Monday, 8 November 2010

Luke 5 - Passion and perspective

I was away this weekend with some CU's from the North East looking at Developing an Evangelistic Lifestyle, I'm going to post the rough notes from each session over the next few days. Here's the first:

An evangelistic lifestyle is simply that of a disciple living as their master did.

Where a disciple of Jesus authentically lives out his or her developing, maturing discipleship in the context of, connected with, and engaged in the world around him or her.

This is not anything it special it is normal discipleship!

Luke ch4-5 show us Jesus on his mission; proclaiming, telling, teaching that the kingdom of God is here now, that he has come to bring freedom and favour with God(4:18-19). Ch5 shows us Jesus proclaiming that message and outcasts responding, those made outcasts by leprosy or illness or by demon possession. But here Jesus is confronted with another outcast, a social and moral outcast. And as Jesus deals with Levi we see the example of evangelistic living.

“When I meet Jesus one day in heaven, one question I plan to ask is, ‘What about you was so attractive to worldly people?’ Why was Jesus on the guest list when secular parties were being planned?...What did Jesus have that caused local sinners to seek out his company?”
Tom Hovestol.

“How did he, the only perfect person in history, manage to attract the notoriously imperfect?”
Phillip Yancey.

1. A Passion for People
(27) “Jesus saw a tax collector” Jesus spots Levi and homes in on him, this is deliberate. Jesus knows he is a tax collector, where is he sat? “his tax booth”. He is obviously a collaborator with the Romans and that therefore an outcast, a sinner, morally beyond the pale and yet Jesus sees him and zeroes in on him. And the question is why?

Because Jesus is passionate about people, he loves them. Jesus wants this morally dubious, religious no hoper to know God’s favour, to experience grace.

That in itself is amazing, but maybe it is just a one off? What happens next? (29)Jesus and his disciples go at Levi’s invitation to share a meal with him and his socially dubious, notoriously immoral friends. Jesus engages with and welcomes religious outcasts.

He takes time out to share a meal with “a large crowd of tax collectors and others”. Because he has a passion for people, he cares for them. He will risk opposition and complaints from the religious leaders about who he spends time with because he didn’t come to engage in social niceties, to be popular with the religious but to proclaim God’s kingdom, to preach freedom. He hasn’t “come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (32). Jesus comes to save the outcast no matter the cost to his reputation because salvation matters, lost people need saving.

If you read through Luke’s gospel you see it again and again, ch4 he’s in the synagogue preaching that the kingdom has come, ch5 he’s calling Peter, James and John, healing a man with leprosy, forgiving the sin of a paralysed man before he gets to Levi a pattern of behaviour, priorities and passion is established – Jesus is passionate about people, later on when Jesus has seen another rogue Zacchaeus saved he says this about his mission “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

And do you notice something else, Jesus passion for people is contagious. Jesus calls Levi and what does Levi do straight away? He calls his friends to meet Jesus! Levi engages in the same mission as Jesus – notice he doesn’t wait to do a course, or to be at a certain stage where evangelism feels comfortable.

Jesus is passionate about people, therefore Jesus followers will be passionate about people! They are fishers of men, are we passionate about people?

2. A right perspective on the problem of sin and the power of the gospel.
Jesus isn’t just passionate about people, however, he is also clear about the problem of sin and the power of the gospel.

Jesus gives the illustration of what he has come to do as being like what? a doctor. He has come for those who recognise they are sick and want healing. Except the disease that Jesus comes to deal with isn’t diabetes, cancer or any other physical illness it is sin. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus has come to deal with sin but what is it? Sin is rebellion against God. We mustn’t confuse the symptoms of sin with the actual problem. We tend to think sin is the things we do: swearing, anger, gossip, greed, lust and so on. But Jesus is much clearer about what sin is than we often are.

The real problem of sin isn’t the symptoms but what they reveal – all the things we do that we label sin are the result of a heart problem.

If I wake tomorrow and have a sore throat, temperature, runny nose and aching limbs what do my symptoms reveal? I have flu. My symptoms aren’t the problem, they reveal the problem a virus. I may treat the symptoms but that won’t cure me.

Sin is like that – anger, bitterness, lust, lying, pride, etc aren’t the problem they are the symptoms of a deeper problem. Jesus diagnoses our problem as being a heart defect - we want to decide right and wrong for ourselves. We don’t want to think of a creator we are responsible to, we want to be free to decide for ourselves what we do and how we do it. That is sin – our determination to be God for ourselves, our ousting the creator from his rule of his world through us and doing it our own way.

Jesus diagnoses the problem of sin and comes to deal with the cause of the problem not the symptoms. Jesus doesn’t deal with the symptoms – we mentioned Zacchaeus earlier Zacchaeus was an embezzling cheating tax collector, but Jesus doesn’t lecture him on morality or greed. Rather as a result of being saved and his heart being changed by grace Zacchaeus is freed from greed. Jesus isn’t into religious behaviour modification he brings radical heart change.

The sickness that Jesus speaks of is a very serious one, sin is serious because it leaves us spiritually dead before God and facing judgement for our refusal to worship him. But Jesus passion for people means he seeks the lost, he is the doctor for the sick, he comes to provide a heart transplant, but he also comes to take the penalty for their sin. Rejection of God must be judged and punished because God is just – Jesus though innocent takes our punishment.

All the way through the gospels you see Jesus forgiving sin and calling sinners but you don’t see the price being paid and the Pharisees are horrified because only God can forgive sin and only when something dies to atone for sin. But Jesus never makes an atonement sacrifice, until you get to Calvary.

It’s a bit like a credit card as Jesus forgives and calls Levi the bill is mounting up and at the cross the bill for forgiveness has to be paid and Jesus pays the price. He dies in the place of those who have rejected God, he bears God’s anger for our sin, and amazingly we get his perfect record. Jesus understands the seriousness of sin.

But we must notice something else, who are the two groups Jesus speaks of? The righteous and the sinner. What does righteous mean? It is someone who fulfils God’s demands regarding right living – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind strength and love your neighbour as yourself.

That is how the Pharisees see themselves, but they do not live like, just look at their attitude to Levi and friends. Jesus doesn’t think they are righteous he knows their need that’s why he proclaims the good news in the synagogues. Jesus knows that even those who look good, who are religious have a heart problem, sin is still their problem they just try to be very, very good to make up for it, but that goodness just produces different symptoms – self righteousness, lack of love, judgementalism.

Jesus knows the seriousness of sin for both groups but he also knows that the gospel can save both groups. That’s why he approaches Levi; he knows Levi isn’t a hopeless case that he is not beyond the gospel. But he also knows the religious need the gospel and that it can reach them which is why he preaches in the synagogues to the religious.

Maybe you are here this weekend and you haven’t yet decided to follow Jesus, maybe you see yourself as an interested spectator, you want to know what all this Jesus stuff is about, why these people have welcomes you and care for you. They care for you because they are following their master – Jesus is passionate about people and so are they. Jesus understood the power of sin and so do they, and Jesus knew the power of the gospel to save them and so do they.

Maybe you are here and you relate to Levi – you feel the wrong things you have done, you look back on all the screw ups, the relationships ruined because of your selfishness, or the mistakes made because of your faulty definition of right and wrong.

Or maybe you are very good, you’re a nice person, you go to church but as you’ve listened you’ve realised there is something missing.

(27-8)Levi recognises his need, that he is far from God that he has a problem and when Jesus says follow me what does he do? “Levi got up left everything and followed him.”

Levi repents, he leaves everything, everything that held him back, that he’d been living for, that was about him and his rule of his life and he makes Jesus the priority in his life. That is repentance; a radical repositioning of priorities.

Jesus understands the problem of sin and the power of the gospel.

Developing an evangelistic lifestyle begins as we look at Jesus and share his perspective and passion, as we see the seriousness of sin, as we learn to love people as God loved us and as we understand the power of the gospel to save anyone.

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