Prove Yourselves to Be True Disciples of Christ
“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”—John 15:8.
1. What is a disciple, and so what makes one a disciple of Jesus Christ?
A DISCIPLE is a “taught one,” a “learner.” Hence, disciples of Jesus Christ are persons who have accepted his teaching and are living in harmony with the example that he set while on earth. So if we are going to be true disciples of the Son of God, we do well to consider his activity on earth in order to determine just what is required of us.
2. As is evident from the Scriptures, what was the main objective of Jesus Christ?
2 The whole life course of Jesus centered around service. He told his disciples: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Just what did he mean by these statements?
3. How does Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman reveal that his “food” was the doing of his Father’s will?
3 Jesus was tired, hungry and thirsty when he seated himself at Jacob’s fountain near the Samaritan city of Sychar. Yet when a Samaritan woman approached to draw water, he seized the opportunity to do good. He forgot about his tiredness and his hunger, and found joy and strength in doing his Father’s work, helping this woman to learn about acceptable worship. (John 4:6-34) Yes, for Jesus, the doing of his Father’s will was like food. It sustained him. His chief objective in life was to help others spiritually. His own material needs were secondary. Jesus lived in full harmony with the admonition that he gave to others: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
4. How are we to understand Jesus’ words that he “came, not to be ministered to, but to minister”?
4 The fact that Jesus came to minister or to serve does not mean that he refused all personal service. This could not be, for we read in the Scriptures of women who ‘ministered to him.’ (Matt. 27:55) The service rendered by these women may have included preparing meals and making, mending and washing clothes. However, theirs was strictly a voluntary ministry. Jesus Christ did not come to the earth “to be ministered to” in the sense that he did not come seeking to be served or to be waited upon by others. He himself did by far most of the serving. He healed the sick, the crippled and the deformed, restored sight to the blind, opened the mouths of the speechless and the ears of the deaf, and freed many from demon control. To responsive ones, his proclaiming God’s truth brought comfort, spiritual healing and release from spiritual captivity. Jesus Christ faithfully fulfilled the purpose of his anointing as stated in Isaiah 61:1: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners.”
5. What was Jesus’ reaction when crowds interrupted his privacy?
5 Outstanding was Jesus’ tender compassion for those whom he served in this way. Even when his privacy was interrupted by crowds, he did not respond in a gruff, irritated or otherwise unpleasant way. As to how he reacted, we read: “He was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) “He received them kindly and began to speak to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those needing a cure.”—Luke 9:11.
6. How did Jesus fulfill the words of Isaiah 42:3?
6 Never did Jesus Christ look down upon the poor and the afflicted. The manner in which he dealt with oppressed ones fulfilled the words of Isaiah 42:3: “No crushed reed will he break; and as for a dim flaxen wick, he will not extinguish it.” (Matt. 12:20) The afflicted were like crushed reeds and like wicks about to go out for lack of oil in the lamps. Recognizing their pitiable state, Jesus did not make it worse for them by treating them harshly. No, he showed them consideration, infusing them with renewed strength and hope.
7. What proves that Jesus was indeed “lowly in heart”?
7 Though Lord or Master, Jesus Christ did not assume a superior attitude toward those whom he served. He handled himself in such a way that his perfection did not cause others to feel low and inferior, making them uncomfortable in his presence. Jesus was completely different from persons with outstanding abilities but who are often quick to be upset and impatient with those having limitations. Though his disciples were at times heedless and forgetful, the Son of God was never overly severe with them. Because he was “lowly in heart,” he condescended to teach persons who were looked down upon as ignorant.—Matt. 11:28-30; John 7:47-49.
8. How did Jesus continue to feel about his countrymen despite their unresponsiveness and opposition?
8 Not even the unresponsiveness and opposition of so many of his countrymen dampened Jesus’ concern for them. He wanted to help them all. Directing himself to Jerusalem, he said: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it.” (Matt. 23:37) Then, when contemplating the terrible destruction that would befall the city, Jesus wept. It pained him to know that all the suffering that would befall the people at the hands of the Roman armies could have been avoided if they had but repented and accepted him as the anointed servant God sent forth, the Messiah.—Luke 19:41-44.
9. What was the superlative expression of Jesus’ love?
9 Truly, Jesus set a perfect example of what it means to serve in behalf of others. What warmth, what kindness, what love he displayed! Finally, in a superlative expression of his love he surrendered his soul or life as a ransom for sinful mankind. To his disciples he could therefore say beforehand: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:13, 14.
IMPERFECT HUMANS CAN DO IT
10. Why can we be sure that it is possible to imitate Jesus’ perfect example?
10 But can imperfect humans imitate the perfect example of Jesus Christ? It definitely is possible. The apostle Paul did it, and so did many others of Jesus’ devoted disciples. Paul encouraged Christians at Corinth: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—1 Cor. 11:1.
11. How did the apostle Paul feel toward his unbelieving countrymen?
11 Like Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul had genuine concern and love for people. He was especially pained by the unbelief of his countrymen. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle wrote: “I am telling the truth in Christ; I am not lying, since my conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit, that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh.”—Rom. 9:1-3.
