Spiritual Patterns: Believers, Followers & Disciples
Exploring the faith journey that isn’t taught in your church
Humans love patterns. We see them everywhere, even when they are not there. We make sense of the world around us by organizing it into things we can understand and control.
Sometimes those patterns are just figments of our imagination, proof of our desire for order. But sometimes, they give us a glimpse into truth, helping us be more aware of the spiritual reality that we live in.
You can decide for yourself if what I present is real or imagined, but it has helped me understand my journey of faith, and it has helped me encourage others to go deeper into their relationship with Christ.
In my spiritual journey, I have seen three stages of belief and marked correlated behaviors that go with them. Maybe this will help you to determine where you are and what the next steps are for you.
These people have heard the truth and have decided that they believe the basic tenets of the Gospel. Belief is an essential step, but it is primarily intellectual. It is just deciding if you agree with the revelations of the Christian faith. Believers are answering questions like:
- Is Jesus who He said He is?
- Was He born of a virgin?
- Is He the Son of God?
- Did He live a sinless life?
- Did He die on the cross for my sins?
- Was He resurrected on the third day?
People demonstrate their beliefs in different ways. For example, saying the sinner’s prayer, public profession of faith, baptism, or being confirmed. This is the very first step.
Unfortunately, most people get stuck in the believer phase and never move beyond an intellectual understanding of the Gospel. They miss out on what it truly means to be a Christian. These people are not yet fully devoted to Christ.
Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, but if your knowledge of Christ does not create radical change, you have never truly met Him. To encounter Jesus is to be transformed on a fundamental level. Just ask Paul. Everyone who finds Jesus has to make a crucial decision.
My will, my plans, my life, my priorities OR His.
Judas was a believer. He believed Jesus was the Messiah. He accepted the theological assertions, but it never changed his heart. In the end, he was dissatisfied with Jesus because he didn’t fit the mold that Judas had formed for him.
Would you be disappointed to learn that Jesus loved Republicans and Democrats equally, or that He chose to sit with perpetrators as well as victims?
Is Jesus just a symbol of your own beliefs, or do Jesus’ teachings determine your beliefs? If Jesus’ teachings make you feel comfortable and safe, you are probably more like Judas, an intellectual believer who does not KNOW Jesus.
But if His commands make you uncomfortable, if you know you are not living up to his teachings, you are ready for the next step…action.
Jesus recognizes people with intellectual understanding, and He greets them with two words: “Follow me.“
Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Paul followed the same calling to take their belief to another level. They took action.
Followers leave their nets behind. They allow Jesus’ teachings to change their beliefs and their behaviors. They look for ways to obey and search for profound truths in the scriptures. They seek to know Jesus in an increasingly personal way. Their path is no longer determined by their own will but by the desires of their teacher, Jesus.
However, followers are not 100% committed yet. They listen, then take some time to consider what their response will be. They don’t live with Jesus and have not surrendered to him entirely. But they are tinkering with the idea. They are sticking their toe in the water. They ask questions like:
- What does this teaching mean?
- How can I grow deeper in my understanding of _____?
- Am I obeying His teachings?
- What is the cost of my obedience? Is it worth it?
- Who should I share these exciting new revelations with?
- Is there anyone I know who NEEDS to know Jesus? How can I introduce them?
Followers demonstrate their devotion through obedience. They carefully consider their belief in Jesus and what it ultimately means. In doing so, they genuinely encounter Jesus. They meet him and learn that He is not what they expected.
It is both comfortable to be in His presence and intensely uncomfortable. He loves you, but He’s not content to leave you as you are. He desires to see you in the state he created you for. He yearns to see you free.
Free from the bondage of sin. Free from self-interest and lust. Free from fear of cultural irrelevance. He will not be satisfied until you are fully His. But you must decide. Are you okay just being a follower, or will you take it to the next step?
Disciples are dead men, the second born. They no longer live for themselves. When they were followers, they asked the question: “Is it worth it?” And their answer was a resounding YES! HE is worth everything. This is the purpose of life. Jesus IS my everything.
They have died to themselves and found their real life in Christ. They are passionately obedient, and they are captivating people to be around. Just being in their presence makes you want to go deeper in your walk with Christ.
However, just like Jesus, they will challenge you in the areas you are holding back from your Lord. They will ask hard questions hoping to lead you into deeper obedience. But they also ask tough questions of themselves. Questions like:
- What commands am I still failing to obey, and how do I learn to follow them?
- What does the Lord require of me? What is my mission?
- Where should I go, and what should I do to build His kingdom?
- How can I leverage my life in such a way that it brings glory to God and not myself?
- Is there anything in my life that displeases my Lord?
The disciple no longer sees Jesus as a teacher, but He is their Lord, their master. They are entirely devoted to obedience and they have determined that their life only has meaning when they are consumed and directed by Jesus and His purposes for them. It is in this new life that they have found what Jesus called abundant life.
Believers recognize Truth.
Followers demonstrate their belief in the Truth.
Disciples abandon all to be found in the Truth.
Where are you on this journey? How do you think you can move from where you are to the next step? What questions might you have about this?