Even though this is not what God desires or the path that an advancing disciple would choose, the “short” answer, never-the-less, is YES. As we will see in this presentation, one CAN be a Christian and not become a follower of Christ.
The “longer” answer is still YES, but requires a more detailed explanation if this doctrinal principle is to be learned (2Pet. 3: 18), understood (1Cor. 2: 14), and appropriately applied (James 1: 22).
First, How can this be?
The name or title of "Christian" first came into view in ancient Antioch of Syria. (There were two cities of the same name in the ancient world). The name/title of Christian was given to born again believers who gathered together in the local assemblies that had been established in Antioch. Scripture does not clarify if the title came from within, or if it originated from sources outside of the local assemblies. In the course of time, it became the universal name given and accepted by the members of Church at large.
As in the case of any local assembly, the members were at different levels of spiritual maturity, but were all considered brothers and sisters of the faith, having all laid the same foundation of personal faith in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament portion of the Bible, at that time, was still a "work in progress." Many of books of the New Testament were initially letters that had been wrtten by various Apostles and circulated among the local assemblies of the First Century.
One instantaneously becomes and forever remains a “Christian” the moment he/she is born again. One is born again if and when he/she chooses to believe (place his/her personal faith (trust and confidence) in a presentation of the Gospel Message.
It is at the moment one is born again and in the place where the believer is/was that the newly born again believer is (Eph. 4: 30) sealed (identified-baptized) as a child of God through the Work of God the Holy Spirit. After one had born again, it was a common practice to baptize the new believer in water, signifying his/her association with a local assembly or of the Church at large. It is important to note that it was AFTER one is born again, and it was AFTER the issue of one's salvation had ALREADY been resolved, that these water baptisms took place. Nothing that takes place BEFORE, and nothing that takes place AFTER one has been born again either increases or diminishes the integrity of the salvation that a born again believer has ALREADY received.
Being born again can take place anywhere. This “anywhere” can be at a place called St. Joe’s Church, a place called Joe’s bar, a fox hole ducking bullets, on one's death bed, or anywhere else the God the Holy Spirit selects. The regenerating (Titus 3: 5) of the believer's spirit, the baptizing/sealing/identifying Work that takes place at the moment one is born again is the exclusive Work of God the Holy Spirit and does NOT involve ANY human agent.
In the times in which we are living, there are many means of communication through which one can be presented with the Gospel Message. God can make use of other believers in the "setting of the stage, " but it is God who chooses and arranges the place, the timing, and the circumstances under which the Gospel Message is to be presented to any given soul.
It is God the Holy Spirit who enables the lost soul to understand (1Cor. 2: 14) the Gospel Message when it is presented to him/her. God the Holy Spirit does NOT violate the free will of the soul . The soul must choose to believe what he/she has been enabled to understand. The role of the advancing disciple is to INFORM, not to CONFORM anyone.
In many Churches, the true Gospel Message has been corrupted by adding the practices and products of Man-made religion to it as a condition for lost souls to either obtain or retain salvation. Many who claim to be Christians are familiar with most of the accounts found in the "Gospels," but would have a hard time explaining what the Gospel Message is all about. The percieved need to participate in these additional requirements is an indicator that one does not have a clear understanding of the true Gospel Message.
Being a “child” of God has got NOTHING to do with one’s biological or chronological age. Becoming a child of God has to do with entering into a Father and child relationship with God the Father.
As of the moment one is born again, he/she is spiritually regenerated (Titus 3: 5) and a recipient of eternal life (John 3: 16). From that moment on, there is NO eternal condemnation (Romans 8: 1), as far as salvation is concerned.
The status and integrity of the salvation that a born again believer receives at the moment he/she is born again can neither be increased nor can it be diminished as a result of what takes (or fails to take) place in the course of one’s post (after) salvation spiritual life.
Rather or not a born again Christian will become and remain to be a post (after) salvation “follower” of the Lord Jesus Christ will determine the quality of his/her post salvation spiritual life. But the quality of one’s post salvation spiritual life has got nothing to do with retaining the salvation that he/she has already received.
While having NOTHING to do with retaining salvation, discipleship has got EVERYTHING to do with the post salvation spiritual life. Identifying and participating in the post salvation spiritual life is the very reason that born again believers remain here on Earth in the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world. Mankind was created to glorify God in the midst of an ongoing battle between God and forces of evil. Here in the Church Age, the post salvation spiritual life is where this spiritual battle takes place.
There are heavenly rewards (1Cor. 3: 12-15) and privileges (Revelation 1/Revelation 2) to be received and experienced for all of eternity future for born again believers who choose to learn of and execute the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship and ambassadorship.
The self-centered and hostile fallen nature (Romans 8: 7) that one had to deal with before he/she was saved does NOT go away (Romans 7) after one is born again. In fact, it increases the pressure that it can place one’s soul structure, keeping pace with whatever spiritual progress one makes throughout the course of his/her post salvation spiritual life.
If one does not feel this pressure, it could be that the devil is satisfied to keep you right where you are in the spiritual realm. The devil is “wise” enough to quit while he is ahead of the game.
The devil, his forces of evil, and those he/they have deceived, can do nothing to change the “saved” status of a born again believer, but can do much to obstruct his/her forward progress in the post salvation spiritual life. One cannot neglect the post salvation spiritual life and be a follower of Christ. No wonder why the devil does all he can to downplay the significance of identifying and executing the post salvation spiritual life, while promoting all the alternatives that religion has to offer!
Every born again believer (Christian) has "a" post salvation spiritual life. It begins the moment one is born again and ends when he/she departs this Earth. Rather or not one has the type of post salvation spiritual life that God designed is another matter.
As of the Church Age, the objective of the Kingdom of Darkness was/is to do all it can to prevent lost souls from hearing and responding to the Gospel Message.
The devil knows the meaninglessness of Man-made religion. Accordingly, he has no problem with those who choose the “religious” alternatives to God’s one and only means of salvation, so long as in the process, such persons are never exposed to the Gospel Message.
Likewise, the devil knows the meaninglessness of the alternatives that Man-made religion promotes in place of the post salvation spiritual life that God has designed for the Church Age.
Accordingly, the devil encourages those he deceives to engage in “religion.” Christian Religion is the devil's alternative to Christianity. As in the case of any successful counterfeit operation, it must be made to appear to be the "real" thing.
