As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Matthew 9:9
I recently watched the multi-season series “The Chosen” which is a show based on the life of Jesus Christ and has become the highest crowd-funded TV series and film project of all time. What struck me while watching was that the caring heart of Jesus came through the acting and writing that Scriptures clearly have guided, are in the series. One scene, in particular, comes to mind (from Mathew 9:9) in which Jesus calls Mathew, the misfit tax collector to be His disciple by saying the two simple words “follow me.” As I watched this scene I asked myself:
What is the difference between being a Christian and a disciple of Christ?
Jesus followers were called disciples long before they were ever called Christians. Their discipleship began with the call of Jesus and it required them to exercise their will in following Him. In the New Testament, a disciple was more than a student. A disciple would completely adhere to the teachings, rules of life and conduct of a master. For instance, the Pharisees prided themselves in being the disciples of Moses.
The terms disciple and Christian are related but not synonymous. Jesus used the term disciple but never Christian. The name Christian, which means “belonging to Christ” appears to have been invented by those outside of the church. Most Biblical scholars agree that it is unlikely that the believers themselves thought up the name Christians. The early church had other names such as disciples, saints, or brothers. Biblically speaking, a Christian is a disciple of Christ. A Christian is someone who belongs to Christ, is being transformed into the likeness of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
My concern is that someone could call themselves a Christian but be completely divorced from spending time with God, living out Christ’s teachings, or actively passing on what they have learned. Here are some keys to being Jesus’ disciple:
Spending Quality Time With God:
And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them.” 27, “And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” 32, “And they said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us? Luke 24:15,27,32
The first step to being a disciple is to spend time in a relationship with Him. Tell him your concerns, ask for his direction, get to know what he cares about. The disciple’s hearts were said to have been burning while in his presence.
Living Out Jesus Teachings:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
A true Christian will have to be a disciple of Christ as well. That is, he has counted the cost and has totally committed his life to following Jesus. He accepts the call to sacrifice and follows wherever the Lord leads. Jesus was quite explicit about the cost of following Him. Discipleship requires a totally committed life: Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple –Luke 14:33. Sacrifice is expected: Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ – Matthew 16:24.
Passing It On:
And he said to the sons of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, “What are these stones?” then you shall inform your children, saying, “Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Jesus disciples us and in turn, we are able to pass on that which we have learned. As the Scripture says, we must “inform our children” that the hand of the Lord is mighty. He has chosen them, just as He has chosen you. Jesus is saying to you today …
Pastor Josh Ryan