When you think in terms of the four Gospels, try to think in terms of four people witnessing an accident. Though all four people will see the same accident, they’ll get a slightly different angle on it. Or if you prefer, think of Monday Night Football. When they do a replay. They’ll do it from one camera angle, and then another, and then another, and then another.
The four gospels are looking at the life and times of Jesus, told from four different points of view, told by four different voices, with four different audiences in mind. That’s why you get slightly differing angles on the same events.
The first of the gospels, of course, was written by our friend, Matthew. He is also called Levi. We have an account of his conversion in
My name is David Stuart Briscoe. David is after my maternal grandfather, David Henry Wardell. Stuart, well when I was born, my father was reading a book, called “In The Heart of Savagedom” about two intrepid missionaries who had gone into the Belgian Congo to work among the pygmies. These two single lady missionaries were called Stuart Watt, and he was so impressed with them, that my father looked at my mother, who was about to produce me, and said, “if this baby’s a boy, his name is Stuart.” And I’m proud of that particular name, and the heritage in it. When I worked in the bank, if you asked for Stuart Briscoe, nobody even knew who that was. I was Dave Briscoe in the bank. You ask in the church, I was Stuart Briscoe.
Levi in one place, and Matthew in another, and both of these names speak of a godly heritage. They speak of the way in which this young man had been brought up by parents who had a profound respect for the things of God. But sadly, Matthew had strayed far, far, far away from his roots. He was a Tax Collector. Let me read to you a few verses from
There we have the story of the call of Matthew. When it says that he was sitting at the Tax Collector’s Booth that does not mean that he was a respectable, upstanding employee of the Internal Revenue Service; far from it! He was a tax collector in Israel during Roman occupation. Roman occupation meant that the freedoms of Israel had been taken away, that the Romans had incorporated it into a vast empire, and the rule of Law was enforced by the presence of the Roman Armed Forces. It was an “occupied country.”
The people, of course, resented being an occupied country. Try to imagine what America would be like if a foreign army came and was able to control everything here. The people resented the fact that the Romans were in occupation of their land, and were desperately desirous of getting rid of them. To add insult to injury, the people were required to pay taxes to Rome as well. So try to imagine an army of occupation, a foreign government ruling in the USA. In addition to that, exacting taxes on you that have nothing to do with your roads, nothing to do with your school, but have everything to do with furthering the affairs of the occupying army and the occupying government. No wonder the people of Israel were fed up with the Romans. They didn’t like their occupation, and they certainly didn’t like their taxation without representation.
Well now, the question then comes up, how did they collect these taxes? Well, I’m glad you asked. They had a very interesting scheme of doing it. They got some people from Israel, who would become collaborators, who would actually work for the Romans. Now imagine how popular they were. The Romans were detested, and giving taxes to the Romans infuriated the people. Here were some Israelites who would actually go and work for the Romans, and collect taxes from their own people.
The system that the Romans had put into place was very simple. They determined how much money they required in taxation from a certain region. They told the tax collectors that, and basically what they said was: “You can collect that amount of money however you wish. Use whatever methods you desire, and in fact, you can collect as much as you want. All you need to do is make sure that we get a certain amount. Anything that you collect over that, you can keep for yourself.”
So the tax collectors were known not only as collaborators, but they were extortioners as well. They were actually ripping off their own people, and collaborating with the public enemy. They were regarded as the bottom rung of the ladder. They were utterly despised, totally hated, and fundamentally isolated from the rest of society. Well, that’s the kind of person that Levi was.
He was sitting at his Tax Booth on the main road that runs through Capernaum. If you go to Capernaum today, you can see the main road that runs through that region. Probably, you can be within a few yards of where Matthew set up his Tax Collecting Booth. It was a very busy main thoroughfare. There are all kinds of people traveling throughout the Middle East, who would go down that road. As they passed through that region, they would have to pay their taxes.
