If you are a believer, I’m sure you have heard the word disciple several times in sermons or throughout the Bible. But what does it mean to be a disciple? What does it look like? How will the world know that we are Jesus’ disciples?
The word disciple simply means a follower. In other words, a disciple of Jesus is one who follows the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.
How will the world recognize that we are disciples of Christ?
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8
The world will know that we are disciples of Christ by our fruit. Nothing else. Not by how many likes we get on Instagram or followers we have on Twitter. Just by our fruit. That’s it.
What is fruit?
So, if the world will know that we belong to Christ by our fruit, what is fruit? Does this mean that we have to plant mango and lemon trees in our yard?
Galatians 5:22-23 says,
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
These fruits are the result of the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence within us. When we have a relationship with God and are obedient to Him, our lives will reflect these characteristics. People will wonder what is so different about us. They will marvel at our unshaken joy, undisturbed peace and steadfast love.
In conjunction with this, Jesus states:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
The word for love in this verse in the original Greek is agape. Agape is the unconditional love that comes from God. Thus, it is impossible to produce this kind of love in our own ability. Love (agape) is also the first fruit mentioned in the list of the fruits of the Spirit.
We know that we are truly Jesus’ disciples by the Spirit who lives in us—proving that we are children of God (Galatians 4:6). It is our responsibility to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives through studying Scripture, prayer and fellowship with other believers. By this fruit, unbelievers will recognize that there is something different in us and we can point them to the One who works with us to produce the fruit.
Here are 5 books that have helped strengthen my relationship with God. Please note: this list is not prioritized in order of recommendation. I have read many other excellent books, but these are my favorites.
Drawing Near: A Life of Intimacy with God
Author: John Bevere
I have reread this book several times and I would recommend it to anyone who desires to have a deeper personal relationship with God. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago when I began to seriously pursue my relationship with the Lord. This book has rich depth and gives a solid foundation that will enable you to seek God diligently and enjoy sweet fellowship with Him. It also provides a clear understanding of the fear of the Lord, which is the pathway to intimacy with God (Psalm 25:10).
Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions
Author: Lisa Bevere
This book is very relevant to our day and age. It unpacks the need to be unshaken by societal trends by being firmly rooted in the word of God. The balance of truth and love is brought to the forefront, and by the end of reading, you will have a better understanding of how the two are complementary rather than incompatible. Also, Lisa’s writing style has a beautiful poetic flare that I adore.
(Bonus Books: I love anything John and Lisa Bevere, so picking only one from each is challenging. Check out Without Rival (Lisa) and God, Where Are You?! (John) for even more great reads!)
The Practice of the Presence of God
Author: Brother Lawrence
This is a quick and insightful read - my favorite book on prayer. It is a collection of letters by Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century monk who worked as a cook in a kitchen. He shows what it is to have an ongoing prayer life that is not limited to separate devotion time. This book taught me to always be in a continual conversation with God regardless of the location. Here is a quote from the book: “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer
Author: J. Oswald Sanders
This book is essential for anyone in a leadership position - whether at school or in fulltime ministry. It is full of practical examples and will clearly showcase what it means to be a godly leader. This is a great resource, and I will definitely be rereading it several times. The greatest takeaway for me was that “leaders” are servants, servants of God and servants of those God entrusts to their care.
Do Hard Things
Author: Alex and Brett Harris
This book empowers teenagers to rebel against low expectations and to pursue the high calling of knowing Jesus Christ. It is filled with stories of teens making a difference for Christ in their homes, communities and around the world. I would recommend this book to any teenager who is passionate about their relationship with God as it provides a solid foundation for growth and excellence.
As mentioned previously, I have read several other great books that have inspired and encouraged me in my walk with God thus far. I am always anxious to recommend books for anyone interested, but these are my top choices. I want to note here that these wonderful reads are supplementary to the Bible. My relationship with God took off rapidly when I began to diligently read and study the Scriptures regularly out of a desire for deeper intimacy with God rather than a religious obligation. However, these books have enhanced my understanding of the word of God and have helped me build a biblical worldview. There is no substitute for God’s word, but these books are like the icing on the cake.
It is so easy to get caught up in our circumstances. It can seem like everything is falling apart and the chaos is too great. Fear and anxiety cripple us and hope is a distant memory. However, this does not have to be the case even when we encounter difficult situations.
It all comes down to focus.
One of the enemy’s greatest weapons is distraction. If he can get us more focused on what we can see than on God, who we cannot see, he will be able to prevent us from living out all that God has for us. It is our job to be vigilant against the devil’s schemes (1 Peter 5:8), so that we will be able to resist his temptations and be victorious.
The key to overcoming these distractions is to realize that God lives in us. We are the temple where God chooses to dwell. (1 Corinthians 3:16) God Himself lives in our hearts; He is closer than our skin. Greater is He living in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
It is so easy to forget that the same Spirit who has the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. (Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19) The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
So, with all this in mind, what are some practical ways we can apply this to daily life?