Advancing disciples will come to realize that the phrase "Christian Religion" is actually an oxymoron (containing incompatible terminology). Christianity and Christian Religion are like water and oil. You can mix them together, but they do not bond and will eventually separate (Prov. 30: 6). The religions of the world (Psalms 96:5 ) involve demonic activity and/ or alternative "gods" or idols. 1Tim 4: 1/Gal. 3: 1/ 2Cor. 11: 14 clearly teach that such demonic activity has, is, and will take place WITHIN the universal Church that God had established. It takes an edified soul structure to be able to distinguish the difference between Christianity and Christian Religion.
The devil encourages those he deceives with religion (of any variety) to promote it in the lives of others. Those he deceives with Christian religion will believe they are participating in the Great Commission, when it fact they are involved in and are promoting one of the devil's alternatives.
False and/or meaningless worship on the part of the people of God is NOT anything new. For many, the worship of God by the ancient Jews had become meaningless (Mark 7: 7). As prophesied in 1Tim. 4: 1, the same scenario is taking place WITHIN the Christian Community of our day.
What the devil does not promote and does oppose is the true Gospel Message and the type of post salvation spiritual life that God designed for the Church Age believer. Developing a level of spiritual maturity to be able to distinguish between the true and the alternative/false Gospel Messages, and true and the alternative post salvation spiritual lives is a fundamental part of becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Accordingly, one can be a “follower” of one or more of the conflicting Christian religions that Man has engineered, and not be a follower of Christ!
The living Word of God (John 1: 1) and what became the written Word of God (The Bible) are in principle, ONE and the SAME. When interpreted and applied correctly. the Living and the Written Word of God mutually support and concur with each other other. Through religion, the devil has done a good job of distorting what the Written Word of God has to say. Because these distortions have come through religious authority, they have generally been swallowed hook, line, and sinker by those the devil has deceived.
The "blind leading the blind" principle of (Matt. 15: 14) that involved the ancient Pharisees (Matt. 15: 12) certainly applies to what has been taken place throughout the course of the Church Age, as well.
To whatever extent that one is a follower of the written Word of God (The Bible), he is a follower of the living Word of God (the Lord Jesus Christ).
To whatever extent that one is not a follower of the written Word of God, he is not a follower of the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This applies to all the activity that one engages in while attempting to worship God in/with a local assembly/ministry, and when functioning as Christ's ambassador outside in the devil’s world (Luke 4: 6).
In His deity, the living Word of God (God the Son), has always existed and co-functioned with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
As of the First Advent, The Living Word (God the Son) became the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The written Word of God (The Bible) has NOT always existed. Here in the Church Age, believers have the advantage of having the completed Word of God.
The written Word of God was composed by many different human authors, but all of them did so under the inspiration of God over a period of some 1500 years. Most scholars will concur that what would become what we now know as "The Bible" began to be composed with the writing of the Book of Genesis by Moses around 1450 - 1410 BC. *Some scholars contend that the Book of Job many be been written before the Book of Genesis. Many things of significance had taken place in both the spiritual realm and in the natural realm before being recorded in the pages in Scripture. The Bible by no means tells us of all that had taken place, but does tell us all that we need to know in order to connect with the God of the Bible and secure an eternal relationship with Him that will go on for all of eternity.
The ongoing composing of what became known as the Old Testament portion of the Bible was suspended for approx. 400 years . These 400 years of silence consisted of an extended (400 years) period of time between the Old Testament dispensation and the beginning of the New Testament era. During this period of time, God did not speak to Man through angels or human prophets. This silence, however, did not change or void any of the prophecies that had already been made known to Man, including those that made reference to coming Savior. This period of silence was broken when the Gabriel the angel was sent by God to speak to Zacharias the priest, who was to become the father of the John the Baptist, and to Mary who was to become the mother of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The portion of the Bible that we now refer to as the New Testament was written between 60 AD and were completed with the writing of the Book of Revelation around 96 AD.
With the earthly departure of the last Apostle, the Written Word of God became the exclusive "go to" source for guidance and instruction for the Church that God designed. Keeping up with his method of operation, the devil promotes all kinds of "religous" writings that "add to" or contradict what can be found in Scripture.
To the extent that the Church followed the written Word of God it remained and remains to be an institution that followed/follows Christ and involved/involves itself in the work (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that God gave it to do. To the extent that Man has added Man-made, religious concepts that cannot be substantiated, or in some cases, contradict what the Written Word of God, the Church has deviated from following Christ, and in exchange, has embraced an ongoing and never ending list of internal and external activities that it was NEVER commissioned or authorized to embrace.
As a result, there are many alternative Churches and religious organizations that have been established and have evolved WITHIN the Christian Community that are not following Christ, and are producing members that do NOT follow Christ. History is repeating itself, with the blind leading the blind.
In each generation of the Church Age, the Church that God designed will continue to endure (Matt. 16: 18) until it is taken up in the Rapture (1Thess 4: 16, 17), after having completed (Matt. 24: 14 ) the work (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that is was given to do.
In the meantime, the local assemblies of the Church that God designed will continue to produce disciples and ambassadors on the individual level to do the work that it was given to do, and to pass the torch onto the next generation.
At the same time, the alternative Churches that are the products of religion will continue to promote their various forms of Christian religion, and engage in alternative internal and external activities. In this the devil is well pleased.
The local assemblies that are a part of the Church that God designed have been in the minority over much of the course of the Church Age, in comparison to those that are a part of the alternative Churches that have been established by Man made religious and political authority. In light of the few-many principle of Matt. 7:13, 14, this should not come to us as any surprise. In fact, apostasy (false teachings/practices) will be on the increase WITHIN the Christian Community as the end of the Church Age draws nearer (1Tim. 4: 1).
Here in the Church Age, it is those who choose to learn and to apply the written Word of God are the “followers” of the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the end of the day (life), it will NOT be what a “religious” man or group of “religious” men had to say that is going to matter. It will be on the basis of what the unadulterated Written Word of God had.has to say that God will judge each one of us (John 12: 48).
“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the words I spoke (recorded in Scripture) is what will judge him on the last day (John 12: 48 italics mine NASB).”
Specifically, it is one’s belief or one's disbelief in the Gospel Message , as outlined in the Written Word of God, that determines where one will spend all of eternity future (John 3: 18).
Those who believe the Gospel Message will spend eternity future in Heaven. Those who disbelieve the Gospel Message will spend eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15). There is NO third option!
The post salvation spiritual life of each and every born again believer will also be evaluated by what is written in the Word of God. There are more than 300 commands found in the New Testament alone, for which the Christians of the Church Age are going to give an account of to God (Romans 14: 12). Many say they follow the Ten Commandments. If that were possible (1John 1: 8/Romans 3: 23) that would be a good thing, but what about the remaining 290 or so? According to James 2: 10, if we violate any ONE of them, we are in the same boat as the one who has broken them all!
