Shared the gospel with a young actor today. My beloved friends invited me to breakfast and I had the opportunity to share the truth about the real Jesus of the Bible. He confessed that he was once a believer as a child and that he now chooses to believe in nothing, despite knowing (as he put it) that God is real. It was interesting to watch him share his beliefs and try to reason away things that God was clearly doing in his life. A while later my friend tells me that he’s decided not to come over for breakfast again. She was very upset about it. I felt bad that she was so hurt. But, the truth is that this will happen.
In one of my favorite parables Jesus is speaking to the people and a rich ruler asks “Good Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) Jesus goes on to ask him the core questions Jesus asks, and he tells the ruler that no one is good but God alone, He reminds the rich young ruler about the commandments. The ruler replies “All of these [commandments] I have kept from my youth,” when Jesus hears this He cuts to the heart and replies, “one thing you lack, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). The ruler is saddened because of his great wealth.
What strikes me about this story is that Jesus gave this ruler a personal invitation to “Come, follow me” and because the ruler valued his possessions and accolades more, he rejects the King of Kings. I am reminded of another story in which Jesus performed a HUGE miracle. In Mark 5 Jesus encounters a demon possessed man, the demon tells Jesus his name is Legion, because the demons inhabiting the man’s body were many. The man was so afflicted by Legion that he lived in the mountains, often bound in chains, he would break free of them and would sit among the tombs and self-mutilate with stones as he cried out. The man was in such turmoil and angst, that when Legion sees Jesus walking toward him (which is a crazy thought, that Jesus would walk toward him, after all of society walked away from him!) Legion cries out “what have you to do with me, Jesus son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me” (Mark 5:7). This demon that had afflicted and tormented this man for God only knows how long, begs the Lord not to “torment” him. What a picture!! Jesus ends up casting the demons out and gives them permission, yes he gives the demons permission to enter into a herd of pigs which go on to plummet to the sea and drown. This man, who is delivered, and set free of the many demons who were afflicting and torturing him, is finally in his right mind. And knowing that he was just a part of something HUGE he in turn, begs Jesus to allow him to follow him! “As he [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him” (Mark 5:18). Jesus did not permit him to go and instead told him to go home and to tell his friends what The Lord did for him and how he had mercy on him (Mark 5:19).
This demon possessed man, was freed and in turn knowing what he had been freed of, wants to give Jesus his very life, and Jesus does not allow him to follow him, because God would be most glorified by this testimony being told in that area instead of the man traveling with Jesus.
Yet, Jesus personally invites this ruler to follow him, and the ruler refuses. Had the ruler been set free of something (and this was his opportunity to do so) he would have known how worthy Jesus was to abandon all of his riches to follow after him. Like the woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. She was so humbled by Jesus that she just wanted to kiss his feet in response to his goodness to her. Jesus says, “her sins which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).
This ruler had it all, except Jesus. Thus this ruler had nothing. The demon possessed man had nothing, yet met Jesus, and GAINED EVERYTHING! This is what I thought of when my friend told me about the young actor’s response. He no longer wishes to hear the truth. The Lord invited Him into His work, and he said no. Like God told Samuel when Israel demanded a King, “they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them” – 1 Samuel 8:7. When I see the situation with this lens, my heart breaks as well. The world’s goods are so very, very tempting. I myself have been in this situation. So, I know what it’s like to be in the actor’s shoes. The rejection is hard nonetheless. Much like the rich young ruler, we cling to earthly goods instead of clinging to the Creator and Maker of the goods.
What do you cling to? What is your Legion? What area of your life are you rejecting Jesus in, just so you could keep it for yourself? Oh Lord, I pray for this young man. And I pray that I not forget what I have been forgiven of.