I am 27 years old and have been a Christian my whole life. I went to Sunday school, youth group, connect groups, and all that. You probably know the drill.
But something was missing in my life. I actually didn’t even know what it was until probably six months ago.
Was I a Christian or was I a disciple of Jesus?
Now, some of you might say “well, isn’t that the same?” and for years and years I asked myself that same question.
However, what I found out recently is that being a Christian and being a disciple of Jesus are two very different things. In fact, I’ll put it this way: They are two different worlds.
Yeah, let me clarify.
Being a Christian means to believe who Jesus was. Believing in His death, His resurrection, the forgiveness of sin, and to trust in His infinite grace. If you’ve been around fellow Christians long enough, you would know that these things are the “typical stuff” to check the box to get you going to church on Sunday. After all, you believe in the most relevant things of Jesus,
right? And don’t get me wrong — you definitely do. You are saved by faith alone. Period.
But being a disciple, however, is more than just believing in the things of Jesus. It’s following in His footsteps every single day. Every. Single. Day. I mean actually following Him.
It’s denying yourself for the sake of Him. Saying “yes” to Him and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and “no” to your own selfish ways day after day after day. It’s taking up your cross daily and carrying the burden of sacrifice like Jesus did when He walked the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary.
Now, you might say “this is too radical for me. This is only for missionaries in Africa or famous evangelists or extraordinary people. That’s not for me”.
That’s cool. Then I’ll ask you to go read Matthew 16:24-26 and then come back to this article. Now tell me that this isn’t for you.
Jesus himself spoke these words to people who followed Him. He knew that believing in Him and following Him every day as His disciple were two very different things. So when you say that this is “too radical”, my response is this: this wasn’t, and still isn’t radical. It’s actually what Jesus required of those following Him.
He says this should be the norm for His disciples. And the problem here is that we actually don’t want this to be us, because this requires too much.
This might sound harsh, but it’s the truth. We all want the blessings that flow from Jesus but we don’t want the costs of daily discipleship. It’s “too much” for us, we say.
“This might cost me my reputation to stand up for my co-worker in front of my colleagues” or “but hey, if I don’t post this on Instagram I won’t maintain my image as a good, Sunday-going Christian” or “you really want me to pay for the woman at the grocery store who cut me off in the line?”
These are just three random examples, but they match so many of us so accurately. Not just you. Me too. Us.
See, in our modern western culture today, it doesn’t necessarily cost us our literal death to follow Him as Jesus talks about in Matthew 16, but what has almost become an equivalent to this in the year of 2019 is our giving up of fame and reputation.
That’s why this is so hard for us. We don’t want to sacrifice fame, reputation, and our image on the altar. Hard truth: Jesus gave up His fame, His reputation and His image all the way to the cross and now He wants us to do the same for the sake of following Him.
We as disciples should be driven daily by constant obedience to His Word and to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Every day. In every single thing. It shouldn’t just cost us something to follow Jesus – it must cost us everything.
I once heard a preacher put it like this: “Jesus is either Lord over everything in your life or He is not Lord at all.” It should and must be all or nothing when it comes to following Jesus. No in-between.
So today, we should ask ourselves this question: “If my faith were taken away from me tomorrow, would my life look any different?”
If your discipleship is causing you to follow Jesus in everything, then this should be easy to respond “yes” to. If not, you might have to think about the whole Christian vs. disciple thing again.