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Have you ever felt like an outsider? Like everyone else around you knew someone else and you were all alone? Take heart, Christ came to earth for the outsiders! As followers of Jesus, we are called to do what He did and invite others in. We get invited into the Kingdom of God, but then, if we aren’t careful, we forget to go back out and let others in.
God Loves Outsiders
Our True Treasure
Why We're Reluctant to Rescue Outsiders
Warming Cold Hearts
Forgiven Much, Loves Much
Jesus Came to Bring the Outsiders In
How are we doing, Watermark? Come on! That new, fun video means we're starting a new series here in Dallas. As Plano and Fort Worth teach live at those locations, I get to be with you here in Dallas. I'm excited about The Outsiders. I want to start with a story about a time when I was an outsider. This is from my misdirected youth as a high school student.
All my friends were going to South Padre for spring break. All my friends. That's what you tell your parents. "All my friends are going!" All my friends! I had a hunch my parents weren't going to let me go to Padre for spring break, so I asked them if my friends and I could go to Rockport, which is the family-friendly beach close to home. They said, "Sure." So four friends and I loaded up in the car, and we drove to Rockport. We stopped there for a little while, and then we went to Padre.
The reason we wanted to go to South Padre is there was a club there called Louie's Backyard. Now don't think "backyard." It was like multi-leveled, you know, thousands of people on a dance floor, all kinds of debauchery. Let me just insert here in case you're a high school student or a parent of one, this was stupid. Okay? Don't do this!
We went, and we got to Louie's Backyard. We traveled four hours south, got to Louie's Backyard. The problem was three of the five of us could not get in. We weren't old enough, but it was okay because we had a plan because we were brilliant high school students. The plan was the two who were old enough were going to go in through the bouncer, get in there, get the wristbands, all that good stuff, and then the other three of us were going to wait by this side door. They were going to come and let us in.
It was genius, and it worked flawlessly. They went in. We went to the door. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. About an hour went by, and I was like, "What happened? Did they get in trouble? Did they get busted? Was somebody on to us, knew what we were doing? Were they not able to find the door? What went wrong?"
Well, eventually by some other means, the three of us were able to get inside. I was in there, and I was navigating the crowd looking for the guy who was supposed to let me in. I found him on the mechanical bull. I was like, "Hey! Bro, what are you doing?" He looked over at me, and he gasped. "I totally forgot!"
I start there because I think this is something we struggle with as Christians, followers of Christ. We get inside the kingdom. We receive all the promises of Christ. We're here. We're comfortable. We got our Bible studies, learning God's Word. We got the worship songs we like, the Community Group and whatnot.
We forget there's this call upon our lives to go back and let those outside in. We're to go to the outsiders. In fact, that's what we're looking at as we move through this series. We're going to be in the gospel of Luke looking specifically at Jesus interacting with the outsiders. You've heard it before that Jesus was with the sinners and the tax collectors.
I think we get inoculated to that idea and forget how true it was. He spent so much of his time reaching the outsiders. You and I (Christians, little Christs, or Christ followers, doing like Jesus did)… It's funny how different our activities look like than his. That's what I want to talk with you about this morning if you want to turn to the gospel of Luke. We're going to look at how Jesus came to bring the outsiders in.
Jesus prioritized the outsiders, and I want to teach this morning and really set up this series (The Outsiders). I don't know what you're coming from and how you feel this morning. Different groups are represented here. Maybe you feel like an outsider this morning. Maybe you are from another country. Maybe you speak a different language. Maybe it's hard to understand this. Maybe you're hearing this right now through an interpreter.
I want you to know you're welcome here. We have a home here for you. We're so glad you're here. Maybe you're here. You're of a different ethnicity. Maybe you're a person of color, and you're surrounded by people who are a different color than you. I want you to know you're welcome here. This is your home. Make it your home. We're so glad you're here.
Maybe it's not your ethnicity, your skin color, your background, or where you're from. Maybe what makes you feel like an outsider today is something you've done recently. Maybe it was a fight you got into on the way to church, or maybe last night you got into it, and no one talked on the way to church. It's still awkward. You're in here, and you just feel different. I want you to know this is your home too. You're welcome here.
