Christian or Disciple

cordReposted from Radical Mentoring

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 . . .

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)




Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Scapegoat . . . it’s a word I’ve known all my life, but only recently did its significance dawn on me. When we think about a scapegoat, we think about the person at the office who gets blamed for something they didn’t really cause. Or the basketball player who forgets to box out his man, allowing the other team to score the winning basket. All the other plays in the game, both good and bad, are forgotten. It’s that one play . . . that one guy . . . who gets the rap for the loss. He’s the scapegoat. Unfair but real just the same.

Wikipedia says, a scapegoat is “a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is unfairly blamed for problems.” The concept comes originally from Leviticus where we’re told how the High Priest put both his hands upon the scapegoat’s head and confessed the sins of the people, thus laying their sins on the goat and removing them from the people. The goat was led away into the wilderness and intentionally lost so the sins of the people could never be found again. I’d never thought of Jesus as a scapegoat, but Charles Spurgeon did. In one of his devotional, Spurgeon quotes Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He also points to John 19:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) where it says, “They took Jesus and led Him away”. Just like the scapegoat in the Old Testament.

I’ve always felt sorry for the scapegoat, but that’s not the right response to what Jesus did. He was not a victim, He was a volunteer! He volunteered to be the scapegoat . . . for you . . . for me . . . for all of us. He doesn’t want us to feel sorry for Him, he wants us to appreciate Him . . . to live a life of gratitude for what He did for us . . . for His willingness to take on our sins. Instead of feeling sorry, He wants us to respond by forgiving ourselves and others and by loving Him back and showing that love by loving others every minute of every day.

It’s easy for us to walk right by the word ‘sin.’ It’s not a popular word these days. To ‘sin’ is to ‘miss the mark.’ To fall short of perfection in God’s eyes. Today, we kind of ‘pool’ our sins with everyone else’s, diluting them by making them a global thing. We hide behind “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. But after we die, we’ll each face God. We’ll be accountable for our sins . . . all of them. As the verse above says “we have turned every one to his own way.” Sin is individual and so is accountability. If we’ve asked our Heavenly Father . . . our ultimate ‘High Priest’ to place our sins onto Jesus (the ultimate scapegoat), we’ll be accepted into the eternal Presence of the Trinity. If we haven’t, we’ll face the judgment of a holy and just God who cannot be in the presence of sin. And that means we will spend eternity not in His presence. That would be hell.