There are many things that these commands require “Christians” to do, and there are many things that these commands prohibit “Christians” from doing, if they are to become and remain followers of Christ.
To the extent that a born again Christian learns and obeys these 300+ commands, he/she is a follower of Christ. To the extent that a born again Christian does not learn, or does not apply what he/she has learned, he/she is NOT a follower of Christ.
All born again believers (Christians) have a home in Heaven (John 14: 2). They do NOT deserve it. They did NOT earn it. They did NOTHING to keep it. They can NOT lose it. Salvation is an irrevocable (Romans 11: 29) gift from God that He gives to ALL who choose to believe in the Gospel Message.
At the same time, each believer will either be individually rewarded or will individually forfeit heavenly rewards (1Cor. 3: 12-15) and privileges (Rev. 1/Rev. 2), based on the production (or lack of production) of divine good.
The quality of one’s post salvation spiritual life goes hand in hand with the level of spiritual maturity that any given born again believer attains while here on Earth. Spiritual maturity is measured by the extent that one has learned and applies the written Word of God to his/her daily life.
In the end, no one gets away with anything. In the end, no one will be rewarded or given privileges for a job not done.
With all the good and the bad things that daily life can bring to us, we can be easily distracted from focusing on the things that pertain to eternity. But when er leave the things of Earth behind, and the things of eternity are ALL that there is, it will be a different story. Its the different story that the devil doesn't want us to hear about or to focus on while we are here on Earth. What a born again believer chooses to focus on each and every day that he/she is here on Earth is what determines how he/she will experience Heaven.
The forces of evil appeals to the fallen nature in Man. This fallen nature is inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards the God of the Bible, and towards the things of the God of the Bible.
Here in the Church Age, the primary things of the God of the Bible are the Gospel Message and post salvation spiritual life. The reason that there is so much apostasy in the our day is that there is too much Christian Religion and not enough Christianity.
One can "attend" many different local assemblies and "touch all the bases" of Christian Religion, and still not have a clear understanding of the Gospel Message or what the post salvation spiritual life is all about. For many, it is their Christian Religion that has misled then. Many such souls are devoted followers of one form of Christian Religion or another, but are NOT followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The fallen nature is self-centered. It looks out for who it considers to be #1. For fallen Man, #1 is the one he/she sees in the mirror. Fallen Man’s “interest,” if any, in God and things of God is what He or the things of God can do for them.
The new creation (2Cor. 5: 17) that we are in Christ is Christ-centered. For the Christ-centered, advancing disciple, #1 is God. When a born again believer chooses to submit him/herself to the influence of the fallen nature, he/she will be self-centered and focused on the things of this world. When the same born again believer chooses to submit to the control of the God the Holy Spirit, he/she will be Christ-centered and focused on the things of eternity. To the one we choose to follow, we become its servant (Romans 6: 16).
While being hostile towards God and things of God, the fallen nature in Man is by nature, open and receptive to all the “alternatives” that the Kingdom of Darkness has to offer.
The "dark side"of religion is that it leaves the ones it deceives with a false sense of entitlement concerning life here on Earth and in Heaven to come. It makes promises that it was never authorized to make, and raises doubts concerning some of the promises that God did in fact make (e.g. John 3: 16).
Even if one “went to Church” and went through the motions for an hour once a day, every day of every week, it would still only account for less than 5% of the 168 hours that God gives to each one of us each week to glorify God. Do the math (7 out of 168).
What one does or doesn’t do when NOT “in Church” for the remaining 161 to 167 hours each eek is just as important as what one does if and when he/she is “in Church.” Following the Lord Jesus Christ for less than 5% of his/her time hardly qualifies one as being His follower!
Being a “follower” of Christ involves a 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week lifestyle of discipleship and ambassadorship.
Man-made religion is one of the things that is held in high esteem by those who practice it, but false religion, no matter where it is found, is an abomination in the eyes of God (Luke 16: 15).
False religions (Psalms 96: 5) and meaningless “religious” practices of human origin and design have been around since the beginning of recorded history ( Gen. 4: 3, 5).
The worship by many who considered themselves God’s people prior to the Church Age had become meaningless (Mark 7: 7), having substituted (or added) the teachings and traditions of men to what God had to say.
History has repeated itself, here in the Church Age.
In the 1st Century there were already many false gospel messages (means/requirements) to be saved being promoted. Religious groups had already begun to add false requirements to either receive or retain salvation. Paul spoke of those being deceived as having been "bewitched (Gal. 3: 1 NASB)."
The sin (Proverbs 30: 6) of adding things to either obtain or to retain salvation has continued to be a problem throughout the course of Church History. This will only get worse as the end time of the Church Age approaches (1Tim. 4: 1). The fingerprints and the results of Man-made religion can be found in virtually every corner of the Christian Community. It seems that such things can be easily detected in the “church down the street,” but seldom detected or addressed in one’s own!
Maintaining a soul structure that is based on the Written Word of God on the individual level and on the organizational level is an O-N-G-O-I-N-G battle. It is an area of spiritual warfare in which the devil will not retreat. Promoting false gospel messages for salvation and alternative post salvation spiritual lives by religious authorities , and not what is portrayed in many horror films, are what is at the heart of the spiritual combat (Eph. 6) of the Church Age. With modern technology being what it is, every day, the souls of men are bombarded with human viewpoint that runs contrary to the Written Word of God. Good is being promoted as evil, and evil is being promoted as good.
The record of what the devil has accomplished through religion is clear evidence of the victories that the devil has accomplished in the realm of spiritual warfare throughout the course of Church Age. In fact, if all of the products and practices of Man made religion were to be removed from what is generally perceived to be a part of the Christian Community, all that would remain would barely be recognizable to many who "go to Church" on a regular basis.
Never-the less, the global Church that God designed will endure (Matt. 16:18). The Church that God speaks of consists of born again believers. They can be found in most local assemblies. The sit side by side in the same pews with many others who consider themselves Christians and followers of Christ.
Note, however, that that there was/is no such promise of endurance ever given to ANY one denomination, local assembly, or ministry.
Some local assemblies and ministries are shut down by hostile governments. Some are shut down by groups with opposing religious, cultural,and social beliefs. Some are shut down by racially-motivated groups. Some close due to a lack of attendance and the financial support that such attendance generates. Some self-destruct and are shut down as a result of internal scandal, and is some cases, criminal activity. When such "shutdowns" take place, the "church within the church," consisting of the born again believers who "attended" there, are forced to regroup or attend another active local assembly.
Some local assemblies are more in conformity with what the written Word of God has to say than others. During times of apostasy, the intangible Church that God designed that have a Biblically-qualified and functioning pastor teacher can be a "hard find."
