The final portrait is your own and it remains unfinished. Each day it is being painted, moment by moment and choice by choice. With each rising of the sun you are given another opportunity to pour your life out for Jesus, to forsake all to follow Him, to count your life as not dear to yourself and to live boldly for the glory of Jesus alone. As His purchased possession, do we dare live unto ourselves? As His bride, why would we even want to?
So now… what will we do? Will we be satisfied with the safe and comfortable life, with church attendance, with a good work here and there? Can that possibly be enough? Or perhaps we will hear through these portraits from the past, the call to a passionate pursuit of Jesus – a pursuit that disregards the opinion of man, religious tradition and our own reputation. A pursuit that will no doubt lead us to the foot of the cross again and again and to a very real forsaking of all to follow Him. Oh that we might hear the call to run after Him with all our hearts and let our lives be poured out at His feet. Listen carefully… do you hear it now?
My soul follows hard after thee…Psalm 63:8
The apostle Paul was a man selected by Jesus to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Incredible miracles were performed through this man. He wrote two thirds of the New Testament, had visions of heaven and made disciples of Jesus everywhere he went. He threw away a respectable future in religion for the sake of a gospel that was hated by those whose favor he had once courted. And he never looked back. He was a man that walked with God. Yet as intimately as Paul knew the Lord, as he approached the end of his life his cry was “that I may know him.” His life had become a constant pursuit. His gaze was fixed upon One infinitely more glorious, more desirable, then anything he had known before and a glimpse of His glory had ignited a hunger and thirst within his soul that could not be quenched. And for the remainder of his life he was willing to suffer the greatest of hardships for the name of Jesus Christ and for the sake of His gospel.
The sinful woman was a well-known character in her town. The people whispered about her when she passed by. She tried to ignore them but mostly attempted to avoid them. There were a thousand reasons she could justify her lifestyle. Until that one day… and that one Man. She heard His words and they pierced her heart. Confronted with a God whose mercy was extended even to her, all the years of coldness and hardness of heart began to melt away. And in a moment, a glorious moment, she became a different woman. A forgiven woman. Her life was so transformed and her heart so full, that she searched Him out and found Him… at dinner with the religious folks. Certainly she knew the ridicule, the rejection she risked by approaching Him in such a setting, but she was compelled by love and a heart overflowing with gratitude to do it. And as they sneered and scorned, she wept at His feet the tears of the redeemed. The religious crowd hated her for her emotional display, but to Jesus it was precious and He memorialized her forever for it.
King David was a man elevated from shepherd boy to king. Not elevated by man, but hand chosen by God Himself. He experienced victory over all his enemies, fame throughout the nations, amassed great wealth, and enjoyed the goodwill of his people. Yet none of that satisfied him. Hear the longing of his heart:
”One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.“ Psalm 27:4
If the temple had been in existence at that time David’s longing to dwell in the house of the Lord would have been more understandable. Who wouldn’t enjoy meeting with God amidst the ornate carving and abundance of gold in Solomon’s temple? But during the life of David there was no temple. The ark of God remained in a tabernacle of skins and curtains as it had done since the days of Moses. King David had built for himself a house of cedar, certainly something grand and palatial – suitable for a king. Yet his heart longed more intensely for the tent where God was than the comfort of his own dwelling.
Kings belong in palaces, not tents. Yet Almighty God dwelt in a tent, and that made it a palace to David.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a despised man, considered a traitor to his country. Among a thronging crowd of religious followers he would have been an unlikely and unwelcomed character. While he may not have had the good opinion of his fellow Jews, he certainly had everything else. Everything that money could buy anyway. But that was no longer enough Zacchaeus and maybe it hadn’t been for some time. One wonders if, at night when all was quiet, the emptiness of his soul was exposed. Desperate to see this Jesus he had heard of, he ignored the hateful glaring stares that were surely cast his way as he attempted to push through the crowd. Unable to get through, he went up. Up into a tree, undignified but determined. What a spectacle he made of himself that day. The little man in the tree! How the crowd must have laughed at him. But only for a moment, for when Jesus passed by He called him by name and came to his house for lunch and Zacchaeus had a feast of grace. Zacchaeus ended that day owning much less than when it began, yet now he possessed everything.