27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:27-32 (ESV)
I have never been one to appreciate change merely for the sake of change. When change is thrust upon me, I tend to bristle a bit.
Maybe it’s the whole “old dog, new tricks” thing.
Maybe I just get comfy in my rut.
Maybe it’s like the scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, where the old man is paroled after spending most of his lifeincarcerated. He doesn’t want to leave. Shawshank is his home, all he knows. He’s comfortable in his prison.
Comfortable in his prison. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? To think this sinful world has us so institutionalized that we don’t care to leave it’s cold embrace.
Yet, whenever we encounter Christ, this is exactly what He calls us to do. He pulls us from our cell and radically changes us.
Sometimes we recognize with gratitude what the Lord has done for us.
Sometimes we go kicking and screaming, clinging desperately to the cell bars.
But, the good news is that the of the Lord, once recognized, is irresistible. We begin to see that we cannot possibly go one mile, one minute, one motion, without the constant presence of the Lord.
And, if we could, we wouldn’t want to.
Jesus offers us a beautiful change so radical that our very identity is altered.
Simon the fisherman is now Peter the rock.
Saul the Pharisee Christian hunter is now Paul the apostle of Christ.
Levi, the scoundrel tax collector – a profession so lurid and low in Jesus’ day that it ranked near prostitution in the list of jobs that would make mom and dad proud – became the apostle Matthew. Jesus transformed him from one who took advantage of the people to a gift for us all, used to our profit by God.
You see, that is how God works. He woks through us, to the betterment of others and, in turn, ourselves. He turns our shipwrecks into beautiful memorials. He builds us to build others. He changes all things to our good.
But it isn’t really about us being good, is it? If that we the case, the law would have been sufficient for our salvation. One can be evil and appear good by simply connecting some of the dots of the law in public. Likewise, no one has ever been so good that they kept perfectly every nuance of the law. (Save Jesus, that is. But Christ is a bit of a special case, don’t you think?)
We need change. And we are incapable of producing that change ourselves. We have to, in faith, let the Holy Spirit move in and take over. We have to relinquish control of our lives to the Lord.
Even when the change hurts.
Even when His direction is illogical to us.
Even when we want what we should not partake of.
Even when we don’t understand.
When I was a kid, We used to sing a hymn in church about the wonder working power of the blood of the Lamb. Back then it was a bong old hymn, sung loudly and out of tune by a small group of senior citizens in our tiny rural church. It is only now, forty years after, that I am beginning to get some understanding of what that means.
Sometimes I’ve been blinded by the Pharisees who claimed I had no business hanging out with Jesus.
More often it is my own inner-Pharisee condemning me, reminding me of my sins and telling me I’m not worthy of Christ, of love, of any help or accomplishment.
Lies. All lies.
But the lies persist as long as I resist the change by the power of Jesus.
In Him, I am loved.
In Him, I am not weird.
In Hm, I am not a loser.
In Him, I am redeemed, a child of great worth. Not because of who I am, but who He is within me.
In Him, very simply, I am.
And so are you.
The doors of your cell are wide open. Walk out. Go find your place at the Lord’s table and enjoy the feast. Seek the Lord first. Love. Go. Do.
Live in peace.
Rest in love.