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Marks of a Disciple

Updated: Dec 11, 2020


An Identity Marker:


The mark of identity is at the core of who we are as humans. It is a vital and necessary premise because it sets the trajectory of one’s entire life and existence. As the saying goes, “we don’t work for our identity, we work from our identity.” Yet, if this is true, a clear and unwavering quest for authentic biblical disciple-making must fundamentally, then, be tailored to the realm of identity in Christ. Or put another way, disciple-making foundationally aligns persons toward God’s created design through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.


Thus, identity from a biblical perspective can also be categorized under the theme of image. Scripture conveys that humanity was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). This image—which derives from God and is meant to represent His reign and rule on earth as it is in heaven—dictates humanity’s function. The Creator’s charge was for the image bearers to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Simply put, their identity informed their responsibility.


Who Am I?


Disciple-making, which is intrinsically tied to evangelism, seeks to produce not autonomous self-centered individuals.[1] Rather the aim and goal of disciple-making is to build dependency upon God and to find purpose and meaning through a life in fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. As one who is united covenantally with God, four characteristics surface in depicting a disciple: (1) a learner, (2) a lover, (3) one who is linked, and (4) one who is a light.


Learner. The term “disciple” comes from the Greek mathetes which can be rendered as learner or student. Yet the concept of learner is not merely one who seeks to collect data, content, or information. Rather a learner presupposes a master or teacher who is to be mimicked or followed (cf. Matt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17; Lk. 9:23; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Jn. 2:6). Meaning, the learning occurs from someone or something outside the individual self. Thus, to be a disciple of Christ is to be one who learns from and is dependent upon their kyrios, their Lord.


Lover. If disciple-making, then, is fundamentally learning from a master, obedience is a commitment and love toward their Lord.[2] In saying this, love is definitely more than obedience, but never less. Christ Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23; cf. Ps. 1:1-3; Ps. 119:1-3; Jn. 8:31-32; 1 Jn. 5:2). Thus, the commands of God are not stagnant decrees, but rather living words which display God’s attributes and character.[3] Delighting upon the law of the Lord and meditating on them day and night (Ps. 1:2) not only informs the mind but shapes the heart with new affections.


Linked. The first two descriptors of a disciple has been focused on the inner individual self, while the next two attributes will connect self to communal engagement. To be a disciple of Christ also implies a covenantal belonging, yes, to the Creator God Himself, but, also, to the people of God. The Apostle John captures this notion well in saying, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 Jn. 2:10). The Greek term adelphos can be rendered as brother. Yet how the apostle uses this word can be linked to the covenantal bond that saints find through their salvation in Christ Jesus. Or put another way, faith in Christ mark believers as family—as brothers and sisters—regardless of ethnicity, culture, or geographical location (cf. Eph. 2:10-11). Thus, this union is not merely one of association, but rather an interdependent participation in the spiritual growth and vitality of the local church.[4] To this end, the Scriptures describe the church as ekklesia, “a gathering” or “called out ones.” Clem says it wonderfully: “Believers imaging God in community image God best.”[5]


Light. A disciple is not one who merely conjures up information nor is she one who hides in the wings of community programming. Rather a disciple of Christ is one who not only is fed among the saints but also engages in the feeding. The Lord has given gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12a). Ministry, discipleship, and evangelism is work not merely for the “professionals” but rather for every follower of Christ. The church collectively, then, is a light to the world (cf. Matt. 5:16).


A Lifetime Pursuit:


Though this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, it can build markers in our minds and hearts to think about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Either way, our pursuit toward conformity into the image of the Son—individually and corporately—is of the upmost importance for the life and vitality of the church (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10). To attend to such endeavors is not to alienate oneself from the flock, but rather to be engulfed in the organism of the body for the glory of God and the good of His people. These endeavors to which we strive toward is a lifelong commitment in seeing the majesty of Christ resound throughout our cities, the nations, and our world. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

***footnotes***


[1] See Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel Centered Discipleship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 25-50.

[2] See Andreas J. Kostenberger, “What Does Jesus Teach About the Love of God?” The Love of God, TIC, ed. Christopher W. Morgan (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 51-73.

[3] See John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 19-37. [4] See Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation, Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 157-174. [5] Bill Clem, Disciple: Getting Your Identity From Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 136.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)


He is the husband to Debbie Yang and the father to McCayden (11), McCoy (10), McColsen (8), and DeYoung (4).  He is one of the Teaching Pastors at Covenant City Church which is a churchplant in St. Paul, MN. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO where he hopes to obtain his PhD in Systematic Theology. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens. McYoung enjoys reading/writing, sports, and playing with his children.


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