Around about that time Jesus of Nazareth had moved into the region of Galilee. He had come over from Nazareth where He had been rejected by His own people, moved into Capernaum, and that was His base of operation. He began to preach there, He began to do miracles, He began to challenge the authorities, and word was spreading like wild fire about him. There is no question that while Matthew sat at his booth, and the traffic went past and all the people went through his booth, one of the main topics of conversation was Jesus and what He was up to. So there’s no question that Matthew was well acquainted with who Jesus was, what He was saying, and the kind of reputation that He was developing.
Imagine Matthew’s surprise when one day, among the crowd that comes along the busy thoroughfare is Jesus and some of His friends. Without apology, without introduction, Jesus walks straight up to Matthew’s booth, points at him and says, with compelling urgency and irresistible authority, “Follow me.” Matthew gets up and walks away from his booth, walks away from his business and walks away from all that he’s got. Luke tells us that he left everything and he followed Jesus.
Now this is a remarkable story. It is a story of a remarkable, radical conversion experience. Matthew the Publican; Matthew the Tax Collector; Matthew the Despised is invited to become one of Jesus Christ’s disciples! He makes the decision to do it, and he gets up and he moves out!
There is very little likelihood that when you’re sitting at your office desk tomorrow morning, that Jesus will walk in unannounced, tap you on the shoulder, and say, “Quit your job, and follow Me.” It is not going to happen, don’t worry, that sort of thing doesn’t happen today. We might therefore ask, well, what is the possible relevance of this story to us? If it doesn’t happen today, why do we need to even listen to the story?
He is still doing it. He is inviting people to become His disciples.
You will remember that the final instruction that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples was that in His Name they were to go into all the world and make disciples. So the call to discipleship stands to this day. Jesus Christ through the Church is still inviting men and women to become His disciples.
This idea of being “His disciple” — what does it look like today? It means that the Lord Jesus on the basis of His authority, on the basis of what He taught, invites people to come into a loving, trusting, obedient relationship with Him. Now I picked each of those words very carefully, very precisely. He calls, He invites people to come into a loving, trusting, obedient relationship with Him. That is the equivalent of being called to “follow” Him. How does a person come to a point of loving Christ? Well, John in his epistle explains how that happens. He says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” People come to love Christ when they begin to understand the depth of Christ’s love for them.
How do I know that Christ loved me? The answer is: If ever I’m in doubt of Christ’s love for me, I should look at the cross! In fact, John again helps us with this. He says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Then he goes on to explain that Jesus didn’t lay down His life for His friends, Jesus actually laid down His life for people who were not His friends. Who in actual fact, in many instances, were quite opposed to Him or, at least, indifferent to Him. So I look at the cross, and I understand that this is the ultimate expression of love: Christ laying down His life for people like me.
I remember as a young person being overwhelmed by the idea that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. I’m quoting what the Apostle Paul said in
But then I discovered something else. I discovered that He had made certain promises and that on the basis of His promises, it was possible for men and women to come to a point of trusting Him. Now these promises were not just black print on white paper. These promises were the words of somebody who is utterly trustworthy and who has the power to come through on the basis of what he promised.
I began to learn to “trust” Him as well as “love” Him. In fact, it was a sort of “loving trust” and a “trusting love.” The two were bound up in each other. I learned, for instance, that the Lord Jesus had explained that if I would actually commit to Him my past life, He would forgive it. I could trust Him to forgive it, and believe that I was thoroughly forgiven. What a tremendous sense of liberty there is in trusting Christ to be your Savior.
I then discovered that Christ had promised that if I would commit my future to Him, He would guard it and protect it and guarantee it. This took away an enormous amount of stress and strain and worry about the future. It was a case of coming to the point of lovingly trusting Him. Then I came to the conclusion that if I could trust Him with my past, and I could trust Him with my eternal destiny, was it not reasonable to trust Him in the ordinary affairs of life? The answer, that I came to was, “yes,” it was. So, I began to develop a loving, trusting relationship with Christ.
