Murray. But when Jesus calls us to be His disciples, He want us to pattern our lives like the original twelve.
You ask, “Okay, Dap, what do you mean?” A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who wants to be with Him at all times. The twelve were always with Jesus. The only exception was when Jesus put them in the boat to go to the other side of the lake. Then He later walked to them in the storm. One other time was when they left Him by Jacob’s well in Samaria to go and buy food. These twelve men went everywhere Jesus went, ate where Jesus ate, ate what Jesus ate, and slept where Jesus slept. They were with Jesus 24/7. They heard every sermon Jesus delivered, every teaching Jesus taught. When they could get away from the crowds, they received additional personal instruction that no one else received. They saw every miracle Jesus performed. The only great action of Jesus that they all were not present for was His crucifixion (only John hung around for that).
But this disciple business is not just a New Testament way of thinking. The same is also found in the Old Testament as well. David was considered a man after God’s own heart. We look at the life of David and how many times he screwed up. We read about all his mistakes from Bathsheba to the census of the people. It seems like David couldn’t get out of his own way…
I have heard it preached, and also held the belief, that the phrase “a man after God’s heart” meant that in spite of how often David failed, he strove to do God’s will and follow God’s law. After reading the Psalms, I now believe that it is a more literal statement. Read David’s Psalms and see how many times he talks about being in God’s Temple. Think about that. Only a couple of times the word tabernacle is used. Most of the time it is the word “temple.” This is David we are talking about. When he was alive there was not a temple!! So what was David saying? He was speaking about being in God’s presence, in GOD’S THRONE ROOM! David is proclaiming to God how his desire to seek and maintain a personal relationship with Him.
David ends the 23rd Psalm in verse 6 with,”Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” The Hebrew word for house is bayith (pronounced bah’-yith). Its meaning can be anything from a hut to a palace. Its common meaning is “a dwelling”. David is proclaiming that he wants to be continually where God dwells forever.
In Psalm 27:4 &5 David says, ”One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me.” Here David uses all three words, house is the same as in Psalm 23, but he also uses Temple. The Hebrew for temple is heykal (pronounced hay-kawl). The term was used for Solomon’s temple as well as the second temple of the returned exiles. But its basic definition is that of a large building which has a huge capacity, and its major use was to describe the dwelling of God. Remember, this is David, and his son Solomon’s temple was yet not in existence. David also uses the word tabernacle. The Hebrew for tabernacle is ohel (pronounced o’-hel). It literally means a tent, a nomadic dwelling. Do you hear what David is saying here? He is saying, ‘Lord I want to be with You, I want to dwell with You. I don’t care, Lord. if it is in a great enormous palace or a tent – I just want to be with you wherever you are, doing what you are doing. Then in verse 8 David says,”When You said, ‘Seek MY Face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek.” David understood and desired being in the presence of God. It was what he wanted more than anything, because in verse 9 David pleads,”Do not hide Your face from me..” David’s biggest desire was dwelling with God, continually being in God’s presence.
In the 91st Psalm verses 1-2, David says,”Because I dwell in the secret place of the Most High, I shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘You are my refuge and my fortress; my God, in You I will trust’.” David is claiming his protection not on the fact that he is a great warrior or has a great army, but on the fact that he dwells with and in the Lord. He claims his victory because he has made God’s refuge his refuge and God’s fortress his fortress. In verse 4 David says, “God shall cover me with His feathers, and under His wings I shall take refuge.” For anyone who has grown up on a farm with chickens, you have seen this in reality. If there is a dog or something else that a hen thinks is a danger to her chicks, she gathers them up and covers them with her wings. David coveted the protection Jesus spoke of when He cried over Jerusalem. Later in verses 9-10 David says, “Because I have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, my dwelling place, no evil shall befall me.” Again, just the very presence of the Lord is His refuge. The presence of the Lord is his dwelling.
Psalm 121 is a Psalm of ascent. This means that the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the major feasts would read these Psalms as they approached the temple. In verse 1 the question is asked of Israel, “From whence comes you help?” The answers speak of a relationship that is personal and powerful. Verse 2 states, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” Verse 3 states, “He will not allow my foot to be moved.” Verse 5, “The LORD is my keeper, The LORD is my shade at my right hand.” Verses 7-8, “The LORD shall preserve me from all evil; He shall preserve my soul. The LORD shall preserve my going out and my coming in from this time forth, and forevermore.” This whole Psalm denotes a close personal relationship with and dwelling with God. How much more of an example do we need of living in the continual presence of God than claiming that the Covenant Keeping God preserves our going out and our coming in??
But now let’s move to the New Testament. As mentioned earlier, the disciples lived with Jesus during His life. Referencing Acts 1:21-23, “Therefore of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas (surnamed Justus) and Matthias.” To replace Judas (the betrayer) as one of the twelve, the choice had to be someone who had lived and experienced the entire ministry of Jesus. They could only find two. Out of the many followers, the 72 which are mentioned in Luke or the 150 mentioned in other scriptures, only two met the criteria.
Then there is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” The Greek for kingdom is basileia (pronounced bas-il-i’-ah). Like most Greek words, it carries an everyday meaning and a spiritual meaning. The everyday meaning is a kingdom as we think of a kingdom – territories, land, vassal states, and even empires. According to Strong’s Greek dictionary of the New Testament, the spiritual meaning is that of seeking a relationship with God, a kingdom of the heart where God reigns supreme. Jesus is saying here in Matthew we are to seek out God’s Kingdom, which is a personal relationship with God. This can only be done by believing in God’s righteousness. Who is God’s righteousness? Jeremiah tells us in 23:6 and 33:16 that it is the Messiah, which means it is Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus is saying that to be a disciple of His, one must seek first a relationship with God – which can only be had by faith in Jesus Christ! Seek the relationship. Make your dwelling with God through the Son. The emphasis is upon dwelling in the presence of God.
You say, “Well, Dap, maybe a preacher or priest or rabbi has time to do that, but I have to earn a living, I have obligations I must meet, social responsibilities that are important. I don’t have time to just dwell with God!” Listen here – if you dare to tear open that box you think you have God contained in, you will find He is not there. Don’t think God is not present at your job or with your clubs or social organization. Don’t think God is not present at your kids’ sporting events or extracurricular activities. Don’t think God is not present in your workshop or your green house or your garden. A disciple knows God is there, seeks God’s presence there, and asks the question; “Lord, how are you going to use me today?”
We are just scratching the surface on “What is a Disciple?” Look for my next blog – we are going to dive even deeper….
Remember to Pray Psalm 91 in the first person each day. And if you want to feel even more empowered, pray Psalms 23, 27, and 121, too.