The word “renaissance” is defined as a rebirth or renewal. More often than not you will see it in relation to the ending phase of the Dark Ages. According to Wikipedia, “it encompassed a flowering of literature, science, art, religion, and politics, and a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, the development of linear perspective in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform.” (I will address more on this in a later Post)
I believe “Renaissance of the Disciple” as a term best describes what is needed in Christianity to find that which has been lost from the first century disciples. The Gospel message of Jesus Christ flashed through the world in an amazingly short period of time. These were ordinary men and women who were persecuted for their belief. None carried any pedigree or status that would give them a stage. They had nothing of worldly gain to show for their discipleship. All of the original eleven (Judas excluded) Disciples of Jesus, save John, were martyred. John lived in exile for years, doing hard labor.
What made their message spread so rapidly that most of the civilized world was turned upside down by 200 AD? The message holds the power, but the messenger is the key. God enables those whom He calls as disciples. The first followers gave up everything – home, businesses, extended family, friends, their lives – because they so passionately believed Jesus to be the Son of God, their Messiah, and Him resurrected and alive. They wholly trusted God and recognized the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God as His seal of their eternal life; and they understood the empowering of that Spirit as the enablement to spread the message.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
However, it was the disciples’ lives, their example, which validated the message. They abandoned themselves to this call. Jesus effectively took the fear of death off the table – it no longer had any power to affect their lives. These ordinary men and women allowed Jesus to live through them, thus empowering the message.
This is no different today. God has not changed, will never change. The Holy Spirit indwells every individual redeemed by God through their faith in Jesus. The power of this message to radically change lives is no different. So, what then has changed? The disciple has changed. We (those of us in the affluent – blessed by God – cultures) have fallen for the lie that we can serve God while a slave of material desires. Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”(Matthew 6:24).
The life of the disciple in today’s “western” cultures is so greatly detached from the first century that we want to believe, in fact, are convinced there must be a better, easier, more sophisticated way.