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One of the many titles given to Christ in the Bible is that of the "divine physician." Todd explains that Christ is able to heal what ails us.
Jesus was Known for His Friendships with Sinners: What are You Known For?
Jesus, Two Groups and a Guy: The Danger of Lame Living
Baptism: What It Is and Is It for You? The Leper Revisited
The Leper Who Talked & the People Who Don't: How Disobedience Affects God's Purposes
If Busyness is Killing Your Heart, the Secret Place is the Solution
Do You Know Where to Take Your Suffering Friends?
The Testimony of an Unclean Spirit: Are Words & Information Enough?
Spirit Directed Fishing: Get Near Water, Get Your Line Wet, and Bait Your Hook
The Day All Heaven Broke Out
The Great Forerunner of the Great Servant: A Look at John the Baptist
Father, we come, and we do say we want to know you more. We want to be more engaged with you. We want to go to the higher ground, if it's there, no matter where we are. Just as individuals who seek a better life, we want to go further with you. Lord, if you exist, where you are must be a better place. I pray, Father, you draw those who are far from you who think you are irrelevant or can't speak into your life. I pray this morning you would come to them and say, "Follow me. Do what we do right now," that they would come.
I pray for those of us who know you, that we would go deeper and we would seek the prize, that we'd be faithful to the end, fight the good fight, that we would finish the race and that we would then have the crown that we could lay at your feet. I pray we would cultivate the secret place, not just now, but all week long. Would you deepen us in our conviction, that where you are is where life is as a result of this time? We pray it in Christ's name, amen.
Y'all have heard these I know. There are a bunch of them floating around. You know, misunderstandings that kids have when they're introduced to spiritual things for the first time and they kind of hear stories, like the one of a kid who went home and was talking to his mom. She said, "What did you learn today in church?" and he said, "Well, I learned how Moses delivered the people of God from the power of Pharaoh."
She said, "Well, how did that happen?" He talks about a series of air strikes and ground troops who came in behind them and strategic planning and things like that. She said, "Well, that's not how it happened," and he goes, "Yeah, but if I told you what they told me, you'd never believe it." He tried to help his mom out from being duped.
Here's one. A Sunday school teacher asked her class why Joseph and Mary took Jesus with them to Jerusalem. One child said, "Well, because they couldn't get a babysitter," just speaking of his own experience. "The only time I go somewhere is when my mom and dad can't get me a babysitter."
One Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with their 5- and 6-year-olds. After explaining the commandment to honor your mother and father, she asked is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters, and one kid piped up right away and said, "Yeah, thou shall not kill."
One kid heard about the story of how God created humankind, Adam out of the ground and Eve out of the side of the man, and about two days later, mom walked in and the kid was having some stomach pains, and she said, "What's wrong?" He said, "Mom, I think I'm about to have a wife." This is my favorite. A Sunday school teacher was talking to the children just before she dismissed them to go to church, and she said, "Now remember, be quiet. You know why it's necessary to be quiet in church." One kid said, "Yeah, because most of the people are sleeping."
That was my experience growing up, that it was a sleepy place, a place that didn't powerfully speak to my life, that would not have moved me from where I was to where God wanted me to be, and so much of what we want to be about here is to shatter some of that illusion in the world that's out there. There's so much stereotype. There are so many people who think that the last place, if there is a God, they want to go to interact with him at all is a place that commonly calls itself a church.
It's just not the way church should be. We seek to be a prevailing congregation and are very young in our evolving and seeking to do things which can allow folks to interface with God without any of the trappings they sometimes have to work through just to meet him…just to meet him. There are so many misunderstandings that folks have about God and so many of them that we, his followers, have been responsible for.
We, very simply here, want to just say, "We're not committed to doing anything or being about anything other than calling people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We're not even looking to change folks' religion. We're just looking to change their relationship with God, and we think and believe that the only place that that can be done is through introducing them to the person of Jesus Christ.
We think full devotion to him is normative for the believer and that when he says, "Follow me. Take up my cross. Leave everything else, and come after me," that makes complete sense. We try and model our lives that way. We try and surround ourselves. We are not committed to anything here that's proper. We're committed to what is productive and contributes towards that purpose, period.
Everything we do, we run through that grid. We might miss it sometime, but you can know we miss it out of that heart because the last place that people should sleep is a place that can help them understand who the living God is and how he can personally change and transform them. We're so glad for the privilege of being with you this morning.
Turn with me to Mark, chapter 2. I'll show you some other misunderstandings that were going on in that day amongst a group of men who you're going to hear about for the next couple of weeks. They were called Pharisees, and their name itself means separate ones. They were pulled aside and removed from some folks because they thought that was the right thing to do and the right way to honor God was have nothing to do with individuals who somehow were tainted by what they did or didn't do.
They felt like the best way for them to honor the Lord, the best way for them to show their devoutness was to pull themselves apart from anything that did not completely keep with their traditions or their law or their understanding of what they thought would honor the Lord. Now listen, these guys… We have come to make them out to be pretty bad individuals, and to be fair, there was a lot they did that we need to not learn from, but you might also want to know that some of them had a lot of zeal, just without knowledge.
