Christians commonly use the phrase “I am a follower of Jesus”. When we say that, we are indicating that we believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. But, if we break that down, is that phrase accurate? Are we a follower or a disciple? What is the difference?

In Jesus’ day, his parables and teachings caused quite a commotion among the common folk as well as the religious leaders. Combine that with his miracles of healing along with casting out demons, and this guy was someone to watch! Everybody wanted to see what his next miracle was, or hear what crazy thing he might say next. All the while, many were wondering if he could be their long-awaited prophesied Messiah. Men, women and children would follow him for days! They would go from town to town, synagogue to synagogue to hear his words, and many were hoping for their own miracle of healing. The people were in awe of it all, as though it was some public performance. The crowds wanted to hear and see more. You could say those people were followers.

Eventually some of the followers whose ears had been tickled by Jesus’ words didn’t like what he was saying, so they would turn around and go home. When a parable or teaching didn’t feel good, or rubbed them the wrong way, or felt like a personal judgment, they abandoned their spiritual quest. They were fickle. Even some of Jesus’ early disciples were known to cut and run since they didn’t always agree with what Jesus was saying.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
John 8:12

So if a follower follows, then what does a disciple do? There are many definitions of a disciple:
1.  one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another (such as Christianity),
2. a dedicated follower of Jesus,
3. one who is willing to learn and do the will of God,
4. one who willingly receives instruction from another and submissively takes up their ways.

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

The verse you just read speaks more specifically of what Jesus wanted his disciples to do; to take up their own cross and then follow him. This implies so much more than merely following him. There needs to be purposeful action on our own part, and not be just an observer or a simply a believer. Following Jesus means choosing to give up our own ways and live as Jesus would have us live: by loving others sacrificially. What He teaches us through his Word should draw us more to Him, to understand better what He says, to live by his instruction, and thereby becoming more like Him in all that we do.

To follow Jesus as a disciple means to be a dedicated, submissive, teachable, loving, growing christian who uses Jesus’ lessons of love and his living example to be a roadmap for our own lives.

A disciple of Jesus strives to embody Jesus.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
1 Peter 2:21

It is time to choose: are you a fickle follower or a devoted disciple?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

Food for thought: “To be a disciple is to be committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and committed to following Him every day. To be a disciple is also to be disciplined in our bodies, minds, and souls.”― Billy Graham

Fun facts: People who are fickle change their minds so much you can’t rely on them. They are capricious, flighty, changeable, temperamental, unstable, irresolute, and whimsical.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Turtles Follow the Leader