500 Years Later Part 1: The Foundation of American Christianity is Boldness

Acts 4:29  “Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.”

This past Tuesday, Paradigm’s Pastor Chad Glover explained to 300 Millennials and Gen-Z’ers how to live out biblical Christianity in American culture: “Boldness is not a feeling. Boldness is a fruit”.

The Paradigm ministry meets Tuesday nights at 7pm at Abundant Life Church. Nowhere else in Kansas City does such a large gathering of young adults meet to grow their relationship with Jesus Christ. To explain boldness as a fruit of Christianity, Chad is walking them through the New testament book of Acts.

He first explained what boldness is not. It is not aggressive, or amplified (whoever shouts loudest wins), or angry. Boldness is “Spirit-filled speaking about Jesus Christ”. A simple concept – speak His name.

It all begins in Acts 4:5-7. The official “State Church” (the Sanhedrin) viewed Christianity as a threat to their authority. They demanded the disciples explain by whose authority they preached and performed miracles.

“Their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in their midst, they asked, ‘By what authority or by what name have you done this?’”

The early disciples found themselves in a life-threatening situation. As Chad also said, “Following Jesus Christ is a commitment to be misunderstood”. That was true for the early church. Christians today often complain that their faith is under attack. The truth is, today’s Christianity is not that uncomfortable.

The situation that the early church found itself in should also not be defined as “uncomfortable” Christianity. It is called biblical Christianity. So how did early Christians respond to the threats of those around them?

Acts 4:12-13 records the events: “There is no other name under heaven than Jesus Christ that is given among men by which we must be saved.’ Now when they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Biblical Christianity is evidenced by boldness, which is Spirit-filled speaking about Jesus.

America’s Christians have, as Chad put it, a “legacy of lions” as our foundation in boldness. We see in Acts two of these lions – Peter and John. And 500 years ago, this past week, on April 18, 1521, another lion named Martin Luther stood at the Diet of Worms and changed the world. In his book “Martin Luther”, Eric Metaxas chronicles how one man boldly proclaimed to the State Church the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Pope Leo wrote to Luther that unless he recanted his writings, he would be excommunicated to an eternity in hell. Luther responded by publicly setting fire to the warning. ‘Since they burned my books, I shall burn theirs!’ University students joined in, tossing writings attacking their favorite professor into the fire.

Pope Leo called on Emperor Charles V to carry the excommunication, which meant Luther would be put on trial and perhaps executed. The Church had found Luther guilty of heresy. The state must hand him over.

Emperor Charles V invited Luther to travel to the city of Worms to ‘answer with regard to your books and your teaching.’ The Diet of Worms convened in April 1521 at the Imperial Palace. Luther entered the candlelit room filled with the most powerful men in Christendom wearing bejeweled robes and furs and ornate gold crosses. Above them, on a magnificently decorated dais, sat the emperor himself.

Luther stood before a table piled high with all his writings. ‘Are these books yours?’ he was asked. ‘Yes’, he replied. ‘Will you defend the books which are recognized as your work, or to recant of what is in them?’

‘Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.’ He concluded with the famous words ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

As Charles Spurgeon once said, “The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended; it simply needs to be let out of its cage”. This is the biblical Christianity of which Peter and John, Martin Luther, and Paradigm’s Pastor Chad Glover are referring: Spirit-filled boldness to speak in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #445

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