From The Work of Restoration, by Robert B. Thompson Copyright 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
There are two kinds of "Christian" believers in the world—the church-attender and the disciple. Only the disciple is a true Christian.
Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:9)
There are two kinds of "Christian" believers in the world—the church-attender and the disciple. However, only the disciple is a true Christian.
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
"The disciples were called Christians."
The question is, what is a disciple; for it is the disciple who is the genuine Christian.
The Lord Jesus described what He means by a disciple.
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26,27)
How many "Christians" of our day have forsaken all in order to follow the Lord? Not very many, it appears. How many are following the Master, bearing their personal cross? Not very many!
The Christian churches of today are filled with church-attenders. They call themselves "Christians" but they are not. They are not disciples of the Lord Jesus—not at all! They simply are not genuine Christians.
Let us say that Fred Smith is an apprentice printer. He is twenty years old and is engaged to be married.
On Saturday he attends a trade school where he is studying lithography. The topic this Saturday is color registration. Fred watches carefully as marks are made on the plates to make certain that the several colors will not overlap or be outside the specific boundaries set for them.
He understands that such knowledge will lead directly to his becoming a master lithographer with the salary and opportunities that such an attainment will bring. Although he is tired from working all week he forces himself to stay awake. He makes notes and sketches on a pad he carries with him.
On Sunday he and his fiancée, Shirley Samson, attend the morning church service. Fred and his future wife have been raised in church. They slip into a pew. The time comes for the sermon. The pastor delivers a message of great interest and concern to himself. He has prayed over it. The subject is child abuse. The pastor is able to express his indignation at such an outrage and hopes to make some social impact toward relieving this scandalous condition.
Fred has no children but he is interested in the subject. He becomes indignant at the examples of abuse given in the sermon. He looks at Shirley. They agree silently that they would never be guilty of such an abomination (not having experienced the demonic deceptions and pressures that come on all married couples—even Christian couples).
Soon Fred’s head nods. He has worked hard all week. He was busy in school on Saturday. The pastor’s third point, although clearly and simply stated, is not heard by Fred because he is asleep. But when he becomes a father what he has heard may prevent him from venting his anger on his child.
Fred would not bring a notebook and force himself to think about every point made. Why should he? He doesn’t intend to become a minister. His ambition is to be a master lithographer. What would be the purpose of writing down the main points of the sermon and going over them at home? How would he use such information? Toward what goal would it lead him?
Fred is a clean-living, wholesome young person. So is Shirley. But they are not disciples of Christ. They are not members of the Body of Christ, of the Body of the Servant of the Lord, except in a nominal sense.
Fred and Shirley will not grow in Christ under these conditions. They have been going to church since early childhood. But they would never invite other young people to meet with them so they could impart the little knowledge of the Scriptures they have gained through years of exposure. They are too busy in the things of the world to set aside the time and energy to minister to others. After fifty years of church attendance they will know little more of the Scriptures than they do now.
Fred’s first interest is printing. His second interest is his fiancée. Church attendance is his religious duty that he performs faithfully. It could not be said truly that Fred is seeking first the Kingdom of God. He is not a disciple.
The current pastor-congregation set of role expectations (the role of the pastor is to preach and the role of the congregation is to attend on Sunday morning and listen) is a wasteful, inefficient system for going into the world and making disciples of all nations. This pattern never will fulfill the great commission given by the resurrected Christ.
The gathering of disciples, on the other hand, is quite different than the church service Fred and Shirley are accustomed to. The assembly of fervent members of the Body of Christ is similar to the gathering of apprentice printers at the Saturday trade school.
Raul Sanchez is a disciple of the Lord Jesus. So is his fiancée, Eliana Martinez. They are both in their early twenties and both have grown up in neighborhoods where violence and gang warfare are common. They had been using drugs since their high school days.
One day they found their way into the Center. The Center is operated by young men and women of their own age having backgrounds similar to that of Raul and Eliana.
The young Christians of the Center are fervent disciples, already having gained experience in conquering sin and the world. They live, breathe, and think about the Lord Jesus twenty-four hours of every day of the week. They are wholly absorbed in following Jesus. They are bearing their cross after Jesus.
Raul and Eliana became Christians at the Center with the understanding that a Christian is someone who is following Christ with his whole heart. Christ is the Focus of his life, the Guide and Reason for every decision, every action. The disciples at the Center are learning every moment of their life how to serve the Lord more effectively. For each of them, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Raul and Eliana began to attend a church where the pastor is aware of the transition the Holy Spirit is making—the transition from the clergy-laity concept to the Body of Christ concept.
Their pastor understands he is training disciples who will learn and who will bring to other people that which he is teaching. He is not desirous of gaining large numbers of people to fill the building each Sunday. His concern is that each person whom he is instructing is receiving and mastering what is being presented so that individual soon may be able to present the Kingdom of God to others.
The pastor who is teaching people who will never carry on his teachings is wasting his time and God’s time. The Gospel never will cover the earth until every person who is being taught is committed to teach others also. There no longer is time to "play church."
