"And as Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled." (Mark 5:18-20)
By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR. It amazes me that there are people who underestimate the power of Christ and his ability to change and transform lives. I can't begin to tell you all the questions that surface when a person seriously considers giving his or her life to Christ.
"Will I become a new person?"
"How will I be different?"
"Will my friends still like me?"
"What will happen to me if I give my life to Christ?"
Many of you would be surprised to know that some of the best Christians have no idea what Jesus can do for them.
Like Nicodemus of old, we find it difficult to understand talk of being "born again" or being made new through an encounter with Jesus. Nicodemus was an educated teacher, a Pharisee, who did not understand (John 3). And here we are today, with all of our increased wisdom and knowledge, no closer to understanding than people in the day of Nicodemus.
Is all of this talk of change or conversion reserved only for the "deeply religious"? Are we to believe, in 2005, that the same Jesus who touched the lives of men and women centuries ago can still do so today?
Take a few moments as I share with you the importance of this man called Jesus, for in meeting and knowing him you will discover his uniqueness and his ability to help transform our lives in dramatic and meaningful ways.
And the common peopleIn Mark 12:37, there is a sentence that bears an eloquent witness to the essential attractiveness of Jesus. There you will find these words: "And the common people heard him gladly."
The rank-in-file listened to Jesus with delight. That is ample proof of the magnetism of the preacher and the fascination of his message.
But what was it in his message that appealed to the ordinary person? And what is it with which people of today might identify?
First of all, Jesus had and still has a deep concern for the individual-the person. When men and women heard him, they soon realized he was not only concerned about their physical and material being, but also their spiritual well-being. Everyone who heard him then and everyone who reads about him today is made aware of his or her uniqueness. We are somebody! Jesus knows all about the confusion and despair our world is in, about the wretched mess we have made of things. He knows we have played fast and loose with life. He knows our deficiencies. He knows our humiliation. He knows our difficulties and our fears.
He also knows our latent possibilities.
Christ alone holds the key. He is the only one who can unlock the glories dormant within our souls.
He came and spoke the native language of people's hearts.
The simplicity of his message was and is in startling contrast to the technical jargon of then and now.
He presented God as real, never far removed from us, an all-embracing God who is present among us. He made faith come alive by creating in men and women an awareness of God in their own consciousness and experience, and by enthroning God at the very center of being as the Lord of life.
But there is more.
Freedom from our burdens and forgiveness of our sins Over these last few weeks, I have heard the personal testimonies of many individuals and families who lost everything in the hurricanes and floods. They shared their stories with me-stories of pain, sickness, injury, death, fear, and a host of other problems.
In each and every situation, I lifted up a prayer for them, and I offered them Christ!
I offered them someone who could share in their burdens and pain; I offered them the one who took upon himself all our burdens and all our sins and nailed them to a tree. And I shared with them the love that spent itself for us on that cross and how that one act has the power to lift our burdens and remove our sins.
That's why it is so important to meet and know Jesus. In the world in which we live, we are not "programmed" to shoulder the heartaches and pain of everyday life all by ourselves. We were not created to be mere numbers or statistics in some data bank.
We were created to live an abundant life, as children of God who loves us and who was willing to prove His love for us. And when you encounter this man named Jesus, you will always come away feeling that he knows you and cares for you much better than you can ever know and care for yourself.
When one surrenders his or her life totally and completely to Christ, life takes on new meaning. You are certain someone else is in your corner, and you can always go "another round."
Jesus told the man who had been possessed by demons to "go and tell what the Lord has done for you."
Can we do no less?
"What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart! I have light in my soul for which long I had sought, since Jesus came into my heart! Since Jesus came into my heart, since Jesus came into my heart! Floods of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll, since Jesus came into my heart!" ("Since Jesus Came Into My Heart," No. 84, The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal)
What you can do for others
United Methodists are reaching out to help victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. A total of 295 churches in this conference sent financial support as of Oct. 4, reported Treasurer Jo Ann McNaught. * Donations totaled $77,609.10 to the Oklahoma "Bishop's Appeal for Hurricane Relief." Funds will be distributed three ways: 1) direct assistance to evacuees who were relocated to Oklahoma; 2) support for displaced clergy, through the Oklahoma Covenant Family Disaster
Fund; and 3) to ongoing relief work by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). *Donations to "UMCOR" totaled $808,229.41 from churches in Oklahoma Conference. * Total of all cash contributions to UMCOR reached $11 million on Oct. 3, for the hurricane relief and rehabilitation work, according to Elliott Wright, information officer for the General Board of Global Ministries.