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Are We Christians or Disciples?

The word “disciple” is found in the Bible almost 250 times. The word “Christian” is found only
3 times. Yet, we identify ourselves as Christians. When we go out and evangelize, are we
trying to make disciples or to “convert them to Christianity?” One of the most misquoted
verses of the Bible is:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
Mt 28:19

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Jesus does not say to go and make Christians, or to even go preach the gospel. He tells us to
make disciples. So what is a disciple? Here is what Webster's dictionary says:

Main Entry:
Middle English, from Old English discipul & Anglo-French disciple, from Late Latin and
Latin; Late Latin discipulus follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime, from Latin, pupil
before 12th century

1: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as a: one of the twelve
in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts b: a convinced
adherent of a school or individual

One who accepts and assists in the spreading of the doctrines of another. Such as the 12
disciples of Jesus' time. When I think of a disciple, I think of a student or apprentice.
Someone who listens to their master and hopes to learn everything the master knows.

So here is the big question. How many of us do this with Jesus? Whether we may be a
salesman, teacher, or police officer; how many of us in our chosen field seek to learn as much
about Jesus as we can so we can apply it to our lives?

I know I've mentioned before how so many churches today seem to teach that all you have to
do is accept the idea that Jesus died for your sins and forgive you and you go to heaven. I'm
not going to say thats not true, but here is a question for you. So you accept this teaching
and say the right prayer to be saved. Then you live the rest of your life with as little to do with
Jesus as possible. Why would you even want to be with him in heaven after you die? You
didn't want to spend a single moment with him while here on earth.

I'm not saying “you” to anyone in particular other than in general, including myself. So how
did the disciples in Jesus' time live? All of them dropped what they were doing to follow
Jesus. Peter didn't even take the time to bury his dead father. Matthew gave up a lucrative
job as a tax collector.
Then we get to Paul. Paul was one of the well off religious leaders. He was well educated
and had a fairly influential position. Yet he gave it all up to follow Jesus. I'm not saying we
must give up our jobs or careers to follow Jesus, unless of course we've been called to do so.
I've known many missionaries who have given up good jobs or careers to go into ministry or
the mission field. Some of us may be called to stay in the job we are at. The important thing
there is to follow God's calling for your life.

When we look at the early church, we see they lived together, shared possession, and took
care of each other. For all of them, they didn't just “ask Jesus into their hearts.” They were
possessed by the Holy Spirit and allowed him to function in every aspect of their lives. When
I say possessed, I guess I mean filled. When we are saved, we may have the Holy Spirit with
us, be we are not always filled with him. We see this in Acts, the disciples being filled at
different times.

When was the last time any of us can say we were filled with the Holy Spirit? I can think of a
few times for me. I know theres been a blog or two I've written, I read it when I'm done and
think, “Wow, I wrote THAT?” Thats because the Spirit was working through me. I don't say
this to boast, nor does this make me anymore spiritual than anyone else. I simply state this
as a personal example.

So, that brings us back to our first question. Which are we? Are we Christians, or are we
disciples? Do we choose to subscribe to a set of intellectual ideas, or do we take those ideas
and absorb and implement them into every part of our existence? These are some things to
think about. A good book that addresses this very thing is called “The Great Omission” by
Dallas Willard. I highly recommend it. In the meantime, we should each read the book of
Acts and see just how Jesus' disciples lived after he left them. Perhaps we may learn
something for our own lives.

Tim Miller 2008