What they needed was somebody to correct them, somebody to bust them out of their old paradigms of thinking and start to think anew. There are surely some of us who are here in the exact same way. We are so committed to doing spiritual things a certain way. That's not bad. It's great that you are committed to spiritual things. The problem is that sometimes we elevate what we're used to doing above and beyond the original heart for which it was created.
We've forgotten to ask ourselves, "Why was that done, and is it still the most effective way to accomplish that thing?" You need to know that one of our core values here is we will continually be innovative, flexible, and ask ourselves, "Is this the most relevant way in the society in which we live to communicate God's truth to God's people?" We want to take the never-changing Word of God to an ever-changing people, so our music reflects some of that.
We know there are some people who are literally compromising their tastes because they feel like they can participate with us as we reach out to a world that responds largely and increasingly to a different style of music. We don't love certain songs or music styles over another. We're just doing the best we can to put our pulse on the people who God has us in front of and think this is the way to do it, and when that's no longer the best way to do it, we'll change, so don't fall in love with our music. Don't fall in love with my dress because we're not committed to that.
We're committed to the Word of God, and we're committed to Christ, and we're committed to taking his message to people. We want to surround ourselves with others who are just as passionate. There were some men here who misunderstood some of what God's heart was. He didn't want to call people out to be so separate from the world in a horizontal way that they were never interactive with it. "No," he said, "I want you to be in the world but not of the world.
The way we're to separate is not by isolating ourselves in monasteries or little safe Christian gatherings, but we're to elevate ourselves with our morality, with our ethic, with the Spirit of God who transforms our hearts. The way that we're different and separate is we're not self-willed, self-centered, self-driven people, but the mark that we are different is our love for each other and the world.
You guys have heard the analogy that a boat is useless if it's one of two places. If it's dry-docked somewhere in Kansas, it's not an effective seagoing vessel. I don't care how beautiful, how big, how seaworthy it is, if it's not in the sea, it's not doing what it was built to do. Likewise, a ship what is full of holes…that the water comes into it and sinks the ship…no matter how beautiful it is, if it's not seaworthy, if it doesn't stay above that which would consume and drown life, it's not a worthy vessel. A ship should be in the sea, just not of the sea.
The Pharisees misunderstood some of that, and one of the things Christ did was to shatter some of their misunderstandings and to speak to them, and some of them got it. Some of the greatest men in your New Testament were Pharisees. Some of the greatest individuals in this church are folks who have been shaken out of a certain cultural mindset and that have very humbly said, "It's not going to be about what I'm used to…what I like…it's going to be about Christ and taking him to others.
That's the sign of a mature person. They don't decorate the house the way they want, but they decorate the house in a way that is going to make their neighbor or their friend welcome there without compromising the morality, the ethic, and the truth that house stands for. Look at Mark 2:13 and following.
It says, "And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them." Notice… Just go back up to verse 2 of this same chapter. You're going to see something consistent in the life of Christ. It says, "And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them." I mentioned it last week. Christ was not just a master conversationalist who was popular to have around parties.
He took advantage of every situation he was in to teach the Word, to speak the truth to them, and he did it in love. He was not an expert conversationalist. He was an expert at speaking the truth in love. He was not concerned about getting invited back to the right parties or being viewed by certain people in a certain way. He was absolutely committed to one thing.
That was, "How can I serve my Father with these people who I'm with right now?" and I think he did it with a lot of grace and reverence. I think he did it with respect to those who he was with. I want to tell you, sometimes he would upset the table, and sometimes he would disturb the aroma of peace that was in the room because it was the loving thing to do, but Christ just didn't hang out someplace.
He was always salt. He was always light. He was always asking himself, "What's the most loving thing to do at this moment?" You will see that, because he lived that way, he was the most intimately attractive man who ever lived, and everywhere he went, people gathered around him and surrounded themselves around him because that kind of person is so rare today.
He consistently had to seek more and more isolated places away from the city because some people wanted to be around him because there was always a scene, and he wasn't into creating a scene. He was into loving and serving people. Wherever he was, some folks found him, and wherever he was, he spoke the Word to them. Wherever he was, he spoke the truth in love to them. Verse 14. As he moved on from where he was as he was teaching them,
"As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.
When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, 'Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
What you see happen there is a little event that's followed by silence. You're going to find out over the next week… We're going to take this one today in totality because I think if there's one passage that the church in America needs to get, one truth that we need to get our arms around again, it's this little series of verses from verse 14 down through verse 17.
Jesus drops a little parabolic saying, a little proverbial saying. He'll do it two more times in the midst of four controversies here that are going to happen in the next couple of weeks, or actually, we're going to cover the next three altogether next week. There's this confrontation that starts usually with a question that Jesus responds with a wise answer. There he is again, always speaking the truth in love, doing it wisely, sometimes in using a statement that's parabolic, sometimes using a proverb that's familiar to the day.
