- Overcomer Literature Trust
BECOMING A DISCIPLE.
By G. Campbell Morgan.
The term consistently used in the four Gospels to mark the relationship between Christ and His followers is ‘disciples’. Jesus used it when speaking of them and they in speaking of each other, and it was still used in the days following Pentecost. It runs right through the Acts of the Apostles, and it is interesting to remember that the angels used this word when speaking to the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter" (Mark 16 v7).
The word is not to be found in the Epistles. This is because the letters were written to churches, and so spoke of them as the saints or separated ones of God. The term disciple marks an individual relationship, and though it has largely fallen out of use today it is of value still in describing that relationship which exists between Christ and each single soul, and suggests our position in all the varied circumstances of everyday living.
The word means someone who is taught or trained and shows the true relationship. Jesus is the Teacher. He has all knowledge of the ultimate purposes of God for us, of the will of God concerning us, and of the laws of God that mark for us the path of our progress and final crowning.
Disciples are those who gather around their Teacher and are trained by Him. Seekers after truth, not merely in the abstract but as a life force, come to Him and join the circle of those to whom He reveals the great secrets of all true life. Sitting at His feet, we learn from the unfolding of His lessons the will and ways of God for us, and obeying each word we realise the renewing force and uplifting power of His words. The true and perpetual condition of discipleship, and its ultimate purpose, were clearly declared by the Lord Himself to those who believed on Him. “If you hold to My teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8 v31).
The relationship of Jesus to His people is not that of a lecturer from whose messages we may or may not see applications for ourselves. It is not that of a prophet, making a Divine pronouncement. It is that of a teacher possessing full knowledge, Himself bending over a pupil, imparting knowledge step by step, point by point and working towards a deﬁnite end. We are not casual listeners, neither are we merely interested hearers desiring information. We are to be disciples looking toward and desiring the same end as the Master and therefore listening to every word, marking every inflection of His voice that carries meaning and applying all our energy to realising the Teacher’s purpose for us.
Now let us consider the privileges the Teacher confers upon those who become His disciples.
The first is the establishment of the relationship which makes it possible for Him to teach and for us to be taught. The question of sin must be dealt with, and that which results from sin, our inability to understand the teaching. Sin as actual transgression in the past must be pardoned, and sin as a principle of revolution within must be cleansed. To the soul who confesses past sin and turns from it He forgives, pronouncing His priestly absolution by virtue of His own atonement on the Cross. To the soul yielded to Him, absolutely and unreservedly, consenting to the death of self, He gives the blessing of cleansing from sin. There can be no real discipleship apart from the realisation of the twofold blessing.
Beyond this there lies the dullness of our understanding, our inability to comprehend the truths He declares. This He overcomes by the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes clear to us the teaching of the Master. What a priceless gift this is. The dullest natural intellect may be, and is, made keen and receptive to God by the incoming of the Holy Spirit.
The other great privilege to be remembered is that the school of Jesus is a practical school. He provides opportunities for us to prove in everyday life the truths He has declared. The proving in practical details of the lessons He teaches is just as much under His personal guidance and direction as the truth received from Him, and is another evidence of His abounding grace.
On what personal conditions may I become a disciple? No human school was ever so select as His, yet none was ever so easy of access. No bar of race, or colour, or caste, or age stands across the entrance. And yet, because of the importance of the truths to be revealed, and of the necessity for the application of every power of the being to the understanding and realisation of these truths, Jesus stands at the entrance, forbidding any to enter, save upon certain conditions. He has said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he CANNOT be My disciple" (Luke 14 v26), “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me CANNOT be My disciple” (Luke 14 v 27), “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has CANNOT be My disciple” (Luke 14 v33).
The new relationship must be superior in its claims to the claim of any earthly relationship and must be considered and answered before any claims of the self-life. The Teacher demands that we shall take up the cross and follow Him, even through pain. More, we must count every word He shall speak and every truth He shall reveal, through whatever method, as our chief and only wealth, and then there must be complete abandonment of ourselves to Him. If this is our attitude, then He gives to us pardon, cleansing and light, and so, becoming by relationship His disciples and entering His school, we are ready to enter upon our course of instruction.
If these conditions seem hard and severe, let it be remembered what depends upon them. Character and destiny depend upon this question of discipleship. It is not to impart information, nor to satisfy curiosity, that Jesus is the Teacher. It is because apart from the revelation He has to make there is no possible way of realising God’s great purposes for us. Compare Jesus and His teaching with the most sacred and beautiful of earth's loves and possessions and they are unworthy of a moments thought. We must know and do His will. Such an attitude does not rob us of the enjoyment of all earthly things, so far as in themselves they are right, it rather adds to our joy.
Self renders it impossible to know Christ when other loves and interests intervene, and breeds dissatisfaction with everything else, and makes us sad and weak. CHRIST lights the whole being with His love, joy and beauty, and shines on other loves to make them holy.
* * * * * * * * *
THE EDITOR’S LETTER.
I trust you will find this edition of the magazine of interest and blessing.
In these days of difficulty and uncertainty it is good to know that our God is still on the throne and that He is working His purposes out. As we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus may we do so in the sure and certain knowledge that He is with us every step of the way.
The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
Yours in His service,