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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

Is Obedience to Jesus Necessary for Discipleship?

Let me invite you along as we learn what it means to be true disciples of Jesus in a crazy, upside-down world.

I'm going to recommend that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you take a 90 day journey through the Gospels, and focus on obeying the 48 commands of Jesus in the New Testament as one of the very first things you tackle in becoming a disciple of Jesus!

I call this journey "The Obedience Challenge."

As a pastor since 2003, I've spent more hours than I can count trying to help people become true disciples of Jesus. A lot of people come into discipleship with real misunderstandings of what it means. They hear "discipleship" and think classes, information, and things like that.

But that's really not the biggest part of what discipleship means.

Discipleship means learn about Jesus in order to obey and imitate him.

Why is obedience necessary for discipleship?

Now when I started telling people I wanted to do this thing called "the Obedience Challenge," one of the first responses was, "Can you call it something else!" 

Apparently, obedience to Jesus' commands doesn't really sound inspiring and encouraging.

But I decided to stick with that language. Let me tell you why. 

It could be that you've never had a dad or mom that you could obey, with absolute confidence. It could be that your dad was gone or unreliable or even cruel and abusive. Perhaps your parents were self-absorbed, and just wanted you to not be inconvenient

But God, your Father in heaven isn't like that! 

Why Discipleship and Obedience?

1. Because Jesus said obedience is core to what discipleship means.

​In the Great Commission, Jesus said the church was supposed to "make disciples" -- then he told us what that means. He went on to say, "Teaching them to observe (obey, keep) everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19)

The commands of Jesus are not incidental to discipleship -- they are unavoidably linked with it!

Not one person in the days of Jesus would have heard the call of Jesus to "follow me," and thought, "That means I get to be a better person, but it doesn't involve obeying the Rabbi." No one would have thought that. They knew what it meant! And it's the same for us today.

So when we come to Jesus' commands with a mind & heart to obey, we are literally being discipled by Jesus himself

Yes, obedience to Jesus is a fundamental aspect of what it means to follow Christ and be His disciple! Surely you've read, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15, ESV). Jesus links love for him and obedience!

Jesus also says that true discipleship involves abiding in His word. In John 8:31, He says to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples." This abiding is not a passive state but an active engagement with Jesus' teachings and commands, demonstrating the disciples' commitment through their actions.

2. Because obedience to Jesus recognizes his Kingship.

​Some people think of Jesus as a forgiver of their sins, but not really as a Lord with a right to rule. 

But Jesus is Lord. 

He is Messiah, the Christ (which means the rightful King), and learning to obey him is a crucial part of recognizing what he rightfully is. He's not just the forgiver of my sins, he's the rightful King of my life... and the values of the King & his Kingdom are embedded in the King's words and commands. 

Jesus insists on his right to this kind of obedience when he asks, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46, ESV). This rhetorical question serves as a powerful reminder of the expectation Jesus has for those who claim to follow Him.

Jesus is emphasizing that calling Him "Lord" implies a commitment to obey His teachings.

Imagine saying "I'm a citizen of this country, but I don't obey the laws, unless I like them." Doesn't work, does it?

Because the commands are integral to the Kingship of Jesus, when we obey, we grow the Kingdom in our hearts and lives. The saving, peace-giving rule and reign of God comes when we obey the King!

What if all Christians obeyed Jesus? 

Wouldn't it be incredible if Jesus was actually obeyed by the people who claimed to follow him?  What if all of your church did it together? Think it would make an impact? 

The Obedience Challenge is an invitation to find out... let's bring the Kingdom by obeying the King. 

3. Because willing obedience to Jesus brings Joy.

Hannah Whitehall Smith said, “Perfect obedience would be perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were obeying.” 

What can I do to learn to obey Jesus' commands as a disciple? 

Here are some suggestions:

1. Read the Gospels together with others for 90 days.

The Gospels are the stories of the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are a total of 89 chapters in the Gospels, and I'd suggest reading one chapter a day during this discipleship journey.


I want you to think about a different way to read the Bible.

When some new believers start reading the Bible read the Bible like a newspaper: ​It's read to INFORM US, but not really for action, or transformation.

Some people read the Bible like an instruction manual. It's read to give us clear directions, but not really inspiration or wonder. 

Some people read the Bible like a great story - to move us, to enjoy, to WONDER, but not really to be followed.

I want you to read more for the last 2 in this 90 days! Read to get instructions, but also read to Wonder and Worship. In other words, don't just read the Bible -- engage the Bible by obedience and imagination!

2. Pray together over the commands of Jesus for 4 minutes per day.

Include 4 kinds of prayer each day: 

  • Praising prayer: Jesus, how can I praise you for this command?

  • Repenting prayer: Jesus, how do I need to change my mind so I can obey you with joy?

"Repent" means "to change your mind." Repentance means more than "I'm sorry" it means "how can I change my mind so I think like Jesus?" So every day, we're going to spend 60 second identifying problem thinking in our lives, so we can be transformed to obey Jesus with Joy. 

  • Listening Prayer: Jesus, please direct me to where I need to obey this command. 

We'll spend 60 seconds of just being quiet to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit guides our minds to HOW we can obey. 

  • Asking Prayer: Jesus, please give me your help as I try to obey you today.

If you're doing it right, you'll realize your need for God's help. Your praise, repentance and listening will lead you to asking!

3. Get accountable with a mentor each day.

Don't do the Christian walk alone. Discipleship requires community!

You need a mentor, someone who knows you and is on your side for your holiness and happiness. You need a person who you can text/call, and get together on a regular basis... just to keep you encouraged, to keep you honest, and more. 

We need that to avoid sin and find joy

Literally yesterday -- TWO TIMES -- I've been tempted to go look up pornography on my computer. (Just keeping it real. If that's not your struggle, awesome. I'm happy for you!) And both times, I stopped. I'm still winning the victory 100%, I'm victorious over sin today by God's grace. 

But why? 

One of the big things that stopped me... I know that there are two guys from my church that I have to text tomorrow morning and they're going to ask how I'm doing. 

Having someone who's WITH YOU is POWERFUL. You need a mentor, someone who's ahead of you and is wise. I'm going to literally remind you in the workbook every single day, and in the daily video experience. 

How Can I Get Involved?

If you want to go along on this journey, your church needs to be a part of NewStart Discipleship. NewStart is a discipleship pathway that any church can use to make more disciples.

The Obedience Challenge is a 90-day plan for helping new believers learn to follow Jesus' commands, built on the concept of his Kingdom and his authoritative teaching. Any church can participate and print copies of the workbook.


A final word about obedience to Jesus

In this challenge, God is going to highlight to you some places in your life where your mindset must change. 

He's doing it not because he's mad at you... but because he's in it for your joy. He wants you to find complete and total joy in obeying and becoming like Jesus. 

So let's gets started together!

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