ARE YOU A FOLLOWER OR A DISCIPLE?

July 26, 2018

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-20. Jesus saw these two men as they were going about their daily business and knew that they would be faithful followers. Peter and Andrew were fishermen, not scholars, but Jesus saw their abilities beyond fishing. Not only would these two men follow Jesus, but they would be disciples. A follower doesn’t necessarily have or want knowledge of what they follow, and many follow along for the wrong reasons. Some people only followed Jesus to be healed or because He was somewhat of a celebrity. On the other hand, a disciple is a pupil or student of a teacher and follows in order to learn.

It’s easy to blindly follow someone, and perhaps that’s what Peter was doing when Jesus first called him. Andrew had already talked to Jesus and realized that He was the Messiah. In the Gospel of John, we learn that Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist who first recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew and another disciple of John’s decided to spend some time with Jesus and were impressed. “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” John 1:40-41. That’s how we’re all introduced to Jesus. We hear about Him from another person, then we have to make a choice. If we decide to follow Jesus, we need to become disciples. We need to learn the lessons that Jesus taught by studying Scripture to and applying it to our life. In Andrew’s case, he had followed John the Baptist until he saw Jesus. After visiting with Jesus he was convinced that he had met the Messiah, then told his brother Peter. When Jesus saw them fishing on the shores of Galilee they were both ready to follow Him. Andrew may have been ready to be a disciple, but Peter was only ready to follow. That’s a start. He may have just been looking for adventure, but we can be sure that Jesus knew that he had what was needed to learn and eventually spread the Gospel.

Why is it important to be a disciple? Today there are many cults that claim to be Christian but deceive many people who have no knowledge of the truth. These people are unable to discern the Gospel truth from Satan’s deception. If you haven’t learned God’s truth you’ll follow the wrong path. The best teacher of Scripture is the Holy Spirit. The Bible is one single book from Genesis through Revelation and if you skip verses or chapters you’ll miss some important teachings. The Torah (the first books of the Bible) teaches about how God defines sin and the penalty for disobedience. The New Testament reveals God’s remedy for sin. Every Bible is a translation and to gain a deeper understanding of  what Scripture says you should look up words in their original language by using a good concordance. By doing this your understanding will grow. Never take a verse out of context, but use the 20/20 rule. That means read at least 20 verses before and 20 verses after to understand the context. If your Bible has cross references to related Scripture, take the time to look at them. There are many books and commentaries regarding Scripture and some are very good and informative. There’s nothing wrong with studying what others have already studied, but don’t believe what they say just because they’ve written a book. Unstudied people are easily deceived by false teachers. Pray for discernment. When you do look at commentaries, it’s a good idea to look at more than one in order to get more than one perspective. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy2:15Remember, God hasn’t changed. His word was absolutely true in the beginning and it will be absolutely true in the end.

It’s possible to follow Christ without really being a disciple. Crowds of people followed Jesus, but they followed without learning. Not even the twelve disciple really knew who He was at first. As Jesus patiently taught them, some of His words sank in, but they first had to get past their preconceived ideas. For instance, Jesus gave them a long talk about humility and forgiveness. Peter listened, and like a good student he asked a question in order to learn. Out of all the things that Jesus had taught that day, Peter wanted to understand forgiveness. “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Matthew 18:21. Peter must have been struggling with forgiveness and thought forgiving someone seven times was a great accomplishment. Was he thinking of some hidden hurts that had been done to him and people he needed to forgive?  “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22. That’s a lot of forgiving! It isn’t easy to forgive even once, and to forgive 490 time takes an act of God. Peter was learning, but he still had a lot more to learn before he would become the leader that Jesus knew he would be. Ask questions when you don’t understand something and the Holy Spirit will lead you to the truth. It may not be the answer you hoped for, but it will be God’s truth.

Erroneous doctrine is nothing new. In times long past there were some who tried to muddle God’s prophetic words to Israel. As we draw near to the end of time it’s very important not to follow false teachers who modify Scripture to “modernize” it or make it fit today’s traditions. Peter learned because he eventually stopped following and became a disciple. It was Peter who warned us against following false teachers. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:1-2. Many denominations have gone apostate and teach “damnable heresies”. New Age teachings, yoga, and contemplative prayer are just a few of the errors being accepted today. Homosexual relationships are embraced because instead of following God we allow our doctrine to be shaped by people. A person who is a disciple and studies Scripture will know how wrong that is. In Old Testament times, during the time of the judges, there was a problem with people not respecting God’s truth. “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6. Today the King of kings, Jesus Christ, has come to show us the way so we have no reason to do what is right in our own eyes. A person who loves Jesus and wants souls to be saved before it’s too late will study God’s word and mold their life to fit Scripture. Then they will speak in Christian love to others and begin teaching and encouraging them to become disciples of the Most High God and learn His ways.

It’s easy to be deceived if you don’t learn God’s doctrines. Peter had followed Jesus, seen many miraculous things, and asked questions, but was he truly a disciple? When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied even knowing Him. When Jesus was crucified, Peter was nowhere to be found. It could have been the end of Peter’s discipleship, but Jesus hadn’t given up on him. On that glorious Resurrection morning a group of women went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away. They entered the tomb and saw a young man sitting there. He told them he knew they were looking for Jesus and not to be afraid. “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” Mark 16:7. Did you catch that? Tell His disciples and Peter. At that point Peter wasn’t counted among the disciples but was just a follower. They did go to Galilee and there they met the risen Christ. Gently and lovingly Jesus talked with Peter and at last he became a true disciple. Peter listened to Jesus and let Jesus’ words become a partof him. Because he chose to learn from Jesus, Peter not only was restored as a disciple but was also an Apostle. He became a strong leader among those first Christians and today we can learn lessons from both his failures and his victories.

How do you become a disciple of Jesus today?  You pray and study Scripture. As you study, look at your life and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the sin hidden there. We all have it and we need to change our life to become more like Jesus. Sin will always hinder our walk with the Lord. If you have a favorite sin that you hold onto, don’t twist Scripture to make that sin seem acceptable. Choose to become like Jesus by repenting, asking forgiveness, and taking up your cross to follow Him. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. Jesus took your sin and my sin upon Himself. He shed His blood on the cross so that we can be reconciled to God. Every day you need to make a conscience effort to turn away from the sin you hold onto. Study Scripture and apply it to your life. Be a disciple and not a mere follower. Other people will see the change in you and that will allow you to be a witness for Christ.

If you don’t study God’s word you’re in danger of following a false teach down the wrong path. Don’t be follower of deception, but be a disciple of Jesus.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at our Home Page under Newsletter Archives

All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.