The following entry is given by Dr. Rod Culbertson (D. Min.), Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Culbertson has a wealth of experience in Christian ministry as a pastor, campus minister, professor, and other venues. Read Dr. Rod Culbertson’s full online bio here.
I would like for us to consider what a disciple of Christ looks like in today’s world. Of course, the categories and measurements could be innumerable but I would like to whittle down the attributes of a follower of Jesus to a manageable number and cover at least the basic qualities that can often be easily observable in the life of the growing believer. We want to answer the question:
“What does a true believer in Christ look like? How is their life changed?”
I will begin by taking a quick look at a short Old Testament passage because when the Lord called His people, Israel, He expressed very high standards for those who would follow and represent Him. Then we will look briefly at 20 distinct attributes that ought to be evident in any follower of Jesus today.
What are the Attributes of a Disciple or Follower of the Living God? Some Answers from the Old Testament
The Lord God has always called out a people to follow Him. He has not done so without giving them explicit guidance. Of course, His original call of the Hebrew nation to be His special and beloved people included an immediate provision of His moral will as communicated through the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). He also gave them many other mandates to help them maintain their holy calling as His chosen people. The gospel of God’s grace can be found in the Old Testament in many places and especially notable is evidence of His forgiveness and pardon. God’s expectations of His followers are also found in many Old Testament passages and much can be learned from God’s explicit instructions to His chosen ones. Old Testament believers in the Lord should never be viewed as simply a law driven people who responded to their Deliverer with only rote and perfunctory obedience. Their Savior was always concerned about their hearts and that they would willingly give their loyalty and obedience to Him.
I would like to look briefly at one prominent passage from the Old Testament that provides extensive insight into the calling that God places upon His followers after he delivers them from Egyptian bondage (the exodus). This Scripture is delivered by Moses to the second generation of those who were saved from slavery to Pharaoh. Their parents, in their flagrant rebellion and disobedience (Numbers 11-12) perished in the wilderness wandering. But God still had His people and this second giving of the Law underscores what type of disciples or followers the Living God desires.
This beautiful passage is from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (10:12-13). Here we discover the attributes of a [Christian] disciple.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (ESV*).
These characteristics may be summed up as “one who fears the Lord, walks in all His ways, loves Him, serves Him with all of his/her heart, soul, mind and strength and observes His commands and decrees.
In the weeks to come I will take each quality from this passage one at a time and break it down for us. I look forward to sharing with you.
Rod Culbertson is presently Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Student Development at the Charlotte, North Carolina campus of Reformed Theological Seminary. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and received the Master of Divinity degree from Columbia International University. He married his wife, Cathy, in 1979 and they have 4 grown children. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America, Rod served at the University of Florida as a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship for almost 10 years, having begun that work in 1980. In 1990, Rod and Cathy moved their family to Clearwater, Florida where the Lord used them to start a new PCA church, Christ Community Presbyterian. Rod and his family came to Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte in 1994. Rod has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at RTS and teaches courses in Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Evangelism and Discipleship, among others.