Friend of Sinners
FRIEND OF SINNERS
Part 4 of Deep Water Faith. Luke 5:27-32
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. June 18, 2017.
We’ve been talking about what kind of church the Cornerstone will be as we move into our next 20 years together. So far, we’ve highlighted three characteristics:
A church of great faith: We believe that God is with us, guiding and providing so we can step out boldly into whatever he calls us to. The principle of provision.
A church of great kindness: We believe God wants us to embrace everyone and make them our friends. The principle of inclusion.
A church of great expectations: We believe God has given us a fresh start and a new life. The principle of transformation.
This week, we’re exploring the fourth characteristic: We will be a church of great zeal: We believe God wants us be a committed, Gospel-sharing church. We believe that Jesus is the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He came into he world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). No one is too far gone, too broken, or too bad. There is room at the cross for all who come in repentance and faith. This is the principle of salvation. So, we will be zealously invested in sharing the Good News about Jesus here and around the world. This is a core component of our Cornerstone 2.0 vision.
This story about Levi is a great demonstration of the principle of salvation …
A. THE PRINCIPLE OF SALVATION DEFINED, verses 31-32.
Let’s be clear about what Jesus meant by salvation. Jesus came into the world to bring sinners back to God. He was carrying out a rescue plan for the world. One of the main ways Jesus explained it was the idea of entering God’s Kingdom. For example:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:3.
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” - Mark 1:14-15.
In verses 31-32, Jesus answers the question: who can be saved? While the answer might seem really obvious to us, it would have been a total shock to the religious leaders who first heard it.
In first century Judaism, there were very clear lines dividing the community into the good people who were good with God and the bad people who were not. Everyone knew who the good people were and everyone knew who the bad people were. There is an unforgettable example of this in one of the parables Jesus taught:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” - Luke 18:10-11
But Jesus turned all that nonsense on its head - see verses 31-32: “I’ve come for people who know and admit they are sinners in need of salvation. I have not come for the self-righteous who will not admit their need.” Jesus was often blunt about this:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” - Matthew 23:27-28
He was stating a profound truth that we all need to grasp: Jesus saves men and women who acknowledge their need to be saved. If you think you’re perfectly good, healthy, and righteous on your own, then Jesus has nothing to offer you.
Jesus didn’t just talk about the principle of salvation, he also lived it …
B. THE PRINCIPLE OF SALVATION DEMONSTRATED BY JESUS - verses 27-28.
Jesus went after Levi. He didn’t just see him, he focused on him. He pursued him. Levi is also known as Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13), the same man who became an apostle and wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Levi was a tax collector. The Roman empire collected taxes from the people it conquered. There were taxes for everything: land, crops, livestock, income, axles on wagons, roads, imports, and people - the poll tax. Tax collectors were hated. They were tax collectors after all. They worked for Rome, so they were collaborators with the enemy. The Jews believed they were ritually unclean. They were corrupt and extorted money for themselves. They used threats and violence to get what they wanted. Levi was an agent for a higher up tax official. His job was to set up his tax collector booth on a road and stop people and take their money.
Everyone believed Levi was in that dreaded category of “hopeless sinner.” Bad to the bone. Far from God and his Kingdom. Unredeemable. Unsavable. And that’s who Jesus chose to go after. Because Jesus is a friend of sinners. He called Levi out of his old life into a new life of commitment to Jesus. The call to “follow me” was a command to repent and to receive salvation (Luke left out the full details of the conversation). Verses 31-32 make it clear that Jesus was inviting Levi to come to him for salvation.
And Levi responded. He left everything - decisively, once and for all - and walked away from his godless life to follow Jesus in a new life for the rest of his life. That’s what Simon Peter, James and John did in 5:11. It’s what Jesus requires of everyone who wants to be a Christian (Luke 9:23; 9:57-62; 14:33). Sadly, it is what the rich young ruler refused to do (Luke 18:22-24).
Levi’s experience is a happy story: Jesus saves sinners - the worst of the worst. He’ll save you if you’ll leave behind your old life to follow him.
C. THE PRINCIPLE OF SALVATION DEMONSTRATED BY LEVI - verses 29-30.
What happened next is beautiful and it’s a model for us to emulate. This is what I envision for Cornerstone 2.0: Levi held a banquet for Jesus in his house. His guests were the tax collectors and sinners in town. Because these were the people he knew. And because he wanted Jesus to save them too. It was a meet and greet with an agenda!
These first-century banquets were for friends. Eating and drinking together signified a bond, a welcome, and an acceptance. Look at that: Jesus came to the party to eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn’t ashamed to rub shoulders with people who don’t measure up. He made friends with them. He was zealous for the Gospel and went looking for spiritually lost people. He was there on a mission to offer them salvation, restoration to God (see also Luke 19:1-10).
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." - 1 Timothy 1:15
This is our vision too. We want to be as zealous as Jesus to share the Gospel. Let’s work together to open our homes to people who need salvation. To welcome everyone into our worship services. To create events that will touch lives of unchurched and non-religious people. So that we can offer them Jesus and salvation through the Gospel; a way home to God; a way into the new life he offers.
There are three kinds of people here today:
There are the Self-Righteous who look down their noses at lost sinners but won’t admit their own spiritual need. If that’s you, it’s time for a serious change of attitude. You’re just as lost as the people who wear their sins on their sleeves. It’s time for you to admit your own sins and come to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing. You need to get saved.
The second kind of people are the Saved. You’ve come clean, confessed your sin, and asked Jesus to save you. You’re so grateful for all that Jesus has done for you. And you are zealous for others to know his saving power. Thank God for you. Keep sharing Jesus and the Gospel. Keep praying and working for a harvest. Your zeal is a core component of Cornerstone 2.0. We want to be a church of great zeal for the lost, for the Gospel, for salvation, for the Savior.
The third kind of people are the Sinners. You know you’re lost and far from God. But you don’t know what to do about it. God brought you here today because he wants you to hear this: we are all great sinners, but Jesus is an even greater Savior. He took our sins to the cross. He paid for them there. He took the blame so we wouldn’t have to. And he rose from the dead. He’s alive and he’s calling you today: “Follow me!” He is offering you salvation, a way home to God. It’s a gift; it’s free; but it will cost you everything. Turn from your old life, trust in Jesus, and live the new life he gives you. Get yourself saved! Come now!
California pastor, John MacArthur, spoke about the saving power of Jesus:
“Beloved, I tell you this morning, God offers you grace. He offers you mercy. He offers you forgiveness. He offers you compassion. He'll forgive all your sins if you'll come to Him. But He can't do anything for people who think they're okay. Can't do anything for people who think they're righteous, who think they're good. He came to call sinners to repentance. So the church is not made up of the righteous. It's made up of penitent sinners. It's not made up of those who think they're good. It's made up of people who know they're not. It's not made up of people who have brought their righteousness up to God as a satisfaction. It's made up of people for whom God's righteousness has come down as a covering.” - John MacArthur, sermon on Luke 5:27-32.