Jesus was a great man who walked the earth and changed the world forever. He taught new approaches to principles found in Judaism, challenged the religious authorities of the time, and refused to cower to the might of Roman power in his final hours. He was an inspirational individual who began a movement by empowering 12 men to carry out his vision and mission and still to this day individuals follow the teachings of Jesus and seek to become his disciples.
By definition, a disciple is a pupil of a teacher (Wood & Marshall, 1996), and a disciple of Jesus is one who learns from and emulates the behavior of Jesus. Essential to being a disciple of Jesus is carrying out his Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) to make disciples of all nations. In fact, effective discipleship is driven by these final words from Jesus as he ascended into Heaven (Gyertson, 2006). With these things in mind, it would appear that the Holy Spirit plays a minor, if not ineffective role in the process of discipleship, because theoretically one could act and behave as Jesus did without the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Where this idea breaks down is in the depths of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. To be like Jesus is not the simple imitation of Christ’s behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes. It is in his relationship with the Father. True discipleship is the moral transformation of an individual to reflect Christ through a deeper relationship with him, and that transformation begins with divine revelation (Gyertson, 2006). To reflect Christ as a disciple should, it does not start from within an individual but originates with a revelation by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21) that deepens into an understanding of the Father.
Gyertson, D. J. (2006). Heads First, Hearts Fast and Hands Outstretched: A Personal Theological Journey into Whole Person Discipleship. A Journal of the International Christian Community for Teacher Education, vol. 2(iss. 1), pp. 1–9.
Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (Eds.). (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed). Leicester, England ; Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.