TFI’s Core Values: Discipleship

October 1, 2013

by Peter Amsterdam

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And he said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.[1]

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.[2]

Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.[3]

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.[4]

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.[5]

The Family International’s third core value is:

Discipleship. We encourage individuals to follow Jesus according to the personal call He gives them, and to enact their commitment to God’s will for their lives.

A disciple is defined as a “follower of Jesus,” “a learner,” “one who follows in the master’s footsteps,” “an adherent,” “someone who is aiming to be like Jesus.”

The word “disciple” means “a learner” in Greek. Disciples seek to learn, study, and then follow and apply what their teacher tells them. We are students of Jesus—our Master. We seek to not only learn about His life on earth, the truths of God’s Word, and His nature and character, but we seek to follow His example and to live as He taught us to live, to love as He loved, and to live a life of faith. Disciples are Jesus-like and Jesus-led.

Discipleship goes beyond simply accepting the teachings and believing them; it is essentially a choice to become active in practicing and preaching the teachings. Disciples add action to their beliefs. Disciples are “doers of the word, and not only hearers.”[6] A disciple actively applies the teachings in his or her own life, and assists in some manner, in some way, in spreading the good news of salvation—the message of Jesus. That’s what people with a passion for God do. That’s what people who pursue God’s Spirit do.

Discipleship is, quite literally, a commitment to pattern our lives, attitudes, and actions in accordance to the teachings and example of Jesus; in short, to be like Him. And that’s a tall order, since Jesus lived the ultimate life of love, mercy, compassion, sacrifice, truth and integrity, of any man or woman who has ever walked the earth.

One of Jesus’ most life-changing calls was given in just two words: “Follow Me.” And when He said that, He in fact meant for us to follow Him—to shape our lives, thoughts, habits, and actions after His. As fallible human beings, we aren’t capable of rising to this challenge, but as we surrender to God and draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, we can “be conformed to the likeness of Christ.”[7]

Listen to what Lee Camp wrote in reference to following Jesus: “Jesus of Nazareth always comes asking disciples to follow him—not merely ‘accept him,’ not merely ‘believe in him,’ not merely ‘worship him,’ but to follow him: one either follows Christ, or one does not. There is no compartmentalization of the faith, no realm, no sphere, no business, no politic in which the lordship of Christ will be excluded. We either make him Lord of all lords, or we deny him as Lord of any.”[8]

Discipleship signifies an active relationship between Jesus and His followers. He speaks, guides, and instructs. We listen, follow, and we benefit. Discipleship is centered on love for Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him. This is why we need to be passionate for God. It also hinges on faith in His Word. It requires dedication and commitment. It entails openness and obedience to the conviction of the Spirit. This is why we are committed to pursuing God’s Spirit.

Being a disciple of Jesus today is a challenge. The stakes are high. Jesus made it clear that following Him would involve sacrifice, forsakings, putting His will above our own, loving others with His love, and sharing His teachings with others, even being willing to “lose our lives for His sake.”[9]

Discipleship is not an isolated, once-in-a-lifetime happening. It’s a spiritual journey, a faith journey. It involves daily choices and actions to abide in Jesus, and to let Him abide in us, to be led, fed, and cleansed by His Word, to operate under the influence of the Holy Spirit and God’s love, to seek Him, to yield to His will for our lives, to obey Him to the best of our ability, to testify of His love through our words and actions, to bear fruit that glorifies Him.

The idea of discipleship is that we commit ourselves to taking on Christ’s yoke. Taking on the yoke of discipleship means that we submit to Jesus. We join together with Him and put ourselves under His leading. We trust His guidance, and we obey His commands. We work alongside Jesus in all aspects of our lives.

Here’s a good illustration of how it works when we take on the yoke of discipleship:

There was an old farmer plowing with a team of oxen. As I saw this team I was somewhat amazed, for one was a huge ox and the other a very small bullock. That ox towered over the little bullock that was sharing the work with him.

I was amazed and perplexed to see a farmer trying to plow with two such unequal animals in the yoke and commented on the inequality to the man with whom I was riding. He stopped his car and said, ‘I want you to notice something. See the way those traces are hooked to the yoke? You will observe that the large ox is pulling all the weight. That little bullock is being broken into the yoke but he is not actually pulling any weight.’

My mind instinctively came to this passage of Scripture where our Lord said, “Take my yoke upon you, learn of me….” In the normal yoking the load is equally distributed between the two that are yoked together, but when we are yoked with Jesus Christ, He bears the load and we who are yoked to Him share in the joy and the accomplishment of the labor but without the burden of the yoke.[10]

Answering the call of discipleship is a personal choice, a personal commitment. Discipleship is a journey. We’re each at different stages of the journey, different points along the path of discipleship. But all of us who are following Jesus, in whatever ways we are called to serve, are His disciples.

What Jesus asks of His followers, the vision He gives them, the specifics of His call to them, are tailored to the individual disciple. Whatever conviction the Lord places on your heart, however He calls you to apply His Word, the gift of your discipleship is precious. Your discipleship is valuable to Jesus, and it’s valued by TFI.

