Tax Collectors and Sinners
“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The Pharisees asked His disciples in Mark 2:16. The response is telling about our generation today and how we respond to sinners. The scribes, Pharisees and Jewish people in general had a disdain for tax collectors and particularly those who were Jews. Note the special distinction between tax collectors and sinners. The delineation is clear in companion passages in both Mark and Matthew. Tax collectors were considered even worse than sinners. Tax collectors were though even worse than sinners and considered cheats, liars, shakedown artists and extortionists who were allied with the Romans. They broke every rule in the book, so to speak.
The question is: “How is that any different today?”
- How do we as Christians view sinners?
- Are we like the scribes and Pharisees?
- Do we view sin according to our rules?
- Do we disdain those who are deceived by the evil one?
- Do we apply our cultural prejudices to those who don’t measure up to our standard?
- Do we exact judgment based on the tradition of man?
These are question those of us who consider ourselves “Evangelical” must ask ourselves. Are we like the scribes and Pharisees believing we are better than sinners? Before we explore the questions let’s see how Jesus responded. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17
Now that we have Jesus’ perspective let’s ask some questions:
- How do we feel about homosexuality?
- How do we feel about adultery?
- How do we feel about those who sell and take drugs or consume alcohol?
- How do we feel about those who do not have the same Godly moral compass?
These are real questions to consider. Is our heart hardened to those we consider sinners as was the heart of the Pharisees? Or, do we feel compassion for those who are caught up in sin as does Jesus? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the old saying, “you don’t smoke, drink and chew and you don’t run around with the boys that do.” That statement actually does have biblical roots. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul extorts the listeners, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” So there it is, you don’t hang around with sinners. Right?
It all depends on motive and focus. Jesus did not call the sinners to come to Him he went and ate with the sinners (which was a huge religious no-no in that age). He ate with them but His desire was not to be included in their sinful behavior but call them out of it. Jesus was bathed in prayer and often retreated to be with the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son does in like manner.” Jesus’ desire was to call people out of sin. His motive was to see mankind reconciled to God. He knew very well the people He dined with sinners where they were but His goal was to demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness rather than ostracizing, isolating, excluding and avoiding those who didn’t measure up to the religious standard.
The question for we evangelicals is; “How do we measure up apart from Jesus?” Do we see people as sinners as lowlifes who are worthy to be ostracized, isolated, excluded and avoided because they don’t measure up to our religious standard? Or do our hearts break that they are dying in sin apart from the wonderful love of God through Jesus Christ?
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Can we have Muslim Friends?
There has been a lot of debate lately regarding Muslim refugees and the possibility of radical Islamists infiltrating the ranks of those refugees with the intent of doing harm here in the United States. When you listen to the pundits talk the notion that “Moderate” Muslims need to get involved inevitably surfaces. Anyone who has read the Koran (Qu’ran) understands that there really is no such thing as a “Moderate” Muslim. There are those who believe that violence is warranted to bring unbelievers totally under Islamic rule and there are those who choose to use deception to gain an advantage in order to impose the dictates of the Islam on everyone. But make no mistake, either way they believe that everyone must be under Islamic rule. Continue reading
One of my hero’s in life is General Francis Marion of the Revolutionary War who became known as the “Swamp Fox”. The popular movie “The Patriot” was modeled after the life of the Swamp Fox. As I study the man’s life I am taken by not only his deep devotion to God but his intense dedication to freedom and liberty. As we watch the liberty, fought an paid for with the blood of men like Francis Marion, fade into totalitarianism I cannot help but be in awe of how this man perceived his duty to this great nation. He and his soldiers fought without pay living on rations of roots and potatoes for an idea. The idea was “Liberty”.
Everyone is aware that there are people out there who go to church every Sunday, provide for their family, are generous, tithe regularly, and are seemingly sinless. What they don’t realize is they are sitting idly by, waiting to go to Heaven instead of using the skills that God gave them to spread the gospel. And when something bad occurs in their life, God is pulling them out of their idle chair and calling them OUT to GO OUT and spread the gospel through their testimony. Continue reading
God’s Word is Important But…
In “Section 6” we looked at distractions that slowly creep in to replace love and compassion with head-knowledge and Godly motivation with that of man-centered traditions. In the final section, The Fatal Distraction-Section 7, we will look at how we can be victorious over the things that distract believers from fulfilling the “Great Commission” that Jesus as He departed to be with the Father. The command that Jesus gave us as believers is the difference between “heaven and hell” for those who have not heard the gospel. The focus for believers must be that of Holy Spirit empowered declaration in a world that is perishing as opposed to introverted pontification in religious machination as a rebellion against the world around us!
