The past few days I have heard the same word, over and over again. Even our lesson in children’s ministry yesterday was about this simple word. The word was “Disciple”. The bible tells us that if we follow Jesus then we are His disciples. But what exactly does a disciple look like? When asked that question yesterday, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Jesus”, a disciple looks like Jesus. We are not to look like Jesus in the outward appearance, but we are to look like Jesus from the inside-out. Disciple also means to imitate; to follow and to learn from a teacher. Who is your teacher? If you say that you are a disciple of Christ, a Christian, then should not our lives reflect His teachings? When other people look at your life, do they see Jesus?
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Paul is not asking us to follow him, but what he is telling us is that he follows Christ, and we should too. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be “imitators of God, as dear children.” How do you imitate someone? How do you become like them? I have always found Paul to be a fascinating person- but Paul was not who I sought to follow. The reason why Paul is such a fascinating person is because Jesus lived in him and through him. It was not Paul that wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, it was the Holy Spirit who worked in Paul and through Paul, molding him and shaping him into the image of Christ.
So how do I imitate Christ? First, I have to get to know Him. How can you be like someone if you do not know them? When an actor or actress is playing a role, they learn about that person, they study that person. They do research; they practice what they have learned before they step out onto the stage to imitate them. How can we imitate Christ if we do not seek to learn from Him?
Our lives are to be a reflection of Christ. We are to be an example to other believers, as well as non-believers. We are to follow, receive, learn, trust, confess, imitate and reflect Christ at all times-even when no one is looking. To be a disciple of Christ means that we imitate who He is. Others can see Jesus in us because He is in us, and we are allowing Him to work through us. People did not travel thousands of miles to see a man teach- they travelled thousands of miles to see Jesus. I do not go to church to see my pastor teach, I go to church to see Jesus and to learn from him.
I have to say, in my own personal experience, that I have learned to become very wary of those that say they are Christians, and are not. I have learned, from Jesus, and from my own personal mistakes, that just because someone claims to be a Christian, does not exactly make them one. There are many false teachers gone out into the world, and they seek their own personal gratifications. They like the association attributed to them because of Jesus, but they do not follow or imitate Him in anyway. Being a disciple of Christ means that we are willing to lay everything down, loose everything to gain Christ Jesus.
Jesus said that to be His disciple we must take up our cross and follow Him. There was no grey area in His statement. We are either all in, or we are not. Being associated with Jesus is not the same as being a disciple of Christ. How can one say they are a disciple on Sunday and on Monday do whatever their fleshly heart’s desire? I have found this to be true in my own life, as well as the life of others. I stand before you and say that I am a Christian, I follow Jesus, I seek to imitate Jesus, yet there are things that I still have not let go of. So how do we know then, who truly is a disciple of Jesus and who is not? This is a question my daughter and I have discussed in times past, and I tell her the same thing that Jesus told me. You can tell a tree by the fruit it bears. (Luke 6:44) I look at the life that they are living. If they speak Christ, yet I do not see Christ coming forth from them, then I do not call them by His name.
Some of you reading this may say that I am judging, and I am only seeing what I choose to see. And in some cases, that could be true. However, good fruit will always produce more good fruit, and it will continue to evolve and grow. I have known people for many years who say they are a Christian, and have watched them stay the same person, year after year after year-never changing, the same fruit, the same words, never growing. To be a Christian means that you are not only following Jesus but you are growing and changing. I am not the same person I was ten years ago- I have been growing and following Jesus, who is changing me daily. I have a long way to go, and in no way am I any more spiritual than any other. But one thing I do have, and that is the promise from God that He is changing me and molding me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. If you do not see that molding and shaping going on in the life of the one who says they are a Christian, then I think it is safe to say that they are not who they claim to be.
I write all this today to warn you to be on your guard. Just because someone says that they are a follower of Jesus, does not mean that their hearts are being changed by Him. I have been hurt by those who say they are His and are not; my children have been hurt and almost led astray because of their false proclamations. Even Jesus warns us in Revelation of those who say they love Him and they do not. There are thousands of books out there that claim to be by Christian authors, but in all reality there is but One True Christian book- that is our Bible. There is nothing safer, or more genuine than the Holy Bible. As Disciples of Christ, that should be the first book we pick up, He should be the first person we run to. Be on your guard my friends. The more we get to know Jesus, the easier it will be to see Him in others. Just because someone or something says it is Christian, doesn’t make it so.
The closer we follow Jesus, the more like Him we will become. It is one thing to be associated with Jesus; it is another to actually follow Him and to be changed by Him. May we all be changed and transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. May others look upon us and see Jesus in us and through us. May we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, may we be His disciples and seek to follow Him, and only Him now and forever, Amen and Amen.