As a disciple, you enroll in a lifelong education to learn from Jesus to be like Him. We meet up with Raymond, who personally experiences the transformative results of this life-changing education every day.
“Being a disciple is the most important thing in my life; it’s the driving force of being a Christian. It has saved my life.”
When he was 19, Raymond decided to follow Jesus. He received faith to completely leave the life he had been living – smoking, stealing, being involved in drugs, the life as a “street boy” as he describes it, part of a criminal gang that had no consideration for others.
“We lived how we wanted and did what we wanted. We were busy with a lot of petty crime and did a lot of stupid stuff,” Raymond says pensively as he reflects on his life as a teenager.
“But underneath all that I had a deep yearning for God inside me. I often sensed that I was really drawn to Him even though I lived a miserable life. I would often cry alone and pray to God, that He had to intervene and help me.
“I didn’t know where I should begin or what I should do. At 18, I bought myself a motorbike because I thought it would keep me away from the gang and that environment, but I just ended up in a motorcycle gang, so it didn’t help. All of this created a tremendous need in me.”
A life-changing decision
Raymond’s father was a Christian. One day, when Raymond was out in the city pushing drugs, he saw a friend of his father’s coming his way.
“I didn’t want to disappoint my father, so I hid myself. Standing there, it just hit me. ‘No, now it is enough! Now I have to start a new life!’ I must have said it out loud, because I remember seeing a man standing nearby, and he nodded at me. But when I turned to face him, he was gone. So I’m certain that God sent an angel to help me. Because there’s a battle around every soul. When a soul gets converted, there is celebration in heaven. So when a person has a longing, God will do what He can to raise them up again.”
That day, Raymond made a decision to put a stop to what he had been doing, and start with a completely new direction in his life – a new life.
“I gave my whole heart voluntarily to Jesus, and became a disciple quite soon after. I figured if there was going to be any future in me, then I had to be a disciple.”
The longing of a disciple
It has been 35 years since Raymond made that important decision. When we sit down with him to find out more about what an education of a disciple involves, we notice that we are talking with a man who has – not only visibly and outwardly, but also inwardly – an inner strength from God that is a result of a continuous, lifelong education that he is still actively engaged in.
“The longing of a disciple is to have a hunger and need to make progress to become like his Master. ‘O wretched man that I am!’ (Romans 7:24) That is how a disciple has it in his heart. You sense that even though you’re a disciple, you know you have a nature and there are things you should overcome and fight against. You long to come into the same life that Jesus lived, because you sense that you must have something more than what you have yourself.
“You get a great need in your heart to get something new. A disciple keeps this need his whole life, because there’s always more to reach out for. (Philippians 3:12-14)”
A personal revelation of Jesus
This is how Raymond has had it till today. However, to be able to come to this deep need for personal transformation, self-acknowledgement – an awareness of one’s own sinful nature – is required. Raymond recalls how he had to be broken down in his own strength to be able to see his “own wretchedness.”
“A few years after I gave my heart to Jesus, there was a time when, you could say, God was breaking me down so I could understand that it’s not by my own power, my own strength, that I get victory. I had begun to read a lot in God’s Word; I was bold, since I understood the teachings, but God wanted to show me that just knowledge in my head wasn’t enough. I must get this by faith.
“I was under God’s chastening. I did not fall into sin and begin to sin, but I was being broken down just like Job was. I came into great need and understood that I had to humble myself, and become poor in myself. I needed revelation; I needed God to do a work.”
During this time, Raymond came to truly understand who Jesus, his Master, really was.
“Jesus revealed Himself to me. ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,’ (Matthew 11:28) so I understood that I had to come to Jesus and put my burdens on Him and expect an answer from Him, and that He would come and help me. I did not give in.
“Then I also saw the person who Jesus was, what He has done for me when He came down here. He gave His life for me; He gave His blood, so that it can also succeed for me to go the same way He has gone. He has opened a new way for me so I could follow in His footsteps. He can guide me; He can hear my prayers, and He can offer me help.
“I felt like I got a real heart connection with Jesus. I have found the treasure in the field. It is Jesus. Being a disciple is a very personal matter. It’s not just something you do because it’s a nice thing and you would like to do it, but you have to have a personal revelation, a personal conviction that Jesus is alive, a certainty that Jesus is living and is close to you. You get a deep fellowship with Him inside – an inner fellowship in the Spirit, which, as a disciple, you are afraid to lose. It leads to peace and joy right in the middle of that battle and chastening and fight.”
A lifelong education
“As a disciple you constantly experience development in different areas. The Spirit constantly reveals new things about yourself and reminds you of things to work on. I think one of the most interesting things about discipleship is that you become more and more free from all futile toil. You become more and more dependent on the Spirit’s promptings and more directed towards what God wants to say to you. When I’m in a situation, I am most interested in hearing what God wants to say, not how I appear to others or how others appear to me. In discipleship you learn to focus more and more inward.
“When Jesus was almost perfected, He said that He could do nothing of Himself, just what He could hear from his Father. (John 5:30) That is something we need to develop towards as a disciple, so that we are not so quick to react, not so quick to make conclusions, not so quick to judge others.”
Raymond brings up an example from just the day before; a conversation between him and his wife. He had made a simple comment, but realized afterwards that the comment reflected that he had been a little offended.
“Maybe I got a little angry, or was too quick to respond. Maybe I had to repeat myself twice to someone but he still didn’t catch what I said, and I got a bit irritated. I may not have seen the sin which came forth at that exact moment, but afterwards, when I’m made aware of it through the Spirit, there is a sorrow in me when I see that I did not have more patience, more love to bear with the others. I agree with the judgement. Yes, I was irritated. I lacked longsuffering. When I agree with the judgement, I am set free because God and I agree that it was not good. Then I can continue, so that next time I am more awake as a disciple.
“We have to love the truth, so the truth shall set us free. (John 8:31-32) When I see myself and what’s in my flesh – the sinful nature that we’ve all inherited – then there’s a tremendous sorrow but also a tremendous hope.
“There should be a development in a disciple. We are not to remain the same. We shouldn’t continue with the same things we were doing 20 years ago. If I become rich and satisfied, then my development will stop, no matter how far I have come. As long as we live, there is more to find within ourselves to cleanse out, so that we can become more and more like Christ.”
An interesting life!
“This life is very interesting for me! I don’t need to be anything special. I go to work every day, drive in my car, come home for dinner and go to church. We actually live very ordinary lives, but it is in this ‘ordinary life’ that sin in our flesh comes forth; that is why Jesus said ‘take up (your) cross daily, and follow Me.’ (Luke 9:23)
“In my ordinary life, there is something that God wants to show me, every day. I just have to be awake and follow along. The Lord God awakens my ear to hear as the learned [as a disciple], morning by morning. (Isaiah 50:4) A disciple has a good ear to hear and find that which is in his nature, so that he can put it to death and experience development into Jesus’ image. That is what it is for me to live.”