When people say that they follow Jesus, various assumptions are made about discipleship. One model is that following Jesus means merely being a nice person who smiles and is kind. Another model is that following Jesus means literally selling everything that you have and becoming some spiritual vagabond. Other versions include being an activist against some social injustice, while others think it is the academic exercise of reading and memorizing various religious works.
Scripture paints a composite picture in which following Jesus has various elements. Philippians 3 lists some of them. First, the passage emphasizes growth: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on” (v. 12). Growing in Christ-like character is a continual process in which the disciple grows in their understanding of God’s love. Second, discipleship entails “forgetting those things which are behind” (v. 13). There is a level of self-denial and forsaking of past behaviors, values, identities, and relationships. Third, “Reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v. 13). To accept and follow Christ is the continual mantra, motto, personal mission statement, and lifelong endeavor of the disciple. Last, Paul says, “Join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (v. 17). Discipleship entails winning others to Christ and getting them involved in the discipleship process.
In short, disciples are growing, loving, self-denying, and soul-winning. Discipleship is not a private matter between the individual and God. It becomes infectious, so that now these disciples lead new disciples to grow, deny self, accept and follow Christ, and to repeat the call for other disciples. When Christ gave the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, He included teaching and modeling these elements of Christ-like living.
Though Christ-like living begins with His habits of communing with God, His dependence on the Word, His witness to the truth, and His loving ministry to the needs of humanity, it also includes many other areas, such as baptism, Sabbath, reverence, stewardship, health, modesty, entertainment, marriage, family, relationships, and so on. Discipleship isn’t limited to these topics but seeks to affect every aspect of our lives. This is the scope of discipleship: Christ-like living in everything!