Note that in the day and age of technology in which we are living, one can comply with the command to gather together via one of many remote means of communication. The downside to this however, is that one may suffer the lack of benefits that having fellowship with like-minded believers can provide.
At the same time, prioritizing a relationship with people over one's relationship with God can lead to disqualification as a disciple (Luke 14: 16).
The bottom line for selecting a local assembly or connecting with ANY ministry is the fruit that it produces. The fruit of a local assembly that God approves of consists of souls that have been born again and are presently being edified.
When the preaching of the Gospel Message (Matt. 24: 14) to all the nations has been competed, the Church on earth that God designed will be taken up in the Rapture (1Thess 4: 16, 17). I believe that if the Rapture should take place in the middle of worship service in the Christian Community at large, there will be many left behind sitting in the pews and standing behind the pulpits! Not everyone who sits in the pews or stands behind the pulpits have been born again. They are merely followers and/or promoters of Christian Religion, going through the motions, but have never been born again, and were not followers of Christ.
One can follow Christian Religion, but one cannot follow Christ until after one has first been born again.
Q. Why not?
A. Just as a physically dead man can do nothing in the natural realm, a spiritually dead man can do nothing in the spiritual realm. Since the Fall of Man, we come into this world physically alive, but spiritually dead. We remain spiritually dead until our spirit is regenerated (Titus 3: 5), which is one of things takes place the moment one is born again, but NOT before.
There will be many born again again believers taken up in the Rapture who were not followers of Christ in the post salvation spiritual life. Such born again believers do NOT lose their salvation, but will NOT receive the rewards and privileges that are reserved for those who followed Christ over the course of their post salvation spiritual lives.
Until the Rapture takes place, there will continue to be “new members” of the global Church that God designed as a result of the ongoing preaching of the Gospel Message.
Some of these members will go on to become followers of Christ in the post salvation spiritual life, and some will not. The majority/minority principle of Matt. 7 teach that it is only a minority of each generation that will become born again. I believe that this majority/minority can also be applied to the Church as well, as only a minority of each generation of born again believers become followers of Christ. Instead of identifying and participating in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, many born again believers will choose to follow one of the less-demanding alternatives that are promoted in the name of Christian Religion.
For many of these alternatives, all one "has to do" is show up once a week for an hour or so and leave enough money in the basket and you're "all set." Whereas discipleship is a 24/7 lifestyle that takes first place no matter where one is or what one may otherwise be doing for each one of the 168 hrs. a week that God has given to each one of us for His glory. Being a disciple and being a follower of Christ go hand in hand.
To be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, one must develop the “mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2: 16 NASB).” In order to do so, one must learn (2Pet. 3: 18) what the Written Word of God has to say. Once learned, one must then apply (James 1: 22) the mind of Christ to ALL that one thinks, says, and does on a daily basis.
There are many born again believers who can accurately quote the Bible from cover to cover, but fail at the point of application. Other than their attendance at Church, and the knowledge that they have acquired by having done so, there is no overt difference between their lifestyle the lifestyles of their disbelieving counterparts.
Contrary to what many evangelists might tell you, making such a commitment (of giving one’s over life to Christ) is NOT a requirement in order to be saved. It IS, however, a requirement of discipleship (Luke 14: 26). Such evangelists speak of being born again and turning over one's life to Christ as if becoming a born again believer and discipleship is something that instantaneously takes place at the same time, or shortly thereafter. There are such commitments, as in the case of the Apostle Paul (Acts ), but for many of us, years will pass before a born again believer is ready and willing to turn his/her "whole" life over to God.
I had been saved for decades before I was truly ready to begin turn my whole life over to God. I had no problem with going to Church once a week, praying, reading the Bible, and trying to do my best to be a decent person, family man, and contributing to society, but there were limits as far as this 24/7 discipleship business was concerned. Such things as Identifying and developing the spiritual gift (1Cor. 12) that God had in mind for me, and finding where I fit into the Great Commission, were not on the top of my "things to do" list for many years. What I was looking for was God's approval and support for what I had in mind, and not necessarily what He had in mind. The subject matter (what we pray for or about) of one's prayer life is a good indicator of rather or not we are seeking God' s will, or our own.
As long as we want to be the captain and the navigator of our lives, a born again believer can not be a follower of Christ. There is nothing wrong with enjoying whatever blessings that legitimately come our way, but we must not hold on so tightly that such things become an "idol" and get in between us and our relationship with God. Anything that we would desire to obtain, retain, or prioritize above and beyond our fellowship with God IS an idol.
When a born again believer has the right attitude, he/she can truly enjoy all things for what they are and for as long as God wants such things to be a part of our earthly experience. At the same time, he/she can adjust and continue to move forward in the plan of God when His plan calls for the removal of such things. Making these adjustments is a part of being a follower of Christ.
At the very least, a follower of Christ is willing and able to accept anything and anyone that God chooses to take away or to add to our personal circumstances. This is what it means to be Christ-centered, as opposed to self centered.
Whatever area(s) of our lives that we want to have the final say in, are areas that we have NOT turned over to God. It can be our careers, our business, our marriages, our sex life, our familial relationships, our finances, our hobbies, our "free" time, and yes, even area(s) of what the Bible calls sin that we are not (yet) willing to give up.
These areas of sin are defined by the more than the 300 do's and don'ts found in the New Testament that apply to the Church Age believer.
Until one is willing to turn e-v-e-r-y area of his/her individual life over to God, such a born again believer is, “…not worthy to be called My d-i-s-c-i-p-l-e (Luke 14: 26 NASB).” If a born again believer is not a disciple, he/she is NOT a follower of Christ
"If anyone (is born again and) comes to Me, and does not hate (love less) his own father and mother and wife (or husband) and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14: 26 NASB italics mine)."
The invitation from God and the human desire to turn one’s life over to Christ comes AFTER one has already been born again and saved, and after one has reached the stage of spiritual maturity that such a commitment requires.
It is important to note that the Lord Jesus Christ was not speaking of salvation, but of discipleship.
As we have noted, discipleship is not the means to become saved, nor is it the means to retain salvation. All born again believers are forever saved, but not all saved born again believers embrace discipleship. Some embrace it, but later walk away. Those who do engage in and remain in discipleship are the ones who are “followers” of the Lord Jesus Christ. So yes, one can be forever saved, but not become or remain to be a “follower” of Christ.
Discipleship is the study and the application of the Word of God. It is initially for one’s own edification, with the long term objective of participating in the Great Commission (Matt. 29: 19, 20).
