Disciple or Believer?

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“There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.”
Martha Kilpatrick, The Mystery of Discipleship

If you aren’t subscribed to Martha’s daily devotionals on ReadMK.com, then stop what you’re doing and go there now. The last two months have been a radical unveiling of discipleship—the cost, the rewards, and everything in between. I have been poked and pushed and pierced and peeved by this series, but mostly I find myself asking one question over and over: Am I a disciple or believer?

What’s the difference: disciple or believer

I know that I want to be one. I want to see God, to recognize the glow of His countenance when I see it on someone else’s face. I want to know His voice so well that Doubt doesn’t even bother knocking on my door any more. I want to love Him so much that every day, the Cross I pick up is a little less agony and a little more rejoicing to suffer with Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 4:13). I want to see His victory and healing in the lives of people I love. There’s not much that I don’t want, but desire means nothing if I won’t walk it out. And there’s the rub.

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Luke 14:26 ESV

Disciple or Believer – All for Jesus

 Disciple or Believer – All for Jesus
This verse perfectly illustrates for me the impossibility of what a disciple is called to do. Now, I have personal, actual experience with this verse (I talked about it in my many posts last year on dealing with parents), yet it still makes me wince! The Holy Spirit walked this verse out for me in one area of my life, but I couldn’t tell you the first thing about what it means for you, even in that same area. If I tried to logic my way through that verse, then I’d be perfectly in line with 98% of the commentaries—and I’d have no need of my Counselor or the indwelling life of Christ. But the truth is that I simply cannot do what Jesus requires of His disciples. Only He can. It is mine to say yes, and to really mean it, and to die. Then He does it; He lives it.

“Salvation is by grace, utterly free. Discipleship is an offer that requires a decision.”
Martha Kilpatrick, The Mystery of Discipleship

I often need to be reminded that God wants me in relationship with Him as an actively engaged participant. I am God’s by choice – He chose me, and I chose Him back. I can’t do any of the things He asks me to do, not under my own power. But I can choose to say yes to what He asks of me. Sometimes the “yes” is easy, a happy nod that costs me little. And sometimes the “yes” in my heart just isn’t going to make it down to my feet to be walked out. I know that I don’t love God enough to truly obey Him even though I want to, and I tell Him so. I ask Him for more love, but I can’t imagine that He’ll give it to me because this isn’t my first Gethsemane and He must be done with me by now. And I cry because I know it’s over and I know it’s my fault for not being willing to lose my precious life. And then there’s a miracle.

I don’t know how He does it, but He fills me with all the love and grace I need to put a pair of boots on my choice. I am His and He is mine. I was born again by God’s initiation and now that I’m His, He provides for me completely. He won’t violate my choice, but once I’ve made it, He moves heaven, earth, and even my own heart to empower it.

Am I a Disciple or Believer ?

Am I a Disciple or Believer
And now we circle back to my question about disciples, namely: am I one? Well, I don’t think that my shadow has ever healed anyone (Peter), I haven’t blown the doors off the Atlanta Penitentiary yet (Paul), and I’ve never confronted religious hypocrites with a truth so righteous that they tried to kill me (Stephen). Still, it’s early days and who knows what tomorrow brings. So am I a disciple? Yes, and I can’t wait to find out exactly what that means!

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    • Irene

      “I know that I don’t love God enough to truly obey Him even though I want to, and I tell Him so.” Oh the agony of these words. The agony of this fact. I have nothing in me to offer but dead stuff. Yet, what He does for you Jennifer, Jesus does for me too, and for all who say “yes” to Him. He brings His Life and it is enough. I am under His yoke, learning from Him and finding rest. I love you dear sister.

      • Sam

        “I am under His yoke, learning from Him and finding rest.”


    • Sam

      Hi again Jen. I see you flowing so well… and I thank you bringing this up. Those series about “discipleship” are truly tasty and amazing. The MISTERY of Discipleship. Yeah, because that’s what it is!

      Recently, the Lord raised this verse in my heart with a whole new view of it: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your resources” (that’s what original text seems to say, and I hope the link works, it is a jewish song from that verse)

      Being a disciple… another way of saying ‘walk that painful and sweet path of looking to love God (the Love of Christ), no matter the cost.’ And the cost is the most precious thing that we have, and that which impregnates human life: LOVE. Because all we do and say has to do with LOVE. There was a time I thought otherwise, that my motivations (or other’s) were other than love.

      Anyway, going back to that verse… we think of “loving God” as is He needs “my love” and “I must do it.” We have not yet seen that verse means my whole beatitude, that I NEED to love God as my most basic raw need as a human being, and that doing that is the greatest good it may befall me… and that HE HAS TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE.

      That’s my greatest need and purpose, that He engages in me towards Him!

      The level of discovery, intimacy and reality of that verse in us is what separates a disciple of a believer, and I think He really wants disciples, or “close ones”, but the Master has to make believers unto disciples. Naturally, we are just believers. And to believers comes the choice of the Cross.

      The Cross makes your loves crumble under your very nose, and there you choose, and choose again, and choose again.

      Sorry for the length, but you inspired me Jen.

      • Irene

        Yes Sam, loving God is my greatest need. Much to ponder in those few words.

    • Sandy


    • pearl

      Thank you for this Jennifer,
      I appreciate that scripture about if you want to be a disciple and don’t hate the many relationships in his life…I actually wonder what that word hate…really means in this context…I may need to study that…
      I am still learning through many painful heart lessons and it seems like a long process to die to the
      people in my life that were totally unhealthy to my relationship with my Jesus…Some of these included my grandson :< my youngest daughter who I had a very strong emotional tie and to a particular friendship that I know I am to be dead to….not a lot of fun here…but maybe its part of me becoming his disciple in my heart and put all other loves that raise their heads above him…well must be put down lower and place Him up in the highest place in my heart…bless you girl <3 for sharing this….I'm gonna go look up that word now…

      • pearl

        From just a quick looking up of that word …its miseo and it most likely means “to love less” So in my case I am to love my grandson, my daughter and another relationship less than I love Him… I want to and will study this more…
        What Jesus is looking for is 1st place in my heart, to be his successful disciple.No other relationships can be first…and He painfully shows me over and over where I do still put them in too favorable of a place…He is good like that and jealous for me for us!! ~bless your day

        • Irene

          Pearl, I am so happy to see your comment. Since meeting you at the conference, The Lord keeps bringing you to my mind. Now I can pray, not only with my spirit, but also with understanding.

    • Tammy

      Such a timely blog…

      “There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.”
      Martha Kilpatrick, The Mystery of Discipleship

      “Am I a disciple?” Well…I used to think I was. I am perpetually amazed at how much I truly DON’T know!

      It has only been since June of last year that I even came to understand there is a difference between a believer and a disciple. Learning this has lit a fire of urgency within. I have tried (in my flesh) to “explain” to pretty much everyone that is within ear-shot the difference between the two. God’s patience with me is so overwhelming! Sometimes I have this picture in mind of The Father in the mood for a good chuckle so He “tunes in to watch Tammy”.

      I am grateful for the way He speaks straight to my heart through you Jen. As I read through your blog I found myself with a page full of quoted notes. I have been fearfully giving Him my “yes” since last June but have had so many seemingly unanswered questions. You have given words to prayers that I trusted were already answered but believed I just wasn’t ready or more likely unwilling to hear.

      “It is mine to say yes, and to really mean it, and to die. Then He does it. He lives it.”

      It is my real and fervent prayer to truly be HIS disciple. Leaving all else behind to be totally sold out to Him, to walk the path of life He places me on for His glory alone. Only He can make it happen. Only Him.

      Bless you Jen,

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