Then as time went on, I began to realize that there were other dimensions to it. That He was the Lord, and that He had given certain commands and certain instructions. That there were certain things that I needed to be aware of, and there were certain things that I needed to get around to doing. I should start doing some things, and I should stop doing some other things as a matter of sheer obedience.
Now I had rather strict parents, who had knocked into me ideas of authority and obedience. Then I went into the Royal Marines, and they helped me a little further to understand that there is such a thing as doing what you are told. Then I went to work in a bank, where I discovered that my boss in the bank was an ex-major in the Marines, and I was out of the frying pan into the fire. I began to understand that there is such a thing as authority, and there is such a thing as doing what you are told. I transferred this to the Lordship of Christ, and guess what? I’d began to discover that to follow Christ means that I live a life of loving, trusting obedience. It figures, doesn’t it? It’s called “following Him.”
I have no doubt that Matthew — having heard all kinds of things about Jesus while he was sitting collecting his taxes — if you had gone up to him and said, “Hey, have you heard the latest about Jesus,” and he would have said, “Sure!”
“Have you met Him?”
“No, I’ve not met Him personally, but I’ve seen Him.”
“Have you listened to what He is saying?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard what He says. Pretty good stuff, what He says. I saw one of His miracles the other day, and I thought, ‘Wow, that made the hair stand up on the back on my head!'”
But it’s a long way from being able to give an academic nod to the fact that Jesus was around. That Jesus was real, that Jesus had said some things, and Jesus had done some things, a far cry from believing all that to come to the point of “following” Him. There’s the problem for a lot of people. They’ve the idea that because they know certain things about Christ, that it’s the same as believing in Jesus. Because they believe in Jesus, like just about everybody in America does, that makes them committed disciples of Jesus. No, it isn’t just having a sense of believing certain things about Jesus that makes you a disciple; it’s when you get around to “following” Him — a loving, trusting, obedient lifestyle.
That was what Matthew was called to. It’s very interesting that immediately when he was called to follow Jesus, he put on a banquet, a big bash! He invited all his friends. Because he was sort of isolated from polite society, all his friends were from impolite society too — all the folks the other folks didn’t have anything to do with. And he gathered them all together, and he had as his guest of honor: JESUS. The point of this big bash was to introduce Jesus to his friends.
Matthew, very quickly, teaches us something: that when you come to the point of loving, trusting obedience in your relationship to Jesus, you become freed up from what people think. You become only focused on what Christ thinks. You now want people to begin to understand something has happened in your life, and you want them to begin to understand how critically important JESUS is. That’s what Matthew seeks to deal with.
When Jill was converted, up at Cambridge University, she eventually went home to Liverpool. She did something that I’ve always respected very much. She wrote inviting all her friends to come over to her home for a special celebration. She wrote up little invitations and said, “That she had some very exciting news to share with them, and would they come.” Well, all her girlfriends, you know, being what girls are like, they assumed that she got engaged. Now, of course, they were very silly because I hadn’t yet appeared on the scene, but they assumed that she had got engaged. So her girlfriends arrived for this special evening, and they brought little presents with them.
As Jill greeted them at the door, they gave her the little presents, and were so excited. “What’s he like, tell us, what’s he like?” You see, and she said, “Just wait till you’re all here, and then she sat them all down, and she told them exactly what Jesus is like. She introduced her friends to Jesus. Somewhat like what Matthew did. Now actually, some of her friends didn’t take very kindly to this. They thought, she had gone off the deep end. But two of them came to her and said, “Jill, you were our friend before this, and we’ve no idea what has happened to you. But one thing hasn’t changed, you’re still our friend, and we’ll try and figure out what has happened.” And years later both of them became committed disciples of Jesus, too.
Now, let me ask you a question: As you sit at your desk, if somebody would come up to you and say, “Boy, did you hear about Jesus?”
“Sure did, yeah.”
“Do you believe in Jesus?”
But if the Lord Jesus were to come to you and say, “Excuse Me, would you describe your attitude towards Me as being an attitude of loving, trusting obedience? Would you describe your lifestyle as being driven by a love for Me and a deep trust in Me, and a desire to live in obedience to Me?” In other words, if the Lord Jesus were to come to you and say, “Follow Me,” would you be able to look back over your life and say, “Yes, that’s what I’ve been doing! I’ve been following Christ. I have been living a life of loving, trusting obedience.”
And could you go a step further, and could you say: “… and I’ve let my friends know.” Now, granted, one of the most important ways in which you let your friends know is by the change in your life. From being whatever it was you were, to what you have become as a loving, trusting, obedient follower of Christ. But while it is important that lifestyle demonstrates the reality of it, there needs to be an explanation as well.
So, Matthew begins to follow Jesus. Now, to begin to follow Jesus means that He walks away from the former life. This is the sticking point for many people. Many people are rather attracted to the Lord Jesus. They are rather attracted to the idea of having their sins forgiven. They’re certainly attracted to the idea of believing that they’ll have the assurance of Heaven when they die. They find this very, very attractive indeed. What they don’t find attractive is the idea, that if they are going to follow Jesus, it means they are going to have to give up on some other stuff. For many people, this idea of what they have to give up dominates their thinking so much that they cannot begin to grasp what it is they are going to embrace. They are so dominated in their minds as to what they have to walk away from, that they fail to see into what it is to which they are being invited.
The emphasis, as far as I’m concerned, is not what you have to give up. Let me explain to you this way: Very soon, I hate to bring this up in the middle of summer, but very soon, winter will be upon us. That’s good news for all those of who are grumbling about how “hot” it is. Soon you can grumble about how “cold” it is. Just be consistent. When this lovely winter weather comes the snow and the ice and the sleet and the wind and the subzero temperatures, doesn’t it sound good right now in all this heat. When all this stuff comes, I want you to go out and look at the oak trees. There will be some oak trees that will have shed their leaves in the fall, and you’ve raked them up. But there will be some leaves that have hung on those oak trees. They will hang on, and they will hang on, and it doesn’t matter how much snow and sleet and hail and wind and rain and sub-zero temperatures come, those old leaves will hang on. They’ll hang on, and hang on until springtime. But when the spring comes, something very interesting happens. Slowly, without any fuss or bother, they drop off. Because, you see, what has happened now is the new life has begun to flow. As the new life begins to flow in the branches and in the tendrils of the old oak, the oak things drop off. Don’t concentrate on what you have to walk away from, concentrate on what you are walking into and you’ll begin to discover in the newness of life the old things that don’t belong will drop away anyway.
That’s what happened to Matthew. “Follow me,” said Jesus, and he left all and followed Him. he called his friends and gave a party. Well, I don’t know how they got there, but some of the people who were not part of Matthew’s circle of friends, let’s put it that way, got into the party as well. They were our friends, the Pharisees, the people who are always critical of Jesus.
When they see that Jesus is actually meeting with this crowd of people, having dinner with them, they go to His disciples and say, “Why does your Teacher come to dinner parties like this one?” And Jesus overhears them, and He says it very simply, “The reason I come to dinner parties like this one, is that it is sick people who need the physician.” What he is saying in effect, the reason I’m with this crowd here, is they are sick! They are a mess. They are in poor shape spiritually, and guess what? That’s why I am here! That’s why I am here!
But then He turns the tables on these critics of His, these super religious critics of His, and He quotes the prophet Hosea. He says, “Now listen, why don’t you go away and figure out what Hosea meant, when he said, “That God desires mercy more than sacrifice!” “Go, go and figure that out!”
When He said that, He was actually saying the sort of things that they used to say to people. If people raised a question, they would say, “Go away, and consider what the scriptures say.” So that’s what Jesus said to them.
