Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

09/9/2018A.M.

 

Jesus Changes Lives

The Call Of Matthew Levi

 

Matthew 11.28-30 Mark 8.34  Matthew 9.9-13  Mark 2.13-17 Luke 5.27-31

 

Today… Both our lessons will be about becoming Changed People by hearing Jesus say… Come Follow Me.

 

If I counted correctly… Jesus is found offering this invitation over twenty times in the Four Gospels.

 

His invitation goes something like this… Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light… If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

 

How can we follow Jesus unless we know Him??…

 

How can we become changed people unless we examine those who learned of Him and took up His cross to follow Him.

 

I hope you agree this morning that taking up the cross of Jesus… Is nothing short of becoming like Him… Having His… Heart… Attitude… Disposition… And Behavior.

 

Come… Let’s see what we can learn by becoming changed people.

 

In the late 1980’s... Jim and Tammy Bakker’s Television Ministry was at its height. Contributions grew at a rate which exceeded one million dollars a week. Jim and Tammy owned Heritage USA… a 2300 acre religious theme park... hotel… shopping mall… Plus their own TV network that aired on over twelve hundred channels.

 

In 1986... Their PTL Club’s took in more than one-hundred-thirty million dollars. Most of this money came from their selling one thousand dollar partnerships to the park… Which in turn secured a three day vacation for the contributors at the theme park. The problem was... That they sold thousands and thousands more partnerships than could possibly be accommodated in the park’s single 500 Room Hotel.

 

During the pinnacle of their popularity... Jim Bakker was having an affair with the church secretary Jessica Hahn... And paid her over $279,000 in blackmail to keep quiet about their relationship.

 

A government investigation determined that the Bakkers were defrauding 1500 people each month of their time-share privileges… And owed over four million in back taxes. Jim Bakker was indicted on twenty-four counts of conspiracy and fraud. He was found guilty on all accounts of the indictment. Tammy ultimately divorced him. And… Bakker was imprisoned for 45 years… Which was later reduced.

 

The interesting thing was that six months into that sentence... Bakker was surprised when the PrisonWarden called to say he had a visitor…Dr. Billy Graham was there to visit.

 

Graham told him that he was a friend in both good times and bad. And now even though he had done some terrible things… And times were bad...He was there to encourage and support him with the love of Jesus.

 

When Bakker was released on paroled... He found Everybody had forsaken him… No one wanted anything to do with Him. So... Billy and Ruth Graham invited him to live with them.

 

Wow… What a fantastic story of… Mercy… Grace… and Loving Kindness… But why should it surprise us?… A similar narrative appears three times in the Gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke.

 

Read it with me from Matthew chapter nine... Beginning with the verse numbered thirteen... . As Jesus left, 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. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples,“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

In Jesus’ day... Tax collectors were hated by the Jews... They were seen as the worst of sinners… They were held in more contempt than dog Gentiles.

Much like Jim Bakker… THEY WERE defrauders and traitors...

 

One... They were seen as traitors of the worst sort...Because they were working hand-in-hand for the hated oppressors... The Roman government.

 

Two... They were getting rich by defrauding their own Jewish brethren.  They were becoming rich by extorting exorbitant taxes far in excess of what Rome required.

 

Yet... In an uncompromising love… Jesus says to Matthew Levi... Come follow Me. Jesus has mercy on the worst of sinners… By calling him into His friendship circle.

 

In proof of His friendship...Jesus accepts an invitation to dine at Matthew’s house in a banquet Matthew threw for Jesus...Explaining that He had come to call sinners to repentance.

 

Acceptance of this dining invitation was not going to make Jesus popular with His followers or His Jewish brethren.

 

What can we learn from this… Interesting... Somewhat disturbing... Narrative…

About the heartand attitude that Jesus expects us to have?

Listen church… Jesus came calling sinners to repentance…

Jesus is calling each of us to become changed people…

Are we listening… Can we hear Him say… Deny self and come follow Me?

 

First… We must know that each of us… Have been… Are being called by Jesus.

• From the burning bush it was… MOSES… MOSES.

• In his sleep… Samuel heard the Lord say… Samuel… Samuel

• From within a blinding light on the Damascus road… It was… SAUL… SAUL.

 

I want you to know this morning that… There is not a person in this audience… that Jesus is not calling… Do you hear him calling your name?... Mine?

 

• He is calling some to become his children by… Faith… Repentance… Confession… And Baptism.

 

• He is calling others to become… Evangelistic… Soul-Conscience… Believers.

