If you ask most evangelical Christians what marks a true disciple of Jesus, their answers will mostly be external.

They read their Bibles every day.

They evangelize.

They go to church.

They pray daily.

They are part of an “accountability” group.

While these things are good, they are mostly surface. They don’t touch on what real discipleship is all about.

The deeper things that go straight to our characters are often neglected or not understood.

Look again at Jesus’ definition of discipleship in Luke 9:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever LOSES HIS LIFE for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

A disciple of Jesus, therefore, knows how to die. They know how to lose, They know how to lay things down.

To be specific, a person who has learned to be a disciple in the school of Christ . . .

doesn’t defend themselves when rightly corrected or unjustly attacked.

they don’t lose their tempers when under pressure.

they never entertain slander against another human being and they sure don’t spread it.

they are profoundly teachable and can be corrected easily without justifying or rationalizing themselves.

it is not difficult for them to say “I am sorry” and “I was wrong.”

when spoken evil against, they remain silent, and even return good for evil.

they take the high road when under the gun.

they will sacrifice themselves and their egos for others.

they treat other people the same way they want to be treated in every situation (Matt. 7:12).

These are the neglected aspects of discipleship and spiritual transformation.

All of these traits have the marks of the brokenness of God and the aroma of Jesus Christ upon them.

True discipleship, then, teaches God’s people how to get in touch with their spiritual instincts. And those instincts will lead us to serve, to sacrifice, and to lose.

I’ve met many Christians who had all the “external things” right.

Yet they would defend themselves at the drop of a hat, they would believe and spread gossip and slander about others, and they could not receive correction from either their peers or those ahead of them in the Lord, and they didn’t know how to admit wrong-doing or lose.

Such people were unbroken. They were self-righteous souls, living in their flesh (their “religious flesh” that is), and they knew very little about the deeper work of God in their lives.

True discipleship is all about bearing the cross and carrying the spirit of the Lamb.

Yes, this all takes time. It’s called transformation. But those who will follow Jesus have an instinct for the cross to begin with, an instinct that develops over time.

If you’ve committed yourself to  the Lord, He will seek to gain much for Himself in your life. And that means less of yourself through brokenness and pain. So I’ve learned, anyway.


The following is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new eBook


DISCIPLESHIP IN CRISIS: 9 Reasons Why Discipleship Isn’t Working Today. Problems & Solutions. 

From now until April 30th, you can download the book for free.


Just click here to download the book.


FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including God’s Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. He blogs regularly at frankviola.org.

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