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Christians vs. Disciples

I have been in and out of church when I was young and baptized as an infant. I have pictures of that day, but I don't remember. Typically a godparent was to help with the teaching of Christian values, but that never happened. My godparents were there only for the ceremony of my baby baptism. When I was in the second grade, I went to another church to get my communion sacrament. I have pictures of that day, but I don't remember anything that changed in my life.

I was invited to lots of different churches. I was invited to a big church for vacation bible school. I don't remember what was taught, but I do remember that real Oreo cookies and real Hawaiian Punch were served, and we played lots of fun outdoor games, and the music was loud. I was invited to a small church. A bus would pick me up; afterward, I would get a free Dairy Queen ice cream if I had good behavior. I remember we did not play games, and instruments were not allowed like the big church. I was taught how to memorize scripture. In my hometown, there was an outdoor ministry where the preacher was always getting people saved. I found it awkward that the same people would come to the altar for salvation every week.

See, I went to church, but every week I would keep living my life in sin with no real knowledge of Jesus, no conviction, no discipleship. I have been to many other denominations and found it no matter how long I went; I never changed anything. My sin increased with no conviction or wanting to stop.

Have you ever walked into a pet store and found out that no matter how long you stay in, you don't become a cat or a dog or bird. You are still you. When I walk into an H.E.B., no matter how long I stand in front of the produce section, it doesn't make me a banana. No matter how long I went to a church or what church I went to, I was not a Christian. I was just someone who went to church. I was in church, but not in Christ.

What Kind of Disciple was I? I was a disciple of religion.

You honor Me with your lips,

Matthew 15:8

After some difficult years in my life, my sin grew. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but it didn't matter. Eventually, I gave up on going to church. I learned how to be cold, bitter, angry, and act out in bouts of rage. I learned to push people away. I even had murderous thoughts towards my enemies. One of the reasons I joined the military was to learn how to hurt others. I would put on my stern, get out of my face, look, and push people so that they wouldn't get close to me. From my military training, I learned how to fuel the fire that raged inside of me. I was going to be a mean green fighting machine.

I had bottled up my emotions; eventually, they blew up like a volcano, an inferno that seemed inescapable. Sometimes I would be venomous towards those who cared for me or tried to help me. I had secrets I hid; I learned how to live a double life; I learned how to harbor hatred in my heart. The world was teaching me. And I let it. The spiral of life was only getting deeper, darker, and more dreadful. All those emotions exploded back in my face when I tried to live my reality without God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit.

You may have heard of people having an out of body experience, seeing the light, seeing heaven, seeing their bodies on the hospital bed. I didn't believe those kinds of stories either until it happened to me. It happened the day I died, April 7, 1993. I could not speak, but I could see myself from above my body; I could see the shadows of doctors working on me. Then what I saw afterward was sheer terror. I was in complete darkness; I feared as I have never feared before. For the first time, I felt out of control. I felt very alone. I felt the fullness of evil. I don't know how long I was there, but I know that I wanted to get out. I didn't hear voices, but I could see eyes glaring at me. I felt hopeless. Eventually, I was brought back to life, but nothing changed in me.

What Kind of Disciple was I? I was a disciple of the world.

For the wages of sin is death,

but the gift of God is eternal life

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Then one day, I fell. I fell hard. I fell hard in love. I fell hard in love with Jesus. For the first time, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I meant it this time. I wanted to know Jesus. I needed a change in my life, and thankfully, someone had the answers I was looking for. I was given a second chance. Not everyone is fortunate.

My friend was new to the college I was attending. She and I were walking on the track field. She was bold enough to ask me if I was a Christian. I told her no, but I used to go to church. That's when she explained to me the message of God's love and all he did for me by sending Jesus to die for my sins. Jesus died for my sins. I realized how terrible I was in my lifestyle, rebellion, anger, rage, and hate, and how much I needed Jesus in my life. For the first time in a long time, I expressed an emotion of sorrow and repentance. Jesus died for ALL of my sins.

Since that day, I have not turned back. I can't say that I'm not a sinner, but I will say that it's fewer and farther between because I realized that I want to please the Lord. I learned to truly repent quickly, honestly, and ask my friend for help when I was stuck and needed some guidance. She was patient with me when I flooded her with questions. She didn't answer them all the time. She would tell me to study a particular scripture that pertained to my situation.

I found out that going to church didn't make me a Christian, but asking Jesus into my heart made me a Christian Believer. But was it enough for me to be a believer in Christ. Even the devil believes in Jesus.

Anyone here has enemies? I am sure you can think of someone now. We'll come back to that thought in a bit.

I had been a Christian for about three months, and my life was changing. My heart and attitude were changing. When I was angry or wanted to hurt someone, I would find myself praying that I wouldn't hate anymore. I was becoming a new person. The layers of sin were coming off—one layer at a time.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:

old things are passed away;

behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Something inside me suddenly felt like justice was done when one of my enemies had harm done to them. They deserved the pain because of the harm they had done. My thoughts were not Christian at all. I said in my heart, Good for them; they finally got what they had coming to them. For just a moment, I was exhilarated at the awful thoughts.