It will be a period of time before an advancing disciple will have obtained enough accurate Biblical knowledge that he/she is prepared (1Pet. 3: 15) and in a position to provide Biblical answers to those who approach him/her with spiritual questions. There is nothing wrong with conceding that one does not have a answer, but he/she should have a source in which he/she can refer the inquirer.
It will be even longer before a born again believer can function in the capacity of Christ’s ambassador. An ambassador is one who represents and speaks for one kingdom while residing in another. An ambassador has full knowledge of the policies and positions of the kingdom he/she represents. An ambassador does NOT express his/her own opinions, but only the position of the kingdom he/she represents. Accordingly, whatever is spoken by an ambassador is received as if it had come from the mouth of the king of the kingdom he/she represents. It is an awesome privilege to speak for the Kingdom of God, but it is an awesome responsibility to do so with accuracy.
At the same time, as of the moment has been born again, he/she already has an understanding of the Gospel Message, and already IS in a position and has the responsibility to share it with others. Many "religious" and lay persons alike wear Roman crosses, but do not have a clear understanding or the ability to communicate, what the cross represents.
To be a communicator of the Gospel Message what the Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said that to be His follower, one must pick up his cross and follow Him (Matt. 16: 24).
The “cross” of Matthew 16: 24 is NOT the day to day problems that are common to all men. The cross spoken of in Matt. 16: 24 is the Gospel Message, and all of the persecution, rejection, and hardship that one will (2Tim. 3: 12) face, if he/she desires to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One can be "religious," keep it to oneself, and "get along" with those who are the sons (followers) of the devil (John 8: 44). One can be religious, keep it to oneself, and "get along" with those who follow what is promoted in the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world. But one will face persecution from the devil's world and from the religious crowd WITHIN what is generally accepted as a part of the Christian Community if one chooses to be a follower of Christ and participates in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19, 20).
To follow Christ one must deny himself. Denying oneself goes way beyond refusing to pursue the seasonal pleasures (Heb. 11: 25) of sin, or engaging in self-induced hardship (fasting/vows of poverty, etc.). To deny oneself means that God and/or the things of God are to take priority over everything and everyone else, including oneself (Matt. 16: 24/Luke 14: 26).
To pick up the cross means to take a public stand for Gospel Message.
When one picks up the cross, he/she rejects all other means of salvation. These all “other means” include, but are not limited to, engaging in relatively good human conduct, good deeds, and participating in “religious” activity that has been established by the traditions of men in place of, or in addition to, faith and faith alone in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There IS a place for good behavior and good deeds in the daily lives of God’s people, but such things are NOT for purpose of obtaining, retaining, or restoring salvation.
“Religious” activity that contradicts the Written Word of God is among the things that are held in high esteem by fallen Man, but are abominations in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15). Anything that would attempt to take the place and/or the function of God would make the list of such abominations.
When an advancing disciple is asked if he/she is a “religious” person, the appropriate answer should be, “I certainly hope not!.”
Such a response may open up the door of opportunity to explain the all important differences between Christianity, Christian religion, and any of the other religions (Psalms 96: 5) found throughout of the world.
Some would say that this is being very “narrow-minded,” but the gate and way to SALVATION are “narrow,” and only a few (the minority) ever find it (Matt. 7: 13, 14! The same can be said for the true post salvation spiritual life of discipleship and ambassadorship!
Being a follower of Christ calls for the building, maintaining, and the application of an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27).
Those who come from a “religious” background may first have to go through a period of deconstruction, removing from their existing soul structures all the false teachings that they had previously made a part of their soul structures. This can include false teachings found within the Christian Community, as well.
Any pastor can tell you that it is much easier to edify a former atheist that it is to edify a soul that has been under the deception of false religion. Religious roots run deep and wide. The devil is not one to give up ground that he had formerly occupied.
This edified soul structure becomes the base of operations, impacting “ALL” that one thinks, says, and does. Needless to say, this “ALL” factor takes the “follower of Christ” w-a-y beyond the issue of salvation. Salvation is the starting point of the post salvation spiritual life.
" According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I (the Apostle Paul is speaking) laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is (faith in the Person and the Work of) Jesus Christ (1Cor. 10, 11 NASB italics mine).
Once the foundation has been established, salvation remains in place forever. The person who has laid this foundation is forever saved. This is true, rather or not an edified soul structure is ever built on it, or not. As an example, esouls that are born by making a "death bed" confession of faith are just as "saved" as the one who was born again in childhood, but do not have the opportunity to build, apply, or ever receive the blessings of an edified soul structure.
A spiritually immature, self-centered, born again believer can easily become satisfied with just knowing that he/she has been forever saved. The devil will do all he can to support and to promote that attitude. Such a believer will do little (if anything) to glorify God, and will post no threat to the devil's agenda.
A spiritually mature, Christ-centered, disciple and/or ambassador will NEVER be satisfied with any of the alternatives that are promoted under the umbrella of Christian Religion. An advancing disciple and/or ambassador of Christ will feel like a fish out of water when not out on the battlefield of spiritual combat (Acts 4: 20/1Cor. 9: 16). It would be like an athlete who trains and prepares him/herself for the game, but is not called up from the bench to participate. In the plan of God, there IS a place and a part (1Cor. 12) "in the line up" for each and every born again believer to participate in the Great Commission. Those who follow Christ will find theirs.
Spiritual combat is not just about taking offensive action. One must take defensive action, as well. In addition to the adversity that is common to all men, there are many more storms on the horizon in store for those who choose to be a “follower of Christ,” here in the devils world (Luke 4: 6).
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts (believes/applies) on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock (the Gospel Message). And the rain fell, and the floods (adversity/day of testing) came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock (Matt. 7: 24, 25 NABS italics mine).”
For the unbeliever, “these words of Mine” are the Gospel Message. For the already born again believer, “these words of Mine” is Scripture, as it applies to the post salvation spiritual life.
Before one can be a follower of Christ, he/she must (John 3: 7) first be born again. Discipleship is a post (after) salvation endeavor.
The first step that a born again believer who desires to follow Christ in the life of discipleship is to connect with a source where he/she can “hear” the accurate teaching (not merely the reading) of the Written Word of God. The primary function of an evangelists is to preach the Gospel Message to unbelievers. The primary function of a pastor teacher is teach the identification and the execution of the post salvation spiritual life to those who have already been born again. Sometimes these functions overlap.