Living from the inside out means focusing on cultivating our relationship with God wherever we are. Wherever we are, God is with us because He lives inside of us. This means that we can be in a continual conversation with Him, being obedient to His leading and desires in the everyday routines of life. He may give us words to say to a cashier at the grocery store or prompt us to give something to a colleague at work. There are endless ways we can change the world by partnering with God one step at a time. Our responsibility is simply to be an available vessel for Him to work through.
A common lie that often hinders us from living out our God-given destiny is that we cannot do it. We believe we are too weak, so unqualified and not good enough. But the truth is that God works best through our weakness and He is the one who qualifies us. We can boast in our weaknesses, because God’s strength is shown best through them. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
We will walk in the abandonment life Jesus died to give us if we learn to focus on communing with God throughout the day instead of being distracting by what is happening around us. We are called to bring Jesus to those around us, and all we have to do is be willing to let Him work through us.
On a another note, a special thank you to the Top 100 Christian Women Blogs List for selecting my blog:
Who we surround ourselves with will affect our behavior and future. This is why it is essential that we hang out with people that will point us toward God rather than away from Him. Let us look into what the Bible says about cultivating healthy friendships.
Friends Determine Future
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Bad company corrupts good character. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
The popular quote, “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” is very true and even aligns with Scripture. The character of those we surround ourselves with will eventually rub off on us for better or worse. It is best to prayerfully consider whether or not your friends are pointing you towards God, and make adjustments if needed.
Sharpen One Another
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
It is crucial to have godly friends that “sharpen” us through accountability and encouragement. We need people that will speak the truth in love and remind us of who we are in Christ so that we will be effective warriors for the kingdom of God. Similarly, we must pursue fellowship with other believers so that we may spur on one another toward love and good deeds which glorify Jesus.
Jesus’ Model of Friendship
Jesus set an example of how we are to structure our social life. He had three close friends, and out of these, one intimate friend. Quality outweighs quantity. Jesus had many fans, but few devoted followers. It is best to have a few close friends rather than hundreds of “friends” who are, in reality, mere acquaintances. It is also important to point out that Jesus did fellowship with ungodly people, but He did not compromise the purity of His character to fit in with the crowd. He was able to positively influence all people because He remained the same in every environment. However, it is essential to remember that His few close friends did have true character.
In closing, I would like to share a passage of Scripture that illustrates the type of friends that will sharpen us and spur us on in our relationship with God.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
I am currently in a season of waiting. I am going into my senior year of high school and at this time, I do not know where I will attend college or what my future has in store. I like the waiting process and the mystery of not knowing what is next because it teaches me to trust in the Lord and submit to His leading. I want to encourage you with some verses that can calm the pressure of a waiting season and reassure you that the future is in God’s hands.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
You will go out In joy and be led forth in peace.
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
God has bigger and better plans for us than we could ever imagine. He will lead us in His peace that surpasses all understanding as we choose to submit to the path that He directs us on. He delights in every detail of our lives and will be faithful to establish our steps as we take His hand and walk with Him.
Recently, I've had some experiences that caused me to step into a greater level of freedom. This freedom is found in not being afraid of the hurt that others can cause me. I am not a slave to the emotional pain of intentional or unintentional remarks.
Sometimes, when I am out in public, people see that I walk with my cane and they do or say things that are well-intended but not executed properly. I can choose to let their actions and comments take root in my identity and ruin my day, or I can choose to live in the freedom of submitting the situation into the Lord’s hands.
I do not want to live my life afraid of what others think of me or afraid of the pain others may cause me. I want to live my life in the full freedom that Jesus offers, which includes the freedom to be confident in my identity as His daughter regardless of the situation.
I am learning how to respond when people randomly approach me with comments about my visual impairment that do not always come off very kind. It is an awkward situation, but I believe I will respond better as time goes on and I become more experienced in how to handle these unexpected encounters and situations.
What I do know is that God is the Healer, and His healing reaches far deeper than any wound someone can cause me. I do not have to carry the weight of the inconsiderate comments of others because I can choose to entrust them to His care. I know that my identity is found in Christ, and the identity He gives me is secure and unshakable, independent of every circumstance.
God will often permit us to encounter situations that cause us fear and insecurity so that we can walk in new levels of freedom and fearlessness by relying on Him for help.
Life is what we make it. The way we see our circumstances determines how we respond to them. If we choose to live through the eyes of faith, we will gain God’s perspective for our lives.
Recently, this idea of perspective has really been resonating with me. I am realizing that what I choose to focus on is very important. I can choose to compare myself to others and think that because I lack physical sight I am missing out. I can choose to sweat the small stuff and let minor inconveniences ruin my day. I can choose to focus on the negative things in life and therefore have a bad attitude.
What we focus on determines the mindset and posture of our lives.
Instead of focusing on things that are negative, we can choose to have an attitude of gratitude and always look for the good in every situation.