When he does, he completely disarms the situation. There are some men who are bothered by Christ. They look at him, and they go, "What are you doing that for? We don't do that, and we think we're doing what God wants, and you say you're from God. Explain that to us." Really, they're not saying, "Explain that us so we can join you." They're saying, "Justify yourself, because we think you're wrong." Christ heard what they said, so he just let them know, "Hey, you need to understand this. It's not the healthy who need a doctor. It's the sick."
Notice what Christ didn't do, by the way. He didn't go, "Hey, these people aren't that bad!" No. He just went ahead and said, "You're right. They are tax collectors. They have compromised with Rome. Many of them are cheats. Most of them are cheats. They steal from you, and that's not pleasing to God. There are other sinners here, other men who don't have anything to do with the law, who would never show up in a temple.
You're absolutely right about who these individuals are, but they're the ones who need God. In fact, it's not just them. It's all sinners." One of the things the gospel of Mark, in fact the Scriptures, make increasingly clear in the life of Christ by the time he was taken to the cross that was beyond debate was there were none who were righteous. Even those who accused Jesus of eating with the unrighteous had their own issues of the heart.
The Scriptures are really clear about all of us in this room, and I've never had a problem communicating this to people. I've never had anybody disagree that all of us are sinners. Yeah, there are different levels of it, different areas we struggle in, but all of us are sinners and fall short of what perfection is and what God would intend for an individual to live in thought, in deed, in action, and in omission.
Christ said, "You're right. I'm with them." I just wanted to spend some time just making some observations out of this passage and just walking us through it. Just the very first thing that just jumps out with me right here… When he's walking by a tax collector, a tax gatherer, and he sees this guy, Jesus had some interaction with him up to this point, and he calls him, and he says, "I want you to come." If Jesus would call a tax gatherer to follow him, you can be sure he is willing to call you, and he's wanting you to come.
See, this was kind of the serial criminal, the rapist, of the day, and he was an individual nobody would want to hang out with because he cheated his own people. He was a traitor, a turncoat. The farthest thing from what a Jew would love, especially a God-fearing Jew, was a tax gatherer. Jesus walked right up to him and said, "Look, I'm here to seek and save the lost, not the folks who are lost just a little bit, but just the lost…those who are far from me and would have nothing to do with me. I want to bring you near. Just take one more step near me."
He gives Matthew that opportunity, and he just says, "Follow me." What you need to understand is infinitely clear right here is you don't need to get your life straight before you come to Christ. I hear people say that to me all the time. "Well, I can't go to God right now. I mean, I have to get my life straight. I have to move out with this girl first. You know? I have to file a couple of years' worth of legitimate tax returns, and then maybe. I have to patch up my marriage before I start to show up in a place where folks would expect me to have a decent marriage."
No. In fact, you can't patch up that marriage. You'll never have the motivation to file an appropriate tax return, and you'll never have the will or the reason to move out if you don't come and ask the Lord to do some serious work in your heart and to transform your central programming unit, your CPU, the brain that spits out. You have to get a new core, a new heart that touches you and transforms you. You don't need to get your life together before you come to Christ.
There's no such thing as somebody who is a worthy recipient of grace, so you don't need to wonder if you're acceptable in God's eyes to be a part of his family. He just says, "Come," and there's not a single person who is out here today or that we could meet who doesn't matter to God. You have never locked eyes with a lost person who doesn't matter to God. I have to remind myself of that all the time because sometimes I see some people where the glory of God is very veiled I their lives.
They're filled with a lot of hatred or a lot of depravity, a lot of filth…physically and morally sometimes. They look nothing like you would think a person God would care about looks, but I want to tell you something. God cares for them. I don't care what they've been worshiping and for how long, what their skin color, what their sexual orientation, what their habits, what their addictions. Jesus says, "Follow me. Come." You will not meet somebody today…you won't meet somebody this life…who doesn't matter to God.
You'll meet nobody who's worthy of God calling them. There is no such thing as a worthy recipient of grace. Don't put together your resume to come to God. Hey, you don't need a resume to show up at this church, and you'd better not take a resume with you when you go to meet your King who is your judge because he's not going to look at your resume. You know, I get asked a lot, "Just boil the gospel down for me, Todd. In a nutshell, what is it?"
This is the best I can do. "Christianity is not what we do do or don't do. It is who we trust." I would go on, "Religion is about what man does. It's about us accomplishing things we think would honor and please God, but that's not what Christianity teaches. It's not about sinful man working his way into God's presence. Christianity, unique among the world religions, is about God entering into sinful humanity and reaching out to him."
See, to the Pharisees, these people were rejects, but to Jesus, they were patients. To Jesus, they were sick people in need of a doctor. To Jesus, they were sheep in need of a shepherd. Christianity is not what we do do or don't do. It's about what he has done. It's about who we trust, and when I stand before the Lord, I'm not going to offer him my faithfulness to my wife, my love for my kids, my heart for the Scriptures, my commitment to declare it.
