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Throughout the world, there are many people who claim to be Christians. In fact, if we were to ask people in our communities if they are Christians, many of them would respond quickly with an emphatic yes. However, if we were to ask those same people if they are disciples of Jesus Christ, many of them would likely not be as quick to answer, and those who are honest would have to admit that they are in truth not disciples of Jesus Christ.
This dichotomy is problematic. Although many people don’t want to hear it, and while many pastors fail to preach it, there is no distinction between a Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians are disciples. A disciple is someone who trusts Christ and who lives his life according to that trust, following Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). His call is clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). If we are genuinely trusting Christ, we will follow Him, but if we’re not following Him, it means that we don’t trust Him. Similarly, if we know the gospel, we will strive to walk in a way that is worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27); if the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we will walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); if we are united to Christ, we will bear fruit in Christ (John 15:1–11); if we love Christ, we will obey Christ (John 14:15); if we are justified by faith, and faith alone, our faith will not remain alone but will result in a life of faith, repentance, and good works, which Christ prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26).
In the Great Commission, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations. His call to make disciples includes not only evangelism and seeing the lost born again by the Holy Spirit and united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone, but it also includes working to ensure that those who are united to Christ are discipled in Christ. In many ways, this is where the church has not been faithful, both in our local churches and on the mission field around the world. We have made many converts, and we have made many busy church workers, but we have not been as faithful in the great task of disciple-making. We who have been made disciples by the sovereign grace of God are called to go and make disciples in our homes, our churches, our communities, and the nations by the grace of God through the power of the gospel of God and all for the glory of God.