Four Traits Christ’s Disciples Share

2017 Messages

Jeff Parker, the Director of re:generation at the Plano campus, shares his own powerful story of confession and repentance, and shows us four traits of all disciples. All disciples have a past, must come to a place of authentic confession, must run with other disciples, and must spend their lives pursuing God's purposes. Jeff looks at the life of Matthew the tax collector (Matthew 9:9-13) to show us how to live a life marked by confession, desiring now only to be used by God for His glory and purposes.

Jeff ParkerJan 29, 20172 Kings 1:15; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 6:13-14; Luke 5:27-28

In This Series (36)
Join The Journey: A Tour of Romans
Blake HolmesDec 31, 2017
Christmas Eve 2017
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2017
Contentment, Longing and Christmas
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2017
An Update on the Mission in Fort Worth
Tyler BriggsNov 19, 2017Fort Worth
Evening with the Elders
Beau Fournet, Dean Macfarlan, Todd WagnerNov 12, 2017
An Evening with Eric Metaxas
Todd Wagner, Eric MetaxasOct 18, 2017
What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes
Todd WagnerOct 1, 2017
Worship Together: You Are the Church
Harrison RossSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: The Future of the Church in the Hands of Parents
Wes ButlerSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: Remember. Consider. Imitate
David PenuelSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: Influencing the Next Generation by Preparing Ourselves and Investing in Our Children
Jason Bradshaw, Patrick BlockerSep 3, 2017
Do Good People Go To Heaven?
David MarvinAug 6, 2017
Step Up in Faithfulness, Discover and Invest Your Talents for Christ
Jeff WardJul 30, 2017
Regretful Hearts v. Repentant Hearts
Jeff ParkerJul 30, 2017
Leadership Matters…and Other Seminal Truths
Todd WagnerJul 23, 2017
The Future and Hope of Your Life and Our City
Todd WagnerJul 9, 2017
Keeping Short Accounts
Adam TarnowJul 2, 2017
Soldiers, Athletes & Farmers: A Biblical Look at the Spiritual Life
Blake HolmesJun 25, 2017
Why Your First Impression of Your Father Matters
Todd WagnerJun 18, 2017
Extraordinary Parenting
Jonathan PokludaMay 28, 2017
Baptism Sunday
Todd WagnerMay 21, 2017
Why Every Week is a Pastors' Conference
Todd Wagner, Blake Holmes, John McGeeMay 7, 2017
The End of the Search
Tyler BriggsApr 30, 2017Fort Worth
The Christian in Culture
Derek MathewsApr 30, 2017Plano
4 Dead-Ends to Spiritual Growth
Blake HolmesApr 30, 2017
A Spectacle of Glory: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada
Todd Wagner, Joni Eareckson TadaApr 23, 2017
Easter: “It is True”
Todd WagnerApr 16, 2017
Good Friday 2017
John Elmore, Wes ButlerApr 14, 2017
Fort Worth Raise The Mark
Gary Stroope, Beau Fournet, Tyler BriggsFeb 26, 2017Fort Worth
Seeing God as a Perfect Father
Adam TarnowFeb 19, 2017
Who You Are, Eternally
Jonathan PokludaFeb 5, 2017
Freedom from Following
Jonathan PokludaJan 29, 2017
Four Traits Christ’s Disciples Share
Jeff ParkerJan 29, 2017
Inquiring of The Lord
Jonathan PokludaJan 22, 2017
Fort Worth's Opportunity... A Day We Can't Wait to See
Todd WagnerJan 22, 2017Fort Worth
Psalms 1
Blake HolmesJan 1, 2017

In This Series (39)

Welcome, Watermark. It is good to be with you today. Welcome to our friends in Fort Worth and online. I'm excited to get to be with you all today. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Jeff Parker, and I am the Plano Campus Recovery director, which means I get to run with our marriage ministry re|engage, as well as our re:generation recovery ministry.