The pastor of Raul and Eliana, because of his commitment to discipleship, is more interested in building up the saints than he is in building up the attendance. He understands thoroughly that in Kingdom work it is far better to have twenty dedicated disciples than two thousand casually interested church-attenders.
Two thousand lukewarm believers will do little else than seek counsel for their family problems and complain about their lack of convenience and comfort. But twenty dedicated disciples will shake the earth in the name of Jesus.
The assembly of saints that Raul attends is little different from the conventional church. The customary piano, organ, pews, pulpit are all present. The principal difference is that most of those who attend are active disciples. They are assembled in order to worship God and to charge their spiritual batteries so they can go forth as light bearers in this dark world.
There is prolonged, fervent worship in the Spirit. The time comes for presenting the Word of God. The pastor teaches on the subject of forgiving those who sin against us. He stresses the importance to the spiritual life of keeping one’s heart free from grudges, from bitterness, from revenge, from malice.
Raul and Eliana are intensely interested. They know how important grudges and revenge are to the gangs in their neighborhood. They take notes so they can study the Scripture references at home. They are so anxious to please Jesus that they are eager to know more of this spiritual principle. Forgiveness is, they learn, central to our fellowship with God.
The number one vocation of Raul and Eliana is their discipleship. Their jobs by which they earn the money for their food and shelter are secondary in importance.
As soon as they relate the principle of forgiving others to their own spiritual condition they will be able and ready to share this understanding with others. It will not be long before they will be heard teaching the new young people who are coming to the Center that we have to forgive those who have harmed us if we expect God to forgive our sins.
There is a difference in kind between Fred Smith and Raul Sanchez. Fred’s chief interest is becoming a journeyman printer and finally owning his own shop. Fred does attend church each Sunday. Each service he hears a well-outlined sermon concerning the moral issues of our culture.
He will do his best to conform to the preaching provided he is not attacked spiritually to the point he is unable to overcome. If that happens he will go the route of numerous men—divorce, alcohol, anxiety, the worship of money. He no longer will find time to attend church.
Raul Sanchez is a dedicated disciple, working at mastering the principles of the Christian life as vigorously and selflessly as the most dedicated musician works at mastering the principles of his instrument.
Raul Sanchez will learn more of Christ in one year than Fred Smith will learn in his entire life. Raul Sanchez soon will find more open doors to share his faith than he will have the time and strength to manage. Fred Smith may never throughout his entire life bring a vital testimony to bear on another human being.
Fred will be taught that saving souls is important. But he will find no practical way to go about saving souls, except perhaps in a time of Sunday-school canvassing of the community.
Raul Sanchez will be taught how to worship and obey God, how to live and fight in the Spirit of God. His whole life will be a supremely powerful force effecting change in his family, his relatives, his friends, and a multitude of other people who are brought by the Holy Spirit to drink of Raul’s fountain of living waters.
When referring to people being blessed by Raul Sanchez we are not speaking of the Evangelical zealot who goes about attempting to get people to subscribe to the "four steps of salvation," alienating the Jews and others with whom he comes in contact, or to the Christian who has been given by the Spirit a special gift of soul winning.
Rather, our reference is to the true disciple of Jesus. The true disciple is a believer who is becoming a new creation, who is being made the living expression of Christ. Christ is the eternal moral law of God made flesh, the eternal Witness of God. Those who give their lives wholly to the Lord Jesus always have a profound effect on the individuals with whom they come in contact. They save themselves and those who hear them. They are true witnesses of God, and all true witnesses bear witness for eternity.
There are billions of human beings today who are living their life without Christ. The pastor-congregation pattern of role expectations (the pastor preaches and the congregation sits and listens) never will reach the majority of this mass of souls as far as conforming them to the will of God is concerned.
But the Holy Spirit is calling out from these spiritually inefficient assemblies a warlike remnant of people, young and old, who are ready to be disciples of Christ in the New Testament sense of the word.
Before Christ returns from Heaven these new disciples will make an impact on every human being on the earth. Because of their acceptance of death with Christ on the cross, their absolute, single-minded obedience to the Father, they will accomplish more in the next few years than has been accomplished over the past two thousand years of church history.
There is a military aspect of the Christian discipleship. Discipleship and being a soldier have many points in common.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (II Timothy 2:2,3)
Notice the close relationship between discipleship and being a soldier of Christ. A soldier is a man under discipline. He is dedicated to the service of his king. He will give his life for his country. He will obey orders, even to death. He lives to serve his king and country. So it is with the disciple of Christ.
A good soldier endures hardness without complaining. He realizes that in order to win a war there must be much suffering, much danger, much discomfort to one’s self. He does not complain because complaining would weaken the hands of his fellow soldiers and aid the enemy.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (II Timothy 2:4)
A soldier has one goal in life—to keep himself prepared to destroy the enemy of his king. Every other matter is secondary in importance. A good soldier does nothing that will enable the enemy to catch him off guard and do damage to what he has been assigned to protect.
Fred Smith is entangled with the affairs of this life. His heart is set on making money so he can get married, buy a house, own a new car, furnish his home with nice things, and gradually acquire additional articles of comfort and convenience. The church is a place where he goes on Sunday because that is what a "Christian" is supposed to do.
