Christians Inside and Out

The term “Christian” has overtaken the word “disciple,” and applied to it a meaning the Bible never supports.

In the common Christian vernacular, a person is presumed to be Christian if he attends, or is part of, a Christian congregation. Some ministers believe that. Others go a bit further, believing a “prayer of salvation” does the job. But few, from what I observe, conclude scripturally that to be a disciple of Christ was what was meant by the term, “Christian,” when it was first applied to disciples in Antioch. Yet, scripture shows that “disciple” was the objective Jesus intended.

Jesus did not use the term, “Christian” during His ministry on earth. In fact, in the Great Commission He said, “Go and make disciples.” He said those disciples were to observe everything He taught the first disciples, including to make more disciples. It is easy to garner from the New Testament that there is a huge gap between the lives of the early disciples of Christ and what we believe a Christian can or ought to be today.

For example, Jesus said disciples will love Him far more than we love our closest family members – so much so that our love for them will look like hatred compared with our love for Christ. Further, a disciple will deny himself in order to follow Jesus Christ explicitly, and will forsake all he or she owns for His sake. All of this is revealed in Luke 13.

Every disciple will, by his new nature, obey the first two commandments – loving God with ALL of his being, and loving his neighbors as he loves himself – as the PRIMARY focus of life. That is “Ground Zero” of being a Christian. Until we have achieved that INTENSITY of love for God and Christ, we have not moved beyond the “baby” stage of believing, into genuinely following Jesus Christ.

Paul said of the Jews, “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardlyBut he is a Jew, which is one inwardly.” In another place, he said, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel,” and “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” The very same thing can be said of “Christians,” so that not all who say “Lord, Lord” are really Christians, according to Jesus. Thus, a gap exists between what many claim and what actually is.

The missing ingredient seems to be the sacrificial nature of true repentance and the subsequent love for Jesus and His Truth that propels us into accepting His life in exchange for our own..

Leaders of congregations have propagated that gap by communicating reliance on a prayer as the sole act of commitment to Christ, ignoring the fervent love, faithfulness, and intentionality of discipleship that scripture actually prescribes.

The Church must see, preach, and teach the transformation of life God expects of genuine sons and daughters who supposedly abandon the natural life for the life of the Spirit. We must awaken to the true transformation the Holy Spirit has been sent to undertake in the lives of believers. How can a person possess the Holy Spirit of God and not be transformed in the outward man? Yet, it happens over and over. Converts leave congregations with a prayer and the expectation that, without any personal guidance and teaching by loving and mature disciples, the new believer will grow over the next thirty or forty years into a mature follower of Jesus.

Meanwhile, the Church is filled with babies knowing little of how to actually follow Christ, lying on the floor where they were converted in expectation that a small dose of pabulum weekly will suffice to grow the babe to adulthood. We should be glad natural babies are not treated so negligently.

It is as though Jesus gave a “Minimal” Commission instead of the “Great” Commission, and that, to “stay” in the building and preach “another gospel” that makes verbal converts who agree with the idea that Jesus is the Son of God and will faithfully sit on a pew once each week with tithe in hand.

You must be a Christian inside – where it counts – before you can ever become a Christian outwardly.

Pat McWhorter operates Grace Warrior Ministries and is the author of several Christian teaching books focused on discipleship and grounding new believers in the faith. He also teaches and assists ministries in Africa and Pakistan with disciple-making efforts.

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