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Life in Christ: the Disciple’s Cross
Discipleship may be defined as abiding in Christ. To understand more fully your opportunity and responsibility as a disciple of Jesus, you can work through the simple exercise that follows.
A disciple of Christ is one who makes Christ the Lord of his or her life. Write Deny Self: Luke 9:23. Notice in this verse Jesus said we are to do three things: deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Christ.
The first commitment of a disciple is to deny oneself. That does not mean to reject your identity but to renounce the self-centered life. Represent your life by drawing a circle. The empty circle represents clearing out all of self for Christ. You cannot be a disciple of Christ if you are not willing to deny self. Now read Luke 14:26. This verse simply means nothing can be more important to you than Christ. To commit yourself to self-denial, you will need to accept the lordship of Jesus.
The Circle: Abiding in Christ
If this circle represents your life, Christ should fill the entire circle. Write the word Christ in the circle. That means He is to have the priority in everything. The Christian life is simply Christ living in you. Write John 15.5 under the word Christ in the circle. What can you do without abiding in Christ? Nothing! Christ said He is the vine, and we are the branches. The branches are part of the vine. You are a part of Christ. He wants to live His life through you. Is this the kind of life you would like to have?
God has provided a way for Christ to be at the center of your life. This requires a second commitment. Jesus said everyone must “take up his cross daily” (Lk 9:23). To “deny” yourself is the negative side of becoming a disciple; to take up your cross is the positive side. Taking up your cross puts Christ in the center of your life. Write cross under deny. Write Luke 14:27 beside cross. Illustrate this point by drawing a large cross around the circle. Draw the outline of the cross so that the circle is in the center of the cross.
Jesus said you are to bear your cross daily (Lk 9:23). What is involved in bearing the cross? You move beyond denying yourself to taking up a redemptive ministry. The cross for Jesus meant giving Himself to redeem the world. You enter into His ministry by taking up your cross. Bearing your cross and serving others requires discipline. The cross is our analogy to illustrate the disciplines Jesus said a disciple should have to abide in Him and serve Him.
The Lower Part of the Vertical Bar: Word
The way to have Christ living in you is to have His Word in you. (Write word on the lower part of the vertical bar of the cross.) Write John 8:31-32 on the lower part of the vertical bar of the cross. The Word is food for you. You cannot grow unless you have a regular intake of the Word. You receive the Word in many ways: by listening to someone preach it, by reading it, by studying it, by memorizing it, by meditating on it, and by applying it. Making Christ Lord means that you want to study and meditate on the Word regularly. “To continue in the Word” also means to obey it. Write John 15:10 in the circle. To abide in Christ means to obey Him.
The Upper Part of the Vertical Bar: Prayer
A part of living in Christ is living in prayer. Write prayer on the upper part of the vertical bar of the cross. Write John 15:7 on the upper part of the vertical bar of the cross. If you abide in Christ and His Word abides in you, you can ask what you will and God will do it.
Notice the vertical bar of the cross points to the relationship between God and humans and the basic ways one communicates with God and He communicates with you.
The Right Part of the Crossbar: Fellowship
Living in Christ means that you will try to live in fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Write fellowship on the right crossbar. Write John 13:34-35 at the right on the crossbar. Jesus said that the way to show you are His disciple is to love one another. God has provided the ideal place for you to grow—His church. The church is not a building or an organization, although it uses both of these. A church is a body of believers who have covenanted together to carry out Christ’s ministry in the world. A committed Christian will stay in fellowship with a local body of believers. The church is the body of Christ. If you are living in Christ, you realize it is important to live in His body, the church.
The Left Crossbar: Witness
Living in Christ includes witnessing to others. Write witness on the left crossbar. Witnessing is sharing Christ with others. Write John 15:8 at the left on the crossbar. Jesus said that the way to show that you are His disciple is to bear much fruit. This always includes witnessing. Witnessing is the natural outgrowth of living in Christ. If you are living daily in the Word, praying in faith, and fellowshipping with God’s people, it becomes natural and normal to share with others the Christ who is living in your heart. Write Matthew 4:19 beside follow under deny and cross.
From Abiding in Christ to Fruit Bearing
If you live in Christ, you eventually will bear fruit. Fruit does not necessarily grow quickly; but it grows continually and bears in season. Fruit bearing is the normal, natural result of a life that has Christ at the center. Our lives in Christ should continue to grow and expand. Fruit bearing includes the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith fulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). As the fruit of the Spirit grows in your life, you reach out to others through ministry and service of all kinds.
Add pointed arrows to the ends of the crossbars. They symbolize that our fruit bearing should express itself in ministries.
Living in the Word leads to a ministry of teaching or preaching. Write Ministry of Teaching or Preaching at the bottom of the cross.
Praying in faith will lead to a ministry of worship or intercession. Write Ministry of Worship or Intercession above the cross.
Fellowshipping with believers leads to a ministry of nurture to members of the church. Write Ministry of Nurture to the right of the cross.
Witnessing to the world leads to a ministry of evangelism. Write Ministry of Evangelism to the left of the cross.
Our witness and our fellowship involves Christian service to other people. Write Ministry of Service, John 15:13, above the horizontal bar.
These ministry areas comprise the ministry of a disciple and of Christ’s church.
The goal in discipleship is expressed in 2 Timothy 2:21. You need to grow in all spiritual disciplines and ministries to master life and to be prepared for the Master’s use. If you develop all of these disciplines, your life will be balanced and fruitful.
One way to remember this illustration is:
• One Lord as the first priority of your life.
• Two relationships: The vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with mankind.
• Three commitments: Deny self, take up your cross, and follow Christ daily.
• Four disciplines: Living in the Word, praying in faith, fellowshipping with believers, and witnessing to the world.
• Five ministry areas: A ministry of teaching/preaching, a ministry of nurture, a ministry of worship/intercession, a ministry of evangelism, and a ministry of service.
(Disciple’s Study Bible)
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