I know for many of you I'm a new face today, so I feel like I need to introduce myself to you so that you can get to know me. I brought some pictures along with me to show some of the most important people in my life. The first picture is one of my family. I have my wife Stacey with our four kids. For my friends at the Ridglea, my wife is born and raised in Fort Worth, southwest side. Then I have my four kids there. We were getting ready for a kickball game.

I like this picture for a couple of reason. First, you get to see the personality of my kids come through a little bit. Some want eye black on and others do not. For me, just something you need to know about me is I'm a tad bit competitive. If it can be won, I want to win it. Even if it's a multigenerational, coed family game of kickball, I want to win that game. So that's my family. Next up is my Community Group. This was from 10 or 11 years ago, and we look young.

It looks like the world is before us, but then this happened to our Community Group. That's 17 kids. That's 3.4 kids per couple. I don't think we look as young as we once did. This is a picture of all of us together. Seventeen kids and a decade later, things have changed a little bit in our Community Group. But I'm excited. I'll be able to talk more about my Community Group later today. I wanted to show you those pictures so you could get to know me, but I think now it's time for you to get to know me. Before we do that, let me pray.

Lord, who do we have in heaven but you? On this earth, may we desire nothing but you. I pray for all of us today that we might come in here and fear you, Lord. May we be found singing of all that you have done for us. Lord, I know when I cried out, you pulled me from my despair, so may my lips be found praising your name today. Lord, give us fresh eyes for the gospel. Give us ears to hear the truths you want us to hear today for our good and your glory. It's in your Son's name we pray, amen.

Well, 742 days ago, on January 19, 2015, I boarded a plane headed home from West Palm Beach, and I boarded that plane a dead man. See, I was dead on the inside and, frankly, there would have been days that I would have been okay if I was dead on the outside too, because sin has a way of doing that to a man. When I boarded that plane I was a hypocrite. The words that were coming out of my mouth were in direct contradiction to the way I was living. I was a liar and a deceiver, and I did so to those closest to me.

If you would have known me at my time here (I had been a member here at Watermark for quite some time), you might have even thought of me as a productive member here in the body, but what you would not have known is that I had willfully given my heart over to gambling for the previous seven years, and for almost a decade nobody knew anything. Worse yet, in order to fund that destructive behavior, I stole money from my company.

What began as a few hundred dollars in 2008 would become a few thousand dollars and then tens of thousands of dollars. By the end of 2014, it had cracked six figures worth of stolen money. While I stayed silent about my transgressions, my bones wasted away, because sin has a way of doing that to a man. I was a fraud in every sense of the word. It described the activity I was perpetuating at my company. I'm a thief. I'm a white-collar criminal.

Even in a larger sense, my entire life had become a sham. I was stuck in an ever-spiraling pit of Psalm 40 miry clay. I had gotten to the point where if anyone ever wanted to praise me I didn't want to hear it. It had gotten to where I couldn't appreciate my wife, for she didn't know the things she needed to know about me. I had gotten to where I couldn't even accept the hugs of my four children, because I knew who their daddy really was. See, sin can do all of that to a man.

So I say, "Welcome to church." The church was never meant to be a place where perfect or nearly perfect people gather. Who can find such people anyway? Church was always and is always supposed to be a place where the weak and the broken outcasts come together. We don't gather so that we might celebrate sin. May that never be. We gather so that we might encounter Christ and be transformed into one of his disciples. So welcome to church.

That's what we're going to talk about today: what it looks like to be a transformed disciple. What does a disciple of Christ look like? To help us understand that, we are going to investigate the life of Matthew, one of Christ's twelve disciples. Because Matthew was a man of such great humility, we frankly don't know that much about him, but I think as we investigate the available Scriptures we're going to find four things that are true not just about Matthew but about anybody who is a disciple of Christ.

Those four things are these: Christ's disciples all have a past, Christ's disciples must come to a place of authentic confession, Christ's disciples run with other disciples, and Christ's disciples spend their lives pursuing God's purposes. Turn with me to Matthew 9, and let's dig in. While you're turning there, if you're wondering what in the world has happened to me the last two years, stick around. I won't leave you hanging.

