A CALL THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING
Proposition: “A call that changes everything brings a new .direction and a new hope for the future in our service for our Lord"
Objective: My purpose is to challenge to seriously consider making a proper response to a call that can change everything in one’s spiritual life.
There are many things that call us. Telephone calls beckon us, doorbells solicit us, and babies cry for our attention. The alarm clock calls us to begin a new day, the boss calls us to his office, the customer calls with an order, an e-mail calls us with a question. We are called to visit our relatives, to share a dinner with our friends, and to visit our children’s school. Some feel those calls they can’t refuse – the appeal to go fishing, go to the beach, or to go skiing in the mountains. But how many of us take time to hear the spiritual call that God sends us?
In this short section of scripture we see how Christ called one of His follow-ers. The twelve apostles were not noteworthy men. They did not have special talents, training, or education. They were common people of their time. And yet Jesus selected them for the most important work ever undertaken. All those who choose to follow Christ do so because they are called. There are many changes that can happen in one’s life as a result. One old man who was among the first ever to hear the gospel in his own language told a missionary: "When you shared with me, my heart said, ’That’s it! That’s what I’ve been waiting for!’" said Bill Bullington, leader of our International Mission Board work in the West Africa region.
First a leper, then a paralytic, and now a tax collector! If Jesus were running for public office he ought to be more careful about the company he is keeping. But Jesus has a higher mission than popularity: "to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and to heal the brokenhearted" (4:18), and the needy aren’t always clean or respectable.
Wiersbe writes, “When Jesus called Levi, He accomplished three things: He saved a lost soul; He added a new disciple to His band; and He created an opportunity to explain His ministry to Levi’s friends and to the scribes and the Pharisees.” This is what Christ can do when make a proper response to our Lord Jesus Christ. Levi was a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government. Such men were hated by their fellow-Jews, not only because of this collaboration with Rome, but because of their dishonest practices. One day while Levi was at work, Jesus passed by and invited him to become His follower. With amazing promptness, Levi left all, rose up, and followed Him.
I. THE CHALLENGE (vvs. 27-28) “Follow Me”—This represents the commitment needed to become a follower of Jesus Christ, as is clear in 5:32.
1. The insight “He went out”—This was at the end of the teaching-healing event. It is not surprising that out of an uncomfortably crowded house the Master directed His steps to the refreshing breezes of the seashore where Jesus calls Levi according to Mark (2:13-14).
2. The information “a tax collector named Levi”—He encountered Levi (identical with Matthew )(Matt. 9:9). Taxes on goods transported along the caravan road were levied by Herod’s agents, of whom Matthew was one. Rome collected three principal kinds of taxes, (1) a land tax, (2) a head tax, and (3) a customs tax of 2% to 5% of value on goods being transported. A tax office or booth would be located near a city gate or port to collect the custom tax, though liability for this tax would have been primarily limited to those engaging in commercial trade to other areas. This was usually on main roads at the edge of towns. There he collects taxes from farmers, merchants & caravans. They were hated because they collected taxes for the Roman government. In social and religious life they were ranked by the ordinary Jew with prostitutes and others who rejected the Jewish Law and customs.
3. The invitation “Follow Me”—“Follow” means “to come after.” The Christian life can be summarized in these commands: “Come unto Me,” “Follow Me” & “Abide in Me.” "You are not in charge…" "You don’t set the direction… "You are subordinate in importance… "You don’t know the best way …" "You must leave what you once were…" "You must move from the spot you now occupy…" "You must pay close attention to where I’m going…" "You must imitate what you see me do…" "You must pay close attention to ME!" "You must attach yourself to me and be at my disposal!" "You are not building your own kingdom, your own private world, you are committed to my goals and directions…" "You must pay close attention to me, fix your gaze on where I am and where I go…" "You must not shrink back from reaching the place I reach…" "You will pay the cost that I pay and suffer the pain that I suffer…" "You must never substitute me for someone else or something else…" "FOLLOW ME!" Jesus never watered down his words. He spoke them with force.
Illus: Franklin Graham in Christianity Today, “You mention the name of Jesus and it divides the room.”
II. THE COMMITMENT (v. 28)—(A pledge or promise) “He left all…and followed Him”--When Jesus extended the call “Follow Me,” Levi left everything to follow Jesus. Summers, “In a similar way the expression left all regularly indicates affirmative response & enlisting in the ministry of Jesus.”
1. The price “So He left all” “He walked away from everything”—He left his profession, his profits & his personal identity. Those who rejected it did so because the found the conditions of following too severe. “Left all” indicates an affirmative response to the service of Jesus. This means that he completely abandoning his office, and every thing connected with it. He who wishes to preach the Gospel, like the disciples of Christ, must have no earthly entanglement. If he has, his whole labor will be marred by it. The concerns of his own soul, and those of the multitudes to whom he preaches, are sufficient to engross all his attention, and to employ all his powers.
2. The position “Rose up”—He had to get up in order to do what Jesus says. You can’t stay where you are at. Levi broke with his way of life; he left everything in order to follow Jesus.
3. The pursuit “and followed Him” “He went with Him.”—Levi’s sacrifice was much greater than the four fishermen (Simon & Andrew, James & John). He left His lucrative business and trusted that God would provide for His needs. Levi’s response was the same as that of the fishermen (5:11). He was the fifth called to attend the footsteps of Jesus. Like the others, at the call, he rose and followed at once. Think of the tremendous consequences that flowed from that simple decision. Levi, or Matthew, became the writer of the First Gospel. It pays to hear His call and follow Him.
Illus: Roy Cordle writes, “I want to be a nobody who will tell everybody that Somebody loves them and died for them on the Cross and His name is Jesus Christ. Amen.
III. THE CELEBRATION (v. 29) “Then Levi gave Him a great feast”—Shared meals symbolized shared lives—intimacy, kinship, unity—throughout the Mediterranean world. Levi had three purpose in arranging this great banquet: to honor the Lord, to witness publicly to his new allegiance & to introduce his friends to Jesus.
1. The occasion “Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house”-- Matthew, a man of wealth, gave a special dinner for his associates that they might meet Jesus. The Pharisees had rejected the publicans utterly and would have nothing to do with them, but Jesus reached out to them. Forgiveness was for publicans as well as for others.
2. The opportunity “There were a great number of tax collectors and others”--Levi invited many of his “sinner friends” to meet Jesus. This is a good plan for new believers to follow, introduce your old friends to your new Friend. No occasion was for introducing Levi’s new friend and leader to his old friends and associates. Matt. & Mark mentions “and sinners” which was a word for spiritual & social outcasts.
IV. THE CRITICISM (v. 30) “Their scribes and Pharisees complained against His disciples”—His action leads to protest & murmuring.
1. The critics “scribes and the Pharisees”—The Pharisees whispered to each other their accusations and against Jesus and His disciples. They made every effort to separate themselves from others. They would receive sinners, but only after the sinners repented and became Pharisees. Jesus befriended sinners. He did not become a sinner, but He associated with sinners in order to help them find the way to God and new life.
Illus: Someone said: “The Pharisees believed in salvation by separation while Jesus practiced salvation by association.”
2. The complaint “complained against His disciples”--The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did not share Levi’s joy. Of course, they had not been invited to the party, but they had gotten a full report. Some may have watched the proceedings, unseen, through an open window. We note that they did not come to Jesus but to His disciples.
3. The consideration “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”-- In their view, Jesus had defiled Himself by consorting with the collective Hebrew and Gentile scum of Galilee. His eating with them indicated friendship and full acceptance.
V. THE COMPASSION (vvs. 31-32) “Those who are well have no of a physician”—Jesus flings back a clinching answer to the scribes & Pharisees. This leads to a complete transformation: change of mind, heart, will, conduct.
1. The Great Physician (v. 31) “a physician”--He compared Himself to a physician who came to meet the needs of the sick. Jesus saw lost sinners as sick patients who needed healing, not as enemies who should be condemned. They went for the physician’s aid when they were sick, not to ward off sickness. Jesus answered that His action was in perfect accord with His purpose in coming into the world. Healthy people do not need a doctor; only those who are sick do.
2. The Grand Purpose (v. 32)--“I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”—The proverb was clear. The Pharisees considered themselves to be righteous. They had no deep sense of sin or of need. Therefore, they could not benefit from the ministry of the Great Physician. But these tax collectors and sinners realized that they were sinners and that they needed to be saved from their sins. It was for people like them that the Savior came. Actually, the Pharisees were not righteous. They needed to be saved as much as the tax collectors. But they were unwilling to confess their sins and acknowledge their guilt. And so they criticized the Doctor for going to people who were seriously ill.
Even as a doctor has a duty and calling to cure for the sick, so Jesus has a calling to care for sinners. Jesus implied that He could do nothing for the “righteous” Pharisees, who were sure of their own perfection. He wanted to reach those who recognized and acknowledged their need. We must keep preaching the Gospel to a lost world, inviting sinners to come to Christ and into His kingdom.
Illus: One of the greatest tragedies for people would be to live in darkness when they could live in the light…Rose Crawford had been blind for 50 years. Then she had an operation in an Ontario hospital. She said, "I just can’t believe it," as the doctor lifted the bandages from her eyes. She wept when, for the first time in her life, she saw a dazzling and beautiful world of form and color. The amazing thing about her story, however, was that 20 years of her blindness was unnecessary. She didn’t know that surgical techniques had been developed, and that an operation could have restored her vision at the age of 30. The Dr. said, "She just figured there was nothing that could be done for her condition. Much of her life could have been different."