Maybe you've done something recently. Maybe you looked at something. Maybe you went back to pornography. Maybe you're hungover this morning like I was the first time I came here. Maybe there's an abortion in your background, and you swore you'd never say that word. You're never going to address it. It's shame from something you did or shame from something that happened to you. I want you to know you're welcome here. We have a place for you here. You are at home here.
Maybe you're a Christian, a Christ follower. You've been running hard after Jesus, and you know the calling on your life to seek and to allow God to use you to introduce others to him. You're getting after it. I hope this series spurs you on. Stay at it! Keep going! Maybe you're here, and you identify as a Christian, but you've already rolled the eyes of your heart. "Oh, here we go…another evangelism message. JP is going to yell at me to share the faith. I know what's coming. I've heard it all."
You've moved to a place where you no longer feel like you need to reach those outside. I hope this is a wakeup call for you. I hope we look at familiar texts in the Scriptures and see them in new light. We change by starting to acknowledge our heart has been hardened. I'm going to mostly be in Luke, chapter 5, verses 27 through 32, but I want to take some time to set this up.
As we move through this section, we're going to look at how Jesus seeks out the outsider, how Jesus brings them inside, and what it means when we are no longer seeking out the outsider. To say this in a different way, we're going to look at three groups of people. We're going to look at Jesus. He is going to call the apostle Levi, and we're going to look at his reaction. Then we're going to look at the Pharisees, the religious people, and their reaction to this.
I want to start in Luke, chapter 4, because Jesus continues as he moves through this gospel to make religious people (the churchmen, the churchgoers) very, very upset with him. He shows up on the scene in Galilee, moves to Nazareth. That's his hometown. He is just doing ministry, healing the sick, casting out demons, helping people. He goes into the synagogue. He is going to preach a sermon in the synagogue.
What you would do at this time is the rabbi would hand you a scroll. You'd open it, and you'd read something and maybe teach from it or explain it. He goes in the synagogue. They hand him a scroll. He unrolls it there, and he reads from Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2. He says something, and then he says, "Do you hear this? I came to do this. You're not doing it."
They get so mad at him here that they, in a moment, want to kill him. They take him up to the top of a cliff, and they're going to throw him off! Could you imagine? Jesus' ministry ends in like a week or two, right? They throw him off a cliff, but he is God so he like does some ninja move, gets out, walks away.
What did he say that made them so mad? He said, "The Spirit of God is on me. I came to proclaim the gospel to the poor, to heal the blind and the powerless, to set those who are in prison free, and to help the oppressed." He rolls up the scroll. "Guys, this has been fulfilled today." Everyone is still okay with what he is saying, but then he goes, "You're not doing that! You guys don't care about those on the outside."
The Pharisees and the religious people are like, "Who, us? Wait! What? What's he saying? Let's kill him!" That's literally what happened. Then he continues on in the ministry he said he came to do. He is healing people, and these guys bring their paralyzed friend. They try to get him to Jesus, but they can't get to him. So they lower him through a hole in the roof. This is Luke, chapter 5. We talked about this in the Can You Relate series (can you relate to community). We taught this text.
They lower him to Jesus, and when Jesus sees him, he says something. Do you know what he says? He says, "Your sins are forgiven." Again, the religious people are all up in arms. "Wait! Wait! Wait! Hold on! What did he say? You can't just go around forgiving people's sins." He says, "Oh, I can't? Watch me."
He leaves there, and he walks up to a man who, by everyone's account, would have been the worst man. This was the man Levi. He is in a tax-collecting booth. He is the man everybody hated and no one trusted. Levi was a Jew. Levi was a tax collector because he sold out on his Jewish people to the Roman government, bid on a job. Whoever would bid the highest ("Hey, I'll collect the most taxes") they would give him that job.
The way they would make good on that bid is they would make up things for which to tax people. Levi starts taxing his family, his friends, and anybody who goes by. He just steals from them. That's how he earns his own income. He would add to it. This is well documented in history.
Everybody hates this guy, and Jesus walks up to him and says, "Follow me." Levi is like, "Who…me?" See, he has heard of Jesus because everyone has heard of Jesus, this new rabbi on the scene doing this amazing work. Levi is like, "I'd love to go see Jesus, but I can't because I'm stuck here in my tax collecting booth. I have to do the work so I can make good on my bid to Rome."
