Every Wednesday we’ll post something to do with doctrine and purity. Hope it helps.
Words lose their original meaning through the ‘watering down’ process of misuse and redefinition. (“Christian” “ love” and “relationship” are a few that come to mind.) So it is with the word “believer.” In the New Testament it was used in reference to people who both believed in Christ and were committed to Him. (Acts 5:14) Their beliefs directed their behavior, and the idea of belief without corresponding action was anathema to New Testament thought. (I Timothy 4:12; James 2:19)
Today, though, a number of people identify themselves as believers despite a glaring contradiction between their professed belief and their conduct. (See, for example, the depressing statistics regularly cranked out by George Barna, indicating the number of self-identified Christians who engage in openly un-Biblical behaviors while calling themselves believers.) This leaves us considering the difference between a believer – one who simply believes the right things – versus a disciple, who believes, of course, but whose life and action goes beyond belief.
I’ve been thinking lately about this, in light of both the differences and similarities between sinners, believers and disciples. It seems to me that a sinner sins; a believer believes; and a disciple realizes he sins (though he strives not to), believes, but also strives to learn and follow. That is, after all, the definition of a disciple: One who learns and follows. Plainly put, then, I cannot accurately call myself a disciple unless I am being regularly taught by Him, and am following Him.
A sinner sins, because that’s his nature. No mystery there, and although I’ve been given a new nature (II Corinthians 5:17) I still retain the flesh – the old, carnal nature (Galatians 5:17) that I will eventually put off once and for all, praise God. So I’m not about to exempt myself from the category of a sinner, in that I do sin, will sin, and hopefully, by God’s grace, will continue overcoming sin.
A believer believes, as does the disciple. If and when there’s a difference between the two, it seems to lie in the effect beliefs have on actions. Belief should generate action, but, as the song says, ‘taint necessarily so. People can and do believe the right things without responding to those beliefs. Just consider the number of people attending Bible believing churches where sound doctrine is faithfully taught, who believe all the right things and do all the wrong ones. It’s a common scandal of modern Christianity, and it’s spreading.
I can understand how it happens, because it’s happened to me. I remember clearly how easy 30 years ago it was to make deliberate compromises – a little flirtation; a second look; a quick glance at porn – while still believing and professing all the right things. I paid a terrible price for those concessions, a price I’m not willing to ever pay again.
You’re not either, I trust, so let’s keep the fires burning and strive to be disciples and believers in the truest sense today.
For other posts by Joe Dallas on Doctrine and Purity click onto the Doctrinal Matters