As honestly and truthfully, relevantly, and authentically as I can, I'm going to stand before him and give him one thing, and that is his provision for me. That's my resume, not what I do do or don't do, but what he has done. That's it. There's no such thing as getting your life straight before you come to Christ. There's no such thing as a worthy recipient of grace, and there's no such thing as a resume man can create which is acceptable. Come. If he would call Levi, you can be sure this morning that he would call you.
Look what else we have here. Jesus, unique among men… He was known for who he loved, not who he avoided. There's a guy named George Barna, who I love to read his stuff, because he's the most, I think, astute observer of secular and nonsecular culture that's out there. He did a recent survey, and he asked folks what the first two thoughts most people have when they hear of a person who is a believer.
In fact, this last week, I had the privilege of being away from you guys, who I really missed, but I was out in LA and speaking to a group of men there, a lot of them involved in the entertainment industry and things of that sort. I had a wonderful time sharing with them about what we're doing and why we're doing it and challenging them to think strategically about their area of ministry and how God can use them in places that I'll never be.
On the way back, I was flying out of Love Field, which by the way, if you're going to LAX…free ad. Okay? If you work for American, tell them I said this and tell them to send me some tickets. I'm tell you something; flying out of Love is the way to go right now to LA. Whoo! Anyway, I'm sitting next to a guy with about 15 feet of legroom in front of me, and we get involved in a conversation, and we start to talk, and he's involved in the entertainment industry here, oddly enough, with the Dallas Theater Center.
He asked me what I did, and you guys know sometimes I really avoid that question at all possible costs because it usually defines the rest of the conversation, but I didn't feel led to avoid it this time, so I just said, "Well, I'm a pastor." He goes, "Oh." I said, "Can I ask you a question?" He said, "Sure." I said, "What just happened in your mind when you heard I was a pastor?" He goes, "What?"
I said, "What did you think? What's the first thing that shot into your mind? What did you think of me immediately when you heard that?" He said, "Sheltered. Sheltered." I said, "All right. That's fair." I went on to talk about his industry. I said, "What do you think the first thing that comes to mind when people ask you about your industry?" He goes, "Well, homosexual." I said, "Well, I'm not sheltered. Are you homosexual?" "Yeah," he said, "I am." I said, "Great. Not great that you're doing that, but hey…appreciate you telling me."
We went on to have one of the fastest flights from LA to Dallas that I've ever had. It's interesting. What his response was to me was pretty typical of what most people think. Barna said, "The first two things that come into people's minds when you ask them about followers of Christ are, first, they go to a lot of meetings, and second, they are opposed to many things." Is that not amazing? That's who believers are. They go to a lot of meetings, and they are opposed to many things.
You know what he meant when he said, "Sheltered?" What he meant when he said, "Sheltered," was, "You're naïve. You're withdrawn. You've never really considered that somebody might be different than you, and you're opposed to me." Now I'll tell you what. By the grace of God, we had a wonderful conversation. I know, at the end of that two hours and 15 minutes we talked, before I felt like it was time to pull back and just let him think, that he realized I was anything but sheltered, anything but naïve, and anything but opposed to him.
He also knew what I thought about where he was coming from, and we'll talk about that maybe in just a little bit, but we had a great conversation. Did you know that Christ was not known for what he was against or who he avoided? Christ was known by all men of that day for who he loved. What are you known for in your neighborhood, at your work? Are you the guy who they can't tell certain jokes around?
I mean, I need to tell you something, and we're going to cover this in just a little bit, about the way Christ responded to different things. I'm sure of the way he responded because of what the Scriptures tell us about him, but what are you known for? If you are a fully devoted follower of Christ, you, like me, ought to be increasingly known not for what we don't do or what we avoid, but we ought to be increasingly known for what we love and for who we love.
In fact, you know Jesus himself was confronted with this question. He was asked, "What is the ultimate command? What's the greatest thing we should do?" He said, "It's easy. Love God. You should be known for who you love, and the second one is like it. Love others." Jesus didn't say his people were known by what they did do or didn't do. They were known by who they loved and how that love for God affected the way they loved others.
What are you known for? There are a couple of things I want us to note out of this. As I walked through this passage and I thought about it, I just made some observations, just some things I felt like we ought to note. First, the Pharisees did not say, "Why is your master acting and talking like a tax collector and a sinner?" You see, there's a huge distinction there, isn't there? They said, "Why is your master eating and drinking with them," which is a sign of relationship.
It's a sign of friendship. It's a sign he's making an effort to build some kind of trust with them, and that confused them because they felt like God would have them pull apart from anybody who was ceremonially unclean, so Christ shattered some of their thinking by giving that little proverbial statement. He said to them very simply and straightforwardly, "Listen. I am here to serve and to love these people…in fact, anybody who knows they are sick and in need of a physician or any lamb that knows they are lost."
