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- Jacob Ninan
This is a new term that has cropped up rather recently. Instead of calling themselves believers in Jesus people are saying that they are His followers. A nice way to interpret this is that such people imply that merely believing is not enough and they are seeking to follow Jesus. But another way to look at it is that following Jesus is not always the same as being His disciples!
When Jesus was on earth there were multitudes following Him around. Jesus was not particularly impressed with that and He told them plainly that they were only following Him to get some benefits for themselves (Jn.6:26,27). We can be sure that a large percentage of people who follow Jesus today are really only seeking material benefits. Many want His blessings and so they are prepared to do certain things to get into His good books, as they think. They will go to church and even get baptised. They may read the Bible and pray dutifully. But this kind of external behaviour is all that has essentially changed in their life. They have not become disciples.
Have we really seen ourselves as those who cannot manage without a Saviour? Have we come to Jesus because we have seen how our sins have separated us from God (Is.59:2), and the gulf between us is so large that no amount of effort on our part can build a bridge across? Much preaching of the 'gospel' these days does not show people as sinners before God who need a Saviour but as a quick fix for all their earthly problems and as an insurance for the life to come. So, many followers of Jesus have actually not entered into His fold through the gate but climbed over the wall somehow.
Once a man comes to see himself in his hopeless position and comes to Jesus (Mt.11:28) he will find Him as the best thing that has ever happened to him in life. When he realises that Jesus has washed away all his sins with His blood, made him acceptable to God as His child, and opened up the treasures of spiritual blessings to Him freely (Ep.1:3), as a gesture of unmerited favour, he offers himself to God as a living sacrifice (Ro.12:1). From then onwards his desire is to do His will, exalt His name and show everyone around by his entire life how grateful he is to God (Mt.6:9,10). He wants to learn from Jesus, become like Him and follow Him wherever He leads him. He loves Jesus more than all his loved ones on earth (Mt.10:37) and all that he has (Lk.14:33), and follows Him being willing to do His will rather than his own (Lk.9:23).
The ownership of our life has moved from our hands to Jesus. It is no longer about what we like or what we want, but about Jesus. That is how it is with a disciple of Jesus. This is very different from merely believing and accepting facts about Jesus or following Him externally. The transformation for a disciple is essentially inside, from where it begins to show fruit outside too.
The battle in the life of a disciple is to keep himself always in the position of abiding in Christ (1Pe.1:13).