For the born again believer, the Matt. 7 “rain and the wind” is *a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g that would cause a born again believer to question the integrity of the salvation that he/she has already received. As odd as it may seem, there are many false teachings WITHIN the Christian Community that would leave a weak believer with the fear that he/she can still "go to Hell" for having engaged is some sin of commission or commission. If a born again believer could still find him/herself in Hell, then the Lord Jesus Christ did NOT atone for all sins of omission or commission that the born again believer committed. If this were true, then the promise of eternal life in John 3: 16 is a lie. If there is a Purgatory, then fallen Man has not been totally forgiven through faith in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of these *anythings” have evolved under the very umbrella of Christian religion. The presence of false teachings and practices promoted through religion within the Christian Community is nothing new (Galatians 3),. This will continue throughout the course of the Church Age (1Tim. 4: 1).
Born again believers that build soul structures (place their faith) on all that Christian Religion has added to the Gospel Message will NEVER (this side of Heaven) experience the John 8: 32 freedom that an understanding of the true Gospel Message brings to an edified soul. When the rains and the winds come, the faith (trust and confidence) of a weal believer is shaken, and they are flooded with doubt and fear. Instead of being a reinforcing and a reassuring force in the lives of born again believers, Christian Religion can be the very source of unjustified fear and uncertainty (Heb. 2: 14).
"For God has not given us (followers of Christ) a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (1Tim. 1: 7 NASB italics mine)."
While claiming to be people of faith, weak believers prove themselves to be faithless when put to the test. Thank God that although a born again believer can become faithless towards God, God remains faithful to him/her (2Timothy 2: 13)!
"If we (born again believers) are faithless (experience post salvation faithlessness), He remains faithful, for He can not deny Himself (regarding the promises He made and/or the Work (Titus 3: 5/ Eph. 4: 30) that He has done). - 2Timothy 2: 13 NASB italics mine .
"For the gifts (eternal life) and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11: 29 NASB italics mine)."
Even when things are going relatively well, weak believers will spend most (if not all) of their post salvation spiritual lives “working” to “obtain” the eternal life that they have already received, or spend it trying to “retain” the eternal life that they cannot lose. In this the devil is well pleased.
There are many who have been born again, "go to Church," and live relatively "moral" lifestyles, but have not built and edified soul structure from which they can execute the post salvation spiritual life. I know, I did it myself for decades!
One does not have to "go to Church" to understand right from wrong. The inability to distinguish right from wrong is one of the considerations for establishing insanity. What one can do by going to Church (or otherwise connecting with a local assembly) is the difference between what is religious and what is spiritual, p-r-o-v-i-d-i-n-g he/she "goes to" or otherwise connects with a local assembly or ministry that accurately teaches and promotes the Word of God.
Weak believers have laid the right foundation, but they have chosen to build their soul structures upon this foundation using defective materials. These defective materials include the teachings, products, and practices of one form or another of human viewpoint, pagan religion, or Christian Religion.
When the rains and the wind come upon soul structure of a born again believer that has been built with defective material, the foundation (salvation) of the soul remains intact, but the structure and the type of post spiritual life that it promoted will come crashing down (Matt. 7: 27). Soul structures of born again believers that have been built with defective material is one of the reasons that such believers "get nothing" out of such things as "going to Church."
A follower of Christ will desire to built and to maintain an edified soul structure. Followers of Christ look forward to his/her next serving of the Word of God like a deer pants for water (Psalms 42: 1).
Following a soul structure "crash," we hear of believers speaking of “losing their faith.”
If they were born again, they did not lose their salvation, but they lost their confidence and trust in their chosen system of religion. For many different reasons, they may no longer want to be a member or even associate with a particular local assembly or denomination, but their membership in the global Church that God designed has not changed. As in the case of prodigal son (Luke), God the Father looks down the road everyday, watching for his/her son or daughter to return, or the day that His son or daughter finds his/her place in the plan of God. Prodigals leave home, whereas spiritually dead souls had not yet found his/hers.
Christian religion makes promises that did NOT come from God. When such “promises” fail to materialize, the disappointed soul becomes angry with God, feeling left out, cheated. They no longer see the significance of trying to “live” for a God that allows His children to face intense adversity, suffer loss, and endure tragedy. Observing overt sinners go on their merry way only adds salt to their open wound.
If a long, prosperous, hassle-free life, and a peaceful and comfortable departure is what a godly life is supposed to provide, then the Lord Jesus Christ got the short end of the stick!
There ARE many blessings that many of God’s people receive and enjoy while here on Earth. Never-the-less, the people of God are NOT here to do their will or necessarily to receive all that they want. Suffering IS a part of the post salvation spiritual life (Phil. 1: 29). If you don't want to suffer, you don't want to follow Christ.
"For to you (born again believers) it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him (and reap the benefits), but also to suffer for His sake (Phil 1: 29 NASB italics mine)."
It is when the reaping of the benefits end and the suffering begins that many born again believers choose to not to follow Christ down the road of discipleship.
It has been my experience to note that some of God’s greatest servants are the ones who endure many hardships, losses, and disappointments along the way. Nothing infuriates the devil more than to have thrown his best shot, only to see the one he hit, get up, dust himself off, and move forward in the plan of God.
It doesn’t take much to follow God as long as things are going our way. It is when the road ahead looks dark and ominous that we are put to the test. God does not test us for Him to see how well we are progressing. God already knows that. The tests are for us to see how well we are progressing.
The plan that God has for any one of us can place us in any type of environment and circumstances, good or bad (from human viewpoint), that this world has to offer. Whatever we need to receive (or to lose) in order to fulfill His plan will come our way. The follower of Christ learns to equally accept (Job 2: 10) both the blessings and the adversity that God sends or allows to take place. The mature believer see such things as being the unfolding of God’s will in our lives.
God is NOT the only source of prosperity here on Earth. To the extent that God allows, the devil can and will bless those willing to follow him (Luke 4: 6). Some of the more wicked individuals (as human viewpoint defines wickedness) to have ever walked on the face of this Earth have experienced all the secular prosperity that the devil's world as to offer, while some of the more godly individuals have experienced the most loss, tragedy, suffering, and adversity (Heb. 11: 37). How well one handles adversity is a good indicator of the level of spiritual maturity that one has attained.
* * *
With the many means of communication, there are many places and many means that God can make use of to present unbelievers with the Gospel Message. If you have been born again AND area follower of Christ, you are one the those means. Sharing the Gospel Message is one of the ways that your individual life can count for something of eternal value. It matters NOT where you are, or what you are otherwise doing.
“…these word of Mine (Matt. 7: 13 NASB),” can refer to the Gospel Message for salvation, and can refer to accurate Bible doctrine for the building of an edified soul structure in the life of a believer.
“…these word of Mine (Matt. 7: 13 NASB), being the Gospel Message and Bible Doctrine are not for you alone, but have been given to you to pass along to others.
