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Learning What God Desires

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/23) Introduction- The Problem of People.

I do not like horror or scary movies. I just wanted to say that. And though I did not see the movie, I did see the scene from a movie made in 1999 called The Sixth Sense, where the young boy played, by Haley Joel Osment, tells Bruce Willis that he sees dead people; that they are everywhere, but they donít know they are dead. Anyone see the movie? Was it good? That line is very much what God sees when He looks at the people that we rub shoulders with every day. People on death row are referred to as dead men walking. I want to remind you, what many of you know already, that unless a person is born again, he or she may be alive physically but is absolutely dead spiritually, and unless they receive new life, he or she will go into eternity dead and be separated from God forever.

Do you remember what our Lord told Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17, " But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." The Hebrew literally reads like this, "Dying You will die." The Apostle Paul helps us to understand this in a couple of verses. Look at Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." And again, Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Speaking to those who are now Christians and now have that new, abundant, and eternal life that came when they believed in Jesus, he reminds them what they were why. They had been dead, separated from God because of their trespasses and sins. They had crossed the line from holiness and righteousness to lawlessness and disobedience and they had done things that are contrary to Godís holiness. They were separated from God because God is Holy. They and the people we know, whether they know it or not, are doing exactly what Satan wants them to do; that is, whatever they want apart from Godís will. Because of our sins and trespasses we deserve Godís wrath, regardless of the fact that God is love and that we are not as bad as a lot of people. God is holy and His justice for sin must be applied. If one doesnít accept Jesus and His pardon, he or she remains dead and will be separated from God for eternity.

The problem is compounded by the fact that though God can be known by creation, conscience, the Christ, the Bible, and more, most people are not considering these things and are only looking at what the world says is good and they are doing what they want when they can. People are growing up without a God conscience. We know that less than 20% of our population even attends any kind of church or religious service. Many are growing up in Fatherless homes, broken homes, and in a world that is increasingly anti-God. So, people are just acting according to their nature and the results are crime and swelling jails, and increased immorality. We are now calling evil good and good evil. A Republican Senator from Alaska just said, that she endorses same sex marriages believing that they will be good for family values. This is just plain wrong! The world is full of dead people everywhere and they donít know that they are dead. But that is exactly the world that Jesus came to redeem. Letís consider:

I. The Pardon of God Ė Joseph and Mary were instructed to name the Baby Mary would birth, Jesus, meaning Jehovah Saves, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). God doesnít want anyone to die without receiving new life. He came to die in Manís place so He could pardon and rescue from death anyone who will believe in Him. Paul said. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Tim. 2:12-15)

II. The Paralyzed man (vv. 1-8) - Though it is not the theme of our sermon, it is interesting to me, that Jesus is in Capernaum, teaching in a house, when a paralyzed man is brought by four friends or relatives and they want to see Jesus and though Matthew doesnít tell us, Mark and Luke do, that they could not get in the house as it was packed with people. Jesus was in the house and everybody wanted to see and hear the hometown favorite. Reminds me of when The Voice or American Idol sends the final 3 contestants home before the finale. The four friends take their buddy to the roof and begin to disassemble the house roof and when they had a sufficient hole, they let their friend down where Jesus could see Him. By the way, does that impress you? The cost, being arrested, a law suit, or whatever wasnít as important as getting their friend to Jesus. They would be responsible because Jesus was this guyís only hope. What would you be willing to do to bring someone to Jesus?

But notice what Jesus says and doesnít do immediately. He says, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." What is implied in this is that that man is eaten up with guilt. Cheer up, Take heart, Lift up your head, you are forgiven. Implied is that perhaps this paralysis is the result of some sin. Maybe he knew he shouldnít drink and drive but he did anyway. Or maybe, he disobeyed his parents who said, donít play in that old abandoned barn, but he did anyway and fell through the floor. If only he had done what he knew was right. Maybe he had sacrificed and asked God for forgiveness, we donít know. But Jesus knew that while he wanted to walk again, His biggest need was to be rid of the guilt and to rest knowing he was forgiven. This caused a lot of controversy. There were also in the house that day, a lot of Pharisees and scribes that had come from all over Israel to hear Jesus (so says Luke 5). They accused Him of blasphemy when He pronounced forgiveness because Isaiah 43:25 plainly says that only God can forgive, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins." For Jesus to say, "you are forgiven," is to claim that He was equal to God. To show them that He had Godís authority to forgive, Jesus healed the man and the place went crazy with awe, wonder, and fear, and they glorified God. When the party broke up and Jesus left the house, He found another dead man walking.

III. The Publican ĖMatthew (v.9). Matthew, as well, was a dead man walking. Collecting taxes for the Romans was not a popular occupation but it was very lucrative. He had cheated his own people to supply taxes for Rome. I wonder if the guilt ever bothered him and he wished he could have a different life. We donít know if he had heard Jesus, grew up with Jesus, or maybe heard about Him from his brother. It appears that James the Less could have been his brother as both are known as the sons of Alpheus (cp. Mark 2:14, & Matt. 10:3), though they are never paired together as Peter and Andrew or James and John. Maybe he had collected taxes from Jesus, we donít know. What do we know, is that when the invitation was extended to have a new life, to have grace and forgiveness, a new beginning, a chance to start over, that he left everything, including the key to the office and his parking place, to become a Disciple of Jesus.