12. Why was Paul’s great concern for the Jews especially remarkable?
12 In view of what Paul was preaching, his countrymen regarded him as an apostate, as one who had no love for them. However, nothing could have been farther from the truth. His conscience, enlightened by holy spirit, bore witness to his great love for them. He was willing to do anything that he possibly could to help his countrymen to gain salvation. This is most remarkable when we consider that they were responsible for much of the suffering he experienced. In a letter to the Corinthians, the apostle stated: “By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned.”—2 Cor. 11:24, 25.
13. To what extent was Paul willing to go to help his Jewish brothers?
13 Yet note to what extent Paul said that he was willing to go to help them: “I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers.” (Rom. 9:3) Thus the apostle expressed his willingness to take upon himself the curse that rested upon his unbelieving countrymen for failing to avail themselves of God’s means of salvation with heavenly life in view. (Compare Galatians 3:13.) His words reveal the depth of his unselfish love. Paul was willing to do everything within his power to aid the Jews.
14. How should we be moved to act toward persons who are indifferent or who oppose the “good news”? Why?
14 As disciples of Jesus Christ, we today should have the same kind of concern for unbelievers. We should not allow their opposition or indifference to arouse within us feelings of ill will. Such persons are members of the human family for whom Christ died. (Rom. 5:6-8) And it is Jehovah’s will that they continue to be given the opportunity to come to repentance as long as they live or until such time as he destroys all unrighteousness. (2 Pet. 3:9) When we appreciate this from the heart, we will be moved to give careful and prayerful thought as to what we might do to help others spiritually. We will then follow Jesus’ admonition: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matt. 5:44.
15. What shows that our life now as Christ’s disciples is the best way of life?
15 We also would do well to think about what the “good news” has meant to us individually. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is certainly the best way of life. We are spared from using our energies in vain efforts to perpetuate worldly systems that are doomed to fail. We are safeguarded against becoming involved in the world’s immorality and lawlessness. Therefore, we do not experience the heartache and pain that come from violating God’s commands. (Col. 3:5-10, 12-14) Besides present benefits, we have the grand hope of life everlasting under righteous conditions. (2 Pet. 3:13) How fine it would be if more people could be aided to have that hope as disciples of Jesus Christ!
16. Why is it important for people to have the opportunity to learn the truth as soon as possible?
16 People need the “good news” today. Tomorrow could be too late. One reason for this is that, because of not knowing about the “good news,” a person may ruin his life. One act of immorality, a violent outburst of anger, misuse of drugs or the like may result in irreparable injury. Besides, the day and hour for Jehovah God to act against the ungodly world is unknown. (Matt. 24:36-44) So we want to use the remaining time wisely in efforts to help others to gain salvation. (Acts 18:6) We should feel as did the apostle Paul: “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”—1 Cor. 9:16.
NOT LIMITED TO ORAL PROCLAMATION
17. What besides preaching is needed for us to prove ourselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ?
17 Proving ourselves to be Christ’s disciples, however, is not limited to proclaiming the “good news.” It includes coming to the aid of persons in real need and treating them kindly regardless of how they may have acted toward us. (Rom. 12:17-20) Nevertheless, just as caring for the needs of one’s own family takes priority over attending to the needs of strangers, so one’s responsibility toward fellow believers takes priority over obligations toward unbelievers. (1 Tim. 5:8) The Bible’s counsel is: “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:10.
18. (a) What responsibility do we have toward spiritual brothers who are in physical need? (b) When does a Christian have no obligation to give material aid to someone who is in need?
18 Many opportunities present themselves to do good toward fellow believers. An accident, a natural disaster or some other calamity may reduce some of them to a needy state. In imitation of Jesus Christ, we certainly should want to do everything within our power to help our spiritual brothers. The apostle John wrote: “By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers. But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:16-18) Of course, if a person is irresponsible, lazy and unwilling to accept available work that he is capable of doing, a Christian is under no obligation to assist such a one financially. The Biblical rule is: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”—2 Thess. 3:10.
19. According to what the apostle Paul wrote, how might we help fellow believers spiritually?
19 Far more frequently fellow believers have spiritual needs. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:14, all in the congregation have a responsibility to do what they can to provide spiritual aid. We read: “Admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.” Some may be neglectful of their Christian obligations and therefore need to be admonished. Older women, for example, may need to recall “young women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.” (Titus 2:4, 5) Those who are disheartened or downcast because of problems or trials need encouragement. Might they not be built up by hearing what Scriptural thoughts have sustained you? Would it not be strengthening for them to be assured of your concern? There may be some who have a weak conscience. Hence, those with a strong conscience should bear the weakness of their brothers by restricting themselves in the exercise of their rights. (Rom. 15:1-3) Since all in the congregation are imperfect, we must be willing to put up with one another’s faults in love and to forgive one another freely from the heart. (Col. 3:13) Our helping one another in these ways will certainly strengthen the bonds of love.
20. (a) What really identifies us as Christ’s disciples? (b) What results from giving of ourselves in behalf of others?
20 It is through self-sacrificing love for believers and unbelievers that we prove ourselves to be Christ’s disciples. (John 13:34, 35) This means expending our strength, time, material resources and, yes, our very being in efforts to promote the spiritual welfare of others. By thus giving of ourselves we do not come to feel impoverished. Rather, our happiness continues to increase, for “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) May we, therefore, continue to deepen our joy by imitating Jesus Christ to a greater degree, always proving ourselves to be his devoted disciples.