We pick it up in Matthew 9, verse 9. "As Jesus went on from there…" The there is the region of Galilee. "…He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth…" Already I have to stop right there, because I think that's an interesting phrase. "Sitting in the tax collector's booth." I want to unpack that a little bit for us.

This much most of us know about Matthew: he is a tax collector, and we know tax collectors are despised individuals. Here's the big picture of why. Tax collectors were in cahoots with Rome, and that's a problem, because Rome is actively oppressing the Jewish people. Tax collectors, Jewish themselves, are actually collecting money from their brothers, sending it back to Rome, and in essence funding the oppression of their own people.

So tax collectors were despised. They were forbidden from temple worship. Their witness was rejected in courts. They were more hated than the Roman officials and military who were actively oppressing the people there. Get this. The Jewish Talmud actually says it is righteous for a man to lie and deceive a tax collector. Now, as followers of Christ, we are to lie to no one, and the Jewish Talmud does not have an authoritative place for us who are believers, but it goes to the point that tax collectors were despised individuals.

It gets worse for our friend Matthew. Nineteenth-century Jewish scholar turned Christian convert, Alfred Edersheim, writes this about tax collectors in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. He says there are actually two types of tax collectors, the Gabbai and the Mokhes. The Gabbai, as simply as I can put it, were like IRS agents or your local property tax assessor collector. You may not be fans of those people, but they come, they take. You know what they're coming for, they take exactly what they come for, and then they go on their way.

That's not Matthew. Matthew is a Mokhes. Mokhes did what they wanted to do. They lied and stole. They deceived. They manipulated. They oppressed. They extorted. They accepted bribes from the rich, which means they amassed their wealth on the backs of the poor and the weak, on the least of these. Mokhes were the most despised of the tax collectors. That makes Matthew the most despised of the most despised.

Edersheim goes on to write that there were actually two types of Mokhes. There was the type who did their work as anonymously as they could or they would have minions do their work. We know from the text that's not Matthew. The other type of Mokhes was the one who sat right down in the tax collector booth and was known by all, and those were the most despised of the Mokhes. If you're keeping score, that would make Matthew the most despised of the most despised of the most despised.

With that picture in mind, let's keep reading. "…and [Jesus] said to [Matthew] ,'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him." **I picked Matthew for a reason today. Like Matthew, I'm an outcast. I don't say that to garner sympathy. I just say it as a fact. White-collar criminals are not a beloved class of people in our society, nor should they be. Proverbs 21:6 is true."The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue…" Your version might say "by a deceitful tongue.""…is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death."**

As I like to say, I have tested that warning. I have tested the warnings of Scripture, and I have found them to be true. They are the pursuit of death. I think it is the same death that Matthew was pursuing, maybe unbeknownst to him, but I want us to get this verse. It is a jaw-dropping moment of Scripture. For Jesus comes to a man who is the most despised of the most despised of the most despised and calls him.

Matthew, who had likely heard some of the teachings of Jesus, who likely would have heard about some of the miracles Jesus had performed, but nothing yet had happened in his life… Everything changes when he encounters Christ. Sure enough, knowing his sins full well, he gets up out of the tax collector's booth and goes and follows him. Are you kidding me? Who is Matthew to walk with the righteous Holy One? I think it tells us our first truth today: All of Christ's disciples have a past. Jesus can redeem anyone's mess. Not only does Matthew begin following Jesus, let's read on.

"Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, 'Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'" Again, their own class of sin. "But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick [those who have a past] .'" He ends in verse 13. "…for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew, after meeting Jesus, immediately invites other outcasts to come and feast with Jesus. They dine. They eat with him. These are not some table scraps of grace thrown Matthew's way. This is a full buffet of all that Christ offers people. If grace is available to men like Matthew and me, grace is available to anyone here today. We're not the only ones. We know King David was an adulterer. Yes. But in order to cover up his sin with Bathsheba, he had Uriah killed, and in the process it cost the lives of many other valiant men and even cost the life of an innocent baby.

