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Restoring Biblical Discipleship

Much has been said about restoring the New Testament church — reviving the faith as taught and practised in the scriptures. Since the church is made up of individual disciples, it follows that such restoration begins with... restoring biblical discipleship.

Have you ever wondered how Paul and his companions in Acts 28 could walk into Puteoli, a town new to them, and find disciples without using a phone book, without Google, without Facebook, without even a mobile phone? I sure wonder, but I wouldn’t be surprised if finding disciples depended upon the light those disciples were shining.


Sitting on the mount in Matthew 5, Jesus taught his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people so that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father who’s in heaven.” [1]

Clearly, Jesus did not intend Christian discipleship to be a private matter, nor passive, but a life of good deeds which shines in public view. Maybe that’s how Paul and his companions found fellow-disciples when they came to a new town: they looked around for the light.

As Jesus teaches his disciples about shining in the world, he describes how true righteousness is to be lived in ordinary, day-to-day life — a walk that stands out from others. The discipleship Christ calls us to is a life which seeks, above everything else, “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”. [2]

This calls for a different mindset, which manifests in behaviour utterly discordant with the world around us. What’s important to Christ’s followers is despised in the eyes of the world. Christ calls his disciples to “enter through the narrow gate” and he further says “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few there are who find it”. Being a disciple of Christ is choosing to walk with the few. [3]

This means we can’t look to the world around us for the “how to” on discipleship in Christ. Surprisingly to some, that includes not looking to the religious establishment. Jesus was as blunt as a sledgehammer when he told his disciples that unless their righteousness surpassed what the religious establishment was doing, they wouldn’t even enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] They had to look higher.

Towards the end of his sermon on the mount, Jesus again says where we should be looking. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who’s in heaven…Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and does them, I’ll liken to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” [5] So it boils down to listening to the Master, learning from his example, and living accordingly.

“Follow Me”

If you’ve lost sight of how to follow Jesus, if you’re wandering in the fog of churchianity, if you’re preoccupied with religious works “in Christ’s name” [6] which consume your time and keep you from shining so people can see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven, then your discipleship needs restoration — indeed, liberation! “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” [7]

Here’s the key: look to Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith. Remember that discipleship is about following the Master, and he went about doing good, exalting and exemplifying God’s will. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. [8]

Later, John reminds us that, in the midst of life’s travails and distractions, we must walk just as Jesus walked. And Paul says that we should look to the example of others who are walking as Christ walked: “Be fellow imitators of me, brothers, and look out for those walking this way, just as you have us for a pattern”. [9]

So biblical discipleship is a whole lot more than going to church. It does include meeting with fellow-disciples for encouragement, [10] but it is certainly not limited to that. It requires that we believe the truth about Jesus, love him enough to surrender our life to him (which will mean keeping his commandments) and walk in his steps. [11] It really is as simple as that.

Simple, yes, but doing this is still a big challenge in a world where the tide is pulling us in the other direction, and we must rise to the challenge of discipleship if we are to be a light in the darkness. We must resist being channelled into a quasi-discipleship which smothers the lamp by putting it under a basket or behind a chapel door. If we are Christ’s followers, we are also his representatives. Let’s live as he lived.


1 Matthew 5:14-16

2 Matthew 6:33

3 Matthew 7:13-14

4 Matthew 5:20

5 Matthew 7:21-24

6 See Matthew 7:22; cf Luke 6:46

7 Galatians 5:1

8 Hebrews 12:2; Acts 10:38; Mark 8:34

9 1 John 2:3-6; Phil 3:17; cf 1 Cor 11:1; 4:16-17

10 Read Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 14:26

11 Read Acts 2:36-38; 8:35-39; John 14:15; 1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 Cor 11:1; Philippians 3:16-17

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