Let me say it again, "Jesus was never under any illusions to who was sick and who wasn't. We are all sinners. There is none that does right, and we are all lost sheep. Isaiah wrote, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way…" In the midst of reaching out to and loving lost people, he never, ever became one himself. Notice what his enemies did not say. See, you can learn a lot about that. They did not say, "Why is Jesus acting and talking like a person who is far from God?"
See, there was always light in the midst of the darkness. There was always salt in the midst of that which needed to be preserved. Too many people go to passages like this, and they get some sort of idea that what they need to do is to go and become a tax collector or a sinner to relate to tax collectors and sinners. Your Savior never did that. He was with them, and he loved them. He built friendship and trust with them, but he was never confused with them.
Let me give you another little thing and just lay this one straight out as I can. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He did not come to seek and date the lost. Single folks out there, find an application. Sometimes, I find folks like this, and they go, "Oh! Jesus is a friend of sinners." True it was. I'm going to make that point in just a minute, but Christ did not further the kingdom by becoming one, joined at the hip, linked with lost people as companions. In fact, he makes it clear that's not a good thing to do.
In the rest of his revealed Word, it's very clear. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but let's get it squared away. He did not come to seek and date the lost. Missionary dating is not an approved form of kingdom advancement, and boy, sometimes it's amazing the way people will go through all sort of gymnastics to justify it.
Typically, they'll go, "Well, Jesus hung out with those folks," and I'll say, "He did. Let's talk about how he acted, how he was perceived, and what he did when he was with them, and let's talk about if you're doing that. You're going to have a hard time showing me a date he had in the first place." He was there to serve them, and we have to be honest. I'll take you back to when I first came to know Christ. John Spooner, who I'm eternally grateful for, my Young Life leader, introduced me to Christ after my freshman year in high school.
He drew me into his household and his family and became my friend and poured his life into me my sophomore year as a little rebellious skinny, hard-to-be-with 15- to 16-year-old kid. By the time I was a junior, he said, "Todd, it's time for you to start giving to somebody else what I've given to you," and he said, "I want you to pray about somebody who you can pour life into, somebody else that you can disciple."
I said, "I've got it man. I don't even need to pray about it. Laura Perry, 314-522-2064," first girl I kissed in sixth grade, and I never got the taste out of my mouth. I still had a huge crush on her, and I knew exactly who I was to disciple. I went back to him. He said, "Now I want you to pray about it." I didn't tell him then. I was smart because I figured he might have a problem with it, but he said, "Who's it going to be?" I said, "It's Laura."
He goes, "No. It's not going to be Laura, Todd." "Oh yeah, it is. I'm going to tell her you want me to spend some time with somebody, so even if she doesn't want to go out with me, she has to if she has any spiritual desires at all," and he sat me down, and he helped me sort through some motivation. I had a heart for Laura. I still do to this day. She's been in and out of some marriages, made some terrible choices in her life. I have a great heart for her, but I'm probably not the one who needs to be intimately involved with her spiritual maturity.
Hey, I meet women all the time. I love to interact with my waitresses when I'm out there, but I tell you what I do the very first chance I get. I invite them to come here. I invite them to be someplace around my friends, and if I'm really concerned about them and don't want to mingle their affections or their attraction to me with their affections and they're drawn towards a Savior who can speak powerfully into their lives, I am so quick to introduce them to Mandy or to Robin or to some of the many godly single women who we have here. I say, "Come."
Boy…Kyle, Skin, and I had a waitress not just a week and a half ago. I don't even know if you're here this morning. I hope you are, but I know, when you came, that we introduced you to some women because that's where you need to go and grow, not just because we're married. That's what we did when we were single because wisdom demands it.
Let me just show you some Scriptures that go with this. In Proverbs, it says in chapter 13, verse 30, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Leave the presence of a fool. A fool biblically is somebody who is not ignorant intellectually of God but who is practically opposed to God, who doesn't want to follow in the way of Christ or doesn't want to walk in his steps and doesn't want to lean on his own understanding. Leave the presence of such a person, or you will not discern the words of knowledge.
First Corinthians 15:33 makes it really clear. "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" I cannot tell you how many stories… I have heard stories that are exceptions, but I can't tell you how many stories I've heard that are predictable. They get involved, and it's not the believer who pulls the other one up. It's the other way around.
Hey, be their friend, draw them to the King, but if they want to grow with the King, introduce them to somebody of the same sex and get out. If six months later they're walking with the Lord and your two lives collide again, it's a different story, but don't be the one who seeks to get them there. Let's be honest about your heart and concern for them, shall we?
Third, just an observation, Jesus was not known as a companion of sinners. That would've violated the verses we just saw, but he was known as a friend of sinners. Now here are three things we ought to see about friends. First of all, a friend is somebody who loves at all times. If you know what love is biblically, listen. Jesus said, "I'm a friend of sinners, not a companion. That's not who I share my waking hours and days with all the time, but I'm a friend of them, and a friend loves them."