We know Paul was a terrorist, Rahab was a harlot, Jacob was a liar, Moses was a murderer, and on and on I could go, because all of God's disciples have a past. Even in this room, all of us have something that we were once deeply ashamed of, if not currently still ashamed of it. If it's true that all of Christ's disciples have a past, then I think it stands to reason that if you don't believe Jesus can redeem your mess, your problem is not with past disobedience; your problem is actually with present-day unfaithfulness.

Let me say that again. If you think Jesus can't redeem what you did yesterday, your problem actually isn't with what you did yesterday. It's not with past disobedience. It's actually with your present-day lack of faith. It's your present-day unfaithfulness that is the problem, because we all have a past. Sin can do a lot to a man, but Christ's love covers a multitude of sins. I get it. It's hard. We think grace is available to everyone but us sometimes, and it's why I hid for seven years, but at some point we must come to a place of authentic confession if we're disciples of Christ.

I want to take you back to that plane ride. I sat there on that plane, and I was a mess. I was trembling. That plane ride is seared into my memory. I remember that plane ride well, lest I forget God's faithfulness to me. I was actually sitting next to my friend I had stolen from. Like Matthew, I, too, took from my brothers. I had stolen from fellow believers, from actually a couple who are here today who are faithful members here at Watermark.

As my friend sat beside me on the left, he asked me… He noticed I was a mess. He asked me if I was doing okay, and I offered up one more lie. I said I was okay; my legs were just restless. Then I spent the next hour praying probably the most sincere prayers I've ever prayed. In the stillness, I heard that voice that sometimes you hear deep in your soul, and it just said, "It's time." So I picked up my phone, and I logged on to airplane Wi-Fi. Praise God for airplane Wi-Fi, because who knows if I wrestled another two hours?

I sent this text to my Community Group. You don't need to read the text. You're welcome to read it. I just want you to know I sent it. It's probably the most faithful thing I've ever done. That hour I spent wrestling and praying is probably the hour I'm most proud of. It's the hour that has led to the last 742 days. It's the hour that will pave the way for wherever Christ takes my life from here. It's the hour that has led to this hour.

The plane landed. My community guys and I gathered, and I told them everything. And I mean everything. Not 98 percent, not 99 percent, not 99.5 percent, but 100.00 percent. I told them everything. Then they walked with me as I went and told my wife, they walked with me when I went and told my friend and his wife whom I had been stealing from, and they went with me when I sat before my company the next day.

A few weeks later, I compiled a self-audit. It's 44 pages, and it covers all of the financial indiscretions of those seven years. It is a heavy document. I don't know if you can see how thick it is, but it weighs a lot, mainly because of the sin it captures. You're welcome at the end of the service to come and flip through this document. There is no document more condemning in my life than this one, but what was a secret once for seven years shall be a secret no longer. So you're welcome to come look.

In the past two years, I have learned much about confession. I don't know that this is an area of life where people set out to want to gain knowledge, but here we are. There is much I would love to share with you about confession, but I'll limit myself to five things.

First, confession is a sign of your faith. It takes faith to get up out of the tax collector's booth. It takes faith to believe what Genesis 50:20 says. "What you intended for evil God can turn for good." It takes faith to believe that. It sometimes takes faith to tap the person on their shoulder and tell them you have something you need to tell them. It takes faith to send a text to your Community Group.

Second, confession is a gift; it is not punishment. James 5:16 says we confess our sins to one another not so that we might be embarrassed, not so that we might be ridiculed or made fun of. We confess our sins to one another so that we might find healing. Confession is the gift that allows healing to enter in. Without it you just keep doing what I did, which is spiraling worse and worse and worse. So confession is no punishment at all.

Third, confession is a sign of strength, not weakness. I even said it earlier. Psalm 32:3: "While I stayed silent about my sins, my bones wasted away." I was getting weaker and weaker. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9. He's actually recalling words that Jesus spoke to him, and thus they're also words meant for us.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Paul goes on to write, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." Confession is not a sign of weakness. It's actually a sign of Christ's strength dwelling inside you and through you.

Fourth, confession does not end your life; it begins it. For some of you, today's application is to not leave here without telling your secret to someone, because unconfessed sin has power, the power to kill you. My $100,000 sin began as a $100 secret. As Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his sins will not prosper…" Their life will fade toward an ending. "…but he who confesses and forsakes finds mercy in compassion." They begin to taste abundant life. Confession doesn't end your life; it only begins it.

For the fifth thing I want to talk about regarding confession, let's look and see what Matthew does with his confession. I think we see this most clearly in the listing out of the disciples. In something as simple as that there is always truth to be found in it. There are three of them: Luke 6, Mark 3, and Matthew 10. I want to take you to Luke's account. I'm reading in Luke 6, verse 13, picking up halfway through.

"…He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas…" Straightforward. Now flip with me to Matthew 10 in Matthew's own gospel, picking up in verse 2. "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew…" It's almost identical. Then it says, "…Thomas and Matthew the tax collector…"

In his own gospel account, written some 30 years after he left the tax collector's booth, he self-discloses that he was the most despised of the most despised of the most despised, and not just in some whisper, but he discloses that in the eternal Word of God, so that some 2,000 years later you and I still read about it. I think it tells us that confession for disciples is not what we do once in a lifetime; it's what disciples do the rest of their lives.

As far as I'm concerned, you can call me a white-collar criminal until the day I die. You can put it on my tombstone. I don't say that because it's a badge of shame, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ. I am free from that. I don't say it as a badge of honor, clearly. I say it because it's a badge of remembrance. It reminds me of where the Lord found me. It reminds me where Jesus rescued me from. It reminds me what happens when I wander from the fold of God, when I wander from his path, his good and righteous path.

Even on a morning like this where my sin feels appropriately heavy, there is no longer shame. There is a sorrow that has lasted, but it is a sorrow that produces repentance, and I remember it so that I might stay the path of repentance. Second Corinthians 7:10 reminds me that I'm deeply unworthy to stand up here today. If that's true, which it is, it also reminds me that the love of Christ is wider and deeper and more glorious than I once previously understood.

We know from Matthew's life that all disciples have a past. We know that we must come to a place of authentic confession, but we also pick up a third thing from the verses we just read. It's that Christ's disciples must run with other disciples. Life is better together. It's what we've been talking about this month. Psalm 133:1 says, "How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity with one another."

Proverbs 27:17, a verse many of us know: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 11:14: "Without any guidance plans fail, but with an abundance of counselors victory is won." In my Community Group alone, we have walked through six miscarriages over the past 11 years. We have walked through the divorce of two sets of our parents. We have sat in doctors' offices and received difficult diagnoses. We have tenderly dealt with one another when we've been caught in sin. We have fought for one another when marriages were on the brink of failing.

Woe to the man who falls down and has no one to pick him up. Who do you run with? I say that with compassion. Who do you run with? The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is trying to tell us life is better together. Moses had Aaron. Joshua had Caleb. Naomi had Ruth. David had Nathan. Paul had a team of men. Matthew had Thomas. Life is better together. So I ask again…Who do you run with?

There might come a time, like Moses, where you must stand firm against tyranny and oppression that is coming your way and you need an Aaron to help you speak. Maybe you'll be like Joshua, and you're this close to tasting God's promises and you need a Caleb to help you take new ground. Maybe one day you might be like Naomi, and you'll feel like life has left you feeling bitter and you need a Ruth to walk faithfully beside you and stay with you.

Maybe you'll be like David who has sinned before God and man, and you need a Nathan to faithfully admonish you. Maybe you're like Paul and you've lived as faithfully as maybe one man knows how to live, but life circumstances have not turned out the way you thought they would, and you need a team of men around you to comfort your soul so that you might press on and finish the race God has intended for you.

