Jesus once said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (1) I take great encouragement from that because I’m a sinner, and it’s lovely to know that Jesus has called me. He’s saved me, made me into a new person, and has totally transformed me over the years. I am most definitely not the man I used to be. At the age of 18 I was failing. I failed A levels; I failed in my first job. I knew nothing about anything; no one would ever ask my opinions because I didn’t have any. I was naïve and unsure where my life was heading. I saw no future. Then Jesus saved me and began his work of transformation. The man who failed A levels ended his career as a headteacher. The man who had no opinions was invited to speak at national conferences. I don’t say this to boast; none of this was my doing. It was Jesus. I committed to following him and he did the rest. He deserves all the praise.
Jesus was being a little tongue-in-cheek when he said he hadn’t come to call the righteous. He already knew what the Bible clearly teaches, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (2) We’re all sinners, which is great because it means Jesus is calling to all of us. The transformation I’ve experienced is available to all. Each of us can have our sins forgiven and receive a new life. Each of us can experience the transformative power of Jesus.
Is it really true that anyone can be saved? Is Jesus really calling to everyone? Well, let’s look at a couple of examples from among his own disciples. I’ll start with Matthew, who wrote the book named after him, the first book of the New Testament. Matthew was a tax collector, which made him an enemy of his own people. Tax collectors were collaborators with a foreign power, collecting taxes from the Jews on behalf of the Romans. They were known to take more than was required, to line their own pockets and make themselves rich at the expense of their countrymen. Jesus called him. This is how the Bible puts it, “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (3) That was it. Matthew became a disciple of Jesus there and then, one of the twelve apostles.
How about Simon the Zealot? We have to be careful with names because Jesus had two apostles called Simon. The more well known one was Simon Peter. This one is Simon the Zealot? What’s a Zealot, you may ask. If you’re zealous it means you’re passionate about something. Simon was passionate about freeing Israel from Roman control, as were a group of people he aligned himself to, who were collectively known as the Zealots. If you were a Jew you might think of him as a freedom fighter. If you were a Roman you would consider him a terrorist. Basically the Zealots were an aggressive sect and political party opposed to Rome. They even despised Jews who they thought were friendly to Rome. Extremists among the Zealots turned to terrorism and assassination and became known as Sicarii (dagger men). They frequented public places with hidden daggers to strike down persons friendly to Rome. This was Simon the Zealot, a man whose whole outlook was fundamentally different from Jesus and his message of love. Simon was called and became an apostle, another transformed life.
Jesus is in the business of transforming lives, by giving us new lives. He deals with our sin, firstly by dying for us and then by forgiving us when we come to him in faith. As we commit to following him he begins a lifelong transformation that makes us more like him, enables us to serve him, and prepares us for the eternal life ahead.
Would you like to have your life transformed? However happy you may be now, it’s nothing compared to the eternal happiness that could come your way. All you have to do is trust in Jesus and follow him.
- Luke 5:30
- Romans 3:9
- Matthew 9:9