I have never considered myself to be much of an evangelist. Much to my shame and embarrassment, I had only led one person to the Lord in 20 years of being an adult Christian. But God has called me into a deeper ministry in my school district as a Young Life leader, and in order to train me he has been showing me examples of his ministry from the book of Luke.
Young Life follows a ten week cycle for its simple club messages from the existence of a God who cares about them individually, to the coming of Christ, his death and resurrection, and finally to an invitation to follow Jesus. I had reached the tenth club last week, so I was going to have the opportunity to invite kids to give their lives to Jesus. I used the following scripture before I gave the invitation because I wanted the kids to truly understand what it meant to follow Jesus.
“If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live. And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process?” Mark 8:34-36
Contrary to all of my predictions, the most unlikely girl gave her life to Jesus. Many of the students who I would have considered more open to the gospel declined.
In the fifth chapter of Luke, Jesus called Levi (a tax collector and a sinner) to follow him, and Levi did something amazing! He got up, left everything, and followed Jesus. Levi later became known as Matthew and wrote the first book of our new testament. But what struck me was his simple willingness to leave everything behind and follow Jesus.
This did not always happen of course. Unlike me, Jesus already knew who was ready and who was not. Later in the book of Luke, Jesus visited a Greek region on the other side of the lake, across from Galilee, and delivered a man possessed by a legion of demons. How did the Greeks respond? In fear they begged him to leave. But he left behind a sane and restored man to go tell what the Lord had done for him and to plant seeds that might later bear fruit.
Jesus did not walk a smooth path. His path was littered with criticism, danger and spiritual opposition. But daily he withdrew to a quiet place of prayer, and then taking his direction from the father he completed another day’s ministry. How I want to follow his example.