Jesus comes up to him now and says, "Follow me." Levi leaves everything, follows Jesus, invites all his sinful friends over to his house, and throws this raging party. He has a party at his house and invites Jesus. Again, we see the religious people walk by and say, "Who is this joker that he hangs out with such sinful people?" Jesus came to bring the outsiders in.
Let's go. "After this…" This is after Jesus healed the paralyzed man. Verse 27: "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him." It's so very different than the rich, young ruler who left sad because he was a man of great wealth. Levi, also a man of great wealth, left it all and followed Jesus. He didn't say, "But hold on! First, I need to go bury my dad."
"No, let the dead bury the dead. You follow me."
"But wait. Hold on! First, I need to go care for my family."
"No, you come, and you follow me."
Levi just goes! Jesus seeks him out, and Levi would have been a man of great shame. Whatever you feel this morning, Levi removes your excuse. Whatever you think you've done that God can't forgive you for, Jesus is going to great lengths right here to show you something. Jesus goes up to Levi, and he shows him mercy. Jesus teaches us something valuable here: mercy is greater than shame all day long. Mercy eats shame for breakfast. Mercy is greater than shame. My first point today is…
1._ Jesus seeks out the outsider._ Jesus, the one we follow, seeks out the outsider. He was a friend to the ones on the fringe. He went to him, and he said, "Follow me!" If you're here and you feel some shame today because something you've been a part of, something you've done, or something that's been done to you, Jesus is calling you into a relationship with himself this morning. He is after you. He is crazy about you. He is chasing you.
You say, "Yeah, JP, but how do I know? How do I know?" Consider with me for a moment where you are. You're surrounded by God's people, in the place of God, being read and taught from the Scriptures of God. He is after you, man. He is after you, and what he wants from you is the same thing Jesus wanted from Levi: for you to take a step of faith and to follow him.
This guy here in history who we see was so unsuspecting. The Talmud (or a collection of Jewish laws) we have tells us some things about tax collectors. There were two kinds. There was the bad kind. They were called the gabbai (the bad kind), and then there was the worst kind (the mokhes). You have bad and worse. Levi was a mokhes. Okay?
Even to make matters more confusing, there were two kinds of mokhes. There was a "greatmokhes" and a "small mokhes." A great mokhes was like the Tony Montana character, the kingpin, the drug lord, if you will. Zacchaeus was a great mokhes. They would have people they would employ who would sit in these tax collector booths. You would never see them.
Then there was the small mokhes. They're the pushers on the streets, the corners. They're the face to the hatred, to the stealing, the robbing, the trading. Levi was a small mokhes. Everyone hated this man. You just think about the worst person you know. Think about the person you just lose hope for, because Jesus called the most unsuspecting character to follow him.
Some Jewish teachings actually say this mokhes character couldn't be saved. "There's no salvation for them." That's how much they hated this guy! One commentary said one of the first people Jesus called was one of the last anyone would have expected. This does two things for you.
First, it assures you and reminds you no one is outside the reach of God. To that person you get frustrated with because they're not responding… You sit down with them, and you share the gospel. You always leave a little bit frustrated because of the way they act. They won't stop doing what they're doing, and you just want their life to change so badly if they'd just hear you!
I want to give you two words: patient hope. Patient hope! That's what you can have. You can know God is at work. He is doing things you can't see. He is partnering with your words and your actions, and you can trust him. You can be patient. His timing is not your timing. You don't have to get frustrated. You don't have to get frustrated at them. It is up to God. Make no mistake about it! He changes the hearts of men and women. So you can respond faithfully with a patient hope. It assures us no one is outside the reach of God.
The second thing it does is it smashes our prejudice. It destroys our prejudice. See, everyone here this morning, you have a prejudiced part of your heart you're not even aware of. You have subscribed to a flavor of Christianity that is much like yourself. It's your flavor of Christianity. It's the one you like.
You know there are other flavors out there, but they scare you. You like this one. You like the songs we sing and the way we worship. You're comfortable in that. You like the style of preaching or a place that is comfortable to you. That's what you know of Christianity. If someone is outside of that, it just makes you a little bit uncomfortable.
God comes in here, and he shows us there's not some cookie-cutter Christian. I remember when I learned this hard lesson. I was teaching at a retreat in Cedar Hill. The camp I was teaching at was outside the city. I took a friend with me. David went with me. We were teaching these men in this very rural retreat center.
In between messages, we were going to go get something to eat. There wasn't any place to eat around there, but there was this gas station on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. We went into this gas station. It was a very scary place, a very dirty place, but they served food there. We like to live on the edge, so we were like, "Okay. We'll do it."
The only two people in there were the lady behind the counter, and there was this man sitting at a slot machine (which is confusing because it's Texas, but there was a slot machine). He had this tight, white tank top on and these baggy jeans cinched together with a belt. He was smoking a cigarette in this gas station, feeding a slot machine.
He had this shaved head and these tattoos on the side of his head coming down his body. This guy looked like he was playing a white supremacist in a movie (a scary character). We went in, and we ordered some food. We sat down to eat, and we began to do rock-paper-scissors for who has to share the gospel with…wait for it…the woman behind the counter. because we weren't going to mess with that guy. The woman behind the counter.
We did rock-paper-scissors, and David lost (because sharing the gospel is a consequence). He had to go share the gospel with this woman. He got up his courage, and he just went up there. He was like, "Hey! How are you today?" She was like, "Fine."
"What's your name?"
"Kim, are you having a good day?"
"I already told you I was fine."
"Well, Kim, when is the last time someone told you Jesus loves you?"
"Every day? Really? Someone tells you every day Jesus loves you?"
"Yes. Every day."
"Wow! Out here? Kim, who? Who tells you Jesus loves you?"
"That guy? James over there? This is James? James, you tell Kim Jesus loves her?"
"Yeah! Who's asking? Who are you? Jesus loves you too. Hey! You guys, come over here. Let me talk to y'all for a second."
"James, how do you know Jesus?"
"Man, Jesus changed my life! Man, you don't even know. I was an addict. I was on the streets. You wouldn't believe what happened to me and the things I did. You know, God sent his Son to the earth. He lived a perfect life, and then he died on a cross. Have you ever seen Jesus on the cross, guys?
He did that for me. He did it for you too. Okay? He goes in the grave. He comes out of the tomb. That's what he did to pay the price for my sins, and he promises me eternal life. I'm living right now for that eternal life. I'll tell Kim. I'll tell you. I'll tell anybody who will listen. Do you guys know Jesus?"
"I think we know him better now!"
It just told me God works differently than I thought. Sometimes his people look differently than I thought. Sometimes they do differently than I thought. It doesn't always fit in my clean categories. Jesus saved James, and James was reaching out to Kim because he knew Jesus came to bring the outsiders in.
Levi follows Jesus, leaves everything. Verse 29: "Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them." We see this almost verbatim in Mark and Matthew (this same account, the same words, the same story), but where they say others, they go to great lengths to show you "others with a sinful reputation." Those who were known by everyone in the community as sinners, the dirty people, the people on the fringe, the outsider. That's who is at this party.
2._ Jesus brings the outsiders in to reach their outsider friends_. Levi has this party. Who did he invite to the party? The people he knew. It's a part of God's strategy. God saved you. In part, one of the reasons he saves you is you belong to a network of people. You have people attached to you. You know, it may be like some single working-mom group, some mothers-of-young-kids group, some PTA group, some club you're a part of, some organization to which you go.
You know, maybe it's the salesmanship club or Sam's Club. I don't know! It's some club to which you belong. There are people there, and God wants you to reach them. He reached you to reach them. I don't know who that is, but the wheels need to be turning right about now where you're like, "Oh man. I hadn't thought about that that I'm the one who God chose to go to them." That's a part of his plan, and you're a part of his plan to reach them.
I remember when I came to work at Watermark. My friend John McGee sat me down and challenged me. See, I was straight out of corporate America. Most of my friends were lost, didn't know Christ. He challenged me. He said, "You need to be really careful because if you're not careful, within two years, all your friends are going to be Christians." He didn't mean they were going to trust Christ and be converted. He meant they'd be replaced with Christians.
I just thought that was the craziest thing because the reason I was going into vocational ministry is I had a heart for evangelism. I'm like, "John, don't you understand? I love lost people. I love being around lost people. That's why I'm going to do this." I see now as time progresses how strong that current is to carry you in the bubble that at some point you look up, and all that is around you are believers in Jesus.
We're not even comfortable around those who don't believe in Jesus anymore. You're so consumed and so often around those who follow Christ that you're uncomfortable when you're around those who don't follow Christ. Do you know why you're uncomfortable around them? Because you want them to act like Christians, which is crazy if you just think about it!
Do you really want someone who does not have the Holy Spirit to act like someone who does? Not unless you don't. Do you really want someone to learn to act like they're a Christian when they're not one? When they do those things and say those things, they're just fulfilling their job description.
If they don't have the Holy Spirit, they should speak with perversion. They should use words that aren't clean, lie, cheat, steal, do the same things you'd do if you didn't have the Holy Spirit and maybe even the same things you did when you didn't have the Holy Spirit. Yet now you can't even stand to be around it. You have no patience for it. You have to think about what's going on here. Jesus is right there in the middle of Levi and all his sinful friends.
You have prostitutes there, pimps there, and dealers there. You have the tax collectors there and the loan sharks there. What's the conversation look like at this party? "Man, you won't believe what I did with whom, and we went where. Man, he wouldn't pay me, so I just broke his legs."
"Oh, you broke his legs? Did you use the club? I've used the club before."
"Yeah, that's the quick way!"
Levi is right there in the middle, and he just dropped a curse word. Was Jesus comfortable? Was he uncomfortable? What does he say? My hunch is he can hold his own, you know, being God and all. I think he just knew they weren't saved yet. Right? He can see their hearts. They're not saved yet. There's this call for us to go back and to reach those outside the faith, to seek out the people on the fringe, to love those who the world has passed over, to love those who maybe even some in the church have passed over. Sometimes those people land right in our path.
I had dinner with my family this week. We were having Tex-Mex at a restaurant, and we had a friend with us. We had gotten our food. We were sitting there at the table. This little girl about 9 years old comes into the restaurant and. She is dirty…filthy. She comes right up to our table and hands me a note. Does this ever happen to you? She hands me a note. I was eating with my hands. I didn't even want to touch the note. I mean, it was dirty and gross. It was all folded up.
She hands it to me, and I take it. I open it up, and it just says, "We need money for a hotel room tonight. We're on the street." My wife was moved with compassion. Our friend was moved with compassion. If I'm honest, what I felt was frustration. I'm like, "I'm eating here. You're interrupting our meal. This is a terrible idea. You're 9 years old. Where's your mom? Where is your mom?" She points. "Would you bring your mom over here?"
She brings the mom. "Oh, it's you. Yeah, we've talked before (you and me). We've talked before. The note gig. You probably saw me, didn't want to bring the note to me. You had your daughter come. We've talked a few times. Okay. Is it still the same situation?" This isn't a good idea. "I wish she'd kind of hire me as a consultant for her money-raising plan. I think I could give her some advice, help her out a little bit." That's what's going through my head.
If you want me to be fully transparent with you, the thought I had was, "Okay, when is management going to come over and throw you out so we can get back to eating? That has to happen, right? They don't want you in here. You're interrupting our meal. This is not okay, and it's certainly not okay to have your 9-year-old daughter do it. Okay, fine. How about I get you some food? How about I get you some food, send you on your way?"
Then I got to thinking. I'm like, "What would Jesus do? What would he do? Since I'm a little Jesus, Christian, Christ follower, what would he do?" I think Jesus would be the first to act. Most of the time the people wouldn't probably even be able to come up to him. They would see him across.
"Hey! Hey! What are you doing with the note over there? Come over. Come over here. Hold on. Who is it? Is it family? Hand that to me. Come here. Y'all come over here. What's going on? Hey, sit down. Pull up a chair. Y'all sit down. What do you want to eat? Let me get you some food. Do you want enchiladas, fajitas? What do you want? Okay. All right. Y'all have a seat. I'd love to hear your story. I'll be right back."
He'd come back and engage with them. "It sounds like y'all are in a tough spot. Follow me. Follow me! I can't give you a dollar, but you can follow me." I think…Why don't we do that? I don't want to be taken advantage of. My hunch is you don't want to be taken advantage of. You've probably seen the other side of that game at some point. It's hard to know who is really in a bad spot, who just found something that worked, and who is working for somebody else.