What would you think of someone who knew that a chair that someone else was about to sit on is defective, but didn't speak up? What would God think of a born again believer who has knowledge of the Gospel Message but does not share it with a lost soul? What would God think of an advancing disciple that has knowledge of an edifying passage of Scripture, but does not share it with a wandering fellow believer?
“Everyone who hears *these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house (soul structure) on the sand (human effort/ Man-made religion). The rain fell, and the floods (adversity/day of testing) came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house (soul structure); and it fell—and great was its fall.” - Matt. 7: 27 NASB italics mine."
Note that in the Matt. 7: 24-27 passage, the same adversity came to the doors of both houses! Before the adversity, both “builders” in the Matthew 7 passage thought they were “all set.” Never-the-less, one house (soul structure) survived the storm. The other was destroyed by it.
These storms and/or the day(s) of testing may take place on the Earth (Book of Job/Heb. 11: 37). In accordance with the plan that God has in mind for any given individual, some will face great and never-ending adversity, whereas the plan that God has in mind for others will call for less intense and less frequent engagements with the forces of evil.
As in the case of conventional warfare in the political realm, God will call upon His best soldiers to fulfill the more difficult missions (2Tim. 2: 3).
There is one day of testing that involves born again believers that will take place in Heaven (1Cor. 3: 13). It will be at that time that the identity of the who among the born again believers of the Church Age became followers of Christ, and the ones that did not. The ones who followed Christ will face God with confidence, whereas the born again believers who did not follow Him in will "shrink away from Him in shame (1John 2: 28 NASB ). Sin will not be an issue at this event, and therefore will not be the cause of this "shrinking" or "shame." These shrinking and shame feelings that one will experience will be result of having not brought the maximum glory to Him as a follower, in light of all that He did for you.
If one did not lay the foundation of faith by being born again, he/she will not even be present at this evaluation. Judgment Day for unbelievers (those who were never born again) is a different event (Rev. 20: 13, 15) and serves a different purpose (Rev. 20: 15).
"Evaluation Day" (1Cor. 3: 12-15) for born again believers and Judgment Day (Rev. 20: 13, 15) for unbelievers are appointments (Heb. 9: 27) that will take take place and can not be postponed or rescheduled. The knee of every born again believer bowed and acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ at the moment of salvation, here on Earth. At this 1Cor. 3: 12-15 event that takes place in Heaven, every born again believer will give an account of the quality of his/her post salvation spiritual life to God (Romans 14: 12), and will either receive or forfeit rewards and privileges. The knee of every unbeliever will bend and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, on Judgement Day of the unbelievers., but will never-the-less, be tossed into what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
The issue of the salvation of a born again believer was settled here on Earth. The purpose of this 1Cor. 3: 13 day of testing is for evaluation of the born again believer's post salvation spiritual life. The quality of one’s post salvation spiritual life is largely determined by the building and the application of one’s edified soul structure. This is what results in the producing of the proverbial silver, gold, and precious stone, aka as “divine good.” in 1Cor. 3: 12. It will be for the production of divine good that born again believers will be rewarded and privileged.
There is a place for the production of the proverbial wood, hay, straw, aka as human good, in 1Cor. 3: 12.
Human good contributes to the quality of life here on Earth, but has NO ETERNAL significance. Unbelievers and believers can produce and receive the earthly benefits of producing human good, but human good will go up in smoke (1Cor. 3: 15) and its producer will receive none of the 1 Cor. 3: 14 rewards or Rev. 2/Rev. 3 privileges. If the production of human good entitled a soul to receive eternal life, then an atheists could "earn" a home in Heaven and expect to be rewarded, as well.
The foundation of an individual’s personal soul structure and the foundation on which the Church at large is built is one in the same. The Church at large consists of every soul that has been or will be born again during the course of the Church Age. If one is not born again, he/she may be a member of one or more of the alternative Churches that have been established in the name (authority) of Christian Religion, but that type of membership will not get one through the gates of Heaven.
It was the confession of faith, acknowledging the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the significance of the atoning Work that He accomplished on the cross, (as was uttered by Peter in Matt. 16: 16) and NOT on the person of Peter, that the Church that God designed, was, and continues to be, built.
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16: 16 NASB).
It was Peter’s personal belief and accompanying confession of faith in WHO (God the Son) and WHAT (the atoning Lamb of God) the Lord Jesus was/is that “saved” him. It was/is the same type of confession of faith that saves everyone else throughout the course of the Church Age.
The Lord gave Peter the personal mission of mustering and and encouraging the apostles (Luke 22: 32) after they all abandoned the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 14: 50) at the time of His arrest. The Lord did so knowing that Peter would deny even having known the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 26: 72). I believe that the Lord chose Peter for that very reason, demonstrating the extent of His ability to forgive and to restore.
Peter played a significant role in the establishment of first "local assembly" of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Peter ministered to several other local assemblies during the course of the developing Church. Peter was eventually martyred for taking his stand of faith. Never-the-less, it was James, the son of Mary and Joseph (Matt. 13: 55 ), who eventually took on the leadership role of the local assembly in Jerusalem.
The “keys to the kingdom” is the Gospel Message. These same keys that were given to Peter are the same “keys” that were later (Matt. 28: 19, 20) given to ALL of the apostles, and given to each and every born again believer of the Church Age. Followers of Christ will accept these "keys" for themselves, and pass them along to others, as well.
Every born again believer is a Christian. Until one IS born again, he/she is NOT a Christian, although there are many others who think they are (Matt. 7:22).
“Many (who think they are/were followers of Chirst) will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (speak for you) in Your name (under Your authority), and in Your name (authority) cast out demons, and in Your name (authority) perform many miracles?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you (as a born again believer); depart from Me, you who practice Lawlessness (actions inconsistent with Scripture).”
-Matt. 7: 22 NASB.
Furthermore, there are many born again Christians who consider themselves “followers” of Christ, when in truth, they could be more accurately defined as followers of Christian Religion.
Many who are born again and saved, but fail to become followers of Christ as a result of never identifying, entering, and/or remaining in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
One cannot become any more, or become any less, “saved” as he/she became when he/she was born again. But one certainly become more and/or less of a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ when it comes to the post salvation spiritual life.
The Eph. 4: 30 sealing (identification/baptism) takes place at the moment of salvation. It is the work of God the Holy Spirit. This “Work” will NEVER be undone by God, and this Work can not be undone through human failure of any kind. One’s identity (in the eyes of God) as a child of God (aka Christian) is never revoked.
