In The World… Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus Came To Call Sinners, Not The Righteous

9 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.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Particular Pattern

Jesus, in His ministry, sets up an interesting pattern:

  1. He first calls us to follow Him
  2. He then eats and dwells with us
  3. He then teaches us
  4. He sets us free to replicate His success.

First, Follow

In another shocking event in the ministry of Jesus, He calls Matthew, a Jewish Tax Collector for the Roman Empire, to follow Him.  It was one thing for Jesus to call fishermen and other Jews to follow Him.  But to call a Tax Collector?  Stop the presses!

The Jews who became Tax Collectors were among the most despised people of the Jews.  They were considered traitors by most Jews who believed that they threw their lot in with the oppressive Roman government rather than stand against such villainy by uniting with the financially, socially, and otherwise persecuted Jews.

The Romans had inflicted terrible rules upon the Jews, including (among others) a forced census every fourteen years (the Roman Census forced all of the Jews [as well as the rest of the world] to return to their hometowns to register, imposing travel expenses and losses of revenue from their occupations due to the time (and goods) lost while they and their families [and their workers if they were employers] were off complying with the Roman dictates…), forced servitude (a Roman soldier could conscript a person to carry their possessions up to one mile),  and humiliation (the Roman soldier was permitted to slap a Jew on his/her face).

With this in mind, imagine the shock of all of the Jews (Matthew included!) when Jesus called out to Matthew to “follow me”.  Note that Matthew IMMEDIATELY got up and followed Jesus.  We too should have the same frame of mind, and constantly seek to follow Jesus in all that He said for us to do (and continues to tell us to do through the Holy Spirit within us and the word of God).

Second, Sup

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

After we begin to follow Jesus, we are to sup with him.  Jesus (God the Son), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit) take up residence within us.  They make Their home in us.  The Holy Spirit is our down-deposit on our inheritance provided to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as heirs to the Kingdom of God.

Since He dwells within us, we can partake of the food which others do not know, and drink of the spring of Living Water that flows within each of us.  As we yield ourselves to God, we are able to partake of His character and know Him better.

Third, Teach

As we grow in our spiritual life, we begin to get a foothold on the truths of the word of God.  We then begin to overcome, then mature into adulthood.  When we mature, we should be seeking to handle the Word of God correctly.  When we handle the word of God correctly, we will then be able to teach others the word of God.

Fourth, Free

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It is time to free the captives.  Those who know they are sinners and are torn over what they should do about it know that they are slaves to their sin.  It is time for God’s people to get out and proclaim freedom for the captives.  It is time to remember our great calling, and to do what our Lord has commanded us to do.  Is is time to yield everything that we have and are to God, and let Him take care of the rest.  It is time to be proper examples to the lost – Light on top of a hill, and Salt to a culture that needs the savory flavor of freedom when everyone seems to be in bondage.  Let us not be lacking in compassion to those who are in a spiritual prison, but rather, let us be the ones who seek their release and rehabilitation back into the world of spiritual life.  For Christ has come to give us life, and abundantly so.  Let us finish His good work, so that we may claim our reward.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared to be a productive worker in the kingdom of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me Your Son that I may be free.  And if the Son has freed me, then I am free indeed.  Help me to extend this freedom to all who would hear.  Help me to remember that I am just the messenger.  Father, prepare my heart for rejection, and my spirit for persecution, for I am not greater than Jesus, and should expect this when I step out for Him.  Give me the same passion and drive that You gave the Apostles and Paul.  Help prepare me so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me to learn and know Your word, and how to handle it correctly.  Then help me to remember that in the time of challenge, that it will be Your Spirit who speaks through me so that I will be vindicated, for this is my heritage.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Surrender to God – Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

We are given three instructions for discipleship:

  • Deny yourself – Stop acting like the universe revolves around you, see to the needs of others, live according to the Spirit √
  • Take up your cross daily – Bear up under the burdens (responsibilities) of your faith and the responsibilities you have accepted either willingly or as a result of your actions √
  • Follow me – Wait!  What?

How can we follow if we don’t see where the other person is going?  In order to follow Christ, we must walk in His footsteps.  The Greek word for this is akolouthei.  It is an imperative command.  We are expected (commanded) to do it.  The meaning is to walk alongside someone, in lockstep, hips next to each other.  We are to do what Jesus did:

  • Yield every aspect of our lives to the Holy Spirit, regardless of our estimation of our ability to do it by ourselves
  • Depend completely upon God to provide for our every need
  • Spend regular time communicating with our Father in Heaven in prayer
  • Getting direction from God for our daily activities
  • Fast and pray regularly to draw close to our Father in Heaven
  • Study God’s Word to be an approved workman
  • Request that God reveal His calling in our lives, and fulfill that calling, even if it means going to our death

There are others, but this is a good starting point.  To follow Jesus does not mean to walk ahead of Him.  When we do that, we can’t see where He is going, and may miss a critical turn or stop. To walk behind Him at a distance is to miss what He is doing and not being a part of what He has planned.  It is only by akolouthei that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, for the right reasons, that the outcome would glorify God.

So, let’s ask the question: where am I in my akolouthei?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come before You to spend time with You today.  Please see to all the needs of Your servant.  Grant me strength to do what You have called me to do today.  Reveal Your will for me as I offer my body as a living sacrifice to You, that I will be able to fulfill it with Your strength, guidance, and discernment.  Help me to walk alongside You as You work in the world today.  Show me where You are working so that I may join You and use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has provided to me to glorify Your Name.  May all praise, glory, honor, strength, and dominion be Yours and Yours alone, forever and ever.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?