So many believers, yet so few disciples. Does the Bible make a distinction? It is interesting that doing a search for the word “believer” in the King James Bible, you get zero results, and only 2 results for “believers.” In the English Standard Version, you get 13 hits for believer and 30 for believers. But in either version, “disciple” and “disciples” leave them in the dust with over 280 combined results.
In the original Greek, in which the New Testament was written, believer and disciple mean two totally different things, as they do in English. To believe means to have faith, and to be a disciple is to be a pupil, a learner, or a devotee. Can they be the same?
We have already seen, in a previous post, that simply believing can and should make a change in your life. Yet, it is plain to see in every day life that not all who believe continue in their devotion. Does the Bible talk about this? Of course it does, although we are seldom taught about it.
In Luke 14:33, Jesus plainly states, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” When is the last time anyone told you that it would cost you something to follow Jesus? For the most part, we are told that Jesus paid it all and that there is nothing we can do to attain or remain in God’s grace. Yet, there are many sober warnings in the Bible that would indicate that we are still capable of choosing to veer off the path. Paul was addressing the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 when he told them, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The elders were not just old. They were men who had met Paul’s qualifications for leadership. (Read Titus 1:6-9 for the details.)
I am not raising this subject to stir up some doctrinal hornet’s nest. I bring this up because I know from my own experience that there is very little accountability in the church at large. We are all very self-affirming, but we do not provoke one another to good works. I was very fortunate in my early Christian walk that I was part of a congregation that was zealous to know God’s word and do it. We wanted to know God’s promises so we could attain them and know God’s commands so we could obey them. Over time, however, we were slowly seduced into church busy work. It all happened in the church, and our lives outside the church became a separate thing. I got caught up in the American Dream hamster wheel, pursuing material things and going deeper in debt.
Over time I became more angry at the world I lived in and stopped being an ambassador of Christ and became a social critic. I was more interested in addressing the symptoms of our sin-cursed world with political solutions that I was lifting up the Savior of all mankind. It was after 2011, when I had lost my last local election (yes, I was that committed) and I knew I had to get back to doing things God’s way, that I realized I was like the Ephesian church in Revelation 2: I had lost my first love and needed to go back and do the first works.
After a season of seeking the Lord and paring down our material possessions and selling our house to get out of debt, Cindi and I were lead to become a part of Child Evangelism Fellowship. We did not realize that we were not only entering evangelistic ministry but we were also going to be discipled and held accountable in ways we had not been in over 30 years. It has been this relationship that has allowed us to also work with Christians from several other denominations who have also chosen to make the main thing the main thing: sharing the Gospel with the next generation, and staying focused on that which makes us one.
Have you departed from your first love? Has your light gone out under that bushel basket? You can be reignited and refreshed, and it’s not optional. You are not your own. You were bought with a price. It’s time to own your identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ.