Have you ever thought that we’ve done a better job of making ‘believers’ than we have ‘disciples’?
Maybe you’ve heard (or said) something like, “You’ve trusted in Jesus as savior, now make him your Lord.”
One of the biggest challenges and frustrations of ministry can be helping people make that move from trusting in Jesus to forgive our sins and re-orienting our lives around God’s mission and purposes.
Here’s the thing:
It’s easy for us to believe that Jesus died for our sins in order that we can have eternal life – be accepted into heaven.
Why? Because life is still oriented around ourselves. Salvation is a benefit to us.
Then we are later asked, as time goes on, to consider reorienting our lives around God.
This is actually a much bigger conversion than that earlier belief in Jesus as Savior.
So, how was the early church so much more effective at making fully devoted disciples of Jesus than we are?
They saw things in the opposite order than we do.
Just look at one of the most well known verses in the book of Romans:
‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10:9
Notice Paul says here that first comes the confession that Jesus is Lord. We’ve lost the essence of this word for the most part. To confess Jesus as Lord is to recognize who he is and the authority that he has over our lives. Then comes the belief, which Paul orients primarily around the resurrection.
Then the result of confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that he was raised from the dead is salvation.
So salvation comes as a result of placing our faith in Jesus as Lord.
But Christians reading this seem to be oblivious to it.
I recently read a description of this verse that said this about it.
“Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins – and we will be saved!”
But that’s not what this verse says!!!
We have so bought into what we think the gospel (basically only the cross) that we’ve missed so much of it and we read every verse through the lens of what we already believe instead of listening to what’s being said.
Paul doesn’t say all we have to do is trust that his death was adequate payment for our sins. That’s part of it of course, but what he says is that we need to confess Jesus as Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead, then we’ll be saved.
This is so important that I need to share another example. On the day of Pentecost, after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up to preach. What does he say about Jesus? Here is part of the culmination…
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Acts 2:32-33
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 2:36
That’s the end of his message. What we need to know is Jesus was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God and has received the Spirit that he’s poured out. He is Lord and Messiah. These are kingly terms of power and authority.
When the people hear this, they are ‘cut to the heart’ and ask how they should respond.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39
The called for response is repentance – reorientation of their lives in allegiance to Jesus as Lord. Baptism is the act that signifies the depth of that commitment. And their sins would be forgiven.
Notice the pattern. Have faith in Jesus as Lord and our sins will be forgiven.
We often teach Savior now, Lord hopefully later.
The apostles preached, Lord and Savior now.
No Lord, no Savior.
It’s a package deal. We don’t get Jesus piecemeal with the parts that we like first.
We don’t incorporate Jesus as a part of our lives.
We reorient our lives around who Jesus is and live in light of his Kingdom.
It’s certainly possible and even likely that less people will respond to that message. But those that do will be setting their first step of faith on the path of discipleship.
This isn’t the only obstacle we have to making disciples, but I believe it’s certainly one of them.