Have you ever wondered what a mature disciple of Jesus looks like? A few weeks ago, I led our student and adult Connect Group leaders through an exercise to ask this very question. I was grateful for their feedback and used it to help frame a three-part framework for articulating what a mature disciple looks like.
As you read through this outline below, feel free to contact me with feedback at [email protected]. I would love to hear what you would add or subtract from these thoughts.
First, a mature disciple is grounded in God’s Word (Heb 4:12) and fueled by Spirit-led prayer (Eph 6:18). Discipleship begins with deciding to repent and believe in Jesus (Mark 1:15), which leads to a renewed mind (Rom 12:2). Sinclair Ferguson explains, “When we preach…, the mind is not so much the terminus of our preaching, but the channel through which we appeal to the whole person, and fulcrum that, once renewed, leads to the transformation of the whole life.”
As you noted Sunday, a mature disciple wants to learn more about God and recognizes the authority of Scripture in his or her life (2 Tim 3:16-17). In fact, the Bible speaks to every area of his or her life. Put differently, a mature disciple sees the world through the lense of Scripture allowing the Bible to answer the big questions of life such as the questions of origin, morality, purpose, and more.
Discipleship starts with a mind fixed on God.
Second, a mature disciple loves God and loves others (Matt 22:37-40). God’s Word and prayer renew one’s mind so that he or she is progressively transformed to the image of God. While on earth, Jesus loved his Father (John 14:31) and, therefore, mature disciples love God too. Jesus also loved people (Mark 6:34) and, therefore, mature disciples love people too. Paul David Tripp connects these two loves, writing, “It is this vertical peace that then allows us to live in peace and harmony with one another.”
Loving others means loving fellow Christ-followers (John 13:34). It also means loving people who have not made a profession of faith (Rom 10:1). This type of love requires investing in relationships that go beyond the surface (1 Thess 2:8).
Discipleship continues with a heart in love with God and overflowing with love for people.
Third, a mature disciple serves other people. The expressions of service are seemingly endless: a kind word (Prov 16:24); a good deed (Prov 11:30); a generous gift (2 Cor 9:6); an encouraging word (Heb 10:24-25).
For singles, serving others may mean using free time to sit with an elderly widow or widower. For young parents, serving others likely means caring for toddlers when they can do nothing in return. For teenagers, serving others could mean going out of their way to play with younger children. For adults, serving others likely means graciously working alongside co-workers regardless of what they may or may not receive in return.
Discipleship overflows through God-honoring and selfless actions and words.
As you consider these three specific elements of mature disciples, ask yourself: in what areas have you personally seen marked growth? Give thanks for God’s grace to you in these areas. And in what areas do you need to press into more? Pray for strength to press on towards maturity there.
A fundamental goal of ministry at WBC is to present everyone mature in Christ. In Colossians 1:28, Paul writes, “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” I pray 2023 will be a year of big strides towards maturity as a disciple in Christ.