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Dine with Sinners: Befriend

Dine with Sinners.  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

(Tony Parker murdered his 7th grade son, 19 year old daughter, daughter’s fiance, and then killed himself on 01.18.18) This past week, a horrible tragedy struck our community. I do not know the family or the father who heinously slain his own children, but I can tell you that it can only be the work of Satan for something so unthinkable to happen. Can you think of it? A father, the very one who is to make you feel safe and valuable, being the very one who destroys his children as though they have no value.
Church family, we have been reminded this week of just how broken our world is. This is yet another devastating groan of a creation that bears the curse of sin. And, brothers and sisters, as we mourn this evil in our own community, we must be reminded of the urgency for the taking the Good News in light of such brokenness. Our community needs hope. Our neighbors need Good News. Our schools and our neighborhoods desperately need rescue. God has a plan to reach them, and it’s you. The call on our lives as we look this horrific tragedy in the face is to befriend the hopeless and to befriend the downtrodden and to befriend the darkest among us so that we might show them the hope that they have in Jesus Christ. So, turn with me to where we see Jesus doing just that in the course of his earthly ministry.

God’s Word

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Matthew’s Testimony

“he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth” This morning, as we continue our Value of Emphasis series on Dining with Sinners, we come to what I believe is perhaps the clearest example in the whole Bible. In fact, the very reason that I believe this must be a core value, a foundational principle for our church is found right here in and the life of Jesus. What we’re reading is the testimony of Matthew written by Matthew. It doesn’t get more first person than this, and it doesn’t get more personal than this. Matthew is telling you how his life was changed one day when he met the carpenter’s Son and left everything else behind. So, I want you to hear it as being written with that type of passion and with that type of significance.
“he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth” This morning, as we continue our Value of Emphasis series on Dining with Sinners, we come to what I believe is perhaps the clearest example in the whole Bible. In fact, the very reason that I believe this must be a core value, a foundational principle for our church is found right here in and the life of Jesus. What we’re reading is the testimony of Matthew written by Matthew. It doesn’t get more first person than this, and it doesn’t get more personal than this. Matthew is telling you how his life was changed one day when he met the carpenter’s Son and left everything else behind. So, I want you to hear it as being written with that type of passion and with that type of significance.
“at the tax booth” Now, Matthew doesn’t tell us much about his initial meeting with Jesus, but with what he does tell, he says a lot. When Jesus met Matthew, He was sitting at his tax booth, for Matthew was a tax collector. The way the Roman empire worked is that they would take over an area, and then that area had to begin paying taxes to Rome to fund the Roman military and government.  To collect these taxes, they would bring in someone from among the people they just conquered, and they would use them to collect from their fellow countrymen.  This person was allowed to set the tax rate higher than the Roman tax rate, and they could keep everything that wasn’t owed to Rome for themselves.  These people were seen as being worse than criminals.  They were worse than Rome itself. They were robbing and oppressing their own people so that they might get rich.  They were so hated that the Jews declared them ceremonially unclean and unable to worship in the Temple.  
“follow me” Now, you’d probably expect Jesus to rebuke such a person, right? I mean, if this were in our day, we might see this as a democratic politician who has his hands in our pockets, or a republican who says that he stands for conservative values but then lives as though he answers to no one. And, if this were our day, we imagine Jesus going to such a person as that and rebuking them and calling them wicked and flipping over the tables in the congress. But, that’s not what Jesus does here. In fact, the only time we see Jesus doing this in the NT is among the self-righteous and religious elites. Instead, Jesus offers friendship to Matthew.

Jesus Initiates

Not only does Jesus invite Matthew into friendship, but Jesus is the initiator of this new friendship. Matthew is not in the tax booth begging Jesus to be his friend. Matthew is in the tax booth robbing people when Jesus comes to him and offers him friendship. Think about that! Jesus goes to Matthew while Matthew is in the very act of betraying and likely robbing his own people. Matthew isn't at a Bible study. He isn't at Field Fest or an FCA meeting. Matthew is sitting at the tax booth doing the very thing that would have banned him from worship in his community.

As You Are

Jesus doesn't ask Matthew to clean up his act first. He says, "As you are, follow me." Jesus didn't give Matthew a set of standards to achieve so that he could eventually be his disciple. He said, "Just leave it all and follow me, now." It's an immediate offer of relationship and long-term friendship.
Jesus doesn't ask Matthew to clean up his act first. He says, "As you are, follow me."

Jesus is the Friend of Sinners

APPLICATION: Church family, if we are to make disciples like Jesus, we must make friends like Jesus.
Church family, the greatest news in the world is that Jesus is the friend of sinners. Jesus doesn’t come to us and tell us that if we’ll clean up or if we’ll stop drinking or stop cussing or start coming to church that He’ll consider us for friendship. No! He runs to us, He pursues us, He finds us in the midst of our sin, He finds us on our very worst day, He finds us hungover or just out the bed of our mistress, and He says, “Come to me! Follow me! Fellowship with me! Know my friendship from the day forth! Don’t clean up and come! Come, and I will clean you up!” Brothers and sisters, if we are to make disciples in the way of Jesus, we must make friends like Jesus. The church is not a self-righteous country club filled with elitest Christians who feel bad for all of the others who aren’t able to have what they have. No! The church is the friend of sinners, offering hope and offering love and offering kindness.
APPLICATION: And, this starts with you. Can I tell you something? Every, single one of us are living proof that no person is too bad for a relationship with Jesus. No person’s sin, no person’s background, no person’s worldview, no person’s secrets can disqualify them from a friendship with Christ. And, if Jesus is not too good to be the friend of a sinner, how can you be? Church, we must be the friend of sinners. If we want to make disciples as Christ did, we must make friends as Christ did.

Jesus is a Good Friend

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house” Now, I want you to notice what Matthew really emphasizes here. He spends less time talking about meeting Jesus and more time talking about his friends meeting Jesus. He gives us one verse about him meeting Jesus and then four verses about Jesus meeting his friends. You see, Jesus wasn’t offering Matthew a mere seat in church; He was offering Matthew the opportunity to live life with him. So often, we invite people to sit in our church, but we don’t offer them a seat in our life. Not so with Jesus. Jesus is a good friend! He had time for Matthew and for the people that Matthew loved. After all, Jesus didn’t just love a single sinner. Jesus loves every sinner!

Condescended, but Not Condescending

“many tax collectors and sinners came” So, it’s a who’s who among disreputable people that Jesus hangs out with at a party at Matthew’s house. There would have been prostitutes and harlots, crooked politicians and sleazy business men. In our day, this would have been the homosexual and transgender, the democrat and the corrupt mayor, the drug addict or the never-can-find-work bum in our family. Most of us, would have been okay with a house like that blowing up. But, Jesus received them as friends. In the midst of filth, there was perfect purity. In a house, filled with darkness, there sat the brightest light. Among people without friends and without hope, there was a friend who sticks closer than a brother and a Savior filled with hope. Oh, how far the Lord Jesus had condescended from the throne of heaven. How far away were the cries of heaven declaring him holy. But, though Jesus condescended from heaven, He was not in the least condescending toward these sinners.
Jesus put them at ease. They came, and they were staying a while. In fact, he put them at such ease that 'many' of them came. Often, we read of Jesus performing a miracle and many coming to him as a result. But, that's not what we see here. Many were coming to Jesus, and He had not healed the blind or deaf or lame. He had simply shown mercy and kindness to Matthew. Sinners were drawn to Jesus because of his mercy. They were drawn to him because they sensed a genuine offer of friendship. It was magnetic to them.
Jesus put them at ease. They came, and they were staying a while. In fact, he put them at such ease that 'many' of them came.Often, we read of Jesus performing a miracle and many coming to him as a result. But, that's not what we see here. Many were coming to Jesus, and He had not healed the blind or deaf or lame. He had simply shown mercy and kindness to Matthew. Sinners were drawn to Jesus because of his mercy. They were drawn to him because they sensed a genuine offer of friendship. It was magnetic to them.
This is the dream of Iron City Baptist Church. It is the dream of ICBC that ‘many tax collectors and sinners’ would come here. You see, every, single one of us can be as Christ was here. We may not be able to heal the blind and we may not be able to heal the deaf, but we can sure extend the offer of friendship. And, I’m telling you church, it will be magnetic. People don’t want to be our projects; they want to be our friends. Our community is sick of self-righteous Christians who are condescending, but they’d be open to a friend.

You Will Influence Your Friends

APPLICATION: Christians, you will not influence your culture and your generation by keeping it at arm's length. You will influence your friends. You will influence people by giving them a trustworthy man or woman of integrity and faith that they can turn to in moments of crisis. You will influence them by being their friend and telling them about the hope you've found and showing them the joy you have. People don't listen to preachers; people listen to their friends. We will not convert the homosexual by yelling at him or debating him on Facebook. We will convert him by having lunch with him and caring for him. We will not convert the atheist by whispering about him as though he is a terrorist. We will convert him by grilling out with him in our home and showing up when his life unravels. If we want to make disciples as Christ did, we must make friends as Christ did.
Amazon Trails - IMB missionaries employing and befriending indigenous people to reach the unreachable with the gospel.
Tibetan Monks, demonized and enslaved to utter darkness, loved and befriended by Christians for the gospel’s sake.

Jesus Criticized

“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Now, Jesus’ friendships with these notorious sinners did not go unnoticed by the religious people of his day. In fact, from the perspective of social acceptance and life advancement, Jesus is making the wrong friends and the wrong enemies. Jesus was making the wrong friends! It’s important to note that Jesus did not become a sinner to reach sinners. He did not join them in their robbing and promiscuity and business dealings. That’s not being missional; that’s being foolish. But, He did befriend them. Think about this: Friends: traitors, thieves, ponzi schemers, corrupt government employees, prostitutes, promiscuous women. Enemies: socially influential, religious leaders, high priest, king, theologians.
Jesus made friends at the expense of his social advancement. These were not the types of friendships that would help him to raise the community’s opinion of Jesus and his ministry. But, Jesus wasn’t seeking social advancement; He was pursuing Kingdom advancement.

Jesus’ Disciples Tarnished

“they said to his disciples” But, maybe you’re thinking, “But, what does this have to do with me? I’m not Jesus.” Notice something profound in verse 11. Jesus’ friendship with sinners isn’t just damaging his reputation; it’s damaging the reputations of his disciples. They are the ones questioned by the Pharisees. They are the ones being called out. Jesus brought a tax collector into the discipleship community. Think about that. So far, we know of people within the discipleship community that would have had much in common. They were fishermen, related, and had been disciples of John the Baptist. And then, there's Matthew! And even better, Matthew’s friends! They would've been naturally disillusioned by this crowd. None of these would've been in their ordinary social circles. They would have had ill will toward them. As fishermen, they likely felt swindled and betrayed by these. Jesus didn't just befriend sinners himself; He expected his disciples to do so as well.
Verse 11 pushes back against the sanitized, white-washed worlds of many modern Christians. Jesus' associations caused people to question whether or not He could even be fit for worship.
Verse 11 pushes back against the sanitized, white-washed worlds of many modern Christians. Jesus' associations caused people to question whether or not He could even be fit for worship. Jesus' associations got him in trouble with self-righteous people and so should ours. "How can a Christian be a friend to a homosexual?" (Perhaps, share the story of when I was in college and refused to ride with Orry....per advice from a pastor) I was a pharisee, not a courageous Christian. What an opportunity I missed!

Mission > Reputation

APPLICATION: When the mission of Jesus becomes more important to us than our own reputations and our own social comfort, we will become lethal to the strongholds of Satan in our community. This morning, there is no doubt a deadbeat dad waking up hungover who will once again neglect his children. And, his salvation is more important than your reputation. Befriend him. Today, there are LGBT members of our community driving by churches with full parking lots just like this one and hurling bitter words at them as they pass by. And, their salvation is more important than your comfort. Befriend them. There are girls in your high school that throw themselves at every boy they meet hoping for attention, and their salvation is more important than your popularity. Befriend them. Brothers and sisters, the mission of Jesus is far more important than the opinions of men or the comfort of our social norms. We must lay down our preferences and our biases and our discomforts. If we want to make disciples as Jesus makes disciples, we must make friends as Jesus makes friends.

Sinners are the Mission of Jesus

“For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” You see, Jesus does not leave his mission, and as his disciples, our mission, unclear. He has come so that the least among the earth might be made the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. He has come by the grace of God to offer the mercy of God to the worst of sinners.
So, Jesus rejects the self-made and the sufficient and the self-righteous. They are not his people and they are not his children. The righteousness of the Pharisees is a puny, weak righteousness that will not be able to actually bear the weight of God's judgement. It will pass the judgment of men just fine. But, it's counterfeit and will die like street vendor Rolex.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” But, not so for the children of God. They will be marked not by their self-righteousness and not by their rule following and not by how highly other people think of them. No! They will be marked by mercy. They will have friendships of mercy and will be kind to those whom would be the easiest to dismiss. One of the markers of a self-righteous person is that they can only tolerate friendships with people that look like them, think like them, and live like them. But, one of the markers of the children of God is that they see every sinner, every broken person as a prime candidate to receive the mercy of God, and so, they offer themselves in friendship so that they might offer Jesus for salvation.

Landing

If you want to make disciples as Jesus made disciples, you must make friends as Jesus made friends. You are never more like Jesus than when you dine with sinners for the glory of God.  This was the whole thrust of his ministry.  He came as the Great Physician seeking the sick.  Jesus came to earth because God wanted to dwell among us.  He left the throne of heaven, where He was exalted, where there was no pain, suffering, or sin so that He might come and empty himself, experiencing the pain that we experience, knowing the temptations that we know.  The mission of Jesus, from Bethlehem to the Cross, was to dine with sinners so that He might die for sinners and set them free. May we join our Lord in his mission.
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