September 10, 2023      by Dan Gulley

In 1775, Abigail Adams wrote her husband John Adams (the second President of the United States) from home in Braintree, Massachusetts, outside Boston, while he was in Philadelphia serving in the Continental Congress. She spurred her husband on in his patriotic service with these words: “You cannot be, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator. We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.” These words are even more sobering when we remember that John’s actions would be viewed as treason against the King of England and exposed him to execution as the colonies prepared to declare independence from England (from p 21 of John Adams by David McCoullough). Abigail’s words have a clear application to those who seek to follow Christ. The Bible demands more, much more, than high-sounding words from those who would belong to Him who laid down His life for us on a blood-spattered Roman cross. Consider this from Galatians 5:25-26 and then Galatians chapter 6: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another . . . Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” These words comprise a demanding call. They insist we come out of the stands where spectators comfortably watch the action and mouth high-sounding words. To please God we must get on the field where the struggle is. The passage is part of the apostle Paul’s inspired call for those who truly belong to Christ to “crucify the flesh” (vs 24). That divine directive puts to death the idea you can be a Christian and be an inactive spectator. Jesus didn’t save our souls from hell by being an inactive spectator who sat comfortably in Heaven and watched us struggle.

Several years ago Don Loftis wrote about an author and his wife who were leaving on a trip. He convinced her he had found a better route for their trip than the one the computer had generated — 50 miles shorter and saving over an hour. Problem was the highway came to a dead end at the Mississippi River. It picked up on the other side, but there was no bridge. Loftis went on to point out that, likewise, there are no shortcuts to discipleship. He’s right. There is no such thing as a “spectator saint.” That’s the nail the apostle Paul hammers in Galatians chapter 5 and 6. We are to “walk” in the Spirit, not run, rush or sprint in the Spirit, but neither just sit and relax and rest and rust in the Spirit. We are called to “crucify the flesh,” not pamper and pet it. By so doing we don’t allow bad attitudes and sinful actions to be a way of life (5:19-21, 26). Instead, we “bear one another’s burdens” (6:2). Every Christian is, to use Paul’s own words, to “examine our own work … bear his own load” (6:3-5). My friend, a crown is surely waiting for those who truly walk in the Spirit. But the way to that crown involves a cross of self-crucifixion. Jesus couldn’t save you by being a spectator Savior, and you can’t serve Him by being a spectator saint.