The names (identities) of every born again believer are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:15) at the moment of salvation will NEVER be erased by God, and cannot be erased via human failure. Anyone who does not have his name written (by God) in this book of life is destined to spend ALL of eternity future in what the Bible calls the lake of fire.
Spiritually dead souls that become Christians (by being born again), can fail to become “followers” of the Lord Jesus Christ in their post salvation spiritual lives. The not so bad news is that the loss of salvation is NOT one of the consequences of failing to follow Christ in the post salvation spiritual life. The not so good news is that there still is divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) here on Earth, and loss of 1Cor. 3: 15 rewards and Rev. 2/Rev. 3 privileges for failing to follow Christ in the post salvation spiritual life. Divine discipline can range in anything from living with a guilty conscience up to and including physical death. The rewards and privileges of 1Cor. 3: 15, Rev. 2, and Rev. 3 will be received and experienced in Heaven.
One can NOT live in (any type -James 2: 10) of sin and be a follower of Christ at the same time. In the light of the more than 300 ways listed in the New Testament that one can "sin" (by what we think, do, or fail to do, it is safe to say we all sin each and every day (1John 1: 8). But to "live in sin" means to knowingly and willingly engage in an area of sin and have no intentions of either confessing (1John 1: 9) and/or forsaking (John 8: 11) the sins that God the Holy Spirit brings to our attention. If a born again believer can go a whole day and not have God the Holy Spirit bring to his/her personal area(s) of sin to his/her attention, then he/she does not have an edified soul structure of an advancing disciple OR one has turned down the volume of the voice of indwelling Spirit (1Cor. 2: 16). Either way, such a born again believer is forever saved by the unmerited grace of God, but is NOT a follower of Christ.
In principle, the Living Word of God and the Written Word of God are inseparable.
The Living Word of God (John 1: 1) is God the Son, who in accordance with the timing of the plan of God became the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ at the First Advent. To the extent that we know (or don't know) what the Written Word of God has to say, we know (or don't know) what the Living Word of God has to say.
The Written Word of God is Scripture (the Bible). The Bible reveals to us the "mind (1Cor. 2: 16 NASB)" of the Living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. To be a follower of the Living Word of God is to be a follower of the Written Word of God. To reject the Written Word of God is to reject the Living Word of God.
A born again believer (a Christian) becomes a follower of the Living Word of God (the Lord Jesus Christ) through the study and the application of the Written Word of God. You cannot apply to yourself or pass on to others what you have not first made a part of your own soul structure.
No follower of Christ will intentionally mislead others. Never-the-less, just as God can use you to edify others, the devil can use you to unwittingly deceive others as you pass onto others whatever false doctrine that you have made a part of your soul structure. A bullet fired in ignorance can be just as lethal as the one that is fired with malicious intent.
The English word disciple is an English translation of the Greek word m-a-t-h-e-t-e-s. A m-a-t-h-e-t-e-s is a student in a teacher/pupil relationship. Here in the Church Age, the primary Teacher is God the Holy Spirit, and the student is the born again believer who chooses to identify and to embrace the post salvation spiritual life.
As of the death and earthly of the last Apostle and the completion of the Written Word of God, the ONE and ONLY text book in this "classroom" is the Written Word of God. Promoters of Christian Religion, in defiance and disobedience to the Written Word of God (Proverbs 30: 6) , has added many more "text books" to its curriculum, bringing false doctrines and the accompanying false practices into the Christian Community at large. Such apostasy was prophesied in 1Tim. 4: 1. Those who choose to follow such things are NOT following Christ.
God has chosen to primarily edify His Church though those HE (1Cor. 12) gifts, chooses, trains, and has ordains to be qualified and functioning pastor-teachers. Christian Religion(s) has established its own schools and seminaries to indoctrinate, train, and ordain its own clergy of various titles to promote the religion that they have created.
If one was about to undergo a surgery that might result in a significant change (or end) in/of one's earthly experience, he/she would want the best qualified doctor available. Yet, for what will impact one's eternal experience, any pastor will do for many who claim to be Christians. "Any pastor" will NOT do for an advancing disciple who desires to be a follower of Christ.
You are NOT going to find a denomination, a local assembly, a ministry, or a pastor teacher with whom you are always going to be in 100% agreement with on all points. But there can come a time when one might have to "move on" if he/she is going to continue to grow in God's grace and knowledge (2Pet. 3: 18). If one have not found the need to adjust or fine-tune the doctrine that he/she has in his/her soul structure over, let's say, the last year or so, then one of two things has happened. Such a soul (#1) is either the first creature on Earth since Christ to have learned all there is to learn and have mastered its application to the point of sinless perfection, OR (#2), you have NOT grown in the knowledge (or its application) of the Lord (2Pet. 3: 18). Followers of Christ are continually moving forward, as there are NO REST AREAS along the road to spiritual maturity. Those who learn, but do not apply what they have learned are deluding (James 1: 22) themselves.
Either way, there is an 2Cor. 13:5 self examination and some adjustments to be made. It is that you are not being fed (John 21: 15, 16, 17), or is it that you are digesting the food being offered from the pulpit of your choice (James 1: 22/2Tim.3: 7)?
Many religious organizations do not allow its followers to choose their pastor-teacher. In reality, it doesn't make much of a significant difference, since what comes from the pulpits of such religious organizations is strictly monitored, assuring that its clergy are "sticking to the company line."
Here in the USA, many of us are all but obsessed with physical exercise and the quality of food thorough which we maintain and feed our bodies that are "here today and will be gone tomorrow," but rarely give much thought to the conditions of our souls that will live on forever in one environment of another.
The qualifications and functions of a pastor teacher are clearly outlined in Scripture. A pastor who does NOT qualify or function in the capacity of a Bible-based pastor teacher becomes a blind leader of a blind congregation. Alternate means of edification will produce alternate results.
Contradictions between Christian Religion and the Written/Living Word of God have a long history. When and where Christian Religion and the Written/Living Word of God do not line up with one another, the advancing disciple has a choice to make. By taking the folk to the right, one rejects the folk to the left, and visa versa.
Q. How important is discipleship when it comes to being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?
A. It was important enough for The Lord Jesus Christ to make it a part of the two fold mission that He gave to His Church (Matt. 28: 19, 20).
The invitation to become a disciple and ambassador is extended to every soul that has born again.
Just as one must choose to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message in order to be saved, one must choose to become a student and an applier of the Word of God.
It is the ones who choose to become disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) that can rightly claim to be followers of Christ. The long term objective of discipleship is to become an ambassador for the Kingdom of God, no matter where one is or what other activity he/she is engaged (Matt. 4: 19).
"Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matt. 4: 19 NASB)."