Laurie Cole makes a great distinction between Christians and disciples. The first is a believer, the latter a follower. I want to be a follower. I choose to be a follower. Indeed, there is no other way to become a disciple of Jesus. If you too want to be a disciple, you must choose to be one. This goes beyond mere belief. Anyone can believe in Christ. It takes but a moment, no effort, and need not have any demonstrable proof of our decision.
Discipleship, on the other hand, takes a lifetime. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment on our part. There will be evidence of a dramatically changed life whose sole purpose becomes dramatically changing the lives of others. So, you must choose; will you be a believer or follower of Jesus?
My heart breaks for those who choose to stop at believing in Jesus. I believe in a lot of things: gravity, time, reflexes. I can’t see any of these things, but I believe they are there. While they may come in quite handy, none of them will ever change my life in a significant way. None can eternally save me. None serve any purpose when my life ends. Relegating Jesus to simply believing in Him puts Him in the same category. He might come in handy, but ultimately your belief will not gain anything for you.
We’ve got to move beyond belief. It’s what Jesus commanded. He said those who loved Him would obey His teachings (John 14:15). He said if we chose to follow Him, our life would be both different and difficult (Luke 9:57-60). But He also promised if we would make Him known here on earth, He would make us known in Heaven (Matthew 10:32-33). In fact, He would make a home for us to live with Him forever (John 14:2-3). This is amazingly good news. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We experience His promises when we move from believer to follower.
As the Church, we have done a great disservice to many by preaching an easy salvation. We’ve taught untold scores of people a commitment to Christ requires nothing more than raising a hand, walking an aisle, saying a simple prayer, or perhaps getting dunked in some water. How many are destined for Hell because we have misrepresented the very Word of God? How many have we been responsible for damning to an eternity separated from God?
We cannot change the past but we can alter the future. We can begin teaching people the difference between being a believer in Jesus and being a follower of Jesus. We can stop watering down the gospel of Christ and begin telling new believers what to expect should they choose to follow Jesus. And we can begin to live out the difference in our own lives. We’ve lingered in the shadows too long. It’s time to step fully into the light. The time for change is now. We must choose to be a Christian or a disciple. Which will it be for you? Will you be a believer or follower of Jesus Christ?