What's a friend do? A friend is patient. A friend is kind. A friend is not jealous and does not boast. A friend does not act unbecomingly. A friend does not provoke and is not provoked. A friend does not take into account a wrong suffered. A friend does not seek its own. A friend does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices always in the truth. A friend "…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…"
When you look at the life of Christ right here, you'll see that there are some things that just scream at us. He wasn't acting like a tax gatherer and sinner. He wasn't dating those folks, but he was a friend of sinners, and "A friend loves at all times…" When there were things in those lives at that dinner table that night that were wrong, you can be sure Jesus did not rejoice in their unrighteousness because, if he was a friend, he loved. If he loved, he did not rejoice in unrighteousness.
There was never a story about some perversion that Christ… He never went, "That is a creative way to skim some money. I mean, that's really innovative. It's great." Because he loved, he never rejoiced in unrighteousness. Now that doesn't mean he wasn't human. Hey, listen, I've been in places where I've heard off-color jokes before, and I didn't try and pretend that it wasn't funny to my flesh.
I'd go, "You know what? Of course, I think that's funny. Of course, that feeds a part of me, but you need to know that that part of me I consider dead. It's not as dead as I want it to be sometimes, but by faith, it's no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me." I don't spit that whole thing out, but I get the idea across.
Hey, when you're at those dinner tables with tax gatherers and sinners (I hope you are), are you there rejoicing in their unrighteousness or are you there doing what Jesus was always doing, speaking the Word to them, teaching them, rejoicing in righteousness with them? Listen, you need to know that our Savior was a lover of the lost. He was a friend to the lost, and a friend loves at all times.
The other thing a friend does is a friend faithfully wounds. What do I mean by that? Proverbs 27:5-6. Verse 5: "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed." Verse 6 in Proverbs 27: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." When it was time to speak honestly and forthrightly, he spoke honestly and forthrightly, and he wounded them. He loved them. He cared enough about them to say what he needed to say.
I will say it again. Jesus was not an expert at comfortable conversation. He was an expert at speaking the truth in love. Let me tell you about my conversation with my friend on the plane this last week. As we talked, he asked me about what I thought about Metropolitan Church here in town, the largest gay church in the world, and I said, "I think they're really hurting people," and I said, "Let me just spend some time talking to you about why."
I said, "You need to know right away I know you have choices, and I know you have things in your life." I asked him how long he felt like he was struggling with homosexuality. He told me from the earliest age that he could remember. I said, "Fine. I'm not going to argue with that. That's your experience. I'm not going to argue with your experience. I will argue with you what you make of that experience."
I said, "From your earliest age, you can remember that. Let me tell you why I have a problem with that church." He described to me that church. He said it was the most loving place he'd ever been. He went there. He walked in. He was greeted. He never felt so much love. He said it was powerful. It touched him. It transformed him. He said that wasn't his experience at most churches. I asked him to come. (I don't even know if you're here today. I hope you are.)
I said, "I want you to come, and even if you never come back after you come one time, I want you to tell me if you felt that same love in this place, because you ought to." I said, "You also need to understand the reason I have a problem with the Metropolitan Church is because I don't think they are loving. I think they're dumbing your Father down." I said, "I happen to be a dad of five kids, and from their earliest age, they have loved cookies. I mean, everything about them is bent towards sweets and snacks.
From their earliest age, they are bent on selfishness, and you need to know this. I never, ever stop tell them that their daddy loves them, but what kind of dad would I be if I said, 'I love you so much that surely I wouldn't deny you your appetites and your affections.'? What kind of dad would I be if every meal I said, 'Kids, what do you want? Whatever you want, wherever your bent, wherever your driven, we're going to go there'?
I have to tell you something. I'd buy stock in Nabisco because we'd have some serious Oreo and Chips Ahoy dinners. We'd have M&M's for dessert and ice cream as appetizers, and my kids would not be healthy." I said, "You know why I don't ask my kids what they want to do?" I said, "Because (they don't understand this, and you didn't understand it when you were a kid either) all your appetites and all your affections are not what are best for you.
If you didn't have a sovereign, loving one over you who helped you understand what you could not understand as a child, you would grow up, and you would have a life experience that you weren't intended and destined to have." I said, "Can I tell you? I'm little different than you. You're a pervert in a homosexual way. I'm a pervert in a heterosexual way." I said, "We need the same Savior, and we need the same loving Father who's going to tell you that the appetites of your flesh are not something to feed on every time you want it.
You might have some meals that are really good and some really sweet meals, but in the end, it's going to affect your body, and I'm not talking about AIDS. I'm talking about your quality of life, and I'm talking about the relationship which you have with the living King who alone can provide you life. See, you are a child. I'm a child, and I have a Father in heaven who knows more than I know, and I feel like the Metropolitan Church is not telling you that your Father knows better than you.
