Is a Christian Automatically a Disciple of Jesus?

I met for coffee this week with a Christian who had recently graduated from college. I challenged him to consider that Jesus command to make disciples was for all believers and that the disciplemaking process begins with non-Christians.

Both of these concepts seemed to cause him to think. As we dialogued together on the priority of making disciples who make disciples, he stated that someone could be a Christian and not be a disciple. Knowing this wasn’t a biblical distinction, I asked him to show me where he had seen this taught in the Scriptures. He admitted that it wasn’t something he learned from the Bible.

Our conversation surfaced an important truth that I believe all Christians need to understand. Discipleship is not some advanced form of being a Christian. All Christians are followers and learners of Jesus, therefore, all Christians are disciples.

You do not become a disciplesubsequent to becoming a Christian!

Keith Phillips in his book The Making of a Disciple [amazon affiliate link] writes,

Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings. And the Lord of the universe commands every person to follow Him. His call to Peter and Andrew (Matt 4:18-19) and to James and John (Matt 4:21) was a command. “Follow Me” has always been a command, never an invitation….

Jesus expected immediate obedience. He accepted no excuses (Luke 9:62). When a man first wanted to bury his father before following Christ, He told him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (Matt 8:22). No man was praised for obeying Christ’s command to follow Him and be His disciples, it was expected. Jesus said, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done'” (Luke 17:10).

So when do you become a Christian, a disciples of Christ? When you walk down an aisle? When you kneel at an altar? When you weep sincerely? Not necessarily. Christ’s original followers became disciples when they obeyed Him, when they “immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matt 4: 22).

Obeying Christ’s command, “Follow Me,” results in self-death. Christianity without self-death is only an abstract philosophy. It is Christianity without Christ.

Perhaps the most fundamental error many Christians make is to separate receiving salvation and being a disciple. They place them on different levels of Christian maturity, assuming that it is acceptable to be saved without having to commit oneself to those more radical demands of Jesus, like “taking up the cross” and following Him (Matt 10:38).

This assumption is grounded on the erroneous belief that salvation is primarily for man’s benefit — to make him happy and to prevent eternal damnation.

…No one who understands the purpose of salvation would dare to speculate that a person might be saved without accepting Christ’s Lordship. Christ can’t be the Lord of my life if I am the lord of my life. In order for Christ to be in control, I have to die. I cannot become a disciple without dying to myself and identifying with Christ who died for my sins (Mark 8:34). A disciple follows his Master, even to the cross. (pp 16-18)

When a person becomes a Christian they must naturally commit themselves to be an obedient follower (disciple) of Jesus. Anything less than that is “Christianity without Christ.”

Today’s Missional Challenge

Understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Commit yourself anew to follow Jesus and to help others follow Jesus!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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