About 173 million Americans identify themselves as Christians. If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re one of them. Now I’m neither smart nor well-read enough to explain the various criteria used to validate one’s claim to being identified as a Christian. The theology is thick. Are you a John 3:16 kind of Christian, betting the farm that Christianity is just about believing? That might be risky in light of James 2:19 which says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Is baptism a requirement? Does childhood baptism count or do you have to be passed ‘the age of accountability’ (I’m still looking for those words in a verse!). Do you have to belong to a church and attend regularly? Must we do ‘Christian work’? James seems to say so. In chapter 2, verse 17, he says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Is ‘Christian’ a noun or a verb?
The word “Christian” has undoubtedly become a brand in today’s culture, with Christian movies, Christian music and Christian food (that’d be Chick-Fil-A!). Is Christianity a value system that guides a lifestyle? Or could it be a ‘tribe’ of people who salute the same ideals?
Oddly enough, the word “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible. And each time it shows up, it’s used in reference to Jesus’ disciples.
But the word “disciple” shows up 269 times in the Scriptures. 269 times! Clearly, God’s Word puts a lot of weight on being a disciple of Jesus.
Somewhere back in time, someone told me that a disciple is a learner and follower of Christ. For me, that means learning everything I can about Jesus, His life, His message and His Father. It means learning from my mistakes . . . looking back at my screw-ups and asking God to teach me better ways for the future . . . turning those mistakes into evaluated experience. That’s learning.
But following Jesus may be more important than learning about Him. Sometimes, I know how to follow Him by knowing Scriptures and how He handled similar circumstances. But sometimes I need more. I need special instructions . . . personal guidance and direction. For example, in navigating parenthood and grandparenthood, I need the leadership of the Holy Spirit because Jesus didn’t model that part for me.
Now, while I still think that understanding of a disciple is accurate, I’ve come to see that being a disciple is more than just “learning and following Jesus.” I like the National Discipleship Forum’s definition . . .
A disciple is “a person who is following Christ, being changed by Christ, and is committed to the mission of Christ.”
“Following Christ” . . . we just talked about that. “Being changed by Christ” says a disciple is a learner but not just head learner. He’s a heart learner, opening himself up so God can change him from the inside out. It means transparency and vulnerability. It means introspection, repentance, and a continuous pursuit of Godliness. It means living out the ‘Platinum Rule’ . . . loving others the way God loves you and me.
And the last phrase . . . “committed to the mission of Christ” resonates deeply with me and all of Radical Mentoring. Jesus’ instruction to “go out and train everyone . . . in this way of life” (Matthew 28:19 MSG) is the mantra of mentoring.
As we move into 2018, let’s commit to being true disciples of Jesus. Who’s with me?
Scripture: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)
Mentor Tip: We mentor from gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. Take a few minutes this week to recount the blessings of 2017 as well as your entire life so far. Write them in your journal and thank Him for each and every one.