One of the things I find truly remarkable about Jesus’ earthly ministry is the fact of His catalytic presence and the controversy that constantly followed. Everywhere He went, things were not only challenged, but were shaken to their foundations and changed. As He walked and talked, lives were met with an authority so absolute that those lives were never the same again. As He healed and appealed to the crowds that gathered around Him, complacency was stirred up to active response by His passionate zeal to usher men and women into the Father’s favor. Some accepted, by God’s grace. And some rejected, still by God’s grace in order that no one could claim that God coerced people into compliance.
Rest assured that His presence continues to reap the same effect today. His Spirit moves in the lives of men and women and even children whispering in their ears, “Come, follow Me” (e.g., Mark 1:17) just as literally as did Jesus with lips of flesh prior to His lonely walk to the cross on which He would die.
His life and death, you realize, are still controversial to each of us. His life trumps our tendency to rationalize our condition. Through the testimony in His Word of His day-to-day living, we realize that there really is more to life than just “getting ahead”; more to the Lord than strict adherence to a moral code; and more to love than warm fuzzy feelings.
And His death? Well, it remains a grim reminder of the fact of our rebellion against God and the destiny that awaits us apart from His forgiveness and substitutionary sacrifice for us. It not only reveals that “certain something” about our hearts that we try desperately to hide from the world and from ourselves, but also clearly underscores our immense indebtedness to God should we avail ourselves of that sacrifice through faith.
Jesus died for you. Through faith in His death and resurrection, you may receive Him as Savior. But not Savior only. To receive Him as Savior, you must also submit to Him as Lord. But don’t be afraid. While the immensity of your indebtedness to Him would be unbearable (how could anyone “repay” Him for what He has done?), He shoulders that responsibility Himself by His own Spirit’s dwelling within us as we daily submit to His love and leading.
And as we do so, we find that His “catalytic presence” abiding in us is still challenging, shaking, and changing lives. Was this His plan all along? Naturally. Jesus Himself said, “”Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Luke 24:46-47 & Acts 1:8 ESV).
Of course, this message of which we are witnesses has a way of soliciting either of two responses. The first, obviously, is one of rejection. Perhaps in the form of out-and-out hostility. Perhaps a sneering condescension. Or maybe even an incessant attempt to postpone a personal response (which is still rejection) because of fear or a reluctance to “let go” of one’s own agenda.
But the second potential response is the sweet humbling of a person’s heart as he or she allows the strong arms of God to lift the weight of condemnation from his or her shoulders. It always has been and always will be one of life’s greatest experiences to see a human life come under the grace of God, transformed and set free from the weights of entangling selfishness and sin. And what is even more beautiful is the fruit of joy and peace that is harvested in a life as it abides under the Lord’s will for him or her.
It occurs to me, as my mind prayerfully considers Jesus’ invitation for us each to become genuine disciples, that there really isn’t any other option. Not because we are “being made” to follow Him, but because nothing else has the lasting appeal that knowing Him does.
Consider today what Jesus means to you. Does His love have practical meaning for the way you live your life? Does His presence come shining through you, influencing your decisions, attitudes, and priorities? If you’ve not yet received Him as Savior and Lord of your life, why not do so today and finally begin living the life for which you were created all along?
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).