The word “Christian” appears only three times in the Bible. The word “Disciple,” however, is used nearly 300 times. For good reason. Professing to be a “Christian” seems relatively safe since 83% of Americans refer to themselves by this name. But calling ourselves a “Disciple” takes it one step further; it indicates we have some ownership in our pact to make Jesus not just our Savior, but our Lord. He is not merely our Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “disciple” as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.”
Simply put, we share the gospel. Sadly, for most Christians, the very thought of being a witness for Christ turns them into utter scaredy-cats, which leads me to the picture of the crane.
Last week I was on the treadmill in our community center, looking out the front window, when I noticed two very large birds hanging out on the sidewalk. Whenever a car pulled up and the drivers attempted to open their doors, the braver bird would run over to the cars, terrifying those individuals. If the driver moved into the next parking spot, car-jacking Big Bird followed. No one exited his/her vehicle. People walking to get their mail made hurried U-turns when the cranes began strutting their direction. Soon the word spread, and dozens of people showed up with their cameras, taking pictures from a distance.
I cracked up. It was just a bird, for goodness sakes, not a python. Poor thing probably just wanted a bite of bread but instead ended up panicking the neighborhood. When I left the workout room and walked outside, the birds didn’t phase me. What were they going to do, peck me to death? To those photographers, I must have looked terribly bold. Or terribly stupid.
No one gave the birds a chance. They had it in their minds that the outcome would not be a good one, so they chickened out, not unlike Christians who refuse to disciple. Afraid of the “what-if’s” of sharing their faith, they are held hostage to uncertainty. Now, they’re not concerned about discussing the K.C. Chiefs or a new restaurant or a bargain article of clothing they bought, but Jesus? Of that they are petrified.
In Acts 3, the disciples Peter and John were confronted by a crippled beggar. Peter responded, “Silver or Gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you – in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Immediately the beggar was leaping and praising God, astounding the crowd which set the stage for Peter to share Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Not what the religious rulers wanted to hear, so they commanded Peter and John not to speak of Jesus again. Then comes my favorite part in vs. 19-20: “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
Get that? They cannot help but witness. They have seen the resurrected Messiah and know there is nothing more important for the crowds to understand. As the old saying goes, “What grips the heart wags the tongue.” Or, in Jesus’ words, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt. 12:34) Jesus makes it clear where the starting point is: in our heart. We need to fall in love with Jesus more than we love our favorite sports team or a morning cup of coffee or ourselves. There should be a difference in our lives because of him. And that’s what we need to share.
Next week we will look at several suggestions as to how we can become bolder disciples for Christ.