We all have some way of self-identifying: “I am a husband. I am a wife. I am so-and-so’s daughter/son. I am a parent, grandparent. I am (fill in the blank).” Self-identifications such as this is a good way to identify our roles–at home, work, community, family, church, etc.
If you consider Jesus to be your Savior, then how do you usually identify yourself: a Christian or a Disciple? I know, I know, it sounds like I am about to strain at a gnat just to swallow a camel. You may be thinking, “What difference does that make? There’s more important issues going on in the world, in our nation that needs to be address. Christian or Disciple, really?” Yes, really!
We find the first use of this word “christian” in Acts 11:26–The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Well, well, well, it seems that Jesus did not use that word “christian”. The Greek word is “christianos“ and it means “follower of Christ”. And it seems that this word “christianos” is used only 2 other times in the New Testament. Could it be, mind you I’m only asking a question, could it be that the word “christian” should not be our first choice of words when self-identifying with Jesus?
Well, what about the word disciple? It is the Greek word “mathētēs” that means “a learner”. Furthermore it seems that word “mathētēs” is used an additional 267 times for a total of 268 times. This means that for every time the word christian is used, the word Disciple is used 89 times. I’m not against the use of the word “christian”, but…
When we self-identify by the use of a word, it usually means we are describing a role and a purpose for our life. Strictly speaking out of my culture and experiences, many use the word “christian” as a title, not a role or purpose in life. Contrary to what is often heard, the Great Commission is not about creating christians but making DISCIPLES! The cultural bias that often drives a congregation is twisted up in the word christian, that does not mean now what it did those 3 times the New Testament writers chose that word. The cultural bias I see is that the word “christian” is a title, not a role. Before Antioch they were called “people of The Way”. “The Way”, by the way, came from a phrase used by Jesus that described His Role and Purpose. (John 14:6–“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”)
There are 3 Key Qualities of a Disciple:
Do you remember when you were in school and the teacher said those 7 most feared words? “Take out a clean sheet of paper.” It mean it was time for a test, pop quiz or announced. When listening to Jesus, we need a clean sheet of paper. Not for the test, that comes later. But we need to listen with an open heart and open mind. We need to listen to Him directly; not what someone else said about what He said. We need to approach each passage as if it were the first time we read it. Listen to God’s mind and heart. There are some “deep” passages, but what we need for life–for our role and purpose isn’t rocket surgery or brain science. You just need to listen.
Don’t be like you were when you were a kid and your parent was talking to you. You know, letting it go in one ear and out the other. Begin to uncover and discover how the Good News is designed to work in our life. Memorization is a tool, a very good tool, but go deeper. There is a wisdom in God’s Truth that we need to accept and embrace in our journey through this life. Explore how this Good News can make a difference in your life. I once heard this illustration. When a duck dives into the water for food, it comes back up at a different place. Internal transformation is the beginning point and the source of the Power that comes only from the Holy Spirit.
Information and knowledge are not enough. The key is application. It has been said, and very well I might add, that Wisdom is the APPLICATION of knowledge. Unfortunately, the cultural church has been inundated with the Intelligentsia. The Intelligentsia is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labors that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society. In others words, lots of thinking and talking but not a whole lot of doing. Someone once told me that C. S. Lewis defined The Intelligentsia as people who are educated beyond their intelligence. I cannot verify C. S. said it, but I know more than a few that meets that definition of The Intelligentsia.
The goal of Jesus’ teachings was APPLICATION. Once a student listens, then learns, they are now ready to apply that knowledge. Knowledge with application is like a coke (I’m from the south, so the word ‘coke’ refers to a variety of different brands) without the carbonated water–it’s flat and loses its true taste.
Jesus wants Disciples, after all that was His invitation. People who will listen, learn and apply The Good News of The Kingdom of God. Being a Disciple isn’t a title–It is our role and purpose. This is just me, OK? If I believe the writers of the New Testament chose their words carefully (and I do believe that), if Jesus never asked for people to become christians (and He didn’t), then maybe I need to self-identify as DISCIPLE. Yep, I think I will do just that!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!