Yesterday I heard a pastor state that there was a difference between a follower of Jesus and a believer of Jesus. At first I disregarded this statement because if we believe in Jesus, won’t we follow Him also? But as I got to thinking about what this pastor said I realized that he might actually be onto something. One of the things that probably gets under my skin more than it should is a fake Christian. In fact, it drives me bonkers. You see them talking about Jesus when they are around other Christian people, and they even do some pretty good works, but when you really get to know them and when you really start to dig into what they believe, you soon see how shallow their faith in Jesus really is. They seem to be more for what they can get out of Him then what He can get out of them. Their lives, once you start holding up their words and deeds to the light of the Gospel start to fall short and their witness becomes less about Jesus and more about them. So maybe there is a difference between a follower and a believer, between someone who believes in Jesus and a disciple who lives for Jesus.
“And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.” Matthew 15:30-31 ESV
“And He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Siden, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch Him for power came out from Him and healed them all.” Luke 6:17-19 ESV
“Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days, and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lets they faint on the way.” Matthew 15:32
The multitudes followed Jesus from coast to coast, He was in their minds, a celebrity. They brought to Him the sick, the lame, the blind and the possessed. They came to Him and sought for His power to heal them of all their ailments. But notice what is written in Matthew 15:32. Many people believed that Jesus could heal them, and when they needed something from Him they came to Him, but His true disciples, those who believed not only in the things He could do, but truly believed in Him, those He drew closer to Himself. His true disciples Jesus will call to Himself and they will hear His call and come.
The multitudes followed Him and gave God the glory but there was no relationship, and no intimacy resulted in their needs being met. They looked to Jesus to fulfill their needs and because of His compassion He filled them. They were not disciples; they were just following the multitude. So what does it mean then to be a disciple of Christ? Clearly there is a difference between those who come to Jesus for what they can get and those who come to Jesus to have a relationship. Truly there is a clear division between the two. So how do we know which category we fall into?
First of all, we must understand what a disciple is and what the cost of being a disciple will be. A disciple is someone who follows, adheres to and changes their behaviors based on what they are being taught. For instance, Jesus told His disciples to love one another. As they walked with Jesus and learned from Him they began to have love for one another. They began to imitate His walk as they walked out their own. A disciple is not just someone who listened to teachings but someone who changed because of what they were being taught. A disciple will have growth in their lives- continual growth.
“All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, He said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet; ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’ Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” Matthew 13:34-36
Jesus left the crowds. He addressed the crowds the same way He did His disciples- through His word. But the true disciples, the ones who sought to not only be believers, but to follow Him, they were the ones who sought Him out to understand His Word. It was those who sought to know Jesus intimately, those who were eager to learn from Him that He called His own. He had compassion on the crowds and wanted them to know Him but He also knew that many would only come to Him for what they could get out of Him; not because they sincerely believed in Him or desired to follow Him.
You can’t get to know someone if you don’t take the time to listen to them, to spend time with them, or seek to understand them. To have a relationship with Jesus you have to leave the world behind and go and seek Him privately, away from the crowds of this world, and seek Him where He is. Being a disciple means that you will imitate your Master. Not just when the crowds are looking on Sunday, but all the time; in every aspect of your life, even those times when no one is looking. There are many today who say they know Jesus, but then again, so did the crowds back then. They left Jesus’ presence talking about how great God was to heal them, how thankful they were for the many blessings He gave them and how wonderful He was to feed them, but that was as far as they were ever willing to take their relationship with Him. They believed enough to have their needs met, but not enough to meet His.
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:27
“And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to Him by My Father.’ From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” John 6:65-69
Many said they were His, but only a handful remained after Jesus explained the cost of discipleship. These people probably still followed behind Jesus and the disciples, asking for prayer, asking them to help them when they needed it, but when it was time to make a commitment, when it was time for them to take up their cross, many left. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14)
There are many who claim to know Jesus, and to believe in Jesus, but when the time comes to take up their cross, they will fall away, and they will turn back. For the true disciples, for the few, we will heed the call and seek Him more diligently, seek Him more intimately and will not want to go away. Why? Because we have come to believe and know that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and to whom else would we go?
I pray today that if you are one of the crowd that you will hear His voice and come out from among them. Draw near to Him and seek Him out where He is. He will have compassion on you and He will heal you, but He desires so much more for you and with you than that. Come to Him today, in all sincerity and grace and know that you are loved, you are called and you are chosen. In Jesus Name, amen.