Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

When God Calls You by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

when-god-calls-youIntroduction: It’s time for our message, so turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Mark. For those of you who may not know, we’re in our series on the Life of Christ from all 4 gospels. Now before we begin I do have a confession to make. In the past 2 years since we began this series, I have unintentionally neglected one of those four gospels – the Gospel of Mark. So today we turn to Mark 2 for our message – “WHEN GOD CALLS YOU.”

Mark 2   14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Bridge: How many of y’all remember growing up playing pick up games after school or in the neighborhood? You wanted your name to be called, right? In fact, not having your name called was very embarrassing and painful to say the least.

Context: In this message we will see how Jesus called someone to follow Him who, according to the religious leaders of the day, was unfit to be called. To be more precise, his job made him unfit but according to Jesus He was a perfect fit for God’s kingdom.

Question: There are several calls from God that come in a person’s life. As a Christian, there is the call to discipleship. It’s God’s call to leave all behind and go further with Him? As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? There’s another call that comes in a Christian’s life – the call to take on a special ministry or work. Don’t misunderstand. This does not necessarily have to be a call to preach. It is a call to join God in doing something to build His kingdom in this world. As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? But before you get any of these calls, you have to answer the first call that comes in every person’s life – the call to be saved. Have you heard that call? Have you responded to Jesus as your Savior? Are you saved?

This morning we will learn how to respond when God calls you:

I. NATURE OF GOD’S CALL.

14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. People mistakenly assume that this was the first encounter of Jesus with Levi/Matthew. Not necessarily. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him.

Let’s back up a little bit and get the whole context starting in verse 13 “Then He went out again by the sea…”

capernaum-aerial

Capernaum Aerial

Background: Where is this “by the sea”? This is Capernaum. As I’ve mentioned before, Nicole and I have been there. It is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. In ancient times it sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria in the North and Mesopotamia in the East. So people from everywhere passed through Capernaum. Not only that but because of the Sea of Galilee Capernaum was an important port for importing and exporting cargo. This was much more than just a fishing village. It was a big checkpoint

capernaum-ancient

Capernaum Ancient

for customs. This is why, as we will see later on, so many tax collectors/customs officials were there. There was a small Roman garrison in Capernaum. By the way, what else shows up around places like this? Brothels and prostitutes.

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus picked Capernaum to be the base of His early ministry? Why? Because people from everywhere were there, especially the

capernaum-synagogue

Capernaum Synagogue

nonreligious types. 13 “…and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.” Can you picture Jesus preaching to the multitudes along the countryside? Can you picture Him doing some of His greatest miracles there? Can you picture Him walking by the fishing boats and calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him? Can you picture Him teaching at the local synagogue, which was fairly new, built by a centurion whose servant Jesus healed? Can you picture Him walking through the streets of Capernaum and talking to the people?

The point is this – