I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation about my early days in light of today. Transformed, mostly through difficulty, hardship, and tears, I’m a bit different than when I was 16. And although my life after believing in Jesus wasn’t smooth and straightforward, I’ve become even more committed to the call of God on my life. But many haven’t. What’s the difference between me and those who’ve said, “I tried Jesus, but he didn’t work?” Why have I experienced jaw-dropping supernatural movements while others skipped off to another faith, philosophy or just became agnostic? I think there’s a great example in the Gospel of Matthew.
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do 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.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:16-26
If we examine Believers in the New Testament, we find them approaching Jesus differently than most of us today. Those who were desperate (Matthew 9:20-21), or hurting (John 11:21), or rejected (John 8:3-11) shared a common thread from the same cloth in their clinging to Jesus. For these people, Jesus “worked,” and He was the only one who did. Not because He worked “for them,” but because of the common thread.
What is required for Jesus to work? Well, it’s not a very pleasant idea in today’s culture. It’s viewed as a negative, a weakness, a crutch. But the key to accessing the power of the Kingdom of God looks like surrender.
All of them, to the person, surrendered.
Jesus words to the young man were the call to surrender - everything. “Go, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and then follow me.” It’s what Peter, James, and John did with their fishing nets. It’s what Matthew did with his tax collecting business. It’s what the woman caught in adultery did when she was ripped from the bedroom, most likely naked. They allowed Jesus complete access to the entirety of their lives, extreme vulnerability, and sacrifice. And He worked! All of them, to the person, surrendered.
The necessity of allowing Jesus full access to our life, unrestricted vulnerability, is a key to having Jesus work. He doesn’t force upon us the gifts of the Kingdom of God: humility, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and love. Rather, just like the young man, He offers truth, extending requests to follow. More often than not we’re just like the young man. We reject the deeper work of the Spirit of God for temporal happiness and pleasure. God is more like our vending machine - a prayer in and response out. But if what we get is not what want or we get nothing at all, we think something is jammed or broken. So, having lost our $1 petition, we conclude “Jesus doesn’t work,” and we move on.
But this isn’t the way of Jesus.
Jesus is the master operator.
No, Jesus is the master operator when it comes to knowing who we are. He’s better than our hearts, able through both the written word and the inspection of the Holy Spirit, to cut to the depths of our hearts and motives bringing correction, healing, and wholeness. He ferrets out the unclean from the pure, renewing the broken, encouraging new growth and life.
It's the reason I do what I do. It’s the reason I walked away from an international photography career years ago. Jesus does work, and I want to help others realize this.
Yes, I believe, I know Jesus works. The question is, will we let Him?
Jesus working is not simplistic, and we're more valuable than spiritual platitudes. The complexity of people’s lives encroaches on the abundant life Jesus offers. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing what’s needed for Jesus to work. If there’s an aspect you’d like me to unwrap during this time, please let me know.