IV. The Party at Matthewís House (v.10)

Luke says that Matthew, or his Jewish name Levi, threw a great feast in His house for Jesus and invited the only friends that he had, other tax collectors, and the outcasts of society. These sinners were not church or synagogue going people. These were people that you wouldnít want your son or daughter to date. Some were probably prostitutes. Some are identified as other tax collectors. The rest were considered riffraff and immoral people. They were all dead people walking. And Jesus accepted the invitation to attend. Maybe, like the Samaritan woman at the well, Matthew wanted everyone to know the Rabbi that knew him and still invited him to be a disciple.

V. The Phariseeís Reprimand (v.11) Ė The Pharisees were appalled that any God-fearing teacher would associate with such people. They werenít upset that sinners would want to be with him, they were upset that He would want to be with them. From this point on Jesus had a reputation of being, "a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!í (Matt. 11:19) and Luke 15:1-2 says, "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them." Note, that they didnít confront Jesus, but complained to His disciples, perhaps trying to get them to turn on or away from Him. Itís called divide and conquer.

VI. The Physicianís Rebuttal (vv.12-13) Ė Notice that our Lord gives 3 arguments for eating and hanging out with, "sinners."

A. The Rational of a Physician. He uses the analogy of a Dr. Physicians are not trained for the purpose of patting healthy people on the back. They are trained to help those who are ill, diseased, injured, or wounded. Jesus had just demonstrated that He came to forgive people and that he had the power of a physician. What is the purpose of religion? What is the purpose of Godís word? Is it to show good people that they are good, and how to be better? Perhaps. Doctors do that. But their primary purpose is to help sick people be restored to health. The sick need to know that the cure is possible, but often they donít know how sick they really are. For Drs. to meet and talk about the sick as they look down their noses, or to sit in their offices and ignore the sick, is insane. Just so, it is insane for those who claim to know the truth and to know God and to know how to be forgiven and have new life, to just talk about how bad people are. It is no different for us. We may not claim to be Pharisees, but if we are not in some way, somehow telling the spiritually sick and dead people how to be well and have life, we are missing the point of our purpose as Christ Followers. Next he uses the:

B. The Rebuke of Scripture (v. 13) Ė He reminds them of the scene from Hosea 6:6. Hosea is a picture prophecy. Hosea is instructed to marry a prostitute named Gomer. He does and even though they have several children, Gomer leaves her husband and returns to her former life. But Hosea seeks her, forgives her, and restores her. That is an awesome picture of God and Israel. God makes a covenant-like marriage with Israel. Israel is unfaithful and God keeps seeking her and asking her to come home. He restores her and forgives her when she repents. 6:6 says, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). God wants Israel to know that the love He wants from them is for them to love the people He loves, and not just to do religious stuff. When Jesus says go and learn what this means He was rebuking them, and actually insulting them. It would be like someone telling you to go and learn what John 3:16 means. These guys prided themselves on their knowledge of the Bible.

Letís you and I pause and consider this and learn from it. I desire mercy, or compassion, or loving kindness, and not religious stuff. God is not as concerned about how often you go to church, how much you give, or how many Bible verses you have memorized as He is about how much you care for the people that He loved so much, that He would rather die than live without. He wants them to break your heart, even if they are suffering because of their own sinful lifestyle. They need a Dr. or a nurse who cares. God actually says in Amos 5 and Isaiah 1 and other places that He is sick of religious stuff. Religious stuff is only good if it flows from a heart of love for God and towards the people God loves. Look at a similar verse in Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" This is exactly why James says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. How does Jesus say that He will identify which people are His sheep and which are goats when He returns to claim His Kingdom (Matthew 25)? Not by how often they went to church, which version of the Bible they carried, or how much money they gave, but by how they cared for the hurting, hungry, sick, poor, and imprisoned. He tells us the same thing in Isaiah 58, where the people are complaining that they are doing religious stuff but it seems like God is ignoring them. God says, I didnít ask for that stuff, I asked that you cloth the naked, take in the homeless, feed the hungry, and care for the hurting.

Can you do these things and not be a Christ-Follower? Sure you can. But you cannot be a Christ Ė Follower and not do these things! Church, why are we here on planet earth? What is the God given purpose for our existence? We may not like the homosexual, the HIV infected, the abortion providers, the drug addicts, the prison inmates, the alcoholics, or the contrary neighbor, but most of them are only doing what their dead nature is leading them to do. They need to know about the healing, the forgiveness, the resurrection, and the life that Jesus offers. We need to remember the pit from which we ourselves were rescued. We need to remember that apart from someone like a parent, a peer, a pastor, a co-worker, a Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher, someone who cared to tell us about Jesus, we would, could, and should be that person on our way to hell. We should look at them and say, "There go I, but for the grace of God." If you are not somehow showing someone compassion, mercy, loving-kindness to the lost, you donít know God, you are not following Jesus and you donít know what He desires from you.

