27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. Luke 5:27-28
It’s been said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner a future.” Do you believe this? The great hope is we do not have to stay in the place the Lord originally found us.
There were two simple words uttered from Jesus’ lips that changed Levi’s life forever…they were “Follow Me!” It doesn’t get any more simple than this. When Levi heard these words he jumped at the opportunity to follow the Lord, because he suddenly knew he had a future.
The story of Levi is not unlike many who the Lord called to follow Him. Levi is better known by his other name Matthew. He gained his livelihood by contracting with the Roman government to collect taxes from fellow Jews. Like most tax collectors, he pocketed the gain for himself and was excluded from any form of community life with other Jews. He was restricted to social life with peers within his profession and often shunned and hated by his own countrymen, neighbors, and even relatives. Even though he was wealthy, his social status was abhored.
Levi’s transformation occurred when he met Jesus Christ one day. He later became an apostle and wrote the first book of the New Testament. When Levi excitedly gathered his colleagues for a feast with Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were extremely offended. After Jesus’ association with Levi became known, the religious leaders posed this question to the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Thankful the Lord does associate with sinners!
Does a man’s past doom his future? Is repentance and change possible? Is salvation a momentary experience or an abiding decision?
Levi’s radical transformation proves the call of Christ changes us immediately and permanently. The past stays in the past and our future becomes the Lord’s.
This story reminds me of a story from Tony Campolo’s life.
Tony Campolo told how, upon arrival in Honolulu, he made his way unwittingly to a seedy part of town for a snack at 3:30 in the morning, to be surrounded by eight or nine prostitutes who had just taken the night off. He overheard the prostitute beside him saying to her girlfriend, “Tomorrow is my birthday.” Her friend rebutted, “So what do you want from me? You want me to get you a cake and sing, ’Happy Birthday?’“ The birthday girl protested, “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? Why should you give me a birthday party now when I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life?”
When the prostitutes left, Campolo decided to decorate the place the next night and give the birthday girl a surprise party with the help of the bartender, who happily chipped in the cake. The next day, the stunned girl was so taken back when the whole bar sang a birthday song to her. She first refused to cut the cake, then asked if she could keep the cake a little longer, and finally, for some unknown reason, even dashed home with the cake after promising to return with it later.
Campolo offered to say a prayer for the woman before the stunned crowd, and after prayer, the bartender remarked, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” Campolo replied, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.” The bartender then sneered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it.”
(The Kingdom of God is a Party 3-8, Tony Campolo, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990).