Discipleship is not about having your own personal Jesus

th-85My friend, Wayne, had a very insightful comment after hearing our interview Tuesday night. “Our brothers in that part of Christendom focus on the teachings of Jesus whereas evangelicals focus on the substitutionary atonement.  Granted, in our circles, discipleship … apprenticeship to Jesus … sanctification … is supposed to be the process of becoming like Jesus (or, if you will, focusing on obedience to His teaching).  I fear, however, that there is a huge disconnect because we make such a big issue of ‘getting saved’ as a transaction assuring heaven that sanctification (in most evangelical circles) simply translates into being a good American and adding on prayer, Bible reading and church attendance.”

Wayne’s comment deserves a good deal of thought. I agree, that as evangelicals in America we focus so much on salvation that we skirt over what happens after that — what it means to be a disciple of Christ. There are more than likely many Muslims who know more about the teachings of Jesus than we do. It’s as if once we get saved that’s the end of it. Like Wayne said: go to church, read your Bible once in a while, pray when you’re in trouble … that’s about it for discipleship in America.

Did Jesus tell us to go into all the world and make converts? Get as many people as possible to accept Jesus as their personal savior? What is that anyway? “Accepting Jesus as your own personal savior” is nowhere in the Bible! As if you could have your own personal Jesus. That doesn’t sound like a person who makes any demands on my life. That sounds like God in my back pocket. Want to see my own personal Jesus? Here, I think I might have a selfie of him in my phone.

No, Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples, “Teaching them everything I have taught you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Everything He taught His disciples in three years of walking and talking together? Do you know that? I don’t, and that’s supposed to be my job. So, how are we doing on the Great Commission? Not to too well, I would venture to say. I doubt there are many Christians who can tell much, if anything, about what is in the Sermon on the Mount, much less the rest of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels.

Not that the teachings of Jesus will save you, but once you are saved, don’t you think you would want to know and follow everything Jesus actually said? Don’t you think that would be the most precious thing you own — the thing you know better than anything else? Jesus makes it pretty clear that a disciple of His is one who knows and follows everything that He taught His disciples. I don’t think you can do that in a seminar, a booklet, or a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. More like a lifetime of walking and talking and pouring over the words of Jesus — what Tony Campolo calls Red Letter Christians (red letters being the print versions of the Bible that have all of the words that Jesus spoke printed in red).

This is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we’re talking about. The one through whom all things were created in whom all things exist. He’s so much more than our personal savior. Hear Him and follow.

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10 Responses to Discipleship is not about having your own personal Jesus

  1. Sandie says:

    There is a difference between asking Jesus to be your Savior, and inviting Him to be Lord of your life. For me there was a disconnect of several years before the Holy Spirit showed me the difference. Forty-plus years later I am still working on it, and I will still be working on it til I draw my last breath. For me that is the realization of “working out my salvation in fear and trembling.” Jesus put the salvation in me – my responsibility is making sure it becomes evident in my life. It’s the reason why I hang on to Romans 8:28, Phillipians 1:6, 1 John 1:9, and others, for dear life!
    It’s one thing to browbeat an unsaved person with my knowledge until they beg to get saved so I’ll shut up…it’s another to care about them so much I seek God’s wisdom and timing in what I share, and when to share it.
    Part of our problem lies in our demand for results…YESTERDAY! I think it’s partly our culture, but mostly our human nature. As I stated yesterday, who am I to decide the timeline of someone of someone else’s salvation?
    I have found that it is not so much my words, but the fact that in my life I have tried to live up to those words…my honesty when I have failed and then making things right as I am able…those are the “Bible” that has meant the most to those around me.
    Thank God for grace.

    • Mark Seguin says:

      Sandie: I laughed soo hard you this part of your post: “It’s one thing to browbeat an unsaved person with my knowledge until they beg to get saved so I’ll shut up…” I done that I’m sad to say -I call it the weight-lost Christian program – to get me off of their back!

      And Amen to this: “it’s another to care about them so much I seek God’s wisdom and timing in what I share, and when to share it.”

      Also I’ll join you: “Thank God for grace.”

    • jwfisch says:


  2. Kris Rudin says:

    I always heard “Go and make disciples of everyone” as “Go and get everyone saved” – but as you say there is a huge difference between “being saved” and “being a disciple” and I’m starting to understand what the difference means in my own life and relationship with God, and what that means to those I interact with every day. If all we are trying to do is “get people saved” then we preach at them and tell them they are sinners and need Jesus or they’ll go to hell. If we are disciples of Christ, then we feed the hungry, visit the sick, care for the poor. It is the love of God that I share which will draw people to Christ.

  3. Andrew P. says:

    Maybe one reason we don’t do so well on this is that we rarely think about the three tenses in which salvation is mentioned in scripture: past, present, future. I WAS saved, I AM BEING saved, and I WILL BE saved. Those different tenses mean different things.

    Real disciples, learners, probably understand that better. “I will be your God, and you will be my people” is a theme in the Bible almost from beginning to end. The problem you’re talking about is having a pretty good handle on Him being our God (the benefits to us), but being weak on being His people (living His way every day, getting closer to Him as time goes on).

    We still have much to learn.

  4. Mark Seguin says:

    My two cents on: “Not that the teachings of Jesus will save you,..” Excuse me Pastor John, yet I thought the words and teachings of Jesus through the Apostle Paul and others are what led me to my salvation and I’m so sorry, I can get so sick & tried of people quoting this verse of that verse to try and show – see it’s this way, or that way to ‘get saved’ Yet I’ll shout it from the roof-top who gives anyone the right to claim their way is the only way…

    I believe ONLY God can and reserves the right to judge, anyone:(so it’s my turn to quote a verse or two) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4: 10-12) 🙂

    • Sandie says:

      Mark – Respectfully, I think people can believe in, appreciate, and even practice the teachings of Jesus…that’s the head knowledge. The heart knowledge is knowing Jesus Himself…and that’s where salvation lies. You are right in saying that it is not our place to judge anyone; that’s given to Jesus when we all stand before Him. I am forever thankful that I am covered by His sacrifice for me and therefore no longer under the law.

  5. To be saved is to be a disciple (Acts 11:26). I highly recommend Dr. John MacArthur’s book “The Gospel According to Jesus.”

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