Updated: Jul 16, 2020
“…exercise yourself toward godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7b NKJV)
“I was driving from the college when I passed an older lady mowing her lawn with one hand on the mower and the other hand on her walker.”
Yes, you read that correctly.
A few years back my wife, Kim, and I were facilitating a discipleship group in our church when a young man shared this story from the previous week. He went on to share that he had turned his car around and stopped to take the mower from that lady to finish the job. She thanked him and then asked, “Are you a Christian?”
What a nice way to be recognized as one who is of the “household” of Christ! While the label Christian is commonly used today, it is used only three times in Scripture:
Acts 11:26 tells us the origin of the word when Christ-followers were first called Christians at the mission station of Antioch in Syria;
Acts 26:28 describes when Herod Agrippa II satirically tells Paul that he is almost persuaded to become a Christian, and;
1 Peter 4:16 where the Apostle Peter admonishes us not to be ashamed of being a Christian.
What is the Most Common Term for a Believer?
Could it be disciple? The root word for “disciple” (μαθητεύω – mathēteuō) or its derivative is found over 265 times from Matthew to the book of Acts. The word is used interchangeably with the word “believer.” The word means so much more than “student”. A disciple was a person who learned by observing and modeling their life after their master/rabbi. This was accomplished by imitating the disciplines or life habits and attitudes of the master/rabbi. The disciple would then start "doing" under the apprenticeship of the master/rabbi with the intent to become like their master and then disciple others. That, my friends, is a believer.
What does the Bible say about this after the book of Acts? While discipleship is described in several ways, another word used some 50 times of believers is “saints.” Paul addresses several of his epistles “…to the saints in…” as a term to describe the Christ-followers who were the church in the location to which he was writing.
The Lord is very careful in His wording of Scripture and these are the words He used of His people in this New Testament age. It is useful for us to remind ourselves and those with whom we have the opportunity to minister that our identity as followers of Christ is this continual movement toward “…godliness.” Paul also writes that the predestined drive and outcome of any Christian is "to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
This inspired vocabulary reminds us that as Jesus-followers we are to lovingly practice the spiritual disciplines that shape our growth to be more Christlike! He has saved us for so much more than just a home in heaven! Let’s get busy exercising our faith by living and practicing the spiritual disciplines daily.
Does your church move pre-Christians through spiritual birth and infancy, childhood, adulthood, then parenthood in a measurable and reproducible way? Visit the DisciplePath Training page to learn how we can help you accomplish this.