Recipe for Success
As we walk out our life in Christ Jesus we must never forget that God desires “Compassion not sacrifice”. God’s Word tells us in Hosea 6:6 “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” and in 1 Samuel 15:22 “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” The fact that God demonstrated His steadfast and merciful love for us, as we were dead in our sin but made alive through Christ Jesus, He also wants us to demonstrate that steadfast love and mercy to those who are perishing.
In order to insure that we do not become Pharisaical toward those who do not know Jesus we must always remember that we were sinners separated from God for eternity by our sin nature. It must never leave our conscience that apart from God’s gracious gift of His Son Jesus we would be hopeless, helpless, hedonists that are displeasing to God in every way. The apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:24:25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
God’s Word is important But…
In The Warning Signs – Part 1 we looked at two of the warning signs. We gained perspective on how beginning to allow knowledge to influence how we view others will result in comparisons that lead to a Pharisaical state of mind toward others. We also looked at how knowledge can cause us to become arrogant and lose our compassion for those who are lost in their sin.
Today we’ll look at two more warning signs that are indicators of our perspective toward the “Great Commission”. We will explore how pious humility is really false humility while true humility is brokenness before God almighty. In addition, we will look at how a focus on churchy activities can draw our attention away from the plight of the lost.
The Warning Signs – Part 2
In Part 1 we focused on the parable of the two men in Luke 18:9-14 who went to the temple to pray. We will continue with that parable in Part 2. Luke 18:9-14 “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself” ‘God I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner! ’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. ” Continue reading
We are about to enter memorial day weekend. As I ponder the freedom that this great nation has provided I can’t help but remember the price that was paid by others in order for us to experience that freedom. I can’t help but silently pray, giving thanks to God Almighty because freedom is never free.
From our founding fathers who provided freedom from the tyranny of foreign rule to our revolutionary brothers who insured that all men would be free.
Freedom is never free.
From our grandfathers, fathers and those who fought to keep us free from the threat of fascism and communism to our brothers, sons and daughters who have fought and are still fighting to keep us safe and free from the fear of terrorism.
Freedom is never free.
For all who have sacrifice their freedom through loss of limb and injury I give honor and thanks.
Freedom is never free.
For all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of death for the freedom of others I give honor and thanks.
Freedom is never free.
But the thing for which I am most grateful is spiritual freedom provided when the Son of God died in my place.
Freedom is never free.
As we go about a weekend and enjoy our family, our friends and our neighbors let us always remember!
Freedom is never free!
God Bless America!
God’s Word is Important, But…
In Section 3 we covered “The Distraction” and looked at how easily we are entangled in things that seem important but do not further the gospel. Today, in “The Fatal Distaction-Section 4”, we’ll look at “The Fatality” and try to understand who suffers the consequences when we become distracted with things that take our attention away from the “Great Commission”.
In Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus said; ”36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Jesus saw the people for what they were, spiritually broken. He told His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to “send out workers”. Notice, Jesus did not say build church buildings and programs. He did not say, study until you know everything in and about the Bible. He did not say share the gospel with your friends and relatives. He said; “..beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Why, because the world is full of people who are spiritually broken and don’t know what is wrong. Today we’ll discover how our religious pursuits, can become “Fatal Distractions”? Continue reading
God’s Word is Important, But…
Recently, I read a article about the church today. The article went into great detail about churches that are caught up in today’s feel-good mentality to the exclusion of God’s Word. The article went on to criticize up-beat music, topical preaching and a number of other things in a way that typifies a legalistic religious perspective. What do I mean by that statement?
The article focused on expository preaching and teaching as the only way that God’s Word should be taught with little emphasis on the “Great Commission”. I have observed the results of this mentality in a number of situations and from past experience I can say for sure that expository teaching can, and often does, lead to a legalistic view of others, deafness to God’s Word and an arrogant, elitist, isolationist lifestyle. Today’s ultra-conservative “evangelical” churches are, for the most part, not evangelical at all but monoliths of pharisaical activity that does not display the love of God to those who are perishing. Jesus was a master at calling those in darkness out of that darkness without condemning them but also without embracing the sin in which they were entangled. To do this Jesus relied on God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit exclusively. How many times in the gospels do we hear Jesus speak the phrases “Your sins are forgiven” or “Go and sin no more.”? Continue reading
Doubt In God’s Word is Selfish
Over the years God has shown me that all sin begins with doubting God’s Word. But the doubt we have for what God has said begins with the much deeper and insidious root of selfishness. When we violate God’s Word we also disrupt God’s Order in our life. We’ll start and finish with the same passage but the focus will be on the “Fall of Man” in Genesis.
Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”