When Jesus called the twelve, He issued a call to leave everything behind and to devote their lives to following Him. As the early disciples witnessed, the church grew and encompassed people from all walks of life, all of whom were disciples, though not all were called to follow Jesus in the same way. Many were called to continue in their jobs and professions, to use those for His glory, to reach people in all spheres of life, including the very heart of the seemingly impenetrable Roman Empire.

Some people are called to “immediately leave their nets and follow Him,” or to “sell all that they have and give to the poor.”[11] He calls some people to be missionaries in foreign lands, others to be missionaries in their community or home country, others to be “laptop missionaries” via online witnessing ministries. The lives of disciples who forsook the life and career they had in order to follow Jesus are exemplified in the Bible. But there are also mentions of other followers of Jesus who had positions or wealth and were disciples, too; they did their part to serve the Lord and further the Gospel being preached.

You might be called to engage in full-time missionary work, whether in the country of your birth or across the sea. Or perhaps your talents or choices lend themselves more to facilitating those who are active in full-time mission work. But each of us can still determine to follow Jesus and be a disciple; each of us can witness and contribute to the mission in some way.

This excerpt from The Gospel Herald is thought-provoking:

“God's service call is clear, definite, personal, and authoritative. It assures that the omnipotent, omniscient and sufficient Caller will assist the one called in unchanging faithfulness. It assures that response is possible. It is dependent upon the obedience of the one called. … Who can estimate the blessing caused mankind because of yielded obedience to Christ's call by Peter, James, John, Paul, Luther, Livingstone, Carey, Hudson Taylor, Moody and a host of others? Who can estimate the catastrophe to all concerned had they not obeyed?”

God wants everything: your heart, your life, your career, and your personal pursuits to glorify Him, to lift up Jesus, to serve as a light on a hill shining to light the way for others, whatever your profession or career may be.

Discovering how God wants you to live your discipleship, how He wants you to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth that He has called us to be, is part of your personal spiritual journey.[12] You are a unique individual and God has plans for you that are unique to you and your circumstances, your talents, and your abilities. What He asks is that you commit these to Him and use them to glorify Him and to make the world a better place, to be part of the answer to the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” by doing what He asks you to do to follow Him and be a part of the world-changing force He has called His followers to be.

The common thread in the life of every Christian disciple is 1) love for Jesus, and 2) obedience to the tailored calling issued to him or her by the Lord.

As Christians and disciples, a vital element of following and living like our Master is to share the Gospel with others. We are meant to be both “salt of the earth” and “light of the world,” and we do that through our witness, which is most often seen by others as we go about our daily lives. Others take note of the love and kindness we show, how we interact with strangers, what kind of neighbors we are, how we participate in our local communities, how we parent our children and care for our families, how we give assistance and encouragement to those in need. Our actions speak loudly, and most of all, they pave the way for our verbal witness, when we speak to others about Jesus and salvation.

We are the vehicles that Jesus uses to show people His light. People get to know God through us.

Billy Graham said: “This invitation to discipleship is the most thrilling cause we could ever imagine. Think of it: The God of the universe invites us to become His partners in reclaiming the world for Him! We can each have a part using the unique gifts and opportunities God has given us.”

What a great privilege to partner with God in reclaiming the world for Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said to His disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”[13]

Jesus sent His disciples out with the same commission that He had received from the Father. This is articulated beautifully in Isaiah 61:1–3, which Jesus quoted when He taught in the synagogue in His home town.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.[14]

That is our commission also. We who are following in Jesus’ footsteps will proclaim good tidings to the poor and let the captives know that liberty has come! We will heal the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn. His mission becomes our mission. And that, once again, calls for action.

Charles Swindoll put it this way: “[Jesus’] plan called for action, and how He expressed it predicted its success. He didn’t say ‘you might be my witnesses,’ or ‘you could be my witnesses,’ or even ‘you should be my witnesses.’ He said ‘you will be my witnesses.’”

So what does discipleship mean in the context of today’s world? A disciple is someone who follows hard after God, following His will as expressed in the Bible and seeking His specific will for their life, their career, their family, and their personal pursuits. It means living your life according to His teachings.

By God’s grace, we will always be united by common bonds of dedication to serving the Lord, preaching the Gospel, and proving that Jesus’ modern-day disciples—those who are passionate for God, who pursue God’s Spirit, who are known by their love for God and fellow man—walk the earth today.


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Luke 9:23.

[2] John 13:35.

[3] 2 Timothy 1:9.

[4] John 8:31–32.

[5] Romans 12:1–2 NKJV.

[6] James 1:22 World English Bible.

[7] Romans 8:29.

[9] Matthew 16:24–25.

[10] J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Discipleship: Discovering God's Blueprint for the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), 23–24.

[11] Matthew 4:20; Mark 10:21.

[12] Matthew 5:13–15.

[13] John 20:21.

[14] NKJV.