Water baptism is our tangible response to Christ’s call to discipleship, in the affirmative. It is Christ’s individual call to each one of us – no one else’s – we are responding to. Church, parents, friends, different ministers and teachers alike are all used by Christ to communicate and deliver His call to each one of us but it remains His call and His call alone. They are but ambassadors for Christ and His call is made through those who have already responded to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Great and momentous an occasion as it undeniably is, water baptism, however, is not a destination you arrive at but a transition you go through. Some of the Old Testament events that precede and typify water baptism in the New Testament illustrate this important point ever so clearly.
For instance, the baptism of Noah in the great flood of destruction that eradicated the original/previous world order marked but a transition into the new which was populated with only those whom God was pleased with – eight in all, Noah and his family. It was but a safe crossing into the new world order, a transition (1 Peter 3:20 – 21).
Or the baptism of Moses the Israelites underwent as they passed through the Red Sea on their way out of Egyptian slavery – it did not represent an arrival at their desired destination. It did however, mark a significant point of transition for the Israelites as the Egyptians were drowned never to be seen again while they proceeded with their journey into the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1 – 2).
Not only is it vital we grasp hold of the truth that baptism is a transition but that we also understand that Christ’s call to each one of us (which we are responding to in baptism) is not a call to believe Him only but a call to discipleship. The content of Christ’s call is none other than discipleship.
Saying that however, the term discipleship needs to be qualified and its contents as intended by Christ, unpacked – what does discipleship actually consist of and involve?
Here are three key elements to it that we should never lose sight of:
- Discipleship is a life calling, it is whole-life discipleship Christ is calling us to.
It is a commitment that is meant to affect our life in totality – both in breadth and in length. The call to discipleship demands a lifelong commitment, not a box that we tick on a commitment card and then return to our previous ways. The call of Christ is to a life commitment, not a one-time decision.
Consider the call of Matthew in Luke 5:27-29: After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.
Matthew threw a massive party to mark the end of his previous way of life and announce his new one following the Rabbi Yeshua. He did not make a secret of it but made sure that everyone was invited and knew of his transformation and the change of direction in his life. He was, in a sense, holding himself up to public accountability in every area of his life as he was transitioning into this new life.
Discipleship is a life calling that is meant to disrupt and possibly uproot our existing lifestyle and not simply pacify and perpetuate it. It is a call to radical change and ongoing transformation not the maintenance of a status quo.
The call to discipleship encompasses our entire lives – the words of Christ and His demands are not meant or restricted to specific and certain areas of our lives only but are all-encompassing and all-demanding. It is whole-life discipleship (and not a fragmented or partial one) Christ is calling us to. Our walk with the Lord is to affect every area of our lives, every nook and cranny. Nothing is to be exempted.
- Discipleship demands total surrender – it necessitates our making everything else in life second to Christ – He alone becomes primary.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
There is no ambiguity in the words of Christ here, He is demanding nothing short of a total surrendering of our lives to Him. When it comes to Christ, the only successful relationship we can have with Him is the relationship where He is the undisputed Lord of our lives where all our desires and our will are submitted to Him, where everything is surrendered to Him and His will. With a relationship with Christ, there’s now no plan B. There’s only one way, trust and obey. On no other terms and conditions will the relationship succeed and be mutually beneficial and gratifying.
The Lord does not, however leave us lifeless when we surrender our lives to Him. In fact, He promises that the life surrendered to Him is the life that is guaranteed to find fulfilment and satisfaction. The surrendered life is the maximised life. You will never get a better return on your life than when you surrender it to Christ, loose it to Him. The life that is totally surrendered to Christ is the one that is maximised in every respect. You cannot maximise or better your life any further. What Christ offers to those who would surrender their lives to Him in discipleship is unbeatable. One cannot beat or better the life that is surrendered to Christ – it is your best life ever. Only when we trust Christ and lose our lives to Him do we ultimately find ours, the real us, the best of us.
The bar has indeed been set high by Christ Himself but we have no right to lower it even a fraction of an inch. Instead, we are to stringently uphold it and keep working hard towards its achievement in our own lives.
- Discipleship necessitates our continuous abiding in the words of Christ.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. (John 8:31)
Pleased as He was with the shoots of faith that appeared in these Jews, the Lord however warns them of the trap of complacency that they can easily fall into. He charges them with the duty and responsibility not stop at faith but to continue in His words if they were to be real (not fake) disciples. In other words, they were to progress in His teaching.
It follows then that ongoing discovery and implementation of the words of Christ in our lives constitute true discipleship. Christ’s Lordship is effected through His words becoming the sole and final authority in our lives.
Discipleship basically, is following Jesus for the rest of our lives, with our entire lives by continuing and abiding in His words.