Maybe one day you'll be like Matthew, who undoubtedly probably heard the lies of the Enemy all too often, and like Matthew you'll be reminded of all that you have done wrong in your life, and you need a Thomas who will remind you that your faith is strong, maybe stronger even than his faith, and that it encourages him. Life is better together.

Maybe…I hope not…you'll be like me one day, and you have to go and sit before the people you love most, you have to go sit before the company you loved to labor in, and you have to tell them the things you have been hiding and stealing, and you need a friend, like I had, whom you saw earlier; a friend like David who went into those rooms with me and sat beside me, not because he had done anything wrong but because he would gladly bear the burden with me, living out Galatians 6. Do you have that friend?

Do you have a friend like my friend Russ? My financials were in a mess, and one night, just a couple days after I confessed, Russ came over late at night and tried to sort through the rat's nest that was my financial statements. I couldn't be trusted with it, so he took all of it upon himself for a season. He did this even two days after his wife had given birth to their third child. Do you have that friend?

Do you have a friend like my friend William who was always there for me with an encouraging word? There have been many days where I have wondered if the road I was walking would be worth it, if I would make it, and many days where I wasn't sure joy was coming in the morning. My friend William wrote often to say he was proud of me and that it was worth the road I was walking on and that repentance would run its course. Do you have that friend?

Maybe you need a friend like I had in Clint. Clint worked where I worked. He stayed behind, along with many of my other friends and the friend I stole from. I was let go the next day, as I should have been, but they sat there and cleaned up what I had done. They sat in the muck and mire. Not once did Clint get bitter or angry at me. He just helped.

Do you have those friends? Life is better together. I know community can be hard, but if you're not trying to run after community, if you're not running with others, you're not all who Christ intends you to be. You're not plugged into the body as Christ intends you to be plugged in. Life is better together, so let's go. That's what disciples do.

Christ's disciples spend their lives pursuing God's purposes. John the Baptist is recorded as saying this in Matthew 3:8. The apostle Paul says this in Acts 26:20. It's basically the same thing. It says, "Faithful disciples bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Those who have tested the warnings of Scripture can't help but live the rest of their lives trying to taste the promises of Scripture. Can I tell you one of the promises I'm pursuing? Ezekiel 33:15-16:

"…if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins…will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live."

My dear friend and my fellow Watermark family here chose not to prosecute me. Instead, they gave me a chance to pay the company back, and because it honored them and because it honors Christ, I paid back what I stole. I looked people in the eyes and asked for forgiveness. As best I can, I've practiced justice and righteousness. I don't do it perfectly, but when I fail I keep short accounts, and I try to get right back on the path.

Why wouldn't I? Why would I not want to spend the rest of my life pursuing the God who promises me that he will not hold the sins against me, will not hold the sins of a white-collar criminal against him? There are a couple of dangers here for some of us in the room today. The first is that you might look at my life and go, "Well, I didn't do what that guy did, so I must be okay." The truth is just because you haven't done what I've done doesn't mean you're pursuing God's purposes as you should. Maybe that's where you need to sit and reflect today.

The second story for some of you is, "I wish I would have the ability to speak about what I've done to others," and you're in danger of walking out of here without doing that. I just say to you just tap someone on the shoulder. Just send a text. That's all it takes. I think sometimes the third danger that happens in moments like this is people walk out of here and go, "That's a good story. God has done something in that guy's life."

I just want to tell you plainly you don't want my story. You don't want the story where you have to sit before your kids and your wife and your best friends and your company and tell them the things I've had to tell people. You don't want that story. If there's anything that's commendable in me today it would be the last two years of what Christ has been doing in my life because I've pursued his purposes. That's the outcome you want, and that outcome is available to anyone in here. You don't have to go mess up your life for seven years in order for that outcome to be available to you. That's what you long for.

