“Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
Mark 2:13-17 NKJV
Friends in low places
I make no illusions as to the kind of person I was before I came to know the Lord. I was a sinner, a true reprobate, one with no moral center, who did what he wanted, as long as it didn’t harm his reputation. I was awash in secret sins, good on the surface, but dead inside. All my friends were sinners, and I understood them and they, me. We were a collective of lost people, bound for hell.
When I came to Jesus, I watched in horror as many of the people I knew, began to drift away as they were repulsed by my new religion and the changes it made in me. I was no longer the person who could be counted on to be the fun drunk. All too often, I talked about Jesus and my friends need for salvation. Over time my circle changed, and few are in my life today.
I spent most of my days warm and comfortable in my “holy huddle”, and ignore the people on the outside who are still caught up in sin. It is said that the average believer has no friends from their past within five years. They have become completely separated from the people they left behind, and no longer have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.
My reading this morning brought me to the passage in Mark chapter 2, where Jesus, fresh from raising the paralytic lowered through the roof, encountered Levi, aka Matthew. “Follow me.” Those stuck in the holy huddle of that era, Pharisees, scoffed at Him for His willingness to hang out with tax collectors and sinners. Tax collectors were the lowest of the low, as they persecuted the locals for the Romans, demanding exorbitant fees.
Not only did Jesus draft a tax collector to be on his team, He had lunch with Matthew’s friends. He went in amongst them to have the chance to tell them about His ministry, to offer salvation.
The scoffers scoffed, but Jesus revealed the nature of the souls of those who criticized. He reminded them that he did not come for the “righteous”, but to bring sinners to repentance. Those that criticized him were righteous in their own eyes, and felt like they did not need God.
Jesus was modeling how to approach those caught up in sin. He went in amongst them, but did not sin with them. He offered a new and better way. Paul echoed this in his philosophy of ministry.
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
I Corinthians 9:19-23 NKJV
I must seek relationship, that I may win some. Again, this does not mean I partake in their sins, but I do not cut off contact. Many of the people I pray for each day, do not know the Lord. I try to reach them for Jesus, as the time is short. People lost in sin know deep inside that they need forgiveness, and often are waiting for the opportunity to do something different. They need to know of the Great Physician. Jesus was and is the Great Physician, and those sick in sin flocked to see Him.
All too often we bring our self-righteousness into the conversation and we find ourselves judging. Ears and hearts become closed, and the opportunity is lost. Worst of all, we often don’t bother to approach people who do not know the Lord, as we are repulsed by the things that they do.
I have made a point, lately, of reacquainting myself with people from my past via Facebook. I am reminding myself of where I was, and trying to go back in the hopes that I may win some for Jesus.
I am often delighted when I find out how many of the people I used to know have themselves come to know the Lord. I rejoice in my opportunity to exercise my gift of encouragement and exhort other believers to fulfiill their ministry.
Brothers and sisters, let us not miss out on opportunities to witness to people who we have previously felt unreachable. May we never forget that we are all human beings, and let us not be lost on surface details. Sin corrupts, and corruption shows on the surface of our lives.
We are living in a time of deep division, when people are separated into enemy camps. It is time to seek out the things that bind us together. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and we are called to be peacemakers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”
Matthew 5:9 NKJV
Let us not become stuck in our holy huddles, unwilling to reach out to the one in sin, who needs to hear about Jesus. Consider those you knew before, those freinds in low places, who knew you before you knew Jesus. We are bread crumb droppers, leading the way for those to follow. Jesus did not save us to be complacement, forgetting where we came from.
Go and tell of the great thing Jesus has done for you!
THE PRAYER CHAIR IS OPEN! Send me your requests!