At eight years old I acknowledged Jesus as my Lord and Savior; I believed that he died on the cross for my sins and that through trusting in him I had new life. I was baptized, I learned bible stories, I prayed, but I didn’t know what it looked like to live for Christ. To me this meant upholding a moral structure, it meant working hard and doing the right thing even when others weren’t. I had no idea what it meant and what it would cost to be a disciple of Christ.
Yes, I was saved from my sins. I was a believer, but I was far from being a disciple. It would be eleven years before I would put down a stake and consciously decide that I wanted to be a learner and follower. What I had to learn was that discipleship was not simply an academic endeavor. In 2013 I decided that I wanted to learn Jesus and to live Jesus with my entire life! The words believer and disciple are not synonymous, and it’s a dangerous and common misunderstanding. Many believe that Jesus is God, but few bear their crosses and follow him!
So what was missing in my life? What hindered me from being a disciple for eleven years?
When I consider my past there were two major things that hindered me from following Christ as a disciple. Before we dig into my lack, it would be irresponsible for me to move forward without highlighting God's grace. Although I was missing two major things, I had the first thing required to be a disciple of the LORD Jesus Christ: God's grace on my life!
The first thing required to be a disciple of the LORD Jesus Christ is salvation! Salvation is deliverance; it means that you are saved from your sin. In Genesis God created man in his image (without sin), but when they sinned they lost the image of God and died spiritually. And as our eldest grandparents they passed down their sin nature and status of spiritual death to us. Although many promote good works and religion, the truth is there is nothing we can do to earn forgiveness from God of our sin. The Bible tells us that our sins earned us death (Rom 6:23). What must be understood is that God is holy and perfect; he is sinless and can have nothing to do with evil. Because of this, he can have nothing to do with us as sinners; we would only put blemishes in his kingdom. But as the ultimate act of love, Jesus died in our place. He suffered the death that our sin earned us and gave us his life instead (Rom 5:10). When we accept his gift of life it’s called salvation, and to accept his free gift all we have to do is confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9). Without believing on Jesus for salvation, we have no right to claim that we are his disciples!
Although many confess Jesus as LORD, few have proper perspective of Lordship, and few consider what it means that Jesus Christ is their LORD. As disciple and believer are frequently viewed synonymously, so are the names Lord and Savior. Although Lord and Savior refer to the same person, those declarations mean very different things. At the heart of discipleship is the issue of Lordship. To call Jesus Lord is to call him Master, possessor. If he is your Lord then you belong to him; you are his possession. This is strange to many because we don’t typically consider servitude, submission, and subjection things to be desired. However, when you are serving, submitted, and subjected to a just, loving, wise, all-powerful God than it is actually the safest and freest place to be.
The beautiful thing about the Lordship of Christ is the purpose we find in it. When we declare to God that we are his children, he gives us purpose! But understanding this purpose cannot happen properly without seeing Jesus for who he is, and we get to see him clearly through his word (The Bible).
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
The above passage outlines our purpose. Solomon sums it up very simply: “Fear God, and keep his commandments.” We cannot fear God if we don’t know him, and we cannot keep his commandments if we don’t know them. This is why we study the Bible; you cannot be a disciple until you are willing to obey God at his word. As a young believer, when I professed that Jesus was my Lord, I didn’t read the Bible. Without reading His Word I couldn’t have an intimate knowledge of who he was or keep his commandments. Seeing Jesus for who he is the key to producing the desire to follow him.
If you don’t have someone in your life that you can look up to spiritually and call “Dad” or “Mom”, then you will never grow into the Christian that Jesus wants you to be. Growth in the life of a believer requires the investment from a more mature believer. If we consider our childhood, it took the provision, protection, guidance, and love of our parents to establish us as mature individuals. For some of us that process took longer than others. Mom and dad didn’t have us one day and send us out to find a job the next. Similarly, as a believer in Christ we experience a new birth (John 3:3), and just as we needed parents for our physical birth we also need spiritual parents after our spiritual birth.
1 Tim 1:2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul and Timothy are prime examples of this truth. In the above passage Paul calls Timothy his “own son in the faith”. By studying scripture we know that Timothy is not Paul’s physical son, but that Paul became a spiritual father to him (Acts 16:1-5). Paul came into Lystra where Timothy’s testimony was well spoken of in the body, and Paul called Timothy to follow him. Paul circumcised him and took him to minister through the cities, where they “established churches in the faith”. Notice that for Timothy to grow into the man that God desired him to be, it took Paul coming alongside him and training him deeper in the word and work of ministry.
Personally it wasn’t until I got plugged into the church, and more mature men began to guide me and invest in me spiritually that I began to follow Christ more diligently. It took someone showing me and modeling for me what that practically looked like; it took someone saying to me, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).