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High Schools and Hedges

And the Lord said vnto the seruant, Goe out into the high wayes and hedges, and compell them to come in, that my house may be filled.

              Luke 14:23 (Holy Bible 1611)

It’s actually not easy to proclaim Jesus to your friends and family and go “all in” on your commitment to your new life as a Christian. There is so much you have to give up if you do.

Not tangible things. Sure, those too, but those are the easy part. Losing a job or a house or a position. Chicken feed. Away with it, if it must be.

It is not so easy however, to lose your family and friends. Once the cat is let out of the bag it isn’t likely to be contained again, nor should it be, nor would you want it to be. Jesus must be proclaimed even at the expense of your loved ones…Precisely because they ARE your loved ones! Friends don’t let friends go to hell. Not on our account, that is. But mostly, the gospel must be proclaimed for Jesus’s sake (Matthew 10:34-38). That is the best reason of all.

Mr. Larry Wessels, out of Austin Texas is a man I admire much. After becoming a Christian he put his old life behind him and has labored tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyard ever since. There is so much to his manner of speaking boldly for Christ that fires up my very bones, and fills me with desire to proclaim the gospel of grace to my neighbor, to my family, to my friends…even to my enemy. Children of God are scattered far and wide, and who am I to know who and where they are, or when they will be gathered to the Master? Only God knows. My job is to labor. Not to know.

Mr. Wessels relates a humorous story about his coming to Christ, and the impact it had on his life. In one of his televised programs he tells of a conversation with his wife, asking her, “Do you remember that day when I was converted?” Her response was, “Yes. That was the day you lost all your friends.” Humorous, yes. But frightfully true. I admire Mr. Wessels very much for his courage, and for the love he has for his family and friends and anyone within the sound of his voice, to witness for Jesus Christ and share with them the good news. That Jesus saves sinners and ransoms us from death and hell. That he gives life everlasting to those that receive him.

Does my admiration for this kind of devotion and zeal towards Christ spur me on to do the same? Have I begun to labor in the vineyard with all my might? Do I go out into the highways and hedges and implore others to come to Christ, who is full of grace and mercy and is the only one mighty to save? Do I preach the gospel to my neighbor?

Yes I do. But I fear, not so fully as I should. And in the face of the witness others have shared with me, it is an ungrateful thing indeed, that I stand so silent.

In High School I was well liked, generally speaking. In the senior yearbook I was voted “friendliest”. Yeah, I wanted to be “most athletic”, or “best looking”, or “most likely to succeed”, but I wasn’t. Friendliest. Not so bad when you think about it, but not so glamorous either. There is a staged photo of me shaking hands with the girl in school who received the counterpart award. Hopefully she, to this day, lives up to the honor bestowed so long ago, because sadly… I would hardly be worthy of receiving such a title nowadays. Just ask my ex wives. Either of them. Shame on me.

So I was the friendly guy in High School,

the one everyone got along with, the Mormon kid who didn’t party or drink or things of the like (yes, I was born and raised a Mormon and remained so, until that glorious day Jesus saw fit to free me from that trap and draw me to him. More on that in future articles). More or less, I was well thought of.

Well, one day in choir class I was sitting there minding my choir class duties, whatever they were, and a girl that sat next to me suddenly turned to me and said something that shook me. She was one of those “Christian girls”. You know, one of those “Are you saved?”, people. She went to the local Baptist Church in town. Well, she turned to me and in all earnestness said, “Web, I know you are a Mormon, and it is a false gospel, and if you don’t leave it  and come to Jesus then you will wind up in hell forever”. That was the paraphrased nutshell of it, her words much more elegant.

I kind of rebutted that I already believed and had the truth, etc. She did not relent. She said I needed to be saved by Jesus. Hell was again mentioned. Then finally, “I am telling you this because I truly care for you, and I don’t want you to go to hell”. The tears in her eyes testified to the truth in her words. I was shaken, but moved on and avoided such future conversations with her. Felix trembled, as did I that day (Acts 24:25).

Years went by, but her witness never left. I got angry on occasion when I thought back upon it, the pretentiousness, the surety, the arrogance… but then I remembered her tears. It was done in love. Love for me, a sinner, and love for Jesus, her savior.

The preacher’s daughter stung me next. I kind of had a crush on her, you know, and finally had the courage to ask her to be my girl. She flatly refused. Not a moment’s hesitation. I asked why. Her answer got to me. She said she liked me well enough(remember, I was Mr. Friendly!), but didn’t want to risk ending up liking me too much down the road because I was a Mormon and not saved and her future husband must be a Christian. Such bold speaking. Such truth. Such a witness.

I never forgot those two girls in all my life. And years later, when God drew me to him and saved me from sin and death and Mormonism and hell…I thanked the Lord for the bold witness they unflinchingly shared with me. Witness that shook me for twenty five years (along with the witness of one other man… that story to be told another day), witness that planted seeds in my heart that somehow grew, despite my headlong dash towards sin and hell…

Now we come full circle.

Will I not witness boldly to others? Will I not tell others of Jesus and his power to save them from death and destruction? Will I not pay back others in the like coin that I once received? Two girls. Two mites. Not a lot when weighed on the balance. But coupled with the ever abundant riches that is Christ and his word… those two mites were most precious. They gave all of real value that they possessed (Mark 12:42-44). Their unashamed testimony of Jesus.

Yes. It can be hard to proclaim Jesus, especially in the face of losing friends and family, in the face of becoming an outcast, in the face of being known as one of those “are you saved?”, people.

BUT WHAT OF IT?

Shall I be ashamed of the very Jesus who saved me? (Mark 8:38), just on account of not wanting to lose friends and reputation? Shall I let those I profess to love go to hell? How is that showing love? It isn’t.

Time to get going. Time to do my duty. Time to serve my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, who saved me from my wicked self. How ungrateful of me to wait so long. I have in fact shared the gospel with some, but not as earnestly as I should have. I can do more.

Thank you girls, for not being so craven as I have been. Thank you for boldly telling me the truth. Thank you for laboring in the Master’s vineyard. Thank you for witnessing in the High Schools and Hedges…

‘Cause I was in one of those places.