They're telling you that your Father would never ask you to not do something you want to do, and you tell me one good dad who meets that job description." I wasn't there to have comfortable conversation. I was there, gently and as quietly and as lovingly as I could, to speak the truth in love, and boy, our conversation went a lot of different directions. I wanted to be a friend, and I have to tell you, I think Jesus was a master at being a friend. A friend faithfully wounds, and see, a friend knows you personally. He cares about you as an individual.
It's a lot easier to weep over Jerusalem when you know the people who are in that city. When Jesus sat upon that hill and he wept over that city, they weren't just some anonymous faces who were there. They were individuals he loved. I mean, certainly, as the Spirit revealed to him what he knew as God, he knew the number of hairs on every head. I mean, Jesus was far more than that. He knew Mary Magdalene. He knew Levi. He knew Zacchaeus.
It killed him that they were making destructive choices. He cared about them as individuals, and he knew them personally. If you're going to build a church that is concerned with nameless, faceless phone book people, you will build one kind of church. This city is full of a phone book full of folks who are far from God.
If you are concerned about your city and there's a stack of them who don't know him, you're going to build a certain kind of church, but if you're going to build for people who you really individually and intimately know, folks who you share life with, folks who you share pain with, you're going to build a different kind of church.
I want to know people. I want to be driven and compelled to share their life sorrows so I can just go, "Oh, I understand the reason you're making those choices. Those are the same kind of choices I would make and I still make when I turn from God but that I would make if I didn't know him and didn't know he cared." I'm going to ask a whole different series of questions.
You see what happened in the midst of this situation is Matthew, when he came to know Christ, he thought through this and he thought, "You know, there area couple of things I can do. I can invite my lost friends now to a synagogue, or I could preach at them. That'd be something else I could do. The synagogue wouldn't be a good idea. They wouldn't be really welcome there, and there's not a lot going on there that I think speaks to them."
He could say, "I'm just going to preach at them. I'm going to lay it on them, or third, I could just cross my fingers and hope they get it and go on with my life." He didn't do any of those three things, did he? What did he do? He goes, "You know what? I can ask myself what touched me? It was being in the presence of Jesus Christ. What do I do well? I throw parties," and so he threw a party, and he put those friends in the same place he was…in the path of Jesus, where believers mingle with nonbelievers.
You know the greatest wedding I have ever done… There were some folks who were incredibly blessed and who had the means to do this. They rented a plane. We all met at Love Field, and we loaded ourselves up on that plane. There were about 20 folks who I mean love Christ, really love Christ and could handle folks who didn't…myself and my wife about 18 other people who were friends of this couple who had come out of a very, very immoral life to come to know Christ.
The other half of that plane was loaded up with homosexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals with a capital H, and folks who just lived and laughed and partied hard, and we got on that plane. We took off, and we flew to Naples. We all stayed together at the resort this sweet girl's daddy owned, and we were together the whole weekend. From the moment we got on the plane, we built relationships, and we had fun.
We went to the rehearsal dinner together Friday night. We spent the day on the beach Saturday. We went to the wedding Saturday night. I shared the Word as best I could. Then we stood at the reception, and we stood out by that pool and on the beach till 3:30 in the morning, and then we woke up at 7 to catch a plane to get back so the dad could catch the Cowboy game at noon at Texas Stadium.
It was great because we were there sharing life together, and I had more good conversations. You need to know I had a whole lot of more good conversations on the flight back than I did on the flight down because I knew them, and they knew me. They knew that they didn't always agree with me, but they knew that I cared, that I loved them. I wasn't asking them to change. I was asking them to think and to consider rationally with me about their lives and where they were headed in ultimate things. I saw 18 other people do that.
I shared the gospel more times that weekend in clear and drawn-out and powerful ways than I probably have gotten to in any other weekend in my life. I loved that, and I can tell you I really cared about those people. They weren't nameless, faceless, phone book people. One of the members of our body sent me an email this week about a guy who has been in her office who died this week, a father who got backed over by a boat and was killed instantly.
She talked about how that affected her because she knew the guy, and she went back to an email that guy had sent her and talked about how she had been a major part of him coming to grip and wrestle with the Word of God. She cared for that guy. It wasn't just a story. I heard that story, and it grieved me, mostly because I was a friend of hers, but if I'd read about it in the paper, I'd have turned the page.
I got a call this week that the church where I was this last week… The guy there who is the executive administer has a malignant brain tumor. It's the most aggressive kind of cancer that anybody can have. They told him Tuesday that he's going to die certainly within a year. He has a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old. I mean, that's a sad story, but it doesn't really affect you because you don't know Terry.
There's a group if international students who are going to come here from SMU, and I mean, we have heart for folks all over the world. Don't you? I do, but when you know individuals from other parts of the world, it changes the way you pray for them. It changes the way you think about them. It changes the way you love them.
We are going to give you an opportunity next week to host some international students the very first time many of them leave their homeland to come to this Dallas, Texas, place that they only know from J.R. Ewing and Troy Aikman. Who knows? The first time they come to Dallas, they need a place to stay for the weekend during their orientation, and they've given a chance to host and to take them into our house and to be a friend for three days.
