The following is a blog written by Brady Rector.
Recently, I sat on my balcony with friends watching the Seattle fireworks display. While I was washed in the vibrant reds, blues, and golds that lit the sky on fire, I began to think about the uniqueness of the Fourth of July. 239 years ago, 56 men, ranging from ages 26 to 70, risked their lives in the treasonous act of signing a document which declared King George had no power in the colonies. This incredibly brave act was also incredibly risky as they collectively usurped the most powerful military in the world. We, as Americans, inherit a vibrant and courageous heritage but I think we sometimes are more focused on the flashy lights in the night sky than our history.
As Christians, we are too often focused on just our "personal relationship with Jesus." As post-modern Westerners, we individualize and internalize everything spiritual. We say things like, “my faith is between God and I, not public.” When we do this, we couldn’t be more mistaken. We have inherited an ancient faith, a historic faith, a bold faith, a communal faith. We think the reality of our faith is inside us, and our personal relationship with God is all there is. Often we show up to church, consume a sermon, passively listen to music, see the bright lights, and then go home and talk about what “I got out of it”. Is this only what Jesus died for?
The early church saw things differently. They were baptized in the rivers because it was where the community washed clothes and spent time. At baptism, they were making a declaration as being pariahs of society, political insurrectionists, and having a new family through Christ.
There were no “just ask Jesus into your heart” sermons in the 1st century.
This commitment was bold. It was life altering. There wasn't empty rhetoric about solely "being adopted," as they were actually being disowned by families and needed to rely on the community of faith to care for one another.
Not only did these people make public declarations of faith, they lived their lives and faith publicly. People like Stephen, who offered one of the first defenses of the Christian faith, were stoned as heretics. All but one of the apostles died a public and shameful death (and the one who didn't was exiled to an island). Many of the early church fathers faced death every way conceivable and boldly kept the faith to the end. They lived vibrant, Spirit empowered lives which declared the power and truth of God who was ultimately a crucified Messiah.
The faith we have is not just a personal faith we were taught but a bold, social, and counter-cultural faith. In Acts 17, after Paul and Silas preached the Gospel, their opponents ranted to the leaders of Thessalonica and shouted,
“These men who have turned the world upside down, have come here also!" (ESV)
When was it that Christians were known for “turning the world upside down” in a good way? We have such untapped power and truth in the Spirit living within us, but sometimes we all would rather have private lives of private faith.
When we forget our heritage and history, we miss out on the incredible power of the Holy Spirit, and the story Christ has been writing through His Bride for millennia. When we forget the bold men and women who sacrificed everything for the Gospel, it is easy to turn inward and forget to carry on their legacy. We need to once again remember our identity as Christians is a high calling marked by people who shaped the world with their boldness as they declared the Kingdom of our Savior, together.
I pray this finds you blessed to be a blessing as you walk in the power of the Spirit this week.