What is a Disciple? (Matthew 4:18-22)

What is a Disciple?

Many Christians know that Jesus commanded His church to “make disciples” (Matt 28:18-20), but what exactly is a disciple?  What does he/she look like and how can you spot one in a crowd?  One of the best definitions of a disciple comes from a pastor named Jim Putman.  In his book, “Real Life Discipleship”, he says the greatest explanation comes from Jesus in Matthew 4:19.  Jesus said to His first disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Putman then breaks down the three main parts of this verse to show the three main characteristics (Head, Heart, Hands) of a disciple according to Jesus.

Head – “Follow me”

Jesus approached Peter and Andrew and told them to follow Him.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  For Peter (and us) it meant an acknowledgement that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16).  With this confession is also submission to Him as your ruler.  He is your Savior because He is your Lord.  You follow Him and your priorities are set by Him.  Putman writes that this decision to follow Jesus is “head level—we acknowledge Jesus as Lord—and we follow Jesus as our head”.  When we accept this truth at the head level, it leads to the second part of our definition.

Heart – “And I will make you”

My father tells the story of the infamous Sells family train set of the early 80s.  To make a long story short, the instruction manual was never read and the train never ran.  This part of the definition is very important because we must not skip over this in order to get to the next.  Too often we read that we are to be “fishers of men” and we simply want “10 practical steps to be better fishers” or “100 of the best places to fish for men”.  While it is good to want to be fishers of men, we need to take time to remember why we fish and who teaches us to fish.

Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James, and John that they are to follow Him and “I will make you fishers of men”.  Jesus told them He was going to change them by making them into something they are not.  It has been said that “Jesus does not call the equipped but equips the called.”  Putman writes, “discipleship involves a heart-level change: a disciple is being changed by Christ.”  To be a disciple means that the truth you confess at the Head level is moving to the Heart level and is changing your thoughts, desires, and responses.  When we are being changed by Jesus at the heart level, we naturally begin to see the fruit with our hands.

Hands – “Fishers of Men”

Jesus told the first disciples that they would do something: fish for men.  These men knew how to fish for fish, but quickly realized that Jesus was inviting them to follow Him in His mission “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Putman writes, “discipleship involves a hands-level change: a disciple is committed to the mission of Christ.”  A disciple is committed to following Jesus, being changed by Jesus and joining Jesus in His work.  This means that our priorities are set by Jesus and our hands are to be used for his service.

What is a disciple?  A disciple is one whose head, heart, and hands are submitted to Jesus Christ.  Are you following Jesus?  Is Jesus changing you?  Are you committed to His mission to seek and to save the lost?

Discipleship Guide for AM Sermon

Sermon: Matthew 4:18-22 “What is a Disciple?” * Series: 2013: Year End Review * Date: 1/5/14

This Discipleship Guide serves as a supplement to the Sermon Guide.  It is a practical tool to help take the truth of the sermon passage and apply it in your daily life.  It can be used for your personal devotions, family devotions, and/or a Small Group Bible Study.

In the sermon, the story of Jesus calling the first disciples from Matthew 4:18-22 was told.  Read this text and use the following questions to help you better understand God’s Word and apply them to your Head, Heart, and Hands.[1]

Head Questions: The Facts

  1. Who did Jesus see and what were they doing?
  2. What did Jesus say to Peter and Andrew (and later to James and John)?
  3. How did Peter and Andrew respond?
  4. How did James and John respond?

Heart Questions: The Implications

  1. What does this story tell us about God?
  2. What does this story tell us about ourselves?
  3. What does it mean to “follow” (v. 19) Jesus?
  4. What did Jesus mean when He said, “I will make you…” (v. 19)?
  5. What does it mean to be “fishers of men” (v. 19)? (See also Luke 19:10)

Hands Questions: The Application

  1. In what ways am I going to think, speak, and act differently because of what I learned in these verses?
  2. What in my life demonstrates that I am following Jesus?
  3. What in my life demonstrates that I am being inwardly changed by Jesus?
  4. What in my life demonstrates that I am fishing for men/women?

[1] The idea for Head, Heart, and Hands application is based on “Truth that Sticks” by Avery Willis and Mark Snowden