Fred’s mind seldom is on "things above." He is not seeking first the Kingdom of God. He is seeking first the material riches. Matters pertaining to his religion are secondary in importance. He will give some attention to church activities when he finds the time.
Fred does not view himself as a soldier of Christ. The concept that he should keep his involvement in this world to a minimum in order that he may effectively serve the Lord Jesus is foreign to him.
He believes he should work hard, and that if he attends church regularly it will help ensure he will go to Heaven when he dies. Since he will not die until he is an old man (so he thinks) he will put off worrying about Heaven until he gets closer to it. By the time he is elderly his habits will have become so deeply ingrained that should he desire to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus he might find it quite difficult.
Raul’s attitude of mind is altogether different. His mind, his heart, are kept on "things above." The seeking of the Kingdom of God is first in importance to him. He deliberately keeps his involvement in the things of this life to a minimum so he always will be alert and ready to serve the Lord.
Raul, a skilled auto mechanic and a conscientious employee, already has turned down one excellent job opportunity because he would have had to work nights and Sundays frequently and this would have seriously interrupted his meeting with the saints and his ministry at the Center. By the time Raul is elderly he will have become a prophet—an eternal witness of God.
Raul has the spirit of the Christian martyrs. He would give his life for his testimony if that were required. To Raul, Heaven is not a far off place where he will go when he is seventy or eighty. Heaven is his homeland, the place that each day is becoming more real to him. He is ready to die in his twenties because his heart leaps with joy at the thought of seeing his Christ and the saints in glory.
When Raul’s pastor preaches on the cross, on suffering, on giving one’s life for the Lord, Raul is filled with glory and joy. His spiritual life is an adventure, a joy, a romance with Jesus. He is continually growing in power and vision.
When Fred’s pastor preaches on the cross, on suffering, on giving one’s life for Jesus (which is seldom because the congregation enjoys "positive" preaching and would soon leave if the pastor became "negative"), Fred is disquieted and dismayed. He sees no necessity for dwelling on pain and misery. He would far rather think about the passages of the Scripture that bring assurance to him that God loves him and will protect and bless him. His "promise box" at home contains no "negative" passages.
If the Lord Jesus were to call Fred to service in some foreign land, this would interfere with Fred’s ambitions, hopes, and dreams. He probably would not obey and would continue with his pursuits, hoping that the "feeling" would go away. Although he might be somewhat aware that he may be disobeying Jesus he would trust he will go to Heaven anyway because "we are saved by grace and not by works."
Fred is ignorant of the fact that the Kingdom of God will come to the earth in the near future. He never has been taught this. His concept of future events is that some day he is going to Heaven to live in a "mansion."
If Fred is pressed hard enough he may compromise his Christianity. He does not have enough inner fire to stand up for Jesus if it means painful personal sacrifice or martyrdom.
Fred is not a soldier of Christ. He is not a disciple, a saint, a man of God, an active member of Christ’s Body. Because he is not a victorious, conquering saint he is not eligible for the first resurrection—the resurrection of God’s kings and judges. He is not ready to be revealed to the creation as a son of God. Fred is being taught he will be caught up in his lukewarm state in a rapture so he will not be called on to suffer tribulation.
The doctrines of the "rapture," of gaining material possessions by faith, of being saved by "grace" independently of the kind of behavior the believer practices (lawless grace), are perfectly suited to Fred. These doctrines, which are foreign to the concept of Christian discipleship, have deceived Fred into believing he can live as a worldling and yet enjoy the rewards of the Christian martyrs and prophets.
Raul is a soldier of Christ, a disciple, a saint, a man of God, an active member of Christ’s Body, His army. Raul is eligible for the first resurrection because he is an overcomer. In fact, his daily life is an attaining to the first resurrection as he begins to share in the incorruptible resurrection life of Jesus and the sufferings of Jesus. Raul is being prepared to be revealed with the Lord Jesus at His appearing.
If the Lord called Raul and Eliana to the mission field they would be filled with rejoicing.
Fred is a man of this world, although he hopes that through his agreement with the doctrines of his church he holds a ticket to Heaven. He does not care particularly about dwelling in Christ and God or They in him. He just desires to avoid Hell when he dies.
Raul is starting out to become a prophet. Every true saint of God is a witness and a prophet. The Spirit of the most high God rests on Raul and dwells within him. He is walking in the steps of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Abraham, of Daniel, of Paul, of Peter, of James. He is one of the elect, the remnant of whom this world is not worthy.
Fred is at home in this world. Raul is a pilgrim and a stranger. He is spending his life looking for a city that has foundations, an abiding place of rest in the heart of God. He is seeking—and he shall find—the full knowledge of God through Christ, the "city which hath foundations."
Raul has the promise of Christ that he will be guarded during the hour of temptation that soon is to come upon us. He has kept the word of Christ’s patience and Christ will keep him throughout the age of moral horrors that is on the horizon.
Fred already has surrendered to the antichrist spirit, the spirit of worldliness and material gain, and therefore is in danger of everlasting torment.
Raul Sanchez and Eliana Martinez are disciples. They are Christians.
Fred Smith and Shirley Samson are not disciples. They are not Christians.