I want to woo people to Jesus. There, I said it and it’s the truth. I love teaching kids and adults the amazing true stories from the Bible. And I just know that when they hear about the awesomeness of God, they will just fall madly and totally in love with Him! I want it to be that easy!
But…I am realizing lately that I’ve been short-changing my students-not my preschoolers, but the adults. I haven’t been giving them enough information about the monumental decision of accepting and following Christ.
I’ve been reading “not a fan” by Kyle Idleman and it has really opened my eyes. It’s epic, life-altering…and I would recommend it without question. It’s changing me.
As I said, I want people to be wooed to Jesus. I love teaching the stories of the Bible especially at the jail. The stories some already know: Jonah and the whale, Noah and the ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, etc. My other favorites are the stories about women and men God changed and used. There’s Rahab who took a chance on the God of the Israelites. Because of her faith, she rescued her whole family. Mary Magdalene, the woman with the issue of blood, the woman at the well, the demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs, and when Jesus walked on the water are just a few. How could anyone resist the God of the Book after hearing about Him?!
I have been learning lately the difference between being a fan and being a follower. Recently my lesson at the jail was not at all like my others. It was entitled, “Come and Die”. No wooing here.
When Jesus was talking to His disciples in Luke 9 He told them, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” Normally when you sign up for something new you’re going to get something good out of it. The first thing Jesus said was technically to come and die.
“Deny yourself and take up the cross.” Even now it doesn’t sound very inviting, very comfortable. Denying what we want is hard and a cross would be full of splinters. In reality though, we’ve probably felt like we have already died to something. Something or someone else has probably already taken over our life to some degree. (At the jail it’s usually drugs, alcohol or a person they are in a relationship with. For those not at the jail, it could be other things.)
“Deny yourself.” Not at the top of the list for today. It goes against the American way. We want to be comfortable, important, and happy. Sometimes though it can leave us feeling empty. Can we, could we stop thinking only of ourselves and what we want?
Now we’re reading the fine print of following Jesus: Give up everything? Everything?! That’s a lot. But how often? What did Jesus say? “deny themselves… take up their cross…daily.” Every day. Day in and day out denying ourselves, dying to ourselves.
Jesus actually invites us to come and become a slave. That might sound even less appealing than the others so far. But haven’t you already felt that you were a slave to someone or something? A relationship, a job, a mortgage…sin? There are so many ways to be enslaved. When we fully surrender to Jesus, He becomes our Master yet He provides for us. He protects us. He takes care of us.
In “not a fan”, Kyle Idleman wrote, “So out of love we become a slave to Jesus. When you finally surrender all that you have and all that you are, you will discover the strangest thing. It is only by becoming a slave to Jesus that we ever truly find freedom.”
When teaching at the jail and talking to people who are addicted to drugs, I honestly think “What do you have to lose?” The days, months and years of addiction they describe sound like hell here on earth. Surely it will be easier than what they’ve been through! It sounds cheesy but I pray-and they know it-that they will be addicted to Jesus! Those of us who are thankfully not addicted to drugs are usually hooked on something else…people, praise, money, ____ (fill in the blank). We need to be rescued, too!
Life is hard, not just sometimes but a lot. When people face difficulties or crisis, to me, it seems like the exact and perfect time to throw yourself at Jesus’ feet. I mean, seriously? Where else would be better to turn?
When we are ready to follow Jesus, we say “no” to ourselves, and the “old” us dies. Then the “new” us takes up the cross, the daily walk, the daily trusting and finally begins to live!
The symbol of a follower of Jesus is a cross…not a dove or shepherd’s staff or smiley face. It’s a cross. We’re not to just wear it, but to carry it. The question is…are we ready to do it today?
Dawn Reed is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.