Believer To Disciple
There is a big difference between living as a disciple and just being called a Christian. According to Romans 10:9, when you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you are saved…you are a Christian. That is an important, eternity changing decision! By turning from your old way of life and welcoming Jesus into your heart, you truly are on your way to Heaven.
When I became a believer, I prayed a prayer and welcomed Jesus into my life for one very simple reason: I did not want to go to hell when I died. It was a good reason to get saved, and it is still a good reason for anyone to get saved, but there is so much more to a relationship with God than “fire insurance.” There is a greater journey and relationship that He is calling every single believer to, and that is discipleship.
God is not just after a few hours of your time, a few of your dollars, or a few of your prayers. He doesn’t just want what you have, He wants all of you! You could say that a disciple is one who gives up the things of this world to embrace the things of His kingdom.
When someone becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ, there are many attributes that will be evident in their journey. Let’s take a look at three of them.
Disciples are called to love God and love people. Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In other words, disciples love God with all of their heart, mind, and soul above everything else, and they also have an extraordinary love for people.
It can be easy to read that passage of scripture and think, “Of course I will love people!” But applying it to our lives is another story. God’s command isn’t to love your neighbor on a good day, or when it is easy or convenient. It is simply: “love your neighbor,” no conditions.
Jesus taught it this way in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.” Again Jesus also said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
When we love God and also have an extraordinary love for people no matter their political views, nationality, race, faith, or gender, we are going beyond just believing. We are following the way of Jesus and growing as a disciple.
As I previously said, God is not just after a few of your hours, dollars, or prayers. He doesn’t need your money. After all, He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He created everything, and everything is already His, but your giving is still important to Him – and to you.
When someone in church talks about giving, we tend to think about tithing – which is giving the first tenth of everything we receive back to the Lord. But if God doesn’t need our money, why would He call His people to tithe?
Tithing has two results: it grows and stretches our faith and builds our trust in God, but it also is a physical act of alignment and obedience to Him. When we give the first tenth to the Lord, it disconnects us from a spirit of greed that is continually reaching for our attention. Jesus taught it this way, saying, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
At one time or another, most of us have an internal battle with ourselves and think, “A tenth is a lot of money!” “That’s gas that I could use to get to work!” or “That’s groceries for the week!” The good news is this: God isn’t oblivious to our needs. In fact, Jesus addressed this internal battle, saying: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:31-34). When we put our confidence in God and sow into His kingdom, our faith grows to trust Him more and see His faithfulness.
Truly, God does not need our money, but He desires our hearts and lives to be fully turned toward Him. When we first love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, surrendering all to Him, we are growing as a disciple.
In the American church today, you will never hear a pastor say, “I have enough volunteers.” There is an assumption that we are always looking for volunteers whether it is in the nursery, the youth, the audio-visual ministry, or some other area of the church. And that’s true. Don’t hear me wrong, everything you see happening in your church would not be possible without the help of some amazing church family members! But I want to point out that “volunteer” is not a word generally used in scripture.
Jesus doesn’t call His disciples to volunteer, but rather to serve. The Apostle Paul says it this way, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” (Romans 12:1). Serving isn’t about our agenda, glory, or reward. It’s about using our gifts, talents, and abilities to show God’s love to the world around us.
Volunteering is an action, but serving is an attitude of the heart. Volunteers focus on what they give, while servants focus on what Jesus already gave on the cross. Volunteers are time-sensitive, while servants are need-sensitive. Volunteering is about convenience, while serving is about commitment. A servant says, “I am here to sacrifice,” “I am here to take up my cross daily,” and “I’m here to do what is not convenient or glorious, even if it is unseen or unappreciated.” Again, serving is an attitude of the heart that aligns us with God’s kingdom work in the world around us.
As we love God and people with an extraordinary love, give all that we are and all that we have to Him, and serve Him by being actively involved in His kingdom, we are showing the marks of a growing disciple of Jesus Christ.