In this first quarter of 2008, the focus of the Good Word Sabbath School lessons, following the Adult Lesson Quarterly, will be on Christian discipleship, its various facets and meanings.
A disciple is an apprentice, a learner, one who allies him/herself to a teacher for the purpose of learning and then participating in the purpose and mission of the teacher. Being a disciples involves both ideological learning and practical learning. A true disciples is one who learns from the master, who then inculcates the teachings into their own lives, then sets about to invite and lead others into a similar experience.
In a Christian sense, the idea of discipleship derives from the experience of Jesus and the 12 whom he specifically called to follow him. It involves a response to a sense of calling from the teacher. Discipleship may be looked at from an historical perspective, looking at how people down through the ages have followed the Savior. It may also be looked at in its own right, what it consists of, how it affects and forms the Christian life.
Christian discipleship involves a growth process, from infancy to maturity. The goal of Christian living, according to Ephesians 4, is to reach maturity. Maturity, in a disciples life, is measured by a settling into the truths the Master taught, as well as internalizing the motivations for continuing on as a disciple. So often in life we allow motivation to be external, but that is a mark of infancy. It is when the issues relating to discipleship have been reviewed, evaluated, then incorporated into life so that the issue is governed by one’s self from the inside, when actions are self-motivated, that we can begin to think about maturity. A mature disciple acts from ideas and ideals he/she has adopted for his/herself, so the actions appear spontaneous. Actions driven by internal and volitional motivations are not easily stopped. Mature disciples have been known to act in spite of adverse consequences.
We in the 21 Century are a very long way from the time of Jesus. It is an important thing to think about how discipleship today is the same, and how it may be different. Is it the same for both genders? Is there any ethnic or national element? Is the practice of discipleship the same now as it was long ago? All these things and more we must consider as we endeavor to discover what we need to be and do in order to be modern-day, mature disciples of the Savior, Jesus.