Friday, 13 April 2012
The term 'Christian,' for my purposes here and in future posts, refers to someone who has given their heart to God; someone who has accepted God's gift of forgiveness and secured a place for themselves in Heaven.
A 'Disciple,' as I use the term, is someone who gives their whole life to God; someone who enlists in service for God the way a man enlists in the military. Your life stops being your own, and you live for someone else.
Seems like something very different, right? But is it really?
At its most basic, to become a Christian is a relatively simple thing to do. Pray, acknowledge God's sovereignty and our sin, and ask for forgiveness, which God gladly and freely gives. It's easy, quick and costs you nothing. Doesn't seem much like the idea of discipleship, which costs you everything.
Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that the gift of salvation is free and not something we can earn; God gives it to us out of His infinite grace and deep love for us. Conceivably, we could accept God's invitation and walk away, secure in our 'retirement' without ever needing to think about it again. Paul touches on this concept in Romans 6:15. I recommend reading the whole chapter, where Paul tells us we are no longer under the law, which condemns sin, but under grace, which pardons sin. If you have the time, read chapter 5 along with 6. He also equates being a Christian with having died to sin and been made a slave to righteousness in verses 16-18. That's starting to sound a lot more like the type of discipleship I've been discussing, and a lot less like the modern Christian, who gives their soul to God and lives their life pretty much whatever way they want.
If nothing worse, the modern Christian pursues their own ideas of success, such as a good job, a sizable bank account, a nice home, a pretty wife or husband and a couple of kids. Not one of those things is bad on its own; it becomes wrong to pursue those things when God has another direction for us and we deny going in that direction because we want something more comfortable.
This is where Discipleship and Christianity link up. When you give your heart to God, you're also starting a personal relationship with Him. If nothing else, you are acknowledging and accepting His love for you, which starts you on the path to having love for Him in return. "We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19. Read verses 7-19 to get the whole idea. John is speaking about love here, but also about salvation. Pair this with John 3:16 and you begin to see that love and salvation are inseparable. Our salvation was provided because of God's love for us. We accept the offer of salvation because of our love for Him.
And that love does not stop working in us. It begins with salvation, but it matures into works, into giving ourselves over to God to allow Him to work in us. In a word, into discipleship. Not because we want to get something out of it, and not because we have an incorrect idea that we won't be saved if we don't work. We do it because we love God, and love makes us want to give of ourselves. Love is generous, love is not selfish; you know the routine. It's a response to love and out of love that we become disciple of God.
Discipleship is what becomes of Christianity when it matures. In modern Christianity as I see it, few people ever get to the point of discipleship; churches don't always nurture mature Christian growth, and the people in the church don't put in the effort necessary to get to it. They may see that something is missing, and for a lot of them, that 'missing something' becomes the cause of lukewarm Christianity, yet they don't explore what it is they're missing and often aren't getting the deep feeding from their leaders that they need.
I'm writing this series with the assumption that those reading it are Christians. I'm also going to assume that the people reading this are looking for something more. Maybe you're baffled by the feeling that you aren't as fulfilled as the Christians around you seem to be. Again, I don't pretend to have the answers, but I am in the same position, and maybe we can learn something together.
Do you think there is a difference between being a Christian and being a Disciple? Can you be a Christian without being a Disciple? If you feel like you aren't a Disciple, what can you do to grow in your faith?