by David Sisler
Knowing the integrity of the man who took the survey, I believe the statistics. I am still shocked and a little dismayed by the figures. By actual count, only one person out of 750 people who are now believers in Jesus Christ came to him the first time they heard the plan of salvation presented. That means that the other 749 of us accepted the claims of Jesus at a second or third or even later opportunity.
According to that survey, almost no one is born again the first time they hear the Gospel. The people surveyed basically accepted the claims of Christ as being true. Those claims, however, made no difference on the way they lived their lives.
Can you imagine the response of someone who has never, ever heard about Jesus Christ? Can you imagine how someone might react when they heard, very literally for the first time, the demand of Jesus to give him first place in their life?
There is a Bible character who is almost universally maligned because He walked away from Jesus. We don't even know his name. He is simply referred to as "the rich young ruler."
Here was a man who was told, on the infallible authority of Jesus himself, the one thing he had to do to receive eternal life, and yet he walked away. Generations of commentators and evangelical Christians have roundly criticized him. The assumption of such criticism is, we would have reacted differently. Are we really so sure?
To the rich young ruler Jesus was not the Son of God. He was simply a new prophet, a teacher with an exciting message, a man with a magnetic personality. He asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to that I may inherit eternal life?"
The demand which Jesus made on the man was absolutely astounding. Some would say preposterous. "Go sell everything you own," Jesus said, "and give the proceeds to the poor."
Imagine Jesus said that to someone today. Sell your home. Sell your vacation cottage and your condominium. Sell your Porsche and your Plymouth. Sell all of your real estate holdings. Liquidate your stock portfolio. Close your money market and mutual fund accounts. Cash in your life insurance policies. Convert all of your assets to cash.
Now, take the money to the worst part of town and give it to the people who are sleeping on the streets. Give it dopers and whores. Give it to pimps and thieves. Take everything you've worked all your life for and give it to people who have never worked a day in their lives!
Very few who are homeless or jobless are criminals or bums. I just want you to see you how radical the demands of Jesus are.
"You say you keep all of the commandments," Jesus was saying. "Young man you don't know your own heart. The things you own are your gods. Your things own you. Sell them. Break their hold over you and then you will be able to follow me because I won't settle for second place in your life."
Perhaps our first instinct is to say, "Jesus is not talking about me, not even in a greatly modified form! I'm not rich."
It was not merely money which was the issue. The money was something which had become a spiritual handicap. It was something which hindered his growth in grace.
Jesus may look at you and say, "Your personal ambitions, the goals you have set for your life, have completely left me out. Get rid of those goals."
Maybe Jesus would say to you, "Your attitude keeps you from serving me. You have a negative heart and an unforgiving spirit. Get rid of your grudges. Let me break your heart."
Whatever the case, Jesus focuses on the unsurrendered areas of our lives, thrusts them into our full vision, and then waits to see what we will do. His demands are still radical. And he expects that we will follow him completely. It may be costly, but it's worth it! He's worth it!
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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