In 1960, the movie Spartacus previewed to sold out audiences across the nation and rave movie reviews in the national papers. The story line of the movie is about a run-away slave who rebelled against the Romans in 72 B.C. and leads a group of slaves to freedom, throwing off the yoke of Roman tyranny and oppression. The leader of this group of slaves is named Spartacus, a run-away gladiator and slave himself! As Spartacus gains followers in the movie, the Romans realize that this movement MUST be put down and exterminated. To allow this group of rebels to grow in numbers and influence would undermine all the power that Rome had achieved and exhibited!
The movie finally concludes with an epic scene with the Roman legions and Spartacus' army facing each other in an ultimate battle for freedom. The battle begins well for Spartacus and his army, but with the arrival of more Roman legions, Spartacus and his men are quickly overcome and defeated. As the remaining surviving slaves are rounded up, they are granted their lives and the suspension of most extreme form of punishment, meaning crucifixion, IF they would only point out the body of the dead Spartacus or identify the man if he were still living. Spartacus stands to identify himself and save his men from a terrible death, but is beaten to the draw when man after man stands and identifies himself as Spartacus! The commander of the Roman legions is surprised at the loyalty of the slaves to their leader Spartacus. They would rather suffer the extreme and horrifying punishment of crucifixion rather than betray a man they love so dearly! The movie concludes with ALL the remaining followers of Spartacus being crucified for their part in the rebellion against Rome and their failure to identify Spartacus for the Romans.
I use this movie and its story line because on September 11th, 2011, Downriver Christian Community Church added seven new members to its church body. Like the slaves in the movie Spartacus, the new members made a public commitment to be identified with Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection rather than to return to their former way of lives as slaves to sin. As I participated in the official setting-in ceremony, I was overwhelmed again and again by the determination of each man and woman to lay down their lives by being identified with the name of their leader and commander, Jesus Christ! To bear the reproach of the world because of the name of Jesus is an honor and privilege of the highest magnitude! Like Spartacus in the classic movie, I'm sure Jesus sheds a tear every time someone stands and takes his name as their own and chooses to die with Christ rather than live unto himself! The Apostle Paul said, "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better" (NLT).
On behalf of the pastors and leadership at Downriver Christian Community Church, I would like to extend a hearty welcome and thank you to all the new members. Your determination, courage, and public confession of Christ was thrilling to behold, witness, and participate in. As you start off your new life in the church body:
‘“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
Stay Holy, My Friends!