Links Daily Devotional

Christian or Disciple?, Part 1: Which Are You?

“Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” (John 12:25-26, NLT)

Thanks to the Golf Channel’s in-depth coverage of the game and the numerous golf magazines, many of us know the names and faces of so many of golf’s best teachers. Well, we at least know the names and faces of the instructors of the game’s best players.

Regardless of how noted these teachers are, their teaching philosophies are heard by golf’s masses and attempted by many viewers at home. Yet the majority of the tips you get from television or out of a magazine are not helpful for your particular game, because these tips don’t come from someone walking alongside you, teaching you the personal application. Many of these teachers do not even have exceptional playing credentials of their own. But despite their inconsistent ability to put their own lessons into action, we hang on each tip as if it is gospel truth and our golf games become a cornucopia of little ideas from Pelz, Harmon, Leadbetter, Haney, and whoever else has a hot player or TV show.

Lee Trevino once said to me when we were watching one of the most well-known instructors in the world give a lesson to a young PGA Tour player, “I don’t want swing advice from anybody who doesn’t know what it’s like to stand on the tee box of the 72nd hole of a major championship with a one-shot lead.”

This six-time major champion probably didn’t know it, but he actually offered some terrific insight for us spiritually.

Over the years, I have come to understand that “Christian” (like “golf teacher”) can mean just about anything. In your immediate family or even local church you may define it fairly similarly amongst yourselves, but in the broader religious landscape, it can mean a lot of things. If you asked a Southern Baptist pastor and a Roman Catholic priest to tell you what Christianity means to them, you will probably get very different answers, especially the farther away you get from Christ himself and the more you get into the practices and tenets of the churches. The thing troubling me about that is that neither the pastor nor the priest would necessarily be wrong.

How can they both be right, you may ask? Well, Christianity is simply a broad identity of a school of thought or belief system that revolves principally around the teachings of Jesus Christ and/or the Christian Church, and a Christian is anybody who aligns with or adheres to it in some way, shape, or form. Surprising to most, the use of the word “Christians” in the Bible is very rare and never really in a context that makes a real desirable association for me to want to strive.

So what word did Jesus and the authors of the New Testament use to describe those who follow Jesus? They were simply called “disciples,” or “followers,” of Christ. It’s important to understand that Jesus did not come to start a new religion; he came to fulfill the law and prophecies of Scripture, and he provided a perfect example of love and grace, always within the confines of God’s truth that our Heavenly Father simply wanted us to follow. Many of us instead try to adhere to the teachings of our pastors and live in a manner acceptable by our churches and Christian community, never actually examining what Jesus Christ has called you to do: follow him! Jesus wants our hearts, not our intellectual belief system.

So be encouraged in this way: dive into Jesus. Examine him and his teachings without the muddled message of those who claim religion in his name. Yes, be a part of a body of believers, but make sure that you are walking toward Christ and that which is eternal, not just toward being a “Christian.”

Josh Nelson

July 9, 2012

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