Jesus eats with sinners

bar

Most religious people would not catch themselves in a biker bar or talking with pimps and prostitutes, but when reading through the Gospels we catch Jesus talking to these kinds of people in these kinds of places often. Why does Jesus hang with sinners? Well, in Luke 5:27-32, Jesus eats with a tax collector and his companions, and it is here you get the answer.

What’s with the tax collector?

I-love-tax-collectorsIn Jesus day, tax collectors were hated. Some things don’t change! They were especially hated then because Israel was under Roman oppression. Certain Jews got the job of collecting taxes for Rome. They were viewed as a traitor or enemy who cheated their own people to get rich. For that reason, they were commonly avoided or the punchline of many bad jokes.

Who are the “tax collectors” in your life? Think of the person you avoid or talk bad about. Is it your beer drinking neighbor who parties too loudly, even on weeknights? Is it girl who is known by her second-rate reputation at your office. Is it the politician you love to bash?

Levi is a tax collector. He’s the guy you love to hate. But he’s also the guy Jesus loves to love. Jesus finds him. He doesn’t avoid him like someone with a virus. He finds him at the tax office counting his coins. Jesus doesn’t come in and blast his character or belittle his profession. He simply says a simple statement expecting a simple answer, “Follow Me.” Amazingly, Levi leaves everything and follows Jesus.

Who’s sick?

Levi’s life changed the day Jesus intersected him at his office. He’s so excited he throw a party. Since tax collectors don’t have many friend their friends are usually other tax collectors. The guest of honor at Levi’s party is Jesus.

Word spread faster than a British tabloid. The religious leaders came to Jesus’ disciples with their list of gripes and complaints. As the Pharisees see it, Jesus is in a lose-lose situation. Sinners are following Him. But Jesus sees it as a win-win. Sinners are following Him. Jesus defends Himself by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (5:31) What did Jesus mean by this?

Jesus directs his words towards the religious leaders. They are (spiritually) sick and don’t even know it. They are like a man who will not admit that he is sick and refuses go to a doctor for help. In their pride, they will suffer defiantly, if not die. Jesus came to bring healing our sin sickness that leads to death. Pride leads to death, but humility leads to the cross.

Will you repent?

Jesus follows up his first statement by saying, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentence.” (5:32; cf. 13:3-5; 15:10; 24:47; Mark 1:15; Acts 5:31) He’s not called to the righteous because they don’t think they have a need for Christ (when they really do!).

Jesus is called to the sinner who knows he is in need of Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15) and humble enough to come to Him for a life transformation. To repent is to humbly turn away from your sin and your self-righteousness and turn towards Jesus and His righteousness. It’s a life-transforming turn.

Do you see the contrast between Levi’s response to Jesus and the religious leaders response to Jesus? Levi follows immediately and throws Jesus a feast. The religious leader grumble, question, and judge. Levi wants Jesus to transform him, but the religious people want Jesus to conform to them. Levi has an attitude of repentance, while the religious leaders think they have no need for repentance. The religious leaders measure their goodness among themselves, while Levi measures His goodness against Jesus. The religious leaders follow their code of conduct, while Levi simply follows Jesus. Being a follower of Christ is much different than being a religious person.

follower of Jesus vs religious person

A good question to ask yourself when reading this text is, Who do I respond like more often Levi or the Pharisee? If I were honest, I would have to say I respond more like the Pharisee. How about you?

So how do I change and love like Jesus loves? First, I must remember I was once like the tax collector to God. I lived the most unlovely life yet I was unconditionally loved by Him. I was infected by the most destructive disease known to man, sin.  I can love my enemies because I was once God’s enemy and He loved me.

Second, repent and run to Jesus Christ. Repentance is your only means of healing. Repent of your pride, repent of hoarding God’s grace, and repent of your hateful attitude towards the tax collectors in your life. When you repent don’t expect life or loving others easier. Sometimes it can be harder. Jesus got Himself killed because of the way He ate.

Third, with the remaining days of your life make it my aim to follow Him, which means eating with sinners too. Extend to all the life-transforming eternity-giving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one, including you or the tax collectors in your life, are too sinful to enjoy the pleasure of sitting at Jesus’ table.

are you sick?

Do you need a spiritual check up? As ministers of the gospel I find that we invest spiritual nourishment and resources into so many people and we often neglect our own spiritual health. If we are not careful we can leave ourselves depleted and drained spiritually. How do I know if I need a spiritual check up?

Meditate upon these questions and know they are not meant to drive you to despair, rather they are meant to direct you to God. God has wired me to be dependent upon Him. We will never arrive at some sacred status where we are not in need of dependence upon God. We will always need God and we will always be growing in the grace of God and His gospel. Here are Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [adapted from Donald Whitney’s book]:

1. Do you thirst for God? [Psalm 42:1-2]
 What do you run to instead of God to fill your longings?
How can you grow in hunger and thirst for God? [Psalm 34:8]

2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word? Do you love God’s Word? Do you long to obey what God says? [Psalm 119]
 How can you foster love for God’s Word in your life? [Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17]

3. Are you more loving? [John 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; Hebrews 10:24; 13:1]
 Have you grown in love in the past years of your Christian life?
 How would you like to grow in love in the next year?

4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence? [Psalm 139:5-12; Jeremiah 23:24; Matthew 1:23; John 14:16-17]
 Describe how you listen for God’s gentle voice through His Word or in your spirit. [Genesis 28:16; Proverbs 15:3]
 How have you grown in sensitivity to God’s presence and work in your life?