You will never be what Jesus has called you to follow Him to be until you show compassion and mercy. These two words have the meaning of seeing suffering or pain and doing what it takes to relieve that suffering.

In the case of theses sinners, it was simply building a relationship and sharing truth. How many responded? We donít know. But we do know that Jesus cared enough to be there and tell them.

Robert D. Flagg was a man my age that came to faith in Jesus 25 years ago. D. was an iron worker. Shortly after his conversion, he said to me, "My company picnic is this weekend but I am not going anymore?" "Why," I asked. "Because there will be a lot of drinking and stuff like that and Iím not going." I said, "D. you need to go, drink a Pepsi or a Dr. Pepper, and when someone asks you why not a beer, tell them that Jesus changed your life and he can change theirs." I was told by a life coach, last year, to find a restaurant in town that sold liquor and go and start a Bible Study in there. Sometimes I get upset because we disagree about what music we like or the technology we use when what God is concerned about is the lost, poor, and hurting. We need to stop worrying about what other Christians think and care about what God thinks about these lost people. Amen? Amen!

C. The Reason for Jesus (v. 13b cp. Heb. 2:17) Here is one of the many places that Jesus states the reason why He came to us. Now we know that the Bible says in Rom. 3:10 that there is none righteous no not one, and Psalm 14 says that there is none that does good, and Isa. 64:6 says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. He wasnít saying that there are righteous people, but that He was here on a mission from God and that mission was to call sinners to repentance so they could be forgiven and have Godís life. John 5:24 says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." Peter reminds us that Jesus delays His return because,"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9). Jesus would say to Zacchaeus, "Öfor the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Heb. 2:14-18 says, " Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. He came as one of us, so He could help us. He took off His royal robes and took on human flesh and our poverty so He could sympathize with dead people walking and give them life.

Luke 15:1-2 says, "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them." He then spoke these 3 stories to share how God feels about the tax collectors and sinners. There is the story of a woman with a lost coin who searches until she finds it, and a Shepherd with a lost sheep and searches until he finds it, and though there is great joy in finding the coin and the sheep, there is greater joy in Heaven when a lost sinner repents and finds life. He then tells the story of the lost boy who shamefully comes home after losing everything including his dignity, but finds a Father who has been praying and hoping and waiting for his son and oh the party that he throws to celebrate this sinful sonís return home. God wants us to care for the lost. If you are not, if we are not, we donít know jack about following Jesus. The older brother, however was resentful of the forgiveness and joy of a sinner restored. Jesus didnít come to show us how to spend a Sunday morning. He came to redeem lost sinful people. And He wants us to do the same.

Remember Ephesians 2:1-3? Do you know verses 4 and 5? They are, in my opinion, among the greatest verses in the Bible. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),"

I will close with a personal story. I have told many of you already. About 30 years ago, the chaplain of the Prince Georges County Detention Center, kept calling me and asking me to come see the jail and what he did as Chaplain. He was looking for support. I always had excuses to not go. I did not want to visit a jail. Finally, he said, I want to ask you one more time. If you will come I will treat you to lunch and not ask again. I said, okay. I would visit and never go back.

That jail was all I imagined it to be. This was the old P.G.C. jail. I was patted down, and emptied my pockets until I left, and began my tour. It was hot. It smelled foul. The inmates were vulgar and the lunch was jail food, nuff said. As I prepared to leave, the chaplain said to me, "I would like to ask one more favor of you. I would like you to come back early Sunday Morning and preach for us." You must be kidding me. I had made a vow to God that I would preach anywhere I was asked as long as I didnít have to compromises my beliefs. I said, "Okay, just this once." 9 Oíclock on Sunday morning, I was in a small room with 25 inmates and 3 officers, and 3 volunteers, there was no room to move in there. We sang a few songs and I preached John 3:1-16, You must be Born Again. Of the 25 inmates, 24 were black men. I say that because I had never preached to a black audience before. I preached, gave an invitation, and 4 men responded with tears flowing down their face. I prayed with them, encouraged them and then went to the door as the officers lead them out to return to their cells. As the men left, they didnít shake my hand, they hugged me. One was about 5-6 inches taller, and 50 pounds heavier than me, and he literally picked me up off my feet and said, "Please Come Back." Folks, I have never been so received in a church. The result is that for the next 25 years I was a volunteer Bible study leader in two jails, and a full time chaplain for 4 years. This is where Jesus would go. There are a lot of men and women in jail that are waiting for someone to tell them that they can have new life, forgiveness, hope, peace, and purpose. In jail, you donít have to convince them that they are lost, many just want to know if God still cares and can He, will He forgive and change them.

Folks, what does God desire for your life? He wants you to care and show compassion to those He died to save. How or to whom are you showing mercy and compassion?

Will you make that a matter of prayer?

Will you tell God now, I donít want to be just a Church goer, I want to be a Christ Follower and I want to reach the lost, the sinners, the poor, the imprisoned, the hurting. God just open my eyes so I will see those around me who need to hear of your grace and love and help me to show them your mercy, compassion, and loving-kindness, for this is what you desire of me.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman