Christian or Disciple?
What do you think of when you hear the word Christian? Now for some of you, you might think of a person who is really kind and compassionate, who loves to serve other people. For others of you, you might think: “You know what, Christians, they’re kind of rude. They kind of use religion as a crutch. I don't know about this whole Jesus thing.” If you were to ask me what I think of, when I think of the word Christian, I actually think of a person. Her name's Betty Bordner. She was one of the first people I met after I gave my life to Christ and got plugged into church. She was a middle-aged woman who served in our student ministry. What I loved about Betty is that she was a prayer warrior. She was one of the first people to greet me when I walked through the doors of church. And then she was at everything this youth ministry ever did. Every summer camp, every serve outing. She was always there and she was always praying for people. I saw that as a little twelve, thirteen year old boy and it made an impact. You know what's so cool about Betty? She kept hanging out and investing in me and in others and she continued to pray for us so long that I eventually became the pastor of that ministry. And guess what she was still doing?
She was still praying for students, still investing in their lives, still driving those church vans to those events. I remember this one time we were driving to this serve project to help in our city. We see an accident on the side of the road and Betty's driving the church van. She just stops to pray, while she's driving. She closes her eyes and lifts her hands and I'm like, “Betty, you gotta keep your eyes on the road.” But that's just the kind of person that she was. And then when I got engaged and got married, guess who prayed over my marriage? Betty. When my wife and I suffered miscarriages, who was there to pray with us and comfort us? It was Betty. When we ultimately had kids, guess who came over to our house and prayed and spoke words of life over our kids? It was Betty. And who's still there today, even though we've moved a thousand miles away, who is still praying for us today? It's Betty. When I think of the word Christian, I think of Betty. And yet, for other people, in fact some of my close family members, when they think of the word Christian, they think of something very different. A very close family member, when they think of the word Christian, they're reminded of a time in their life where they were engaged to somebody. Somebody who was a man of God, who went to church, who served at church, who showed all the outside signs of being a follower of Christ. Except, this person found out that, just two days before their wedding, this man of God had been cheating on her with eight other women. Two days before her wedding. So guess what she thinks of when she hears the word Christian, she thinks of the word “hypocrite.”
“Christian,” that word can carry some baggage. But it's interesting to note that Jesus never actually called any of us to be a Christian. Let me give you a little Bible trivia here. In Acts chapter 11 we hear, for the very first time, the word Christian. And it was actually a derogatory term given to Jesus followers. It means “little Christ.” And they're like: Oh, you little Christ, you little mini-me. Now we could look at that and kind of say, yeah, it's kind of a flattering term. But they meant it in a derogatory fashion. Yet still, Jesus never called us to be Christians. So, if He doesn't call us to be Christians, what does He call us to be? He calls us just like He called Levi, a.k.a. Matthew, this tax collector. He calls us to stand up to follow Him and be His disciples.
Disciples. That's what Jesus wants for us to be, to be His disciples. But what is a disciple? Well, let's start by telling you what it's not. See, a disciple is not a Sunday stalker. What's a Sunday stalker? A Sunday stalker is someone who comes to church for an hour on the weekend and they get a little fire insurance. They try to get their “get out of hell free card.” But when they leave the four walls of the church building, they have no intent of actually living a life for Jesus. See that is not a disciple. Who else is not a disciple? A small group groupie. Someone who is plugged into all sorts of small groups and they learn about God. They do the Beth Moore study, the Priscilla Shirer study. Have you heard of the new Francis Chan study? And they're always studying and learning, but they're not living out what they're learning.
Who else is not a disciple? Somebody who gets their theology degree from YouTube University and they like to use big fancy theological terms like transubstantiation and penal substitutionary atonement. They love to memorize scripture, but they never walk it out. That's not a disciple. That's like if I were to go to my son and say, “Hey, it is time for you to go clean your room.” And then two hours later he comes back and I say, “Hey, did you clean your room?” And he says, “No, but I memorized what you told me and you told me to clean my room.” No. Disciples, what do they do? They walk out this faith journey and they do it with Jesus. What is a disciple? Let me give you a little acrostic with some scriptural backing to it. A disciple is first and foremost “D”, someone who is disciplined in his or her relationship with God.
Paul describes disciples as people who run the race of life. But they don't just run the race of life, they run it to win. They run it with passion for Jesus. The disciple is also somebody who is involved in the gathering of believers. They realize that we were not designed by God to do this life alone because in God, He's actually a community of Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And so we are to live in community as image bearers of Him. And we are to be better together as we encourage and support one another. So we don't forsake the gathering of believers. We do life together. We are also spirit filled and spirit led people. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, it indwells the believer. We're to walk with that spirit and listen to its promptings daily. We are concerned for others, rather than the self.
What is that famous line from Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life? The first line of the book says, “it's not about you.” If you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, it's not about you. Your life is no longer yours. It's about Him and it's about walking in His footsteps and His ways and showcasing Him to the world around you. What else are disciples? Disciples are prayerful in all things. They actually believe that prayer can change things. There are also people who lead others to become disciples. They are disciples who make disciples – that is a mark of a true, mature disciple. Lastly, they enjoy God always because He is good and He's good in the good times and He's good in the hard times and He is good in the in-between times. That is a picture that we see in scripture of what a disciple is.
If you were to ask for a definition of a disciple, you could look at this Greek word that we see in scripture. It's called mathetes. And what does it mean? It means to be an apprentice. So when you're a disciple, you're not just learning head knowledge (although that is so important and we see that in scripture), we need to regularly consume good Christian biblical content to grow our minds, but that information needs to move from our head to our heart. And then we need to walk it out in order to be a disciple. See, disciples are apprentices. We learn, but we learn by doing. If you were to ask me for another definition, this would be my definition. It's Rory's non-binding definition for every Christian. If you want to know what a disciple is, it is somebody who is becoming more like Jesus every day.
So the question really is this, “Are you more like Jesus today than you were yesterday? And are you going to be more like Jesus tomorrow than you were today?” That's the question of discipleship, of being a follower of Jesus, of being His disciple. And I don't want to play any games. This is hard, being a disciple. It's a hard calling. It actually takes discipline. Interestingly enough, we get our word discipline from the word disciple, being a disciple. It can't just be a thing that happens once a week for an hour on a Sunday morning. No, it's so much more. A disciple is someone who is growing and maturing in their faith, moving from spiritual infancy to adolescence to adulthood and to full maturity in order that you can then make disciples.
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