When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on eternity, we will gain a new perspective. This perspective will enable us to live life to the fullest because we are focusing on what really matters. We will then be able to finish the race that God has marked out for us because we have our eyes on the Prize.
What we see is what we seek and pursue. It is critical that we learn to view life through the lenses of faith instead of through what we see with our natural understanding. The trajectory of our lives is determined by what we see through the eyes of our heart.
We are able to see life through God’s vantage point when we live with an eternal perspective. This perspective will help us endure trials with greater patience and seek the things of God rather than the things of the world.
We all struggle with our outlook on life, so I would encourage you to ask God to help you gain His perspective on your life. He will help you see what He sees.
From the beginning of time, God took darkness and turned it into light. Likewise, He wants to take our darkness and turn it into light so that we may be for the praise of His glory. We should not wallow in sin, shame or regret. Instead, we should choose to believe what God says about us and align ourselves with His purpose.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
God Hovers Over Our Darkness
When our hearts are submerged in deep darkness, God does not turn away in disappointment or repulsion. He comes close and whispers who He created us to be. He takes our broken pieces and forms them into an intricate, beautiful mosaic that displays His glory.
I love the imagery that surrounds the word hovering. The Hebrew word is rachaph, which can be defined as to grow soft, relax, flutter, cover, a cherishing motion.
Just as He hovered over the darkness of the earth, the Spirit hovers over our fearful and anxious hearts. He quiets us with His tender love and unrelenting affection. He makes our broken places whole; our shadowed spaces glow and our restless hearts know that He is with us.
God Speaks What Could Be
After hovering over the darkness of the earth, the Spirit then began to speak a new beginning. He imagined what could be and He set a new reality into motion. In other words, He created a symphony from the silence and did not allow what was to hinder the hope of what could be.
God defines us as His sons and daughters. He does not label us by what we have done or what culture says we are. He does not call us by our sin or weakness. He calls us by name. He shows us that we belong to Him and that we have been set free from the chains of sin that formally bound us. Let us walk in the abundant freedom that Christ died for us to receive.
God Separates Light from Darkness
After speaking a new beginning of light and life where there was formally shadow, the Spirit separated the light from the darkness.
In the same way, we are called to partner with God to separate our light from darkness, to be cleansed and cleanse ourselves from sin. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation. We cannot let sin reign in us and we must progress into a further manifestation of the righteousness and holiness that the blood of Jesus has bought for us. We are being sanctified by the Spirit and conformed into the image of Christ. Our job is to comply with God’s will and submit to His authority. We cannot let ourselves become immune to the toxic ways of the world and therefore create enmity between us and God. Let us pursue righteousness, holiness, purity, truth and love as we mature in Christ.
This article was inspired by the book Adamant: Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions by Lisa Bevere. Here is a quote that sums everything up beautifully:
Even now our Creator longs to draw near and come face-to-face with any place veiled in darkness or misty confusion and shed His light. His Spirit hovers over the formless, voided places in our lives. He is not ignorant of our pain or repulsed by our condition. He sees us wrestling with confusion. He does not pull away when He sees us struggling. His Spirit draws near, waiting, lingering, oh so gently, like a mother beside a frightful or fitful child, like an eagle fluttering over a nest of baby birds as they hatch, watching expectantly as they escape the confines of their thin shells. Later, the eagle will hover again as they learn to fly. This is the adamantly intimate, steadfast nature of our Creator, who as at once around us and within us. Intimacy leaves no room for shadowed spaces, so do not hide. Your Father sees and loves the real you. Trust that the one who formed you will also breathe His life into you.
It is so easy to drown in our mistakes, failures, sin, circumstances, etc. But God does not look at us for who we have been, but for who we could be in the future. In the same way, let us look at others for who they could be rather than who they are or have been. Let us believe for their salvation and pray the word of God over their lives instead of obsessing over how sinful they are. We are called to believe the identity that we have received in Christ for ourselves as well as others. We must look at what could be by God’s grace instead of what we see with our natural understanding.
Psalm 18:28, Psalm 139:11-12, 1 Peter 2:9, Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:1, 1 John 3:1, James 4:4-7, 2 Corinthians 6:14, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Colossians 1:13-14, Deuteronomy 32:10-12
God is writing a unique story through all of us. The lessons we learn and the pain we experience is intended to grow us as well as benefit others. By sharing the faithfulness of God in our suffering, we can bless and encourage others.
Your story has the power to change lives. It has the power to lead others to Christ and even change the world.
These past several months have been a new adventure for me. I have had the opportunity to share my testimony at many schools and churches. This has given me a greater awareness that our stories have tremendous power. It is so rewarding to use the pain that I have experienced to give hope to others.
Everyone has a story. Thus, the testimony that we live and speak of the hope of Jesus should be shared with others.
Don't be afraid to share your story with others, whether that is in a group setting or in a one-on-one conversation. By partnering with the Holy Spirit, you will be able to impact lives and lead many to salvation.
We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11)