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling.
CONCLUSION: When you follow Jesus:
1. Jesus becomes the center of your life. What or who is the center of your life?
2. You will invite Him into your home and families.
Illus: One man rushed home from church, ripped off his tie and said with relief, “Boy, I’m glad that’s over with for another week.”
3. You will want your friends to meet Jesus too.
Illus: George Barna, a respected researcher, says there are 78 million unchurched people in America. Of those he interviewed, 58% said they would gladly attend a church if a friend invited them to join them.
How Much Are We Willing To Commit To Jesus? 1. Are we willing to get up and follow Him? 2. Are we willing to make drastic changes? 3. Are we willing to be numbered with the undesirable?
Illus: An incident for an Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed into the ocean off the Comoro Islands after running out of fuel. The dramatic moment of impact was caught on home video and broadcast around the world. Only later did we learn of something even more dramatic happening in the cabin as the plane headed for disaster. A man named Andrew Meekens stood up and tried to calm the passengers, sharing his faith in Christ and presenting the gospel. Just moments before the plane hit the water, some twenty people responded to his invitation to receive Christ. A surviving flight attendant had to tell the story, because Andrew Meekens died in the crash.
Illus: The burly miner blinked as he left the dark interior of the coal mine.
Stopping at a faucet near the mine entrance, he washed the worst of the
grime from his face and hands, then headed towards his home on the outskirts
of the village. As he trudged along the dusty lane, he passed the open door
of a little church. Inside, a small crowd listened intently as an energetic
man gesticulated from the pulpit. Interested, the miner stepped to the door.
"Absolute surrender is what we must have," the minister was saying. "Are you
willing to surrender yourself absolutely into His hand? If not, you are not
ready to meet your God." The minister paced back and forth on the platform.
"We do not know how much longer our earthly probation will last. Tonight you
are living; tomorrow may be too late. Ask yourself, I beg of you, ’Am I
ready to meet the Lord?’" The miner, touched to the quick, slipped into the back pew. I am not ready to meet God, he thought. I have lived a careless, godless life. How can I make peace with Him? The meeting ended, and the people filed out. Still the miner remained in the pew, his head in his hands.
Finally, the minister touched him on the shoulder. "Brother, are you ready
to meet the Lord?" Blindly, the miner shook his head. "I know I am not. Oh, help me find peace!" An hour passed as the minister shared the plan of salvation; yet something held the miner back from full surrender. "It’s getting late," the minister finally said. "Go home, and continue to seek the Lord." The miner shook his head. "Stay with me a little longer; it must be settled tonight." Once again the minister explained the way of salvation and prayed, but in vain. Another hour passed. "You must go home," the minister told him. "It’s late, and I cannot make it any clearer." "It must be settled tonight," the miner repeated, his eyes burning with earnestness. "Then we shall stay here together," the minister agreed. Once more he spoke of Jesus, and shared promise after promise. Once more he prayed, but in vain. "I must go," the minister finally said. "It will soon be morning. Go
home, and return tomorrow night. Maybe then you will find peace." "Sir, I cannot leave this place until I find peace." The poor man’s voice trembled. "Tomorrow may be too late. It must be settled tonight." The minister could not resist his appeal. "By the help of God." he said, "it shall be settled tonight."
Again he explained the steps of conversion; again he prayed. As he spoke,
the miner broke into sobs and tears, and at last the light pierced his darkness.
"I see it!" he cried. "I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do
only what He wants. It is settled. Praise His name, it is settled!" The two men knelt again, but this time to thank God for bringing light to a sinner’s soul.
The next morning the miner went to work as usual. During the day he was sent
to a distant part of the mine to fetch some tools. When he did not return,
his fellow workers went to look for him. They found that the mine walls had
caved in on him, and he was buried in the debris. Working with pick and
shovel, they began to dig. Finally, from the fragments of rock and rubbish
and stone which hid him from sight, came a faint sound: "Tonight ---- would have been ---- too late. Thank God ---- it was settled---- last night!" -Am I ready to meet the Lord?-
You Forgot My Soul
You lived next door to me for years;
We shared our dreams, our joys, our tears.
A friend to me you were indeed,
A friend who helped me in my need.
My faith in you was strong and sure;
We had such trust as should endure.
No spats between us e’er arose;
Our friends were like—and so, our foes.
What sadness then, my friend, to find
That, after all, you weren’t so kind.
The day my life on earth did end,
I found you weren’t a faithful friend.
For all those years we spent on earth
You never talked of second birth.
You never spoke of my lost soul
And of the Christ who’d make me whole.
I plead today from Hell’s cruel fire
And tell you now my last desire.
You cannot do a thing for me;
No words today my bonds to free.
But do not err, my friend, again—
Do all you can for souls of men.
Please with them now quite earnestly,
Lest they be cast in Hell with me.
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