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.”
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