How quickly can God change a life?
I’m just finishing up a powerful couple of days studying the gospel of Luke with a group of campus missionaries from around the world. And Jesus is going APE all over the place!
I was struck by Jesus the Apostle, who is sent by the Spirit of the Lord to proclaim freedom (Luke 4:18) and who sends his followers out with authority to take the message of his Kingdom to new towns (Luke 10:1).
I was by met by Jesus the Prophet who issues a prophetic proclamation that the Kingdom of God has come near (Luke 10:9) and a prophetic warning of judgment to cities that reject His messengers (Luke 4:24, Luke 10:12-15).
But I was especially challenged by Jesus the Evangelist who proclaims good news (Luke 4:18) and highlights his mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
The most challenging moment came last night when we dug into the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Jesus is 23 miles from finishing his journey to the cross, he has just one afternoon to pass through the city of Jericho and in that one afternoon he turns the city upside down. How did he do it?
He invited himself into the life of an influential but corrupt leader, he transformed his life, and he watched his repentance initiate a massive redistribution of financial resources in Jericho!
Here’s where I felt convicted: Jesus spent a few hours with Zacchaeus and he went from being a corrupt, isolated traitor, to sacrificially giving half of his wealth to the poor and probably giving the rest away to everyone he had previously extorted money from.
In a few hours.
How long does it take for God to change a life?
How long do I expect it to take?
I recognized that I often have embarrassingly low expectations for what Jesus can do in the lives of people I’ve just met.
Two Students Come to Christ
Here’s a story from last week that helped bring my low expectations into focus.
This semester I’ve been working with a team of Black college students to plant a missional community with a vision of Encountering Jesus, Engaging our community, and Empowering leaders (forgive the alliteration). They’ve got big vision for what Jesus could do in the Black student community on campus and in the city of Omaha!
As I was preparing to lead a Bible study with this team and a group of freshmen they’ve gathered to check Jesus out I felt challenged by the Holy Spirit to pray for students to come to faith. This felt different for me. I’m an evangelist and I love seeing students meet Jesus! But we were just getting to know these freshmen and something about praying for conversion at an ordinary everyday Bible study seemed out of the ordinary. (That’s a problem)
So I prayed that Jesus would show up in power and draw these students to himself.
As I led the group of eight students in a discussion of Jesus bringing healing and forgiveness to a paralyzed man I could tell that they were drawn in. I started to wrap up so that they could get to class, but they just kept asking how God could change a person’s life.
I shared some more of my story and they asked again, how did God change my life? So, I shared the gospel and asked if any of them wanted to start a relationship with Jesus.
And two of them did! And when they told me their stories I was blown away by how God was working in their lives leading up to that point.
One student was pregnant and didn’t believe that God could forgive her. She was drawn to the picture of Jesus who extended forgiveness in love! The other had wondered for years how a person could have a relationship with God. She was just waiting for someone to tell her how!
I prayed for Jesus to bring students to faith and in a matter of hours two students I’d just met started a relationship with Jesus! But why was this surprising to me?
Why is this not the norm? Why don’t I pray every day for people to come to faith? Why don’t I expect that Jesus will change lives in a matter of hours?
Jesus knew that he was sent. Sent to every town and sent to seek the lost. He could pass through town, change a life and transform a town.
Do we expect that kind of transformation to follow everywhere we go? Do we expect the lost to get found when we invite ourselves into their lives? Do we see it as normative for Jesus to turn lives upside down in a matter of hours?
Jesus did. Do you?