 

• He calls us to forsake our Western Culture and it allegiances… And come live with a Jesus heart…

 

• He’s calling us to leave our trust in materialism…

 

• He’s calling us to leave our pursuit of lustful pleasures and evil desires.

 

• He calls us to jettison our apathetic careless attitude in things spiritual… To become more deeply involved with Him… Seeking first and foremost His Kingdom Righteousness.

 

• He calls us not to forsake the assembling with the saints.

 

• He calls us to become more than just pew sitters…. He wants us to forsake our lukewarmness and join Him in… Hot... Active… Alive...Exciting… Christianity.

 

Some are ready to say… preacher I don’t hear him!!... I never have!!

 

• There’s been no voice from heaven…

 

• No bolt of lightning…

 

• No burning bush… No bright light from heaven.

 

Do you know why we don’t hear His voice?... Because we’re NOT into the Word!! How much time do we spend in… The Book?  I’ll guarantee you if you study this book daily…

 

• With an open mind…

 

• An honest searching heart… 

 

• With a prayer for the Spirit to lead you into truth…

You will hear him?... Come follow Jesus.

 

I believe Jesus calls us in two other ways…

 

• David says He speaks to us through Nature…

 

• Through His daily provision…

 

• His creation declares his handiwork.

 

Think about it… His handiwork provides everything we need to sustain us…

 

• Lush green pastures…

 

• Quiet still waters…

 

• He restores our soul in emotional well-being…

 

• He leads us spiritually in paths of righteousness.

 

Church… Do we see & hear Jesus in nature… Or take His provisions for granted… I hope not!

 

He not only calls us through His Word and Creation… He calls us by His Divine providence…Bringing about opportunities for us to follow Him… Have His Heart…Attitude… Disposition… and Behavior. Like the Grahams and Jesus… He gives us opportunities to befriend others… Even the sinner.

 

We are here this morning…Jesus is giving each one of us another opportunity to respond to his call in whatever way is necessary to be right with Him and with others.

 

What will we do with His call?

 

Secondly... We learn that the depth and magnitude of our sin doesn’t disqualify us.

Jesus summed up… His coming... His purpose... His ministry... His agenda… With these words... It’s not the healthy who need a doctor... But the sick... I have come to call... Not the righteous... But sinners to repentance.

 

Jesus contends that… The Gospel is for sinners…

• Those who know they are sinners...

• Those who know they are in need of forgiveness.

This narrative tells us that…No one is such a sinner that God is not willing to accept and forgive.

 

There’s no sin so ugly that God will not forgive… If we will respond to His call.

 

This is not the only place in Scripture that affirms this truth.

 

Paul wrote declaring... I am the worst of sinners... And Jesus… Called me... Accepted me...Forgave me... As an example that He will forgive anybody.

 

Question!!… What is your sin this morning?... What is it that you and I have done that nobody knows about?

 

What secret shame tears at our soul?... We all have them... Don’t we?... Don’t we?

 

But know this... God is ready to forgive and forget our sins... All of them!!

• Whatever they are...

• How many there are…

• And however ugly they may be.

 

Listen to me folk…

• Don’t hold back...

• Don’t you think of yourself as a second class Christian...

Because you think your sin has any special significance... It doesn’t!!

 

• John plainly says... If we are willing to confess our sins... Acknowledge our sins... God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness… Not part… But all.

 

• Peter told the Pentocostians in Acts two... Repent and be baptized... And God will forgive you… And will gift you with His Spirit.

 

• Paul was told... Arise and be baptized... Washing away your sins.

 

• Ephesians tells us that we have redemption through His blood... Even what??... Even… the forgiveness of our sins.

 

So… Whether we are God’s child… Or… An unbelieving sinner… He is ready to forgive… If we will answer His call to come follow me.

 

Thirdly… We must not judge another’s sin to be worse than our own.

Amazing isn’t it how we see the sin of others to be worse than our own… Regardless of what that sin might be?

 

Sometimes... We even pass on our evangelistic efforts with others… We fail to… Befriend… Serve… Encourage…Support… Because we have judged them unworthy and unfit for God’s Kingdom use.

 

If we’re like Jesus… If we have a Jesus heart… We’ll never be guilty of this attitude and behavior… Regardless of what their sin might be… REGARDLESS of what their sin might be!

 

Church… Jesus is teaching us here... To have mercy upon others... All others.

 

Jesus plainly says… God desires... God rewards… mercy… more than sacrifice.

 

I think Jesus is saying that extending understanding and mercy toward our fellowman can be…

• More important than church attendance...

