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Summary: Starting with Jesus hanging between two criminals, this sermon focuses on how Jesus was a "friend of sinners" and offers four ways we can improve in that endeavor.

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WHICH IMAGE FITS BETTER: Black tuxedo or orange jumpsuit?

- Mark 15:27.

- Here we have the stark image of Jesus hanging between two criminals. These are orange jumpsuit kind of people.

- On the other hand, we have the respectable crowd, perhaps wearing a black tuxedo to show their classiness.

- Which image fits better?

- Of course, for most, we’d rather be identified with the black tie crowd. They’re polite company. And yet we have Jesus in the company of two criminals, Himself condemned as a criminal.

JUST THIS ONCE? Jesus was a “friend of sinners.”

- Luke 4:18-19; Luke 5:30-32; Luke 7:33-34; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 15:2; Luke 19:7; Luke 23:43.

- This was a common theme throughout His ministry. Just consider these references in Luke:

a. Mission statement at Nazareth.

- Luke 4:18-19.

b. “Came to call sinners.”

- Luke 5:30-32.

c. “Friend of sinners.”

- Luke 7:33-34.

d. Anointed by a sinful woman.

- Luke 7:36-50 (especially 39, 44-47).

e. “This man welcomes sinners.”

- Luke 15:2.

f. Hanging out with Zacchaeus.

- Luke 19:7.

g. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

- Luke 23:43.

- All this adds up to a consistent pattern of reaching out to those away from God.

- Do Christians today do a good job with this? Not usually.

- We tend to be uncomfortable around those who are away from God. We tend to retreat to our comfortable relationships with fellow Christians. We tend to ignore those whose lives are a mess.

- We are not friends of sinners the way that Jesus was.

- How can we do better at this? Let’s look at a few first steps forward.

HOW CAN WE DO BETTER AT THAT?

1. It’s exhausting to be a deserving prince; it’s exhilarating to be a forgiven pauper.

- Luke 7:36-50.

- Let’s talk about two attitudes we can have about our connection to God.

- The first is that of the Pharisees. We see ourselves as a good church member. We see ourselves as a good person. We see ourselves as respectable. Because of all that, we have a reputation to uphold. We often get to where we feel as though we’re better than those around us still stuck in sin.

- The second is that of a forgiven beggar. We know that we bring nothing to table. We discover that grace and mercy are available and we revel in it. We don’t deserve it and are overflowing with joy that God was willing to embrace us. We love telling others about what He did for us.

- One path is exhausting – it’s about keeping up an image. The other path is exhilarating – it’s about receiving a gift we didn’t deserve.

- The story here in Luke 7 highlights this very thing. We have a Pharisee named Simon who is all respectability and pride. He invites Jesus in but is cool in dealing with Him. On the other hand, we have the sinful woman, who is open and overflowing in her love toward Christ. There’s no embarrassment there – she’s grateful for Jesus receiving someone like her.

- The parable that Jesus tells about two people who each had a debt points out why the woman is responding the way she is. She had more to be forgiven of. What’s surprising is the point Jesus draws out of the parable. He rejoices how much affection she has shown toward Him and declares that the one forgiven of much loves much and the one forgiven of little loves little.

- How does this relate to our subject for this morning? When we see ourselves as a deserving prince, we are not going to have much relationship with those around us who are still stuck in their sins. When we see ourselves as forgiven paupers, we know that we have much in common with those who are still stuck in their sins.

2. Be willing to admit when you fall short.

- 1 John 1:8-9.

- Because our churches are full of people who act like they are deserving princes, everybody at church ends up with the feeling that they better pretend too that they have it all together. They all show up on Sunday morning and act like their lives are perfect. They don’t show any signs of struggles or difficulty in their lives. They think that people will be repelled from Christ if they know we make mistakes.

- That’s the wrong path.

- People aren’t repelled because we make mistakes. They know that we’re human and not perfect. What really repels people is when we act like we have everything together when we in fact have struggles just like everyone else.

- It doesn’t make us hypocrites to have sin in our lives. It makes us hypocrites to have sin in our lives but pretend like we’re perfect.

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