5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others? Who (besides your family) is in your life right now that you are taking care of spiritually or physically? [Acts 4:33-34; Galatians 2:10; Mark 6:34-44]

6. Do you delight in the Bride of Christ? [Ephesians 5:25-27]
 Are you bitter or angry at Jesus’ church?
How are you growing in love and delight for Jesus’ church? [1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22]

7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you? How important do you see the spiritual disciplines as being in your life right now? [1 Timothy 4:7]

8. Do you still grieve over sin? [Matthew 5:4; Psalm 51]
 When is the last time that you were broken over your own sinfulness?

9. Are you quicker to forgive? Are you still quick to hold grudges? [Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 18:21-35]
 How do you need to grow in forgiveness? [Jeremiah 31:34]

10. Do you long for heaven and to be with Jesus? How often do you meditate on heaven and the promises that will be reality to us when we pass from this life to the next? 
Do you get excited about heaven? [2 Corinthians 5:2; Romans 8:22-23]
 What about heaven do you long for?
 How do you long to grow in what Paul is talking about in these verses?

1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. – Philippians 1:19-26

real questions: faith?

question-mark1Ned Anzers: Isn’t faith a psychological crutch?

To answer this question we must answer a series of questions:

What is faith?

Faith is the believing in the unknown. Heb.11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We all show faith each day in things that are unknowable. You have put faith in your car that it will get you from point A to B. You have faith that George Washington was really the first President of the USA. You put faith in the fact that the very chair you are sitting in will hold you up.

What is our basis of faith?

The Bible was written that we might have faith. John 20:30-31 says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Faith has a source, which is His Word: the Bible. The Bible never encourages us to have faith in someone or something we can know nothing about. Rather it does the opposite, it asks us to have faith in One we can know. The Bible helps us know and examine the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

crutch-crossWhy do I need faith?

Faith fills what is lacking in my life. Jesus says inMatt. 9:12, “But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” I am spiritually sick and faith is for the weak. When you look at the world can you honestly say everything is alright. A person that believes that is more blind that a person who has faith in God.

Since I am sick I need spiritual help. In Matt. 11:28-29 Jesus meets this need by saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

So isn’t faith for the weak?

Faith calls you to die to yourself. Now Jesus gives a unique challenge in Luke 9:23-24: “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” God calls a person of faith to a radical life. He doesn’t promise that faith in Him is an easy-cheesy life, rather it will be difficult. Imagine what the image of the cross brought to mind of a person in Jesus day. It would be like a noose or electric chair to us today. Yikes. [Note: The example of Paul (2 Cor.11:24-27), no he is not insane (Acts 26:24-29).]

Faith in Christianity is not blind faith at all. In fact, it is faith in the knowable and personable Jesus Christ that was a real historical figure, really written about and really is who He says He is. Faith is not a psychological crutch. Faith is for the weak and the doubter, the skeptics and the atheist.

puddle water

I was reminded today about the Moses wandering in the Wilderness. The Israelites were traveling out of the Desert of Sin and set camp. They complained to Moses that they were thirsty.

 

“GIVE US A DRINK, OR WE WILL DIE,” they yelled.

 

Moses was about to be stoned by these demanding people. In his time of need he went to God for help. And God answered, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:1-6).

 

How miraculous? God supplied. There is an amazing correlation between this story and Jesus Christ. Jesus is also referred to as the Rock. In John 7, He tells a crowd “Come to me all you who are thirsty!” And in John 4, He tells the woman at the well, “I will give you something that will never make you thirst”.

 

How true? Jesus can satisfy all our needs.

 

How many times do I satisfy my taste buds with things that quench my thirsty for a little while, but just leave me thirstier?

 

“Nothing will supply the needs, and satisfy the desires of a soul, but water out of this rock Jesus Christ, this fountain opened. The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock water, so pure, so clear, and so refreshing — rivers of pleasure” (Matthew Henry).

 

I had a friend tell me a story about when he and his wife were walking around the block just after it rained. The road was filled with dirty puddles. A car zoomed by and gave them a very BIG splash. It wasn’t funny at the moment because they could taste the water and it did not taste good. They eventually got sick. They are okay today, but the story helps me bring color to this quote. Personal pleasures are like that puddle water…gross and will eventually make you sick. This water, which Christ supplies, is just the opposite. It purifies, cleans and actually satisfies ones thirst. This water that Christ offers is what I want more of…to flush out this dirty water that’s settled into my system way too long.

 

sometimes it’s good to be sick

Ever since Sunday I have had this yucky stomach flu. It has been uncomfortable, draining and tiredsome. I am not complaining. For if I was I would hear a choir of companions calling out in unison, “WHAA!!!”

Despite feeling like I wanted to die…I did get a lot of needed sleep, watched enough movies to say that I am ‘TV-ed out for life’, and ate enough crackers to feed a flock of geese. All in all I would say that sickness is good. You say, “What?” And I say, SICKNESS is sometimes God’s way of saying, “Sit down, boy, and rest a little.

“Though I blame this sickness on the the flu-infested people that have shaken my hand in the past month, I do give a shout of thanks to God for the QT the past few days. Do worry friends, you cant get sick through myspace, unless you caught the killer virus that was downloaded into you computer when opening this blog. Kiddin!