There is a difference between a disciple and a convert. While both are necessary and both are in a right relationship with God, we need to advance from conversion to discipleship. A convert is someone who is convinced of something. He has learned about Jesus and knows about the church. He understandings the need to be saved and is convinced to the point of obedience. Converts believe the right things and do the right things because the truth has been shown to them. Each one of us needs to “turn from our sins and be converted,” Acts 3:19. But the Bible’s favorite word to describe a believer is “disciple.” The word disciple is used 270 times while the word Christian is used less than five. The word can be defined as a student who follows after the example of a teacher in order to look like the teacher. Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” Luke 6:40. The ultimate goal for every Christian is to be like Jesus.
There are three marks of discipleship found in the Bible: faithfulness, fellowship and fruitfulness. The first mark of a disciple is mentioned in John 8:31, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciple.’” The word ‘really’ means that there were (and are) those who were only nominally following Jesus and not faithful. Many who claim to be disciples are more influenced by what people say than by what God says. They are influenced by worldly philosophy instead of by the Word of God, Romans 10:17. Our cares may be consumed by money, reputation and ease of life but Jesus says, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:27. We must seek the Kingdom of Heaven above all things.
A second mark of a disciple is that he wants to fellowship with believers. Jesus says, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13:35. Jesus does not say that you should love the world, but rather that you should love his disciples. If you truly love Christians, then you will want to fellowship with them. You can’t claim to truly love God if you are not willing to attend worship services. If you love being with people in the world more than being with Christians, then you are revealing yourself to not truly be a disciple of Christ. Those who are saved are a part of the body of Christ. As we show love to others Christians, we show love to Christ.
A third mark of discipleship is fruitfulness. Jesus says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” John 15:8. Christianity that does not change life is a Christianity that is worthless. James 2 reminds us that it is not enough to say, “I believe in Jesus” if we do not have works that accompany that faith. People need to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our lives. Spiritually speaking, the one who is not growing is dying. The heart’s contents are revealed by our speech and our actions.
We must be converted from the world. But it is not enough to only believe the right doctrine. Our hearts must continually everyday grow more and more closely to Jesus. We must seek to be disciples!