How quickly my mind went from loving Jesus, then I was spiting my enemies in the next second. The Lord was dealing with me about unforgiveness in my heart. It was a process, but I didn't want anything to hinder my new Christian Life. I began to notice the junk that was deep in my heart. I did not know what came over me to think such terrible thoughts. I was surprised how easy it was for me to hurl injustices toward my enemies.

I heard the Lord say, "I love them too" My heart broke; I repented of my wickedness. I prayed for the first time for my enemies. I was given an opportunity to come to them, give them my condolences, shake their hand, and say I forgive you. I made peace with them. I was not too fond of the vulnerability, but I also did not want to have lingering unforgiveness in my heart. If I was going to be a Christian and live a Christian Life, I had to learn how to love as Jesus loved.

It wasn't easy, and I am reminded that the same God who loved the whole world who gave his Son for me gave His Son for everyone, even our enemies. I was free that day; I let them go. I have a love for people that I never had before. I have a heart for people I have never met. The Lord set me free; do you want to be free. Let go of those who have harmed you in any way.

Are there still some people that may have come to your mind that you had considered your enemy. Maybe you were like me and believe that your enemy deserves punishment. Perhaps you were considered someone's enemy, and you need forgiveness. It would be an excellent time to let go of them right now if you haven't already done it. Ask for forgiveness. Pray for your enemies; God Loves them, too; Jesus died for their sins too.

For God so loved the world that he gave

His one and only Son Jesus so that anyone

that would believe in him would not perish

but have everlasting life. John 3:16

I had received Jesus in my heart, and I was forgiving, repenting, and growing in the Lord. As I began my new walk-in Christian living and Christian Love, I was baptized in water with full knowledge that my sins were forgiven, and I was confirming my dedication to serving the Lord with all my heart. I was adopted into a new family in Christ.

Next, I attended as many bible studies and prayer meetings as I could. I tried to commit scriptures to my memory like a student would learn from studying new vocabulary in a new classroom. Occasionally a bad memory would try to sneak in, and I would attack it with

I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

The Lord has not given me a spirit of fear,

but that of love, power, and a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

God’s perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4:18

I would find a quiet place and pray. I would find myself journaling prayers and going back to see when they were answered.

One day, late at night, a terrible memory came to me, I couldn't shake it off. It was one of those memories that seemed like the episode was happening to me again. I called my friend, and she told me to pray about the situation. So, I asked the Lord how I should handle what was going on in my memory. I prayed, my mind was being tormented with the thoughts, I was lost in words; I had no more tears to cry; after praying, I waited. I tried to listen. So I prayed some more, and what happened next took me by surprise. I knew I was praying, but my speech became fluent in Hebrew.

What happened that night? Whatever I was terrified of left my mind. I forgot what I was praying about, what I was stressing about, and felt even more freedom. When I told my friend about what had happened, she explained to me that I had received one of the gifts of Holy Spirit in the evidence of speaking in tongues. It wasn't scary at all, but I felt the weight of the night terror go away.

Those of us who have dealt with trauma understand that when bad memories creep up, it is not easy to "shake off, get over it, or move on" It can leave you debilitated, petrified, and in shock for a couple of hours and sometimes days. But that night, I found the power of prayer, the gift of Holy Spirit, and the answer to helping me overcome the casualties in my mind. I learned how to handle difficult situations through praying first.

Ephesians 6:18

On hands training for evangelism was the day my friend and I stood in front of the waving flag for an event called "See You At The Pole." I was about two weeks into my Christian walk. The air was crisp, and the sky was cloud-free. We just prayed for our college, prayed for the students' welfare, a safe school year, and several topics about education safety, then slowly, the students started to gather quietly. Some began to pray. Some were praying in tongues. A few were standing in the distance watching; those are the ones my heart prayed for the most because I was a spectator once. When we ended an hour later, there were students, faculty, and yes, even the Dean was standing where we were. Salvation was offered to those who wanted Jesus.

The classmates from our dormitory that knew me before September 1995 knew that there was something different in my life. I was not inviting people to drinking parties at my place, but I was inviting them to Bible Study. I was inviting them to meet my new friend, Jesus. After about two months, our two-person Bible Study group grew beyond the apartment capacity.

Can you imagine how jamb packed we were in a small apartment? But we always seemed to have enough chips and dip and sweet tea for everyone. No one wanted to leave; they all felt like I did. We were one happy growing family in Christ. The college campus was not a Christian based facility, but we didn't let that stop us from evangelizing our classmates.

Even after all these years, I remembered the lessons my friend taught me, the nurture she shared, and the necessity of having a prayer life. She gave me the spiritual tools that I use every day. When we had to part our ways because we graduated, we stayed in contact. We encourage one another and support each other in good times and hard times. It was my turn to do what my friend did for me to do for others.

What Kind of Disciple was I? I was a disciple of a Christian.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ, as Paul mentions in.