You want to do that? Next week, you'll have an opportunity to sign up and say, "I'll change my weekend," so you can know some folks who aren't nameless, faceless people. You want to change the world? You just start to change somebody who's going back to a part of the world you'll never seen. Engage and get to know them and concerned for them as an individual. You see this about Jesus? Just note that.
The church needs to understand desperately that he does not call us to be separate horizontally but to be separate in the way we live a holy life, to be in the world but not of it. The world is not going to like us, but we need to love and serve the world. Jesus never became a sinner to minister to sinners. He mingled with sinners and not with sin. Jesus did not use his love for sinners as an excuse to become a companion…guy/guy or guy/girl…with sinners. Jesus was not a companion.
He was a friend who loved at all time, a friend who faithfully wounded and a friend who knew them as individuals. What are you known for? There are four kinds of folks (I'm just going to shoot them up there for you) who can't benefit from the Great Physician. First are individuals who don't know and don't think they're sick. If you don't think you need help from God, you're the kind of individual who can't be helped, and that's really where the Pharisees were in this story.
I don't know where you sit today, but I need to let you know that, if you don't know God through the person of Jesus Christ, you have a sickness called sin that only Jesus Christ can deal with. The other kind of folks who can't be helped are individuals who don't trust the doctor, who think they're better at dealing with life's problems and heart's aches than the physician is. I would just ask you to come into his office.
If you have heartache, if you have issues in your life that grip you, I would just ask you, wouldn't it make sense, after running it yourself for 30-some-odd years, to give Jesus a chance. Let me just tell you what he would advise. Let me let you meet people who have taken what he has prescribed for their lives and let me tell you the change that has happened.
I understand you may not trust him because maybe you've never had him introduced to you in the way that he himself has introduced himself through the Scriptures. That's what we have such a heart for to do here at the church. Third are individuals who don't know there's a doctor who cares and can help, and that's where we have a great privilege. That's why Jesus was here. He was here to tell folks there's a God in heaven who cares.
It's not about man going to him. It's about God going to them, and it's not about us saying, "Hey, we have a great church. Come." It's about us gathering together, encouraging ourselves, equipping ourselves, growing, being trained in truth that we might go into the world and build authentic, loving, relationships with lost people and then be their friend. Don't get them to agree with us, but surely, if you're their friend and you're a friend of God's and a friend of Jesus Christ's, they're going to meet him.
They may choose not to trust him, but they cannot say they don't know there's a doctor who cares and helps. My friend who flew back with me from LA cannot say there's not a loving Father in heaven. There is, and he would have him live according to a different diet that he currently is, and I wanted to let him know my diet has changed because I met Jesus Christ, and that doesn't make him love me, but it sure does change my life. What makes him love me is I was a sinner in need of grace whom he cared for.
Fourth is (we just need to shoot this straight out) individuals who are dead. You don't need a doctor. You need somebody else. Now is the day for you to wrestle with these questions. "…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…" God offers forgiveness to our repentance but not tomorrow to our procrastination.
I'm going to skip the last thing, and I just want to lay on you just some observations about the person of Christ. Then we close. There's nothing better than a divine physician who would do four things. First, he would come to us in our need, and that's exactly what Jesus did. He came to us where we were. He didn't ask us to get well and then come hang out with him at a healthy people place. Come to him, meet our need.
Second, he makes a perfect diagnosis. He knows what the issues are in our lives, and he addresses them perfectly. Third, he prepares a final and complete cure through his finished work on the cross. Fourth, he pays the bill. How'd you like to meet that doctor? I've known some good doctors in my day, only a few who have met that description.
Have you ever met him? Do you know he loves you? Do you know he's leaving his safe office to come to where you are to lift your head up, let you get well with dignity? Do you know he knows exactly what's wrong? Do you know he has a cure, and do you know that the cost has been paid? Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for just the chance to stand here and to talk about you. I thank you that I got to do that last week in the flight. I thank you that I get to do that later today with my kids. I thank you that we get to do that in a moment when we stand to go home in the way we treat and care for one another. Father, I pray that we would not be a friendly church, that we would be a place where people can find friends, and man, what a difference!
Let us not just learn the secret of glad-handing and smiles on Sundays. Let us learn the life-sacrificing way of Jesus to love and to grab that hand a little longer, to look somebody in the eye and say, "How are you really doing?" Father teach us the perfect way to love those who will come here and those we'll meet, to let some folks have anonymity, to let them stay separate and not feel so pounced upon at first.
Lord, anybody who's looking for a friend or anybody who's looking for an honest conversation; anybody who's looking for a chance to dialogue about this physician who comes to us in our need; who has a diagnosis of our problem; who has a cure, final and complete; and who, amazing grace upon amazing grace, pays the bill, I pray they would find that conversation here. I pray, Lord, as we do everything, that the one thing we would do well is let people know that he is all they need.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 1:1 through Mark 2:17.