Discipleship is a term that many of us never hear outside of our Christian experience, so it might be helpful to understand it from a biblical perspective. The word for “disciple” is a learner who follows a master teacher. In contrast to our current Western era, learning in Jesus’ time was very relational and holistic. “Discipleship meant much more than just the transfer of information . . . it referred to imitating the teacher’s life, inculcating his values, and reproducing his teachings.” Therefore, discipleship connotes a relationship with a master teacher, following them, and adhering to their way of life because their teaching shapes your own worldview.
Jesus’ expectation for his followers was clear: to become more and more like Himself (Luke 6:40). “In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him . . .” He then told them how this would happen: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV). The painful reality of crucifixion was being applied to how one should treat the false self, the flesh, or the former manner of life, which was powered by self-reliance. These extreme terms of the master/disciple relationship must have sent chills up their spine. There is no middle ground. Wilkins says: “In order to claim the salvation He offered, each person was faced with the choice to exchange the god of his or her life with Jesus as the true God of life.” Becoming a disciple of Jesus required a calculated choice to follow Him in the midst of hard teachings (John 6:60-66). Thus we understand the costly nature of discipleship and the need to calculate whether we are willing to invest fully in this all-encompassing endeavor (Luke 14:28).