he first met Matthew?

There is no place in Scripture where Jesus asked for a guyís spiritual or career credentials before becoming his follower. He didnít call spiritual giants to be his followers.

I donít know about you, but Iím awful glad about that. That not only gives me hope for myself, it gives me hope for some of you, too! He called all kinds of people.

Hereís another habit we find in our passage...

Jesus "hung around" all kinds of people.

Iím going to camp here a bit, so hang on, okay?

Jesus could hang out with the rich and the poor, the religious leaders and, as we see in this passage today, those who werenít particularly religious.

Verse 10 -

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthewís house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.

And this caused no end of scandal. It got him into trouble more than once, as we see from these verses in Luke 15 -

Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

What attracted all these "sinful" people to the holiest man of all time, Jesus? It was his willingness to be seen with them!

There is a mind-set among some Christians that says we should insulate ourselves from sinners so we donít get polluted by their sin.

The grain of truth there is that if weíre not careful, we can be the "influencee" rather than the "influencer."

After all, the Bible does say, in 1 Corinthians 15:33 -

"Bad company corrupts good character."

I think itís important to grasp the fact that Jesus did all the influencing - he never allowed the world to influence him.

We are called to be separate from the world, not allowing it to tear us away from love and allegiance to Christ.

But what does that really mean? Does it mean that we should shun all contact with people who arenít yet believers in Christ? No! A thousand times, no! (to quote D.L. Moody!)

Unless youíre ready to move into a cave somewhere to avoid contact with people, you will be in situations where you will have the opportunity to influence people. And by the way, there is nothing in Scripture that supports a lifestyle of avoidance of people who need Jesus.

In fact, the overarching teaching of Jesus is that rather than shrink from society, weíre to invade and impact it.

Look at our example of Jesus in our passage here, and I think we can find a very important principle:

* Presence does not necessarily mean participation.

If we arenít willing to be around people who need Jesus, then how will they hear the good news of forgiveness, a home in heaven, and a changed life? As an example of this principle, let me read a portion by Joseph Aldrich, from a message he gave once.

[Education in the Red-Light District, Citation: Joseph Aldrich, "How to Be a Redemptive Person," Preaching Today, Tape No. 113.]
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