Following Christ, inside and out
The Mennonite Brethren family of faith includes people from all walks of life, and all corners of the globe, as recognized in the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB). This month’s international columnist is from India and teaches about the costs of discipleship.—Eds.
The ultimate goal of a disciple is both internal – to grow into the image of Christ – and external – to make disciples of all the nations.
I became a believer of Jesus Christ in 1979 by reading the Word of God. King David’s words in 2 Samuel 18:33, “If only I had died instead of you,” spoken on the death of Absalom, his rebellious son, provided illumination for me. It was my conversion; my sins were forgiven and I knew the love of my eternal Father who died for me in Christ Jesus to give me eternal life. Now I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have transferred from darkness to light.
In April 1984, while I was farming, the Lord called me for full-time ministry, through Isaiah 6:8: “‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Since then, I have been learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
While people look at external things, God looks at our hearts, says 1 Samuel 16:7. Jesus was pleasing to God even before he did any miracles, healing, or teaching. Because God is holy, so also his followers should be holy (Leviticus 19:2). A disciple’s internal life is more important than the external ministry. In the Old Testament, adultery is sin, but in the New, Jesus said even to look with lustful eyes is sin (Matthew 5:28). My desire is that throughout my life, I would please God with my total being.
A disciple should display the nature of Christ the Master as the fruit displays the nature of a tree. “In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had,” says Paul in Philippians 2:5. Jesus demonstrated servant leadership by washing his disciples’ feet, and laying down his life for others. As his disciples, we need to think, speak, and act like Jesus in our relationships with one another, ready to act as a servant and, if necessary, to lay down our life for others.
The price of being a disciple: Receiving Christ is a free gift but following him is costly.
A disciple needs to deny him or herself, to die to self, as Jesus called his disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
A disciple needs to be ready to pay the price. In India, a low caste person who accepts Christ will lose financial benefits. A person from a high caste will face social persecution, like expulsion from the family. But the greatest promise of God is that whoever loses because of his name, will receive it back manifold. “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life’” (Luke 18:29-30).
The prize of a disciple: Jesus spoke of a reward for his faithful imitators in Matthew 10:42, saying “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded.”
If our goal is to be like Jesus, the internal prize we receive here on this earth is peace and joy in our own life, in the family, and in the ministry.
God’s plan from the beginning was that everyone should be fruitful and be multiply. Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). God challenges us to multiply, with stories where growth doubles (Matthew 25:22), increases 30, 60, 100 times (Mark 4:20), and becomes as numerous as “stars of the sky” (Genesis 15:5).
We read in the Gospels that both roots without fruits (Luke 13:6–9) and fruits without roots (Matthew 7:22) are in vain and not acceptable by God. So a disciple’s ultimate goal is to have heart and mind pleasing to God (internal), and to multiply like the stars of the sky (external).
India is the 7th largest country in the world, and the 2nd most populous, with more than 1 billion inhabitants. The first Mennonite Brethren missionaries went to India in 1890, and the church there has flourished into one of the largest national MB conferences in the world, reporting close to 94,000 members. The Indian church has operated under indigenous leadership since the establishment of a governing council in 1958.