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.”
It seems that today’s culture has become more than just the anything-goes culture of the 60s but a culture where anything-goes especially if it is opposed to the truth of God’s Word. Secular culture readily embraces and promotes anything that is opposed to that truth and denigrates anyone who stands in favor of that truth. While, on the one hand, they espouse tolerance on the other, they oppose the truth of God’s Word with intolerance, vitriol and hate. In this modern culture things that God’s Word calls out as sinful behavior are viewed with contempt and are proscribed as out of touch in this new modern time.
Things such as adultery, same-sex marriage and abortion are touted as normal and acceptable. Even church leaders of today are beginning to embrace this kind of behavior as acceptable for those who attend church (note I did not use the term Christians). While the culture of the day readily embraces these things there are those who truly believe God’s Word is truth and they also subscribe to the fact that God’s truth is applicable in today’s culture as well.
Socialism. Mans Attempt to Deny God!
Socialism has never succeeded in any society at any time. From the ancient Egyptians to the Greek and Roman Empires, socialism has always failed. In today’s culture socialistic countries have created a strata of dependence that has literally racked up debt to the point where those countries are teetering on the brink of financial disaster. Look at Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. All of those countries are operating at a financial deficit. The United States has also fallen under the spell of socialism and running debt up as though there is no tomorrow. But what is the real motive behind socialism? What is the appeal of socialism? What are the ultimate results of socialism? And, most importantly, what does God’s Word say about socialism? In this article we’ll look at all of those aspects.
But to begin, socialism certainly does not seem to be about financial security as evidenced by the debt in this country and across the globe. This mountain of debt threatens not only the financial stability United States but of the entire world. Let’s look at one example in the US. The United States owes more than a trillion dollars to China, a communist country, who under any other circumstances would be considered an enemy. How can the US be in such debt to a country that outlaws the very things that we hold dear. Religious freedom, the pursuit of our own destiny and all of the things chartered in the Declaration of Independence and provided by our Constitution are literally held in disdain by this communist government. A government whose regard for human rights align only in total compliance of everyone in that country with the will of the government. Those who do not comply completely are enemies of the state and risk death or imprisonment. The sad fact is that the United States, the richest nation in the world, is a debtor country to a communist regime who stands in stark opposition to everything we stand for and believe.
Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth or New York City
Jesus began his public ministry by choosing some people to go along with him. Phillip, of Bethsaida, was one of those people. Philip, in turn, reached out to Nathanael and in John 1:45 it says that “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” But Nathanaels response was very interesting. In John 1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”. Nathanael responded much the way the Pharisees responded to the notion of Jesus being from Nazareth of Galilee. The Pharisees mocked Jesus in John 7:52 “…‘You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.’” Perhaps Nathanael was aspiring to be a Pharisee. No one knows but his response to Phillip was, none-the-less, a blanket statement about people from Nazareth. Continue reading
The Voter’s Creed!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for a party!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for a party platform!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to represent the party!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote to protect the reputation of the party!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to represent the party line!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to represent the party’s platform!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to cave the demands of another party!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to pass good bills with bad amendments!
When “We the People” vote, we don’t vote for someone to add good amendments then pass bad bills!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent us in spite of the pressure they receive from another party!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent us in spite of the pressure they receive from their party!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent our collective values, moral standards and wishes!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent us regardless of what the other party thinks!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent us regardless of what their party thinks!
When “We the People” vote, we do vote for someone to represent us!
In this time of the year there’s so much confusion
But the reason is clear and there is no illusion
God sent His own Son as a gift for us all
Eternal life awaits those who hear His call
Who trust in His Name with the faith of a child
The Christ child who came to us meek and mild
Sinless He lived bearing all we could bear
Then He gave His own life for our despair
On our behalf the Savior did bleed
Risen He is now, He’s risen indeed
The joy of the world and the hope of us all
He did save us from so great a fall
Mankind now honors His birth with good reason
For He gave us new life to provide this great season
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
The Brick and Mortar Conundrum
Over decades of attending fellowships that meet in brick and mortar facilities one thing has become painfully obvious to me. While there are many activities and events sponsored by local fellowships, the one thing these fellowships are not doing, for the most part, is obeying the last command of Jesus Christ. When you think of “church” what is the first thing that comes to mind?