Discipleship (1)

In de study ‘Conversion’ we discuss what it means to believe in Jesus.

In this study we explain what ‘discipleship’ means.

The apostle John remarks:

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.   (1 John 2:6)

Paul experiences that it is impossible to accomplish this in his own strength. He writes:

I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.   (Romans 7:18-19)

And he sighs:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?    (Romans 7:24)

but, at the same time, he gives the solution:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:25)

Because, in our own strength, it is impossible to live as Jesus lived. He says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.   (John 15:5)

To follow Jesus = to be a disciple of Jesus.

On several occasions Jesus says to those who believe in Him: Follow Me.
Following Jesus, being a disciple of Him, has consequences.
Jesus said:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
(Matthew 16:24 / Mark 8:34 / Luke 9:23)

To be a disciple of Jesus requires a conscious choice by the believer to:

  • deny himself
  • take up his cross

a. Deny themselves.
Deny is the translation of the Greek verb ‘aparneomai’ and it is in the imperative mood in this text. It is an order.

‘Aparneomai’ is translated by the OLB as:

  • to deny
  • to claim to not know someone
  • to lose sight of self and personal interests

Jesus said:

Whoever wants to save their life (literally: their soul) will lose (literally: to destroy, to lay waste) it, but whoever loses (literally: has destroyed, has laid waste) their life (literally: their soul) for me will save (literally: keep inviolate) it.   (Luke 9:24  and other texts)

‘Life’ in this text is the translation of the Greek ‘psuche’, which means ‘soul’: the centre of the human will, wishes, desires and emotions.

To want to save their life, virtually means: to want to save their soul.
I.e.: to want to live according to their own insights and desires.

To lose their life, their soul, to deny themselves for Jesus’ sake, means that the disciple submits his/her own desires and dreams to Jesus’ authority.

b. Take up their cross.
To take up their cross is also in the imperative mood and is also an order.
Jesus does not lay a cross upon anyone.
A disciple of Jesus decides for himself to take up his cross.
In Jesus’ time taking up a cross virtually meant going to die.

As Paul means when he writes:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:24)

Whoever has given Jesus authority over his life distances himself from ‘the flesh’: his own insights, desires, plans and dreams, and brings them under Jesus’ authority.

Distancing oneself from one’s possessions.
A disciple of Jesus not only distances himself from his own norms and values, but also from his material goods.

Jesus said:

Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.   (Luke 14:33)

A disciple is only a steward of his possessions. Everything belongs to God, the Creator of the world.

Paul writes to Timothy:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with (lends us) everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.   (1 Timothy 6:17-19)


Jesus knows what it means to submit one’s own wishes and desires to the will of God, His Father.
He does not ask anything that cannot be accomplished. He asks us to follow Him by making the right choices in every area of life.
He does not force us to do so.
Jesus said:

Take my yoke upon you (i.e. the yoke Jesus gives to bare) and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   (Matthew 11:29-30)

Life as a disciple of Jesus is: a conscious choice, with the command to let go of one’s own yoke and to take up His yoke and learn from Him.
This means wanting to allow oneself to be trained and led by Jesus Christ.
Only by doing His will, being His disciple, will anyone find rest and experience the peace of God deep in his soul.
Whatever he does, a disciple of Jesus will ask: Jesus, what do You want me to do?
The Bible, the Word of God, is an indispensable instrument in this respect.

Discipleship illustrated schematically:

In the previous study ‘conversion’ we explain that sin is forgiven and the believer receives eternal life by trusting in Jesus in his heart and publicly confessing this faith.

19. Bekeerde mens




Through this faith in Jesus Christ the barrier to God is taken away and the believer’s spirit is regenerated in the invisible world.
Through this God is again able to have a relationship with him.




In the schematic illustration the thick dotted black lines represent:

  • converted man, the believer, who still easily allows himself to be influenced by the realm of darkness.
  • the believer who, as yet, does not live in an open relationship with God.

Discipleship, on the other hand, means that the disciple of Jesus recognises His right and authority over his life.
Through this the relationships in the spiritual world change.
He/she lives, alert in heart and soul, focussed on Jesus in the spirit, to be taught by Him.

Through this the disciple lives via his spirit in an open relationship with Jesus Christ.

20. Discipel




Living in an open relationship with Jesus makes the separation between God and the disciple disappear completely.

Because the disciple of Jesus lives under His right and authority and turns completely away from the realm of darkness, the latter will no longer be able to exercise any influence over his soul.

Through this the thick line in the direction of the darkness is closed.




John writes:

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One (Jesus) … keeps them safe (looks after them, takes good care of them), and the evil one cannot harm them.   (1 John 5:18) (this text is discussed in greater detail in a separate study).

The spirit of the disciple of Jesus is completely protected from the realm of darkness.
This realm is no longer able to influence the soul of the disciple directly, but it still tries continually to exercise influence via the visible world.


Watch out that no one deceives you.   (Jesus said: Mark 13:5)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  (Paul writes: Colossians 2:8-10)

For everything in the world … the lust of the eyes,  … comes not from the Father.   (John writes: 1 John 2:16)

Therefore consider carefully how you listen.  (Jesus said: Luke 8:18)

See also the studies ‘A different schematic illustration’, ‘Discipleship (2)’ and ‘John 3:3-5 – Conversion and Discipleship’.


Print this study as a PDF document:
Discipleship (1).