Over the next few days, I want to take a look at different examples of how God apprehends peoples' hearts and changes them- beginning with Matthew, author of the first gospel.... His name was Levi, but he became known by the name Matthew, meaning 'gift of God'. What a wonderful name given to a man once known as a thief! He was a tax collector (or publican), and tax collectors were not exactly thought of highly in those days, as they were notoriously crooked, mean and dishonest, demanding as much from the people as they could, and then some- but when God changes a person, He does it completely, thoroughly, from the inside out, and Matthew was no exception. He was working when Jesus walked by. Jesus looked at him and said, "Follow me".
The Savior called him right from his front desk in Capernaum, and Matthew got up and followed Him from that moment forward. That is amazing, isn't it? Now, a number of people have tried to tell me that Matthew (as well as Peter and the others whom Jesus called directly) already knew who Jesus was, and decided that following Him would just be the right thing to do. I even read in a commentary, "Matthew's immediate response and following would indicate some previous acquaintance with and confidence in Jesus". As I've said before, I don't believe that for one second. I believe that God in flesh looked upon man, and man responded. These men didn't sit there and think, "Gee, I've heard of this man, and he seems to know what he's talking about, so I guess I'll drop everything I'm doing and follow him". No- they saw something in Jesus. Something that they had never seen or heard or felt in their entire lives prior. It was the authority and power of Almighty God, and they were intensely drawn to Him, and none of them were ever the same again. Now, that's power!
Many of today's 'intellectual' Christians still like to think that those whom Jesus directly called simply used their brains in a bright, intelligent manner and deduced that walking after this man was the best course of action at the time. Nonsense! Matthew was drawn immediately by the power of God, and the fervor with which he had previously stolen from people was now used to proclaim the message of the One who looked upon him and beckoned, "Follow Me." .....
God still draws people today- supernaturally, by His Spirit- and lives are still changed by His power, and His power alone. Now, I don't want to be misunderstood here- oftentimes a person under the conviction of the Holy Spirit will ponder, count the cost of becoming a child of God, and make a decision for Christ after much time and many dealings by the Holy Spirit. This is perfectly good and normal, and it is still the Holy Spirit working in and dealing with an individual. Nonetheless, I believe that God' s calling of certain people- Matthew, Peter, Paul and others as recorded in scripture, were instant and very real apprehensions of those individuals' hearts by the Spirit and power of God, and for God's own purposes.
We will deal with other examples of how God changes the hearts of people in the next few days.
En Agape, Jim Ewing