Who is a Disciple of Jesus Christ?
This question can be answered by reading about who Jesus says cannot be His disciple. By Jesus' own words His disciples are ones who (1) place Jesus above all other loyalties, (2) bear their own cross and (3) renounces all they have. Read on for further clarification...
Luke 14:26 (ESV)
26 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 [a true Christian].
He who wishes to follow Him must choose Him so unconditionally as Lord and Guide that he makes all other loyalties and ties absolutely subordinate to his loyalty and devotion to Him. The Saviour, of course, does not mean that he who desires to follow Him must hate his parents and other loved ones as such, but certainly if loyalty to Him clashes with loyalty to them he is to treat his loved ones in this condition as though they are persons whom he hates. But even when he acts thus towards them for the sake of his absolute loyalty to Christ, he must continue to love them and all other people, in accordance with Christ's law of love.
Norval Geldenhuys. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 398.
Luke 14:27 (ESV)
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple [a true Christian].
Indeed, he who is not willing to die the most hideous death, by crucifixion, for the sake of his love and loyalty to Christ, cannot be His disciple. The general idea that these words of Jesus about "bearing the cross" refer to passive submission to all kinds of afflictions, like disappointments, pain, sickness and grief that come upon man in this life, is totally wrong. The people to whom Jesus spoke those words fully realised that He meant thereby that whosoever desires to follow Him must be willing to hate his own life (verse 26) and even to be crucified by the Roman authorities for the sake of his fidelity to Him. So, in a wider sense this pronouncement of Jesus means that only that person who for the sake of His service surrenders all self-seeking and abandons all striving after his own interests can be His disciple.Norval Geldenhuys. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 398.
Luke 14:33 (ESV)
33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple [a true Christian].
Here the Saviour declares expressly what the indispensable requirement is for anyone who whishes to become a real disciple of His. He must relinquish all his possessions - not merely money and material things, but also his dear ones and everything that his heart clings to, yea, even his own life, his own desires, plans, ideals and interests. This does not mean he must sell all his possessions or give away all his money or desert his dear ones and become a hermit or beggar or wanderer, but it means that he must give Christ full control over his whole life with everything that he is and all that he possesses, and that under His guidance and in His service he should deal with his possessions in a manner that is best. In some cases it has meant, or will mean, that a man will have to take leave of his worldly possessions and go into distant lands to work for Christ. In most cases, however, it means that man in his ordinary life places his all at Christ's disposal to such an extent that, while still remaining in possession of his goods, he honours and serves Him thereby. The important thing is that whosoever desires to follow Him must be inwardly free from worldly-mindedness, covetousness and selfishness and wholly devoted to Him.Norval Geldenhuys. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 398-399.
What is the difference between a Christian and a disciple?
Jesus used the term disciple but never the term Christian therefore a true Christian (and not one in name only) will have to be a disciple of Christ as well.
Acts 11:26 (NET)
...So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people. Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
The only condition where this would not be true is for someone who is about to die and will not have time to come under the Lord's discipleship within the body of Christ (Luke 23:39-43). This is something to take into serious consideration because it could imply that if we are not a disciple based on Jesus' own criteria then we are therefore also not a Christian.
I believe God requires us to always be working out our salvation (Phil 2:12), always growing in Christ and becoming more and more like Christ, maturing in Christ (2 Pet 1:3-11). When we stall out or backslide then if we don't, by the grace of God (Luke 15:1-10), turn back to the ongoing process of maturing in our character - becoming more Christ like, which is the process of sanctification, we may cease to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Fortunately and thankfully, God is faithful even when we are not and once we have made the good confession in all sincerity then God considers us His children and as a good Father He will discipline us in order to turn us back into the narrow way that leads to life.
The "Discipleship" tab is meant to be read in the order shown in the right side bar (or bottom of the page for mobile devices) because each page builds on the information from previous pages. Each page should be read and hopefully understood before proceeding to the next page. Most of the pages have a side bar menu on the right side of the page (or bottom of the page for mobile devices), like the one on this page with the title "More Discipleship Pages...", and "Next/Previous" page names at the bottom of the page just above the footer. Some pages have a "More..." button just above the "Next/Previous" navigation links that will take you to a more in depth discussion of the current subject.