I will never forget the moment when I realized that I was not a really a disciple of Jesus.
There are many ways that “disciple of Jesus” can be defined.
The basic meaning of a disciple is to be a learner or pupil. In the first century, being a disciple was not just about learning a set of facts or volumes of information. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines a disciple as a “pupil, learner, student. “Always implies the existence of a personal attachment which shapes the whole life of the one being described as “disciple” and which leaves no doubt as to who is deploying the formative power.” (Rengstorf)
Jesus said “Come follow me [as my disciples, accepting Me as your master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men”(Matthew 4:19 AMP). Then in John 15:5 He says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” (MSG)
I sum it up this way; A disciple is someone who follows Jesus inwardly from the heart and outwardly with their life and as a result become increasingly more like Him.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a deep, relational, life changing connection.
Back to my story.
It was the summer of 1988 and I had just graduated high school. My parents and sister were out of town, leaving me and my brother at home for a couple of days. One evening while we were just hanging out doing nothing the phone rang. It was my grandfather. I don’t remember why he called. But we just talked.
My grandfather, Richard A. Hunt, Sr. was one of the godliest people I’ve ever known and one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life.
We began talking about my summer job, which was working in a roof truss plant. I swung a hammer for 10 hours a day in a metal building with no A.C. Loads of fun!
I was telling him about a couple of the guys I worked with and how on our lunch break they would sit on the fork lift and smoke pot and then come back in and start swinging their hammers again. It was pretty crazy.
Now my grandfather could have said a lot of things in that moment. He could have said something bad about those guys. He could have told me to stay away from them. He could have told me to report them. He could have told me that I needed to “preach” to them. He did none of those. I can still hear what he said just as clearly today as it was in 1988. His words were simple, “You don’t need to preach to them. Just live like the good Christian young man that you are.” That was it. Nothing seemingly great or powerful. But God used that sentence to change my life.
As soon as those words hit my ears it was like God spoke to my heart. I knew the truth. I was not a “good Christian young man”. I knew enough about being a Christian or disciple of Jesus that I could fake some people out. I think I was even faking myself out.
I was not deeply connected to Jesus.
Completely caught off guard by the moment, I walked up to my room and laid down in my bed and cried. I remember lying there unsure what to think or pray but I prayed and asked God to help me.
I began the journey of being a disciple of Jesus in that moment having no clue where that would lead me. Now there are many stories and seasons since then that I have gotten off track, but Jesus has always been there teaching, correcting, extending grace, and loving me along the way. 31 years later I am still learning.
So what’s the point?
My prayer from here is that all who read this ask The Father, “Am I a disciple of Jesus?” As you ask that, know that He loves you and is for you. Jesus put it this way in John 15, “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love…I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.”
Rengstorf, K. H. (1967). μαθητής. In G. Kittel (Ed.), trans. and ed. G. W. Bromiley,
Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol. IV (pp. 415-460). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans