Jesus is the Friend of Sinners (Mark 2:13-17)

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Jesus is the Friend of Sinners

The heart of Christ in the calling of Levi–Mark 2:13-17


According to the Congressional Almanac, the national budget 25 years ago was $1.021 trillion–a lot of money, a lot of tax dollars.  It is beyond comprehension.  One professor of mathematics put it in a more manageable form:  if you began at the birth of Christ spending $1.4 million a day, every day, without any time off for weekends or holidays, and continued spending at that rate through the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, right on into the 20th Century till today, you would have just now succeeded in having spent the $1.021 trillion.

Or putting it in a shorter time frame, in one fiscal year, in order to spend $1.021 trillion, you would have to spend more than $32,000 a second, about $2 million a minute, or more than $114 million an hour!  That would be fun!  Think of the energy it takes to spend this much money–or even better, think of the energy it takes to collect it.  It seems almost impossible.  But as we all know, Uncle Sam is capable of miracles.  That is not a political comment, but simply a statement of introduction to our passage today.

Even though it’s necessary to collect taxes, no one likes to pay them.  Tax forms and the letters IRS go hand in hand with headaches and high blood pressure.  If it is any consolation, it has been this way for over 2,000 years.  And it was no different in Israel in Christ’s day while the Jews were under Roman dominance.

The Romans collected their taxes through a system called tax farming, which is similar to farming out franchises, such as a MacDonald’s fast food restaurant.  They assessed a particular district with a fixed tax figure, then sold the right to collect taxes to the highest bidder.  The buyer then had to hand over the assessed amount at the end of the year, but could keep whatever he collected above that amount, using various undergatherers to help.  As a result, you can imagine the obvious potential for extortion, corruption, crime and graft.

Now the system of first century taxation consisted of two categories.  First there were stated set taxes.  There was a poll tax which all men ages 14 to 65 and women 12 to 65 had to pay simply for being alive.  There was a ground tax which required one tenth of all grain, and one fifth of all wine and oil produced.  In some places, the Romans also exacted a tax on fish, which was most likely collected in Capernaum because the fishing industry was big there.  Finally, there was an income tax, which was one percent of one’s annual income.

In these stated taxes, there was not much room for extortion.  But in the second area of taxes, duties, there was plenty of opportunity for abuse.  People paid separate taxes for using roads and docking in harbors.  There was a sales tax on certain items, as well as import and export duties.  A tax was even paid on a cart–in fact, each wheel was taxed separately and additionally, including the spare wheel.

This system fostered exploitation by the arbitrary power of the tax gatherers.  They could stop anyone on the road and make them unpack their bundles and charge them anything they wanted for each item.  If the person could not pay, the tax collectors would sometimes offer to loan them money at exorbitant rates, thus pulling people further into their blackmailing schemes.  They became as good as the mafia, when it came to extortion.

Naturally collecting taxes, and tax collectors themselves attracted criminals, thugs, enforcers and corrupt officials.  So rare was honesty in the profession, that a Roman writer said he once saw a monument to an honest tax collector.  The Jewish tax collectors were easily the most hated men in Hebrew society.  They were considered to be despicable vermin.  They were not only hated for their extortion, but also because they were the lackeys of the Romans, their Gentile conquerors–much like being a Nazi collaborator in occupied Europe during WWII.  In Israel, a tax collector wasn’t allowed to be a judge, nor serve as a witness in a Jewish court. And all of them individually were excommunicated from the synagogue.  They were the lowest of the low.

Now all this made the Lord’s dealings with a tax collector named Levi shocking.  Open your Bibles to Mark 2:13 to 17 as Jesus demonstrates that He is the friend of sinners–even tax collectors.  Verses 13 to 17 will test your bigotries.  This paragraph will encourage all those who own their sinfulness, and these verses will confront those who minimize their own sin.  This passage will push you to depend upon Christ alone, and will cause you to run from self-sufficiency.  These verses will make you rethink your life around Christians, and drive you to spend time with those who need Christ.

Follow along in your outline as Jesus helps you understand the difference between the religion of human achievement versus the faith in divine accomplishment.  For this passage forever destroys self-effort, a religious lifestyle, or living nice as a way to be right with God.  As human beings, we are inherently religious, and being made in God’s image, we are compelled to worship.  As a result, there are thousands of religions worldwide.  And even though they all differ from each other in details, all religions nevertheless fall into only two categories–the religion of human achievement and the religion of divine accomplishment.

In every religion other than biblical Christianity, man seeks/achieves salvation by his own efforts–human achievement.  Buddhists seek Nirvana by following the Eightfold Path.  Muslims hope to enter Paradise by following the Five Pillars of Islam.  Mormons seek godhood through baptism, membership in the Mormon Church, accepting Joseph Smith and his successors as prophets of God, and going through temple ceremonies.  Jehovah’s Witnesses seek to earn everlasting life on Earth by their morality and door-to-door proselytizing.  Roman Catholics seek salvation by means of the Mass, sacraments, prayers, and good works that cooperate with grace to enable them to earn Heaven (even if they have to be aided by the works of others to escape purgatory).

But all self-righteous efforts to achieve salvation and get to heaven are utterly futile, and serve only to damn the eternal souls of those who vainly trust in them.  There is only one way to receive a right standing before God, the religion of divine accomplishment–to believe in the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).  The heart of the Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3), so that “whoever believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Salvation is entirely “by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, [since] it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8 to 9).

Grace completely excludes works as a means of salvation (Romans 11:6).  And God only justifies the ungodly, never the godly (Romans 4:5).  This helps us understand our text today, since God is about to save a really ungodly man, a tax gatherer named Levi.  And the religious leaders will criticize Jesus, not only for forgiving Levi, but for even hanging out with him and his friends.  That is because the Jewish faith in Jesus day had degenerated into a system of works righteousness and external ritual.  The Jewish faith had become a religion of human achievement.

The leaders thought they had earned God’s salvation by being Jews who lived godly, and they hated anyone who didn’t follow the Law and its application their way.  But Jesus taught that God’s salvation and heaven is a gift you could never earn.  So from love, God does the work on your behalf, and so you can love those who are ungodly and sick with sin, by sharing with them how God can forgive them of their sins and make them into new people who want to follow Christ and live godly.

Human achievement religion hates sinners and loves those who try to live good but don’t.  Divine accomplishment religion is the friend of sinners and loves those who depend on God to make them right with Him, and changes their hearts to want to live godly.  Jesus Christ will prove today that He is the friend of sinners–not the friend of sin, but the friend of sinners, even the worst kind of sinners like tax gatherers.  So no matter what you’ve done, Jesus can be a friend to you if you’re willing to rely completely on Him and His work on the cross.

And Christian, He wants you to be a friend to sinners around you who desperately need the salvation of divine accomplishment that Jesus, the God-Man died for your sins that separate you from God, then rose from the dead to give you a new life.  Read verses 13 to 17, “And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him. 15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’ 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”  How did Jesus prove He is the friend of sinners?

#1  Calling a crusty low-life sinner to be His disciple

The Lord has been preaching the Gospel in northern Israel around the Sea of Galilee, teaching the Word of God and proving He has all authority, by healing all disease and illness.  He just finished healing the paralytic in verses 1 to 12, proving He has the authority to forgive sins on Earth.  This caused the religious celebs who came to check up on Jesus, to accuse the Lord of blasphemy, since in their minds, correctly, only God can forgive sin.

But it is God, the God-Man, the Son of Man, who has just forgiven sins, but the leaders are so blinded they won’t acknowledge Christ’s deity.  They remained silent during the healing of the paralytic, but are going to become more vocal now as Jesus proves Himself the friend of the worst kind of sinner.  In fact Jesus does this . . .

First  In the midst of healthy circumstances

Look at verse 13, “And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.”  After the healing of the paralytic in the midst of a crowd, Jesus leaves Capernaum by Himself, along the seashore either east or west of the town.  This was probably for spiritual refreshment and quiet communion with His Heavenly Father.  Like me and many of you, a walk by the water of a lake or ocean is rejuvenating.

But many from the crowded house and the street just outside the healing event, along with those from the town, followed Jesus on His walk, in wave after non-stop wave.  Like a magnet, they are drawn to Christ.  And Jesus told them to get lost, I need some personal space?   No–Jesus taught each group.  He answered their questions–and He taught them God’s Word.  Things are going great.

Then as Jesus walks back to Capernaum, He is at the same time at this specific location traveling on the international trade route between Syria and Egypt.  The main tax collection points in Israel were along the caravan routes, and they were centered in Caesarea, Jericho and Capernaum.  Naturally, on that trade route there’d be a tax collector’s booth.  And sitting at that booth on that particular day was a hated tax collector named Levi.  And in the midst of opposition, with religious leaders skulking about trying to find fault with Christ, Jesus shocks everyone by . . .

Second  Jesus calls one of the worst of sinners

Read verse 14, “As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’  And he got up and followed Him.”  As Jesus walks along this route, He passes by the tax booth and saw Levi.  The gospel of Luke tells us an additional truth–Jesus actually stared hard at Levi.  He intensely focused on Levi.

Now imagine yourself as this kind of criminal.  Picture yourself as Levi.  You’re wealthy, but the large house you enjoy, and abundant food you eat are not earned, but they’re gained by stealing from others.  You have a legal right, but you know by the hateful expression of those you overcharge each time, you are robbing hardworking businessmen, local fishermen and regular citizens.  Their disdainful expressions are all burned in your conscience.  The looks from their wives and hurt from their children have marked you.  And though you love the wealth, you only enjoy the friendship of those who are just like you–tax men, criminals and secular Jews.  You are universally hated by everyone else.  And though no one sees your heart, you are filled with guilt.

Now as you wait to fleece the next caravan, today you are pondering some words that have pierced your heart.  This amazing rabbi, this teacher who is more than a teacher told a paralytic, “My Son, your sins are forgiven” (see it in verse 5).  Then to prove He could forgive sins, He healed a man who you personally know, a man who was completely paralyzed.

In fact, this Jesus showed He had the authority and power to forgive sins by healing illness and casting out demons–you’ve even heard He’s healed a leper.  And He said, “My Son, your sins are forgiven.”  You have made your living by sin–you are filled with sin.  No one is guiltier of sin than you.  You think, “If only it were possible, I could be forgiven for my sin.”

And as you are pondering those words, the very person who has proven He can forgive sins walks by, stops, then stares intensely right at you.  It is almost as if He can see right through you.  You are just sitting there in your booth, waiting to overcharge the next caravan so you can keep living like a king.  And the One who has proven He can forgive your sins is now staring directly into your sin-filled, guilty heart.

And just as the Lord’s eternal stare bore into Levi’s guilty soul, the God-Man commanded Levi to “follow Me.”  With the paralytic in verses 1 to 12, Christ proved His authority to forgive sins.  Now with the tax gatherer Levi in verses 13 to 17, Jesus proves He has the authority to forgive sinners.  After forgiving the paralytic’s sin, the question could be asked, “How much sin is God willing to forgive?  Is there a limit to Christ’s forgiveness?  And exactly whose sin can be forgiven?

Jesus answers those questions by saying to the worst sinner, Levi the tax gatherer, “Follow Me.”  This is a command, not an invitation, like “Would you like to follow Me?”  No–this is an authoritative call.  “Follow Me, and keep following Me.”  Follow Me in My sacrifice, in My suffering, and in My holiness.”

And how did Levi respond?  “He got up and followed Him.”  You don’t obey to become a Christian, but once you are a Christian, you obey.  Levi followed Christ.  “Follow” means “to walk the same road.”  Follow is a term that describes the response of faith (10:52).  Follow is synonymous with faith, involving risk and cost.  Follow is something you do, not merely what you think.

Jesus did something totally unexpected–He said, “Follow me.”  And Levi, no doubt, with total astonishment all over his face, got up from his elevated platform or bench, and followed Jesus.  The Lord knew Levi understood several languages, and had a good education–but beyond the externals, Jesus saw His heart, that Levi was miserable, distressed and burdened by his sin.  And as Jesus spoke to Levi, He didn’t spit, make a face, or show contempt like everyone else.

It might have been the first time in years anyone treated Levi as a human being, instead of a piece of dirt.  And there is little doubt as we read on, that forgiveness of sins was driving Levi’s response.  The guiltiest becomes the most forgiven.  Isn’t that what Jesus says about the sinning woman in Luke 7:47?  “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Now from this point on in the gospels, Levi’s name is changed to Matthew.  Did Jesus rename him just like He changed Simon’s name to Peter?  Levi means “joining”, but Matthew means “a gift of the Lord”.  So he goes from Levi the con-artist, to Matthew the gift of God.  Instead of being a burden, he would now relieve burdens.  Instead of collecting debt, he would now release others from debt.  Instead of being hated by Jews, he is now loved by God.  Instead of writing overdue bills, he’ll write the first gospel in the New Testament.

This is Matthew, son of Alphaeus, the author of the Gospel of Matthew.  Of all the disciples, Matthew gave up the most.  Luke 5:28 tells us Levi literally left everything behind and rose and began to follow Him.  Peter and Andrew, James and John could go back to their boats.  There will always be fish to catch, and always an old trade to return to–but Matthew burned his bridges completely.  In one action, in one moment of time, by one swift decision he had put himself out of his job–forever.  Having left his tax-collector’s job, he could never get it back.  The main great publican who was over Levi would immediately have to find a lesser publican like Levi to man his tax booth.  Matthew made a definitive break with his past to continually forevermore follow His Lord, friend and Savior.  Unlike the rich young ruler, who would not leave all he owned, Matthew left behind everything he had and began to follow Christ.

And in “follow me”, the Greek word “me” actually says to Levi, let’s be companions–be my friend.  Jesus is the friend of sinners.  The shock waves of Jesus making Levi a disciple must have rattled the community.  I am certain people said, like your family has said of you–this won’t last, it’s just a phase.  How could Levi, the most unacceptable, be accepted by Christ?  How could the man no one wanted be wanted by Christ?  How could Levi, who only deserved God’s wrath, get God’s love?  How could Jesus be a friend of sinners?  Because Jesus sees what Levi, now Matthew, would become (Jesus sees in us what no one else sees)–masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10).

#2  The celebration of forgiveness for sinners

Verse 15 says, “And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.”  It happened–not the same day, but soon afterward.  It came to pass that Matthew threw a giant party for Jesus.  Why did Matthew throw a party?  For three reasons:

First  To honor Christ–how can you not honor the one who has made it possible for you to be forgiven for all the sins you have ever committed, cleaned your slate, made you right before God and made you new in your heart?

Second  To celebrate his new life–When you’re dirty and unclean, guilty and burdened, condemned and hated, but instantly you are now washed, cleansed, forgiven and loved, you will celebrate.  Jesus is all for celebration of new life, as He told us in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:32, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”  Matthew is celebrating his new life.

Third  To introduce Christ to his friends.  Evangelism is the natural overflow of anyone who is freshly aware of their salvation from sin.  Matthew wanted his friends to meet his Savior.

The packed party was at Matthew’s very large, wealthy house.  And Luke 5:29 says, “It was a great [mega] banquet.”  The text indicates Matthew’s house had a great hall or a large open courtyard to accommodate this kind of crowd.  Yet it was filled with the riff raff lowlifes of the region, those rejected by regular folks–the ones you don’t want as neighbors.

In verse 15, Mark calls them, “Many tax collectors and sinners.”  Jesus would never see these folks while ministering in the synagogues.  Yet many of them came, showing a widespread interest in Jesus.  There were many types of tax collectors.  There were men called Gabbai, who collected regular fixed taxes, like land and income tax.  Then there were the Mokhes, who collected the duties.  There were great Mokhes and little Mokhes–the great Mokhes didn’t collect taxes, but employed many little Mokhes to do their collections.  And because the little ones were those who dealt with people, the little Mokhes were the most despised of all tax collectors.  These were the tax collectors gathered at Matthew’s house (verse 15).

And along with the tax collectors came the sinners (verse 15).  These were the enforcers, the men who threatened and abused others in the collection of debts, also prostitutes used as bribes, and thieves who would collect debt in illegal ways.  The Jews of Jesus’s day also used the term sinners to describe anyone who had no concern for the Mosaic Law or rabbinic tradition.  Some may have been men of faith, but were those who didn’t follow the application or traditions of the law like the Pharisees.

But verse 15 says many of them came to Matthew’s banquet intrigued and touched by the opportunity to dine with Jesus, who they knew to be a teacher of righteousness.  It was this banquet, and others like it, where Jesus first gained the reputation among his opponents in Matthew 11:19, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Yet regardless of what would be said, verse 15 says, Jesus was reclining at the table in his house, and these tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples.  Jews did not always recline while eating, but when it was a banquet or a special celebration, that was the norm.  While sitting prone on a couch or divan around a low table, the custom was to lean on the left elbow and use the right hand for eating, as your feet faced away from the center table of food.  Reclining gave you a sense of luxury, of being treated like royalty.  And Jesus and His special group of disciples, at least five now, were all eating together (dining) in the most intimate and relational way with the most disrespected and untrustworthy people of their day.  This table fellowship was a sign and pledge of real intimacy.

Yet the shocker is found in the last phrase of verse 15, “for there were many of them, and they were following Him.”  Many of the worst people, were now following Christ–the most horrible criminals and extortionists were trusting Christ.  The bad friends of Matthew were now becoming the good friends of Christ.  Those who were filled with extortion were turning from that lifestyle to now follow Christ.  And that fact didn’t sit well with the religious leaders.

It wasn’t that they weren’t invited to this party.  They weren’t—but they wouldn’t have come anyway.  Nor did it offend them that these horrible sinners wanted to be around Christ–not at all.  What bothered them was that Jesus was willing to associate with them.  I mean, Jesus just healed a leper.  And it’s one thing to come into contact with an unclean disease, but it’s another to come in contact with an unclean person.  A leper’s condition is not chosen, but a tax collector’s condition was totally volitional.  They’re asking, how can Jesus eat with such filthy scumbags?  Praise God for you and I, He can, because being the friend of sinners resulted in . . .

#3  The condemnation of the religion of human achievement

Read verse 16, “When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’”  The scribes were outraged that this teacher, who upheld standards of righteousness higher than their own, would willingly sit down and eat with such a flagrantly sinful group of people.  These were not merely Pharisees, but the super Pharisees.  The scribes are the rabbis who were the interpreters of the Law.  The Pharisees were the separate ones, the keepers of the written Law of Moses and the oral traditions, which is how they applied the Law.

Eventually, the Pharisees determined that the Law contained 613 commandments (248 positive and 365 negative).  To ensure that these commands were fulfilled, the scribes set a hedge around the commands, adding other laws to protect the faithful from falling into sin.  This was the ever-growing oral tradition.  So these are the scribes of the Pharisees, the best of the best.

Why had Jesus not thrown a banquet for us, the most righteous?  We’re the highest models of piety among the Jews.  They’re thinking, “He hangs with sinners, but disses us?  He parties with the unrighteous, but ignores us, the righteous?”  Look at verse 16, they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors.  There is no way they would have entered this party–they loved banquets, but in their thinking, being that close to sinners and tax collectors would have a defiling effect upon them.  In their legalistic view, this was an unforgivable disgrace for Jesus.  Luke says the religious leaders were grumbling, gogguzo, their disapproval.  The leaders either had spies checking up on Christ at the party, or they were looking down into Matthew’s courtyard and observing this banquet from a nearby location.

So as the banquet was finally breaking up, the scribes were just outside and close enough to be able to press the disciples with a question that Christ could overhear.  Verse 16, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”  This is a rhetorical question only meant to condemn.  It was asked only as a stinging rebuke, for what they consider outrageous behavior on the part of the Lord and His disciples.  This question was the venting of their hostility against Christ for defiling Himself by befriending sinners, in their viewpoint.  The mouth is a window into the heart, so what you see in the scribes is proud hypocrisy.  They picture themselves as the religious elite, but in reality, they’re void of grace and strangers to salvation.  So Jesus turns his back on the outwardly moral, and focuses on transforming repentant sinners into a holy people, which was . . .

#4  The compassionate mission of the Great Physician

You all know how to insult someone by letting them overhear you as you talk to others.  “My husband doesn’t care about my feelings,” as He stands close by.  “Joe doesn’t work as hard as everyone else on the team,” while he listens from a group nearby.  The Pharisees were asking the disciples their insulting question, intending for Christ to hear it as verse 17 begins with, “And hearing this.”

Plus, like all insincere, cowardly, proud people with an agenda, the Pharisees did not confront Christ head on, directly.  They cornered His disciples as they were leaving the banquet and sought to trap Christ with their condemning question.  But verse 17 says, “Jesus said [continually is saying] to them.”  Christ threw it right back at them with three profound and slam dunk answers that put the religious leaders in their place, and showed us the compassionate heart of the friend of sinners.  Jesus actually asks three questions right back at ya.

First  How can our Great Physician not care for the sick?

In verse 17 Jesus says, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”  The scribes and Pharisees would not dispute that tax collectors and sinners were spiritually sick.  They were the sickest of the sick.  So how could they argue that the Great Physician should not minister to them?  Jesus’s statement here is a powerful indictment of their wicked and cold hearts.  And it exposes their hatred for the very downtrodden sinners they should have sought to help.  They saw no sin-sickness in themselves.  They only saw themselves as continually healthy–so they didn’t want a doctor.

But strongly contrast those who know they’re sin-sick are the ones who need a doctor.  And do you catch the Lord’s compassion here?  Normally it’s the sick who visit the doctor.  Here, it’s the doctor who comes to the sick.  The second wise question in response was . . .

Second  How can our merciful God not fulfill the Scripture?

Not here in Mark, but in Matthew Jesus quotes a passage out of Hosea as He answers these hardhearted religious leaders.  Jesus is telling them God promised to fulfill the Scripture by being compassionate to those in sin.  Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice.’”

The quote from Hosea 6:6 tells us God does not want external sacrifices, but a heart that shows mercy.  Jesus strongly taught that those who show mercy will be shown mercy from God, but judgment will be merciless to those who have shown no mercy.  The scribes who prided themselves on their obedience to the law had no excuse for failing to obey the Scripture concerning mercy.  And finally, at the end of verse 17 . . .

Third  How can our compassionate Savior not rescue sinners?

Jesus answers from His own personal authority as God in the flesh at the end of verse 17, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Luke adds, “But sinners to repentance.”  This could be Jesus speaking irony, even sarcasm here.  On the surface, the scribes’ evaluation of themselves as righteous, therefore not in need of a savior, Jesus leaves them soaking in their self-righteous folly.  I didn’t come for you.

God only seeks the truly repentant heart, not the hardened self-righteous, religious one.  It was the humble, repentant tax collector, not the self-exalting Pharisee who will be justified.  God cannot save those who refuse to see themselves as sinners, who ignore, gloss over, or trivialize their sin.  Only those who understand by the grace of God and the convicting work of the Spirit that they are poor, blind, sick and headed toward an eternity in hell, and trust in Christ’s work on the cross as payment in full for their sins that they can be saved.  God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Conclusion:  Do you get it today?

1  God’s standard is perfection

You have to be perfect for God to accept you now or in heaven.  That means you are in trouble unless you turn to Christ.  If you do, God places your sin on Christ and His righteous perfection on you, declares you perfect and ready for heaven, and He will spend the rest of your life working His character out in you.  You don’t become good to get saved–you get saved and God begins to make you good.

2  Salvation starts with a hatred for your own sinfulness

You have to admit you are helpless, hopeless, vial, sick, disobedient, bent, dirty, rebellious and corrupted with sin before you can become genuinely saved.  You are not kind, not nice, not good without Christ–you are condemned and need rescue.

3  Love grows in the awareness of Christ’s forgiveness

He who is forgiven much, loves much–are you recalling what you were without Christ?  Plus, are you still aware of your sin now that you’re in Christ?  If your love is failing, it is because you have forgotten just how sinful you really still are.

4  Following Christ is the manifestation of true faith

The only command in verses 13 to 17 is “follow me”–all of God’s true sheep currently obey Christ, serve Christ and forsake all to follow Christ.  If you’re not, then you’re either disobedient about to be disciplined, or deceived and awaiting damnation.

5  Sharing with and caring for the lost only comes from the forgiven

The one who remembers how lost they were and how needy they still are is the one who is motivated to share the Gospel and demonstrate acts of compassion to the lost.  If you don’t care for the lost, you have forgotten what Christ has done for you.  Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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  1. […] his sermon on Mark 2:13-17, Chris spoke about Jesus Christ’s interaction with the scribes of the Pharisees. It was then that […]