You know, "For what are they going to use the money? Are they going to use it for drugs, or do they really need it for a shelter?" You know? You're putting all of that, and you're just like, "Man, I don't know. I don't want to enable. I don't know what's going on. I don't want to be taken advantage of. I'm just going to do nothing, or I'll just give you a dollar and move on." Right? Jesus is so brilliant, being God and all. He came up with this amazing strategy to cut through any kind of scheme or plan. He just says, "Follow me."
It hit me. Monday I whiffed, but Thursday I was at a meeting downtown with a guy for lunch. I got out of my truck, and there was Charles. Charles just said, "Hey, can you help me out?" I said, "Charles, what kind of help do you need?" He said, "I just need some money, man, to get some food."
I said, "Charles, I got you, bro. We're about to go in here and eat. We have to meet, but you just come with us. You sit down, a part of our time together. We'd love to hear your story. You can just hang out with us." He looked at us, and he was like, "No. I don't think so, man. I need to stay out here and work. Can you just give me some money?" I was like, "Charles, I can't help you, but you're welcome to come with us. But if you don't want to come with us, I can't help you."
You don't have to be afraid of someone coming up to you. You can seek them out first. Bob Goff said it this way: "Jesus spent his whole life engaging the people most of us have spent our whole lives trying to avoid." Right about now, some of you are thinking in the back of your mind, "But what about safety? Is it safe?" I don't know! I don't doubt it. Is it safe?
What about the big, strong guy? What about the single mom? What is he saying to the girl? I don't know. Be responsible. Did you guys hear about the family who brought that person in and they killed everyone? Me neither. But hold on. Hold on. Hold on! Some of you are going on Google right now. Stop it, okay?
Listen. Don't email me. Don't tell me, "It happened here in Kansas." Stop it. Okay, I'm sure it's happened. I'm sure it's happened, okay? Please don't let this crazy extreme keep you from doing something. Okay? Do something! Don't be irresponsible, but if you are irresponsible, be irresponsible like Jesus was irresponsible, because he came to bring the outsiders in.
They're hanging out at Levi's house at this party. Verse 30: "But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' Jesus answered them…" See, they're all mad again. This is a pattern. Religious people are mad.
"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'" Jesus just says, "Doctors spend their time around sick people so they can make them well." This is important for you to know. You're a doctor. Don't embrace their sickness. You're there to help them.
You have to ask the question, "Am I going to be influenced by them or am I there to influence them?" I hope you're there to influence them, to help, to render aid. You have the cure for their illness, but there's another illness you need to be aware of. It's the pharisaical illness. It's the religious illness, that you would become like the Pharisees. You'd catch "pharisitis," "pharisyphilis," or something. It's bad. It's really bad. You don't want it. You don't want it, and it's contagious.
That's these guys. They don't know they're sick. See, part of this conversation is awkward because Jesus is like, "Hey, I came for the sick people." Right about then Levi and his boys are like, "Whoa! Hold on. Whoa! Who are you calling sick?" I don't think they were, because I think they knew they were sick.
See, the Pharisees didn't know they were sick. They're like that guy in the office. You know, he shows up, and he has a 103-degree fever. He is coughing all over everybody. He is like, "Who is sick? I'm not sick!" You're like, "Dude, go home, or go to the doctor! Go somewhere else! You're going to get me sick."
That's what will happen when you start hanging around just church people, just all in the church all closed up. "I'm never going outside. I don't want to reach them. I don't need to." All of a sudden, you catch it. "I don't want to get dirty." Let's talk about three ways you know you have "pharisyphilis." No, I'm not going to do that. I'm kidding. That's a distraction. I'm sorry.
3._ When you no longer desire to reach the outsider, you might be one_. It's the truth (this reality) that there is a drift in all of our hearts that we can get caught up in to be just like the Pharisee. It's like when you show up to your small group, and you're like, "Man, I just don't have any opportunities to share the gospel." You go around. "When was the last time you shared?" "I just haven't had a lot of opportunities."
Then you're pumping gas. You're like, "Please don't come up to me. Please don't come up to me. Please don't come up to me. Please don't come up to me." Then over here, you're like, "I just don't have any opportunities. Please don't interrupt my life." You don't realize the contradiction that's going on. God has people all over for us to share with.
Jesus is hanging out in Levi's courtyard having a meal with his friends. The Pharisees go by, look over the fence. "What? Peter, come here. What's he doing? What's your boy doing hanging out with this riffraff, hanging out with those people?" Jesus is like, "These are the people for whom I came. That's why I'm here."
What about you? I know for a lot of you, evangelism is a terrifying thing. You've heard the message, and you're just kind of like, "Okay." You're going to get in your car, feel guilty for a day, maybe share the gospel like out of compulsion with somebody, reach out to somebody. Then you just kind of move on about your life. Like that's the pattern.
I'd love to submit something different to you, a plan that is just a little bit different that I don't think you'll find so awkward, a gift you have that everyone can use to share his or her faith. Before I unveil that, let me just kind of give you a scenario. When everyone is outside and you need to bring them in, what do you do?
I was just at my parents' house. I grew up on 20 acres there, so everybody is outside when we go there. The kids are outside. They're climbing trees, chasing kittens, and riding their bikes down the dirt road. The men are in the pasture shooting skeet. There are some other guys in the garage, the shed, the barn, fixing a tractor or something.
Mom is like, "Hey, you need to bring everybody in." What do I do? How am I going to get everybody inside? I open the door, and I say, "Dinner's ready!" The kids are falling out of trees, and guys are putting up shotguns, stopping what they're doing, and coming in. They're just collapsing on the house because we gather around mealtimes.
Everybody here, you have an evangelism tool. Almost every single person in this room has this tool. If you don't have it, you have access to it. It's so unbelievably powerful to facilitate a conversation around the gospel. Let me show you this tool. I'm going to show it. I'm going to unveil it to you. This is the tool each of you has to bring others to know Christ.
It's your table. It's not just your table, but it's different things for each of you. Some of you, you have this recipe that was passed down from your grandmother to your mom to you. It's that thing you make that everybody loves. They're like, "Oh, when are you going to make that again?" That thing is a tool God has entrusted to you to bring others to know him.
It may be those tamales you make that people get excited about the season, some recipe, thing, or dish. For guys, it's that Big Green (obnoxious) Egg you had to have that you've used three times. Your wife was elbowing you during the How to Be Rich series like, "You need to put that in a garage sale." I know one day you're going to make those pizzas on it or whatever. That could be this thing. We could justify having that right now to use to share the gospel.
Maybe you smoke meat. Maybe you're really good at brisket or something. Maybe you have one of those Traegers that have those pellets, because you're a cheater. Maybe that thing, you know, you can use to share the gospel.
You bought that home. You know, the home with the range and the Vent-a-Hood. What did you do? The conversation was you're like, "We could really host some people if we had this." Now it's time to make good on that. You can make good on the hospitality you promised you'd have when you bought those things.
You can bring the people in to your table. In fact, if you can afford it, I'd encourage you to buy a table bigger than what you need and let the empty chairs convict you every night to serve as a reminder to fill them, to bring others into your home.
If I'm somebody and I've never been to church and I don't like your God and I don't like your Jesus and you know me and you can invite me to church or to dinner, which one do you think I'm more likely to take? I'm unapologetically asking you this week (and really just to begin a habit of) to invite someone to dinner. Why don't we do this?
One reason I think is time. Where it says they're eating, in the Greek it actually says they were reclining, because these meals were a place where you would get comfortable. This was not a quick, "Let me squeeze you in in an hour between these two meetings." When Levi said, "Jesus, do you want to come over?" Jesus carved out a half a day to spend time with Levi's people. It takes time to let someone's mess enter into your life. It takes time. Right?
The second reason I think we don't do this (I don't know how else to say it other than this word) is vanity. What's going through your mind is you're like, "Man, I would love to invite people over. You know, he is right. I do make that amazing dish, but I don't want to clean the house. To invite them over means I have to clean the house," to which I'm like, "Really?"
In a place that values authenticity, to bring someone into your life, you have to make it look like you have it all together? Really? What if you invited them in and the dishes are piled up, the laundry hasn't been done, and the house is kind of messy? You're just like, "Hey, would you like to have a seat? Bring your mess into my mess."
See, you're not bringing them in to try to make them jealous of you, or you're not bringing them in so they would think you have it all together. You're bringing them in, letting them know you don't have it all together, but you do have a seat at your table for them. What if we did that? One person said if we want our Sunday mornings or our weekend services to look different, then our evening dinners need to look different.
What if we started practicing that? Praise God that Jesus invited in the outsider named Levi. Do you know who this man was (Levi)? See, in Mark and Luke, his name is Levi. Some commentaries, some scholars, say they wanted to keep him anonymous because he was a tax collector. In this time, it was very common to have two names (Saul and Paul, so forth and so on). Here you have Levi. His other name was Matthew.
This man Jesus says, "Follow me," he wrote the Bible. You turn to the New Testament. The first book is the book he wrote! He is one of the twelve apostles. He is not just one of the twelve apostles, but he is one of the four evangelists. He is one of the men who carried the gospel forward, who carried it forward, who carried it forward so it got to you so we preach it here in the service. That's this man.
You see what that does for your guys who can't be reached, women in your life who can't be reached. God wants to use them in ways you can't even imagine. When Matthew wrote this, Matthew includes something the others… He lived it. He saw it from a different perspective. He includes this verse. It's one line. Hosea 6, verse 6. It just says God does not want your sacrifices; he wants your mercy. Matthew (Levi) experienced mercy, and mercy is greater than shame, greater than sin, greater than the past, greater than struggles, and greater than being outside.
In summary, if you're here and you feel like you don't deserve Jesus, none of us do, but we're so glad you're here. He is calling you in, and he has a seat at the table for you at the wedding feast for you, a seat at the banquet of the kingdom of God for you, a seat in eternity for you. If you're here, you're a believer, and you know the call to share your faith, then be spurred on to bring someone to your table. Keep going, friend.
If you're here, you are a believer, and you feel no burden to seek out the outsider, I urge you to acknowledge your heart has been hardened and you've bought into a false Christianity as dangerous as the heresies you hate. There's been a drift, and it's time to return because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Jesus came to bring the outsiders in. We want to have a heart that's consistent with the heart of the Father.
Two weeks ago, my little girls went to summer camp. We dropped them off. One of them had been before. One of them had never been. She had actually never even stayed away from us for a night. I was pretty sure she was going to be homesick. She is more introverted, if you will. Every night, we'd pray. We'd talk about what was coming. We packed up her trunk, packed up her clothes, and wrote her notes for every day.
We sent her to camp. On the way, I just told her. I said, "Listen. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to find the person all by themselves. I want you to seek the person who is on the fringe. I want you to find the one who doesn't know anybody else, and you just love them. You just go to them, engage with them, introduce yourself, and play with them. When you eat a meal, you say, 'Hey, I have a seat for you.' You just do that. Find the person all by themselves."
We sent her to camp, and it was a tough week. The camps are amazing. They do such a great job, but she had a tough week. They called me in the middle of the camp and said, "Hey, she is really homesick." I was like, "Should we get her?" "No, she is going to stick it out." "Okay." We went to pick her up. There were a lot of tears in that reunion.
We got in the car, and I just looked at her. I said, "Hey, did you seek out the person who was all by themselves? Did you seek out the person who didn't know anybody else?" Tears just streamed down her face. She said, "Daddy, I was that person! I was the one who didn't know anybody. I was the one all by myself. I was the one who wasn't having fun. Daddy, everybody else knew someone. I didn't know anybody."
What it does is it breaks the heart of a father, as you can imagine. I want to unwind the tape. I want to find the one person. "Would you just go and just help her? Just go. Just push through her. When you engage with her first, she is going to be closed off and act like she doesn't want to talk to you, but she really does."
You can imagine as a dad how happy I'd be with that person, how much delight that person would bring me. You can imagine the Father looks down, and he has sons and daughters all over this place sitting on the outside. He just wants you, his people, to engage them, to invite them in. Let me pray you would.
Father, thank you for the example of Levi, who not only came in but invited his friends. Thank you for your loving, gracious Son who came to bring the outsiders in. Thank you that we are benefits of that strategy. We got to come inside because of you who are rich in love, in mercy, and in grace.
God, as we sing this song, would you stir in our hearts a name of somebody in our lives who you want to bring inside? Would you give us the courage to reach out to them? Lord, would you encourage our hearts in the way they even respond to that? Would you bless the faithfulness of your people? In Jesus' name, amen.
Have you ever felt like an outsider? Like everyone else around you knew someone else and you were all alone? Take heart, Christ came to earth for the outsiders!