Is a believer in Jesus automatically a disciple? Discover Christ’s own definition about those who are His genuine followers.
[Steve Myers] What do you think when you hear the word disciple?
> To me it’s all about love and kindness, and kindness
> I think your heart. Where’s your heart?
[Steve] If I’m supposed to be a Christian, how do I know if I’m really a true follower?
> Oooh good question
>> Everybody has their own journey
> It all comes down to love, that’s what John said you know. God is love. That’s the universal theme through all the good books of the world.
[Steve] If someone were to ask you what is a Christian, how do you think you’d respond?
> I would say a Christian is just somebody who is a believer in Jesus Christ
[Steve] If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, does that automatically make you a disciple? What exactly is a true disciple anyway? A couple of billion people on the planet claim to be Christian but their beliefs, doctrines and practices are all very different.
What about you? Different denominations, groups, and religious branches can be confusing. But did you know there is a way to determine if you are a real follower? Jesus Himself actually gave the standard when it comes to those who say they believe. Do you know what He actually taught?
Stay tuned to this edition of Beyond Today as we help you answer the question, “Am I a true disciple?”
What do you think when you hear the word disciple? You might imagine a thoughtful philosophical looking person dressed in flowing robes walking around with his hand holding his chin contemplating the meaning of some deep aspect of life. Or you might think of someone who frantically follows a teacher, a bit of a religious freak willing to do just about anything for the master.
What does it really mean to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ? I went out on the street to ask a few people what they thought.
How would I know if I’m a real disciple?
> I don’t think anyone is like, a real disciple.
>> How you live your life and treat people would be important to me.
> Trying to go to church each week and reading the Bible and trying to follow it.
>> I think the one thing you can look at is the Bible. That’s your roadmap to be a true follower so by reading and staying in the word, praying.
[Steve] Lots of varied answers but that’s an important point. What about the Bible? Do you consider the Bible the roadmap for life? Many religious people think otherwise. Some denominations emphasize their teaching over biblical doctrine. What about you? Is the Bible your inspired guidebook or just another book?
A lot of people wonder if the Bible still matters today. Does it still apply today? If they ask you that what would you tell them?
> I’m not a student of the Bible but what I know about the Bible I would say yeah the stories are good stories, you don’t have to take them literally but you can. It’s an individual thing.
>> I think it applies but as our world evolves I think our translation of the Bible has to evolve a little bit.
[Steve] Does the Bible really apply or not? What would you tell them?
> It definitely applies. Every story in the Bible, every scripture in the Bible is giving us the facts of life.
[Steve] Many wonder if the Bible really applies today. What do you think you would say about that?
> I’m sure it does because I believe in it.
[Steve] Do you think that it’s important that people follow what’s written in the Bible?
> It depends on the people; you know it’s up to the person.
Here’s the challenge. If you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God it doesn’t depend on the person. We need to depend on God. It’s not an individual choice it’s guidance from God Himself. 2 Timothy 3:16 puts it this way, “All Scripture is God-breathed given by divine inspiration and is profitable for instruction, for conviction of sin, for correction of error and restoration to obedience, for training in righteousness learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately, behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage” (AMP).
All who claim to be Christian must hold the Bible as their ultimate guide for what they believe and what they do. That means the Bible itself is far above man’s authority, far above church tradition, and far above our own opinions.
Nothing that opposes God’s Word should to sway our actions to control our thinking. Why?
Because the Bible is a living book. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12).
The wisdom, values and truths of the Bible are timeless and the Bible is full of insight that’s just as true today as when it was written. Human nature hasn’t changed over time. The message of the Bible helps us discover significance and meaning and its meaning today. It explains how you can please your Creator and fulfill His will for your life.
You know it doesn’t stop there. God’s Word explains His plan and purpose and it gives us a roadmap for the future as well.
The Bible clearly reveals truth and all true Christians should believe it with all their hearts. When the Bible commands us to do something we better make sure we do it. For example, we’re told in the Word of God “Do not commit adultery” (Matthew 5:27-30) and that we are to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
The Bible must be our final authority for what we do so we are compelled to live in purity.
Loyalty to Scripture keeps us from being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). Following the Bible is what Christians do and it makes sense because the Word of God “is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89). So the inspired Word of God must be our guide.
Unfortunately much of religion really doesn’t follow Scripture.
Why are there all these different religions and denominations that claim they’re Christian?
> That just drives me crazy.
>> It comes down to you have different beliefs in parts of the Bible where you get different types of Christians I guess or different churches and that kind stuff.
[Steve] But that presents a challenge. Can we pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to believe and obey or do we have a God who has supreme authority, supreme control and power over all that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the future? 2 Chronicles 20:6 says it this way “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”
So we get back to our original question. What is a real disciple of Jesus Christ? What is it that identifies a person as Christian?
What does mean to be a Christian? Is there anything that comes to mind with that or what exactly is a Christian anyway?
> I think ultimately it’s your relationship with God that matters, not what religion you are.
>> As humans we make up different labels like Catholic, Episcopalian, Christian, Baptist, whatever, etc. but if you are a believer and you’ve given your life to Christ, then you are in His Church.
> You have to live your life everyday as you’d want to be treated so I treat someone like that. Belief in God.
>> A lot of people say they’re Christians but that kind of scares me.
[Steve] What is a Christian?
> I would say that it’s one who believes that there’s a higher being.
>> You see so many different phases of what people say Christianity is supposed to be but then they say what it is but they don’t act like what it is.
> Everyone has their own opinion.
[Steve] It’s true! It seems that everyone does have their own opinion. But when it comes to being a true Christian the critical factor is God’s opinion and that opinion is found in His Word the Bible.
Jesus Himself said a disciple is not above his teacher but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40) The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.”
That begins to give insight into the sense of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Look up that word in a Greek lexicon. You’ll find it means a learner or a pupil (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). That’s why the word for disciple is sometimes translated a student. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament Words states that the word disciple “denotes ‘one who follows one’s teaching’…” No wonder Jesus said so often follow me. That’s what good students do, they imitate their teachers.
So if we claim to be a Christian we must follow His word as a way of life. Then we can be true disciples. That is, faithful Christians. The Apostle Paul urges us all to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
What is a Disciple? Yes, a follower of Jesus. Yes, a learner, a student of Christ. But there’s more. Vines goes on to tell us that a disciple was “not only a pupil, but an adherent…spoken of as imitators of their teacher.” (Vines)
Disciples do not simply acquire knowledge from their teacher. Instead they learn to be like him. They act like him. They live like Him. They think like him. A true disciple is completely devoted to God and they follow the example of Jesus Christ. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NKJV).
Peter said that. He knew because like all of Jesus’ disciples, they learned directly from Him as they lived with Him for more than 3 years. Jesus taught them by His example. He instructed them. They asked Him questions. They asked about scripture, about what He meant by what He said, about how to live, about their failures, and about God’s great plan.
If we claim to be a true disciple we look to what Jesus taught and the way He lived and then we match our life and practice to His. Our goal must be to obey everything God asks, no matter how hard it may seem.
Many wonder about the fact. Does God have expectations for us as His people?
Are there are requirements for Christians?
> I think basically being true to yourself, being who you are, being honest. These are just normal requirements as a human being so I think that basically those are just the basic requirements.
[Steve] Remember a true disciple is not only a learner or a follower of Jesus; but also an adherent to His teachings. That means there are those who claim to be Christian but are not. Jesus said “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:20-23).
We must be absolutely devoted to God and His teachings. Being true to yourself only counts when we adhere to the truth and example of Jesus Christ. When we are loyal and we’re dedicated to Him. That’s what counts.
So we must ask, “What was Jesus’ example?” His example no doubt involved compassion and love for others.
But He also taught obedience. We must obey the commandments of God. Christ said “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). And then again in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Honest Christians have to answer the question. Am I truly following the example of Jesus Christ and obeying His commandments? Christ’s example included worshipping God on the Sabbath day from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday and worshipping on the annual biblical Holy Days. Do you? Christians will understand His teachings and Jesus’ way of life and they’ll strive to live “by every word of God” (Luke 4:4).
[Steve] Are there any other expectations if I’m going to be a Christian? Do I need to do other things, other requirements maybe that God has in mind for me?
> Trust in Him, believe in Him, be baptized. That’s it.
>> No easy task, that’s the goal though and if you do that well everything else falls into place.
> And then if you believe and ask God to help you, He will by giving insight, you have to pray for insight.
[Steve] God will help us and He promises to give us insight. Especially as we strive to follow Him. God does have expectations for His people. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ we must learn from Him and live His way.
That is a big contrast to what most may think when it comes to becoming a Christian, being a godly disciple.
[Steve] How do I become a Christian?
> If somebody really wants to be, I don’t know how I would advise them. I would say probably start with talking to a Church
>> Pray the sinner's’ prayer
> Get into a church that you enjoy and just go from there
>>Well I am a Christian but I don’t go to church on a regular basis
> If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ into your heart you could consider yourself a true follower.
[Steve] How do you become a Christian?
> Try to pick out a church of your choice and find somebody that’s religious and talk to them.
>> Find a church that would fit their need. There’s no right church, no wrong church but find something that would follow your beliefs or your lifestyle maybe.
[Steve] To be a true Christian a person must change. They must really change. [Acts 2:37-39] Christians must repent and walk a different way of life and after repentance a Christian must also be baptized by being immersed in water by a minister of Jesus Christ.
Jesus clearly taught that to claim to be a real disciple and not truly follow Him? That’s hypocritical. It’s not about praying a special prayer or simply accepting Jesus into your heart.
It’s not about finding a church that fits your lifestyle. It’s about changing your lifestyle to fit in with God’s expectations. The Bible calls it conversion. The process of change, of surrendering your life and turning it over to God. True disciples follow Christ’ teachings with a repentant attitude and they make changes to imitate Him on a brand new path of overcoming sin.
You see, it’s not about the church of your choice. You cannot be a Christian a real disciple unless the Spirit of God is in you. If you believe what the Bible says that only happens one way. God’s Spirit is imparted by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17-18).
So where does “being true to yourself” and “being who you are” lead? It only leads to problems and sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It’s not our own disordered life, our wrong desires, our mixed up past that determines who we are and how we should live. He is the truth, He is the way. We can’t be true to ourselves until we derive our identity, until we derive our purpose and our destiny from God Father through Jesus Christ. Now that changes everything. By repentance by baptism and receiving of God’s Holy Spirit, a follower of Christ is then able to understand spiritual truth. The truths of God and His Word.
Do you think it’s possible then to say “I’m a Christian” when in reality I’m really not?
> I think so. Because I think a lot of times being a Christian to people is just checking a box.
[Steve] What is expected of a Christian then?
> I think expected is to live differently.
>> The Holy spirit guides you and so I think that’s a huge thing and the Bible definitely lets you know when you read something if you’re not following His word then that will be an indication the Holy Spirit will prick your spirit to let you know that maybe you need to change something.
[Steve] It’s true. We can’t just check a box and say I’m Christian. Being a disciple is so much more than just going through the motions. Notice what Jesus Himself said in John 8:31, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’”
The phrase “you are my disciples indeed” implies there are disciples who are not truly disciples. In other words there are real and unreal disciples. A true disciple is the same as a true Christian or a true believer. There are authentic and they’re counterfeit disciples. There’s an outward appearance and an inward reality that goes right to our core.
The hard question is am I a true disciple?
Jesus said that we must “abide in my Word.” The word abide means simply to stay or remain, to stick with it. Do I follow the teaching and example of Christ? I must abide in that Word and never leave it. Another way to say it is: Do I live the same way of life as Jesus did?
1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Another translation says it this way, “Those who claim to belong to Him must live just as Jesus did.” (NIRV)
That means if I am a real Christian it’s more than just being a believer. I have to do what Jesus did. When did he worship? How did He worship? How did He treat others? What did He eat? How did he act? Our behavior must match His. Christ said “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ ” (Matthew 15:7-9).
Jesus challenges every one of us saying: Do you choose to worship God in your own way, the way that you want by your preference as opposed to the way God tells us to worship, the way God commands us to honor Him? If you do, if you choose your own way that kind of worship is vain and useless.
By contrast a true Christian will worship God according to God’s instruction in His Word that’s found right here in His Bible. Not according to his own inclination not according to his own imagination. Notice the importance: “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)
Let’s look at an example. Christ said, “Follow Me.” So we must follow the perfect example He set for us. A true disciple must emulate the master and teacher in every aspect of life. We’re supposed to become just like our Master Jesus Christ.
Do you know what was His practice to follow when it came to worship? What was Jesus’ attitude and teaching about the Sabbath day? Mark 2:28 says “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Jesus’ custom it was to attend worship on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). That was His regular practice.
Christ powerfully declared His authority to say how the Sabbath should be observed. Don’t let the significance of His statement get away from you. Jesus Christ is the One who GAVE the law of the Sabbath. He is the One who created the Sabbath day by resting on it right there at the very beginning (Genesis 2:3). No wonder Jesus said “the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” It’s because “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3).
So Jesus set the example of Sabbath observance and would never do away with something that He personally created for the benefit of every human being.
He said, “You are My disciples indeed, if you abide in My word” (John 8:31). Do you abide in the Word? Are you a true disciple that follows the example of the Savior by observing the Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday? We know our actions are important to God. No wonder we’re told to follow Him by being “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Aren’t you tired of religion that just doesn’t satisfy? Wouldn’t you like real meaning in your conviction? You can have it. Be a doer of the Words of Christ. Dedicate yourself to follow Him. Don’t be like those who ignore Jesus’ words when they don’t agree with them or because they think they’re not convenient. Christ warned that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).
With God’s calling, with His care, you can find it. Jesus said He is the way so decide to make His way your way and become a true disciple.
In the course of today’s program we’ve examined what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
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According to the Word of God many who claim to be Christian do not measure up to Jesus’ definition of a true disciple. Be sure you’re not one of those.
Remember the Bible emphasizes to strive daily to live “by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). If I’m a true disciple I’m developing an intimate relationship with God and choosing not to participate in empty and dead religion.
True Christians’ standard of living is based on the Word of God and Jesus’ example. It’s not based on the traditions of men, denominational beliefs, or some counterfeit religious system.
Being a disciple is more than just “believing in Jesus” or “accepting Jesus in your heart.” True disciples are those who actively follow and imitate Jesus. They’ve been baptized and received the Holy Spirit. Being a true disciple is being led by God’s Holy Spirit. Walking, living, and doing things as Jesus did when He was on the earth.
What a wonderful calling that God gives. Do you hear that call? If so, don’t hang up. Answer that call. Make the choice and allow Him to live His life through you. It’s the only way to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
That’s our program for today. Thanks for joining me. Don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about Beyond Today. Tune in again next week and join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today, I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.
[Narrator] For the free literature offered on today’s program go online to beyondtoday.tv