Let's look at Matthew again, because you also don't want Matthew's story. You don't want to be a thief and a liar, an extorter. What you really want is the outcome, the effect that repentance had on Matthew's life. In order to see this most clearly, you have to flip over to Luke, chapter 5, verses 27-28. It's basically the same passage where we started. It says, "After that [Jesus] went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi [Matthew] sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me.'" Then this phrase shows up in Luke's gospel: "And he [Matthew] left everything behind…"

We know that Matthew immediately begins introducing other outcasts to Jesus. After Christ's resurrection, church tradition holds that he went and ministered in Persia, Syria, Macedonia, and Ethiopia. It's in Ethiopia that we largely believe that Matthew was martyred for his faith. Matthew spent the rest of his days pursuing God's purposes, because that's what repentance can do to a man. Repentance has a way of changing habits, affections, attitudes, behaviors, and sometimes even occupations.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:7, "Whatever I once gained, I now count as loss for the sake of Christ." It's interesting that after Christ's crucifixion, some disciples returned to their boats. Some grabbed their fishing nets and began fishing again, but we don't ever read about Matthew returning to his old ways.

Even when times were darkest during Christ's crucifixion, no way he's going back to the tax collector's booth, no way he's going back to lying and deceiving and oppressing and extorting his people, because repentance has a way of doing that to a man. That is the outcome you and I long for: the one where Christ takes our past (because we all have one), brings us to a place of authentic confession, and gives us other disciples to run with so that we might spend the rest of our days pursuing God's purposes.

That's the story you and I want to write. Let me close with this. It's another interesting fact about Matthew. Did you know that not a single spoken word of Matthew's is recorded in Scripture? Not a one. Not once do we hear of Matthew asking Jesus a question. Not once do we hear Matthew arguing about his place in God's kingdom.

Not a single spoken word is recorded, and yet when it came time for the opening words of the gospel to be recorded, when it was time for the Holy Spirit to instruct men to write, he taps on the shoulder of some silent disciple, some tax collector, some Mokhes named Matthew to write glorious words about Christ, glorious words about the cross, about redemption and restoration and resurrection life that is available for all men, so that wherever the Word of God goes, so goes the word of Matthew. Christ has a way of doing that with a man.

As for me, there would have been a moment in my life where I would have craved this moment, where I would have wanted this spotlight, but I truly don't think that's me anymore. I just want to be faithful. I've been a lousy jar of clay for most of my life. Why those of you who have been walking courageously and fighting for the faith aren't up here speaking today instead of me I'm not sure. There are many who are more worthy to have this stage today than I, so why it's not you I can give no answer, but this I know.

If God tells me to go share my story with a guy at a coffee shop, I'm going to go share my story with a guy at a coffee shop. If he gives me a group of 5 or 10 men to lead, I'm going to do my best to be faithful with those men. If he would have me stand before a couple thousand people, then I will boast all the more my weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in me and might be evident to others, that his victory he has won for me might be evident, and the victory that is for me might be seen as available to anyone in this room. I am just a white-collar criminal. If he uses someone such as me, what does that say about our Savior? Pray with me.

Lord, your Word tells us that you demonstrate your love for us, that while we were still sinners you came, while we were still apathetic and self-righteous, while we were still addicts and adulterers, while we were still sitting in tax collector booths or stealing money from our friends, you came and died for us, not only to take away the sins of the world, not only to take away our sins but so that we might have life, might have it abundantly. May that truth live all the deeper in us, and may we go out of here singing like we've never sung before. It's in your Son's most glorious name, in the name of Jesus I pray, amen.

The offer still stands. You're welcome to come look and see all that I did, but I love that you can't come and see without first considering my God, without first considering what Christ did for me on the cross. A cross meant to kill is my victory. Seven hundred forty-two days ago I boarded a plane a dead man, and because of what Christ did on the cross I stand before you today most assuredly alive.

If you've tasted that victory, then he who has been forgiven much, she who has been forgiven much, goes and loves much, so let's go. If you're not sure of that victory yet, please come down front. If you have something you need to share with others, come down front. We will have people here waiting to love on you. You all have a great week of worship.