• More important than being sacrificial in our giving.

Look at our text.

 

We must not put words in Jesus’ mouth… Being here this morning is important...And our responsibility is clear... But we must not miss the point of His message here.

 

We must never place our own works of righteousness above the mercy we’re to show others.

 

There was a time when Jesus chided the Pharisees because they did just this very thing…

 

Listen to Him from Matthew23.23... Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices... Mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law...What are they???... Justice… mercy… faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter… Without neglecting the former.

 

Church… We’re guilty here… I am guilty here!

 

For instance how do we feel this morning about… Randall Shelton… Senator Jon Woods… Ecclesia’s President, Oren Paris… Micah Neal… And other governmental officials convicted of kickbacks and misappropriating governmental funds.

 

How do we feel about the Police Woman who killed an innocent Harding Student… Thinking he was in her apartment… When she was in the wrong apartment herself.  

 

Can we hear Jesus say... I came… Not to call the righteous… But sinners.

 

Jesus loves sinners!!!... He came to call sinners!!… Save sinners!!

 

Sometimes we talk a lot about loving sinners and wanting to win the world… But we expect them to meet our standards of doctrine and morality before we will accept them.

 

Here it is… Can we say our sin is any less soul damming than theirs?

 

Isn’t it time we see the church… Not as a hotel for saints… But a hospital for sinners… That’s us… We must never forget… We are sinners saveD by grace.

 

We’re saved… Not as a result of Jesus’ one time forgiveness… As we exited the baptistery… But as a result of His ongoing continual forgiveness.

 

It was John who wrote… If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, continues to cleanse us from all sin.

 

Number four... FollowingJesus demands our wholehearted commitment.

Note what Luke says!... And Levi got up, left everything and followed Jesus.

Did you catch it... Left everything!!

 

There was no way Matthew Levi was going to go back to the Roman authorities saying... I want my job back... I’ve decided not to follow Jesus and I want my Tax Booth back.

 

Indeed… Matthew had to leave everything to follow Jesus.

 

Question… What have we left?... Anything?

 

Recall when Jesus called…Peter... James... John... Scripture says... They left EVERYTHING… boats... Nets... Their fishing business... And followed Him.

It was Jesus who said...

• Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

 

You must love Me more than father and mother... Brothers and sisters... Children and grandchildren... Lands and possessions.

 

Seek you first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

 

We must contrast Matthew’s response to that of the Rich Young Ruler who asked Jesus… what must i to do to inherit eternal life.

 

Jesus called him to give up all his wealth... And he went away unwilling.

We are this young ruler… We are the most blessed people to ever live... But… But… God demands… We put our love of… And pursuit of wealth… Aside in favor of following Him.

 

Jim Elliot once said... He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

 

Indeed... The rewards of giving up all to follow Jesus is eternal life.

 

May God help us to be… absolutely... Whole heartedly… Committed to Him in everything we are and everything we do... AMEN?

 

Then finally… Following Jesus demands a daily different life-style.

Matthew Levi not only gave up his cheating Tax Collecting business... He threw Jesus a party… Luke says... A great banquet.

 

You see...

Repentance is a change in our Attitudes... And Actions.

 

• Repentance is a change in heart that results in a change in our behavior.

 

• It’s a change in principles that result in a change in practice.

 

• Matthew Levi went from cheating people… to honoring them...

 

From cheating them to inviting them to come meet Jesus.

 

Matthew Levi is now using… God’s blessings… God’s Gifts… For Kingdom purposes.

 

This morning… Matthew Levi challenges us to use…

• Our blessings...

• Our homes...

• Our cars... jobs...

• Our finances...

• Our talents…

To honor Jesus and to bring others to Him.

 

Something is wrong… There is a heart problem…

 

• When we will not use our God given gifts in Kingdom service…

 

• When we will not use our cars to bring people to church services…

 

• When we won’t open our billfolds to help the poor… The down-and-out… And the disenfranchised of our world

 

• When we are not willing to become God’s instrument of righteousness… His living sacrifice.

 

Well… Matthew Levi was not the typical convert to Christianity… Was he?… But Jesus called him anyway.

 

And Jesus uses this occasion to speak to us about some things of primary importance.

 

So… If you are here this morning and not a child of God… What are you going to do with this invitation to… Come follow Jesus?

 

• Will you come to Him in… Faith…Repentance… And Baptism… For the forgiveness of your sins?

 

• As baptized believers… Will we… Like Matthew Levi… Be willing to leave all to follow Jesus?

 

The invitation is ours as we stand and sing this song together…