Believer or Disciple? (Yes, there is a difference)

by Brother Yun

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

When Jesus first found Peter, James and John, they were washing their fishing nets. From time to time it is necessary to clean our nets if we constantly use them to catch fish, but today many churches have become professional net washers. Instead of catching souls for the kingdom of God, they spend all their time talking about fishing, studying various fishing strategies and techniques, listening to the lectures of fishing experts, and singing songs about fishing. Yet they rarely, or never, actually go fishing!

Many pastors fill their pulpits with fishing stories, and their congregation admires the fishing nets that are displayed on the church walls. The nets have been thoroughly cleaned. No effort has been spared to keep all dirt and impurity out of the church. Indeed, the nets have been bleached so white that nobody would ever guess they had once been used for fishing! The strings are carefully arranged so that each square has the same size and shape. After all, they say, “God is a God of order.” The pastor loves to boast about their nets and even invite Christians from other churches to come and admire their nets with them. …

Week after week, year after year, Satan lulls individual believers, churches and whole denominations to sleep with his lies. The bleach that has removed all the stains and dirt from the nets also effectively disinfects the Christians until they never consider becoming fishermen again.

Christian, do you feel like Peter did after he worked all night but failed to catch a single fish? Have you convinced yourself that there are no more fish left in the sea? Have your church programs failed to net any new fish for so long that you would rather stay on the bank washing your nets, because one more failed fishing trip might be more than you can take? Many churches have given up on evangelism because they “tried it, and it didn’t work.”

Many Christians hear God’s voice calling them to catch fish for the kingdom of God, but like Peter, James and John, they don’t believe there are any fish left in the water. How often have you heard Christians say, “Nobody around here is interested in the gospel anymore,” or “People’s hearts are so hard”? This is not true! Have you ever considered that the problem might be that your fishing is not under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ? Perhaps you have spent years casting your nets in the wrong place. I promise you that there are fish in the sea all around you. You need to stop fishing your way and start fishing under the direction of Jesus.

Peter caught nothing while he and his friends operated in their own strength. They were convinced there were no fish left. But when they gave up and allowed God to direct their efforts, suddenly “they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (Luke 5:6).

Please understand this! When we try to serve the Lord and preach the gospel in our own strength, using our own programs and initiatives, we will fail and will soon convince ourselves the problem lies not with us, but with the “apathetic heathens” who “show no interest in the gospel.” But when we learn what it truly means to give ourselves to God unreservedly, asking Him to fill and empower us, we will start to be in a place where God can use us for His glory. As long as you are looking to bless “your” ministry, you are wasting your time. He only blesses His ministry, done His way, by His leading. When we finally reach the end of all our useless programs and give up in desperation, Jesus will be there to show us a better way – His way. He will tell us where to throw our nets, and we will be amazed to see them bulging with fish.

Your church must get busy fishing, because this is what the church is meant to do. Jesus never intended His people to become insular and just sit around edifying each other. It is also not the job of the leader to spend all his time dealing with problems in the church. Of course there will always be problems until Jesus returns, but they should not bog you down. Instead, you should see them as opportunities to mend your net so that you can go fishing for souls with a stronger net. …

As I have traveled around the world, I have met many wonderful brothers and sisters. They listen intently to every word that is spoken, but there is one major thing missing in their spiritual lives. They need to start obeying the Word of God. They need to step out and start being doers of the Word instead of just listeners. James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

You see, when you only listen to the Word of God, your heart gets filled up with spiritual food. This is good, but it is there to serve a purpose. That purpose is for you to go and share the food you have with the hungry, so that they too can know Jesus.  If you just keep God’s blessings to yourself, you will become a bloated and sick Christian. When you share them with others, the Holy Spirit will give you more so that you can share more. It is a wonderful thing. …

There are more than 2 billion professing Christians in the world today. … There are more than enough “believers” in the world today. God wants more disciples! Only disciples of Jesus can ever hope to impact the nations for God.

“Believers” try to follow God, but their prayers and commitment are clouded with indecisiveness. Their prayers go like this: “Oh Lord, I am so weak. Please send Your power. I am weighed down with sin. Please come and relieve me.” “Believers” always seek assurance that nothing will go wrong if they step out for Jesus. Only when they are convinced that the coast is clear and no harm will befall them are they willing to take their first step! If they ever hear the King’s call to go somewhere and do something for the sake of His kingdom, they feel they need extra encouragement before they can safely step out: “First let me check with my wife, my pastor, my boss and my mother-in-law to see if it’s all right with them.”

“Disciples” have a different attitude. They beg God to give them just a little of His dynamite power. They pray, “Oh God, if you will lend me just a little spiritual dynamite, I promise I will take it to the darkest area I can find, place it there and pray You will send Your fire from heaven to explode it.”

God always does. This is the way the gospel is spreading so quickly in China and in other parts of the world.

Since coming to the West, I have found it doesn’t really matter how much you preach in most churches, because the majority of believers have become “sermon proof”. They have listened to thousands of sermons and have become experts at tuning out. Their bodies are physically in front of you, but their minds and hearts are far away. They have been conditioned to listen to speeches rather than to respond to the power of the gospel and be changed. …

The Lord is roused to anger when the precious bride of Christ falls into such a lamentable condition. …

Whether we are a disciple or a believer depends on the choices we make. The temptation is for us to ease back into our comfortable chair and continue to live a halfhearted Christian life, giving lip service to God but being unwilling to count the cost and take up our cross and follow Him.

I pray that you will determine in your heart to follow Jesus with all your heart from this moment forward. You may face great hardship and come under constant attack, but you will never regret it.

Taken from Living Waters: Powerful Teachings from the international bestselling author of The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, Edited by Paul Hattaway. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Zondervan. 299 pp. $14.99 ISBN 9780310285540

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