1 Corinthians 11:1

I have learned that going to church doesn't make me a Christian, just like going to a pet store doesn't make me a cat. Being a Christian is not just about believing in Jesus. It is not about just loving Jesus. To me, being a Christian is giving your heart to Jesus and loving as He does. I am not against going to church; we need the fellowship and a place to gather the assembly to minister to one another and encourage one another. It is not gathering in a building once a week for an hour to hear a message, worship, or praise the Lord and then go home for the rest of the week waiting for the next time the church doors opened.

It would have been easy for me to be a closet Christian and keep my conversion to myself. But when I experienced the Love of Jesus, I wanted to share the love with everyone I met. My heart was changed; I wanted to tell everyone I knew. I wanted to learn all I could learn from other Christians and learn from the Bible. I wanted to demonstrate the love I had by quickly forgiving, not being offended, and learning to love the way Jesus loves me.

As you mature, in a day, in months, in years, in decades, you should be making disciples. My friend Selenna was disciplining me by teaching me how to pray, study the Bible, and evangelize. She took time and showed me how to help others get to know Jesus. I did everything I saw her do. As I started to understand scripture more, I began to ask for a deeper relationship with Jesus. My friend could only take me under her wing for a while. Then she let me go so I could learn to walk in my own journey. So what else was there for me to do? I asked the Lord.

Do not merely listen to the word,

and so deceive yourselves.

Do what it says.

James 1:22

Converts change their life to look like, act like, or be like a person, a church, or a culture. It starts with a repetitive behavior or action. What has really transpired was they were made converts. Oh, we can make converts. Even in our own backyards. How? Start doing what you want people to do, and maybe they will change too.

Think about how the church has made Christians look and act like them. You can tell some people are from a certain ministry because they act and talk like the leader or have doctrine like that from the denomination. There is nothing wrong with making converts; it is when there is no real change going on inside or when the leader is not directing the individual to a life in Christ. I call that being a Chameleon Christian. The only thing that changes is the outside appearance. However, that is not what Jesus gave us the authority to do. He did not say go make converts, copy cats of us. He said go and make disciples in Him.

What does it look like to be a Disciple of Christ? It means to live with Jesus, to live like Jesus, be like Jesus to those who are watching around you, even when no one is watching. Jesus did not want you to only have a conversion experience. He wants to have a life with you. It is more personal than a church service once a week. It is more intimate than sharing with your best friend. It is everyday Him living in you and You living with Him.

The greatest joy I have is the opportunity to minister to people who are Non-Christians and give them Jesus and watch the Love of Jesus come into their lives as He did in mine. The next greatest joy for me is when I can see the new Christians grow and practice, teach, and reach the lost.

All things work together for those who love God

and are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

See, nothing is wasted with the time that I spent in all those different churches. Now I am involved in a worldwide church that is my family in Christ. My time in the military and the issues I had of anger allowed me to learn how to recognize my real enemy and fight the good fight of faith. The life after death experience, I went through gave me a perspective of how terrible it is to live a life without Jesus that eventually gave me a second chance.

My friend's training on evangelism opened a door of ministry for me beyond the church walls. I have traveled to several countries to share the love of Jesus. I especially enjoy street ministry. One does not have to go across the world to make disciples; it can happen anywhere.

Facing my enemy gave me courage that I did not have before, the opportunity to forgive, and love. The trials, temptations, traumas have brought me to the feet of Jesus on many occasions. But most of all, the life I was living in this world changed to a life living in Christ. I have a love of Jesus in my heart. I know that He loves me, and I love Him. Now I can love others as He loves me. I was no longer a part-time Christian only on church days. I live my whole life for the Kingdom of God as a full-time Disciple. Take some time to reflect on how you can become a Disciple of Jesus. If you are already a Disciple of Jesus, how can you challenge yourself to continue your life in Christ by being an example for others?

A Disciple of Christ can be recognized by her life of obedience, excitement, humility, and treasuring Christ above all. Let us ask ourselves:

  • Am I a Christian? Am I Living a Christain Life?

  • Am I Loving Jesus? Do I love Jesus Loved?

  • Am I praying for my enemies? Do I love my enemies?

  • Am I a Closet Christian or a Chameleon Christian?

  • Am I a convert, or am I a Disciple?

  • Am I a Part-Time Christian, or am I a Full-time Disciple?

  • Am I a Disciple of religion, the world, another Christian, or am I a Disciple of Jesus?

If I am a Disciple of Jesus:

  • Do I obey Jesus in spreading the gospel and speaking to others of Him?

  • Have I experienced the excitement of having the Lord use me to see another person’s life completely transformed?

  • Am I sharing my faith with others boldly and regularly?

  • Have I come to value Jesus as my Savior, Friend, Lover?

Let us not stop in just being a Disciple of Jesus, but let us continue to serve the Lord with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul. Let Him take us from where we are today to reach, preach, teach, heal, and set the captives free. Let us endure and persevere until the whole world knows. We are in this together.

Let us not become weary in doing good,

for at the proper time we will

reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

What Kind of Disciple, am I? I am a disciple of Christ.

By Gloria Nesloney

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