Weather report from heaven: Sunny and bright with an abundance of light, and lots of singing and rejoicing.
Scripture: “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”- Matthew 4:19
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”- Matthew 9:9
Insight: When you read the Bible, there are certain truths that become very clear to us, even if we don’t necessarily like them. One of the hardest of those truths is that Jesus often shakes up our status quo. He will challenge us to let go of one way of life to receive another great thing, but often it is incredibly hard to do. Simply put, Jesus confronts our minds to get to our hearts, and one way He does this is by uprooting our comfort zones and taking us on a new journey that will most likely not be very convenient for us. In fact, the inconvenient truth is, Jesus doesn’t call us in a convenient manner to come and follow Him. C.S. Lewis once famously said “if you want a religion that makes you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t suggest Christianity.”
Just look at the three scriptures above and see what this looks like in real life. In each case, Jesus is asking those He is calling to a radical change in how they are living their lives. This is so hard. In two cases, the ones Jesus is calling immediately drop everything and follow him. Peter and Andrew are fishermen who are engaged in their profession when they encounter Jesus in Matthew 4:19 above. He invites them into a new life to “fish for men” and they drop everything and go immediately. Likewise, in Matthew 9:9, Levi is a hated tax collector but Jesus calls him, and he immediately gets up and follows him. The conversion is so impactful in these two instances that Jesus changes the name of two of the individuals involved, from Simon to Peter and from Levi to Matthew. Their lives were so radically changed that their friends barely recognized them.
But the third story is a different outcome, and one that is very hard to swallow. A rich young ruler in Matthew 19:17-22 is engaging with Jesus in trying to learn what he must do to inherit eternal life. He starts off feeling quite confident that he qualifies because he has kept some of the Old Testament laws that Jesus puts forth. But then Jesus throws the curveball that makes him walk away sad and depressed when he tells him “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
The rich young ruler was hoping he had what it took, but then Jesus challenged him to the core because he had made his wealth of greater importance than following Jesus. He decided the cost of following Jesus was just too high, and so he walked away. We live in a time where many are trying to fit God into the image they prefer of Him, one that is easier to follow and less taxing and inconvenient. But that is impossible to do. We don’t get to dictate to God. He shapes us into His image, not the other way around. His truths are immutable and His ways are way above us. He will challenge us in areas that cause us to eventually choose either our way or His way. His way will most likely take us on a detour that is way outside of our comfort zones. We won’t like it, it will be very inconvenient and we will most likely be quite fearful. But Jesus promises “to be with us always, to the very end of the age, in Matthew 28:20, and those that follow Him will get back a reward that is “30, 60 or 100 times greater” than whatever they gave up as Matthew 13:23 promises. This will look different for each of us, but will be equally difficult for all of us. He will make us surrender whatever idols we are putting before him. It could be our wealth, like in the case of the rich young ruler. It could be our careers, a crutch like drugs or alcohol or sex or gambling. Things that make us feel good but do so in a way that really moves Jesus out of the driver seat in our lives. Will we surrender whatever He asks us to and follow Him?
Prayer: Jesus, we admit how much we need You but also how hard it can be sometimes in our human strength to truly drop everything and follow You. Please give us the strength and wisdom required to put You first in our lives in a way that leads to You being glorified. Amen!
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