When Hosea wrote this thing, he was writing about a lot of people who were very religious in their externals, in their formalism, in all the details of their religion, but by no stretch of the imagination, were they living a life of loving, trusting obedience. And you know, folks, that is what can happen. You can actually get a religious veneer. You can put a religious gloss on your life, and this religious veneer, or this religious gloss is all part of religious observance. “Oh well, I do this, and I do this, and I go to church on a Sunday morning. I give so much to the offering. I teach in the Sunday School, and I don’t do what all these other people do.”
The thinking of that kind of approach is this: “God has got to be thrilled with me!” “Look at me, I’m a fine upstanding person.” “In fact, I am so fine, and so upstanding, that God absolutely has to accept me because of the sheer quality of who I am. I’m not like these other people, I am far superior.”
The problem, of course, here is this, that people who think that they are acceptable to God on the basis of their own innate goodness don’t understand that what God is interested in is not your sacrifices. What God is interested in is hesed. You say, “What was that?” Hesed. It’s a Hebrew word, and a critically important word in the Old Testament. It’s all about God reaching out in grace and mercy and offering forgiveness to the undeserving. That’s basically what hesed is about: God taking the initiative in grace and mercy and reaching out to the undeserving. Now, there are some people like Matthew who say, “I am undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, but He has reached out to me in hesed, and I embrace it with all my heart. I am so thrilled that God in Christ has offered me grace and mercy that I don’t deserve.
The problem is this: some of the people who are so impressed with their own standard of life and think that God is equally impressed and will accept them on the basis of their goodness, those people never understand hesed. They never understand grace. Because if you’re to ask them, “Do you believe that you’ll go to Heaven when you die? They’ll say, “I sure do!”
“Why do you believe you’ll go to Heaven when you die?”
“Because, I believe, I’ve lived a good life.”
You go to the Matthews of this world and say, “Do you believe you’ll go to Heaven when you die?” He says, “I sure do!”
“On what basis?” He’ll say, “Hesed! Grace, Mercy.” The problem for people who are at that banquet, who are critical of Jesus, was this: They didn’t understand their own spiritual impoverishment because of the religious gloss that was over it, the veneer that was over it. If only they could have understood what Matthew understood, they haven’t lived like him, but they’ve still come short. The only hope of knowing a relationship of God through Christ is by embracing hesed, grace, mercy and receiving what you don’t deserve, and becoming a loving, trusting, obedient disciple. Have you done that? Have you done that?
It’s very interesting to see what happens to Matthew now. He’s come a long way, from collecting taxes, an extortioner, a crook, a despised person, to being the writer of Matthew’s Gospel. How does he get there? He starts by the call of Jesus, but then a second thing happens. The end of Matthew, Chapter 9, we read that Jesus goes out in a whole crowd of people, He sees the crowd just milling around, just teeming crowds of people, when Jesus looks at them, He senses that there’s a “lostness” about them, a spiritual barrenness about them. They are helpless, they are harrassed, and He describes them as being like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is so worried about them, and He turns to His disciples. He points out these people to them, and this is what He says, “The harvest is very plentiful, but the laborers are few.” And then He says, “Pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers.”
Now, two things here, He is impressing upon His disciples the enormity of human need, and He’s secondly impressing upon them that presiding over this situation is the Lord of the Harvest, who sends people out to meet that need in His Name.
Now it’s very interesting. After Jesus has said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest,”
Now, he is not only called to Jesus, he has been sent by Jesus. Have you got it? Not only is he called to Jesus, but now he is sent by Jesus. He is sent by Jesus to be part of the answer to the overwhelming human spiritual need, that’s what it comes down to. Matthew was sent by Jesus to be part of the answer to overwhelming spiritual human need.
The important thing about being “sent” is that you go! I mean you can be sent, and you won’t go. There are different kinds of people in the world. There are those who are sent and never went! There are some who went, and who were never sent, and fortunately, there are some who were sent and went! What we are looking for is “sent and wenters!”
How do you become somebody who was sent and went? Well, you take a good look at the human condition around you, and you don’t just sit at your own little desk, collecting your own little bundle and saying, “Let the rest of the world go you know where.” You say, “This world is my world; these people are my people; these needs are my call.”
The second thing is this: You recognize not only the need around you, but you recognize that the Lord of the harvest is looking for people whom He can send to the place of His choosing with the task of His choice. What that means is He’s looking for people who will not only say, “I am a loving, trusting, obedient disciple,” but will now say, “I am willing on the basis of being a loving, trusting, obedient disciple.” “I’m willing to go where you want me to go.” “I’m willing to do what you want me to do; I’m ready to be what you want me to be.” Now that’s quite a mouthful! But it is all predicated on the vastness of human need, and the fact that the Lord of the harvest is presiding over it.
He is LORD of the Harvest, which means that it’s what HE wants you to do, it’s where HE wants you to go, and it’s what HE wants you to be, that is important. Not what you are prepared to tell Him you are prepared to do. It is not what you are prepared to do, or to tell him what you are prepared to be. It is certainly not a case of you telling Him where you are prepared to go. “Listen, Lord, I will go here, but I will not go there.” “Do you understand, Lord?” “Not only that, Lord, I will be this, but don’t for one fraction of a second think I’m going to be that, Lord!” “As far as doing that, you’ve got to be kidding, Lord, because I haven’t the slightest intention of doing that.” “So, I’ll do what I want to do, and I’ll be what I want to be, and I’ll go where I want to go, Lord.”
Does that make sense? It doesn’t make any sense at all! The “sent one,” is the person who is willing to go where He wants you to go, be what He wants you to be, and do what He wants you to do.
The Lord Jesus in
I had a friend; I had a few friends, but this particular friend I had, I think he was trying to be a good father, but he wasn’t doing a very smart thing. He used to drive his car with his little boy sitting on his lap. That was okay, until one day as he was driving his little boy grabbed the wheel. When the little fellow turned the wheel, he turned it the way the father didn’t want it to go, and so a wrestling match for the wheel began to develop. It began to take a zigzag course down the road.
I want to suggest to you, that the person who grabs the wheel which the Lord of the Harvest is supposed to be holding, is the one who finally gets into a wrestling match with the Lord of the Harvest about where He wants you to go, and what He wants you to be, and what He wants you to do. That’s when your life begins to take a zigzag course instead of a sense of direction. Are you wrestling with this?
If you ever wondered how Matthew, the tax collector, ever finished up writing a Gospel, now you begin to see the pieces fall into place. He was called to be a disciple, then he was willing to be “a sent one.” As he reached that, and as he did that, he began to discover abilities that he didn’t know he had. He began to discover that he had gifting that he wasn’t aware that he had. He didn’t even realize it. But the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and began to use his God-given abilities to work out a ministry that has touched the ends of the earth!
I don’t have time to identify for you the themes of his gospel, I’ll just give you three of them. He talked a lot about the Son of God; he talked all the time about the Kingdom of God, and he talked about the Church of God. Let me just give you one little thought here. One of the things that Matthew introduced us to is what Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades, the gates of death, will not overcome it.” Now Catholics and Protestants have been debating what “the rock” is. Let’s not worry about that right now; let’s just notice what Jesus said, “I will build my church. It’s mine, and I’m going to build it, and all Hell will not stop it!”
Matthew comes a long way from collecting taxes. Now he begins to understand the Son of God. Now he grasps the Kingdom of God. that’s being built. Now he is aware of the Church of God that’s being built. Do you get excited about the idea that the Church is Christ’s Church, and He’s building it? I do! I have such excitement, such confidence, in this area.
Let me just tell you one story and then I’ll quit. I was talking to a Nigerian pastor just this week. He’s actually the assistant pastor, and the senior has been given a year’s leave. So this assistant pastor is with the church. He said, “The elders came to me, and they told me, now you’re going to have to speak to the congregation and tell them that they have to get their act together. They have got to start giving.” He said, “I’m only the assistant pastor, and I didn’t like doing this.” He said, “I was so nervous, and I got up there, and I just mumbled and bumbled through the whole thing. People are going to be angry with me now, and I don’t even want to go back to the church because I don’t know what the people are going to say to me. They all are struggling, financially, and here we are, and I don’t know what to do!”
So I said, “Let me tell you two things! Jesus said, ‘On this rock, I will build my church!’ Here are the two things to remember: It is His Church, not yours; and He’s going to build it, not you. Got it?”
“It’s His Church, not yours; and He’s going to build it, not you. Got it?”
“Well, I think so.”
I said, Okay, let’s pray about it!
“Dear Lord,” I prayed with this young pastor, put my arm around his shoulder, “Bless this young man, he’s frightened out of his wits. He’s got all these people sitting in the pews glaring at him, and he’s got the elders breathing down the back of his neck, and he’s saying to himself, ‘I don’t need this, Lord!’ They’re telling him that He’s got to raise some money from people that don’t want to give it. Now, Lord, would you just impress upon his heart and his mind, that it is not his church, and he doesn’t have to build it. It is YOUR CHURCH, and YOU CAN BUILD IT. Give him that sense of confidence, in Jesus’ Name. Amen!”
He said, “Huh, Hm, Amen!”
So off he went. That afternoon he came up to me. He’s got a grin on his face that won’t quit! He said, “You won’t believe it, when I got back to my office after praying with you, there was a telephone message for me from one of the men in the church, summoning me to his office.” I thought, “Oh boy! And I went to his office, and this business man was sitting there behind his desk. He said to me, “Young man, what you had to say on Sunday Morning moved me deeply!” He said, “I realized I haven’t been playing my part.” He said, “He got out his check book, and he wrote out a big check that covers all our debts.” This young pastor said, “I’ve learned something! It’s HIS CHURCH, not mine, and HE IS GOING TO BUILD IT, not me.”
Matthew taught us that. Matthew taught us the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew taught us the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew taught us all the parables about the kingdom. You’ve come a long way from collecting taxes to being a writer of the Gospel. The moral of the story is this: God takes very ordinary people, in order that He might do with them extraordinary things. Got it? God takes ordinary people in order that He might do through them extraordinary things. That’s the story of Matthew!
Let’s pray together: Lord, maybe there are some folks here and they’re saying, “I have been trusting in my own goodness, feeling that You’ve no alternative but to be pleased, and to accept me.” What I realize is this: that if it was on the basis of my goodness, that I was accepted, Jesus need not of died. What You want me to grasp is not my sacrifice. What You want me to grasp is your interest in grace, hesed. I guess what I need to do is just humble myself and admit I can’t earn my way. I need your grace! Please be merciful to me, a sinner.
Then Lord, perhaps there are some folks here who need to say, “Lord, I have felt myself somewhat of an outcast in society, and not even sure I wanted to come into this church. Didn’t know if I would “fit” here? But I begin to realize that You go to people who sometimes feel ostracized and out on the fringes, and You call people like that to yourself. I sense that You are inviting me out of great love for me to become Your loving, trusting, obedient disciple, and I’m telling You, I’d like to make a start right now.
Lord, it’s possible that there are some folks here who’ve been happy that they’ve been called to You and they’ve been thrilled to trust You, but they’ve not been too excited about being obedient to You. So this whole business about going where You want me to go, and doing what You want me to do, and being what You want me to be, that’s not too exciting. Perhaps, in there own hearts they want to say, “Lord, I need to get my hand off the wheel, so that You can get Your hands on. Because when Your hands are on the wheel, I’m a whole lot safer then when I’ve got my hands on it.
So Lord, whatever is going on in our hearts right now, hear our prayers and let our cries ascend unto You in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen!