A lot of people talk about being followers of Christ—about being disciples. But what characterizes a disciple? What does a disciple look like? How can we give ourselves a “spiritual check-up” to ensure that we’re still on the path of discipleship—and not just giving lip service to the concept?
Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators, used to talk about three characteristics of those who are true followers of Christ. He called them the marks of a disciple. Here’s a brief summary of his thoughts that can help you as you seek to live as Jesus’ disciple today.
Identified with Christ
The first mark of a disciple is that he is someone who is identified with the person of Jesus Christ—someone who will openly admit that he belongs to Christ. On one occasion Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). It seems that everything in His ministry led up to this. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and in three days rise again (Mark 8:31). A disciple takes the opportunity to identify himself with Jesus Christ.
Obedient to the Word
A disciple is not only a believer who is identified with the person of Christ, he is also obedient to the Word of Christ—to the Scriptures. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19,20). A disciple does more than attend meetings. He does more than take notes. He finds out what the Bible says and does it. We need to make up our minds that, God helping us with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going to be obedient to the Word of Christ.
Fruitful for Christ
So a disciple is one who is openly identified with the person of Christ. Second, he is obedient to the Word of Christ. And third, he is bearing fruit in the work of Christ. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8). Now it seems to me that there are two kinds of fruit here. First is the fruit of character, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). And second, there’s fruit by way of influencing the lives of others for Christ. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:16).
Let’s ask ourselves: Am I a true disciple? Am I willing to be openly identified with the person of Jesus Christ? Am I seeking to be obedient to the Word of Christ in my everyday life? Am I bearing fruit in the work of Christ—by way of Christlike character and by influencing the lives of others?
I want to be a disciple. I want to have these marks and characteristics in my life. The only thing I’d like to do beyond that is to help make disciples and to get them to help make others. That’s what Jesus wants done.
Adapted from Marks of a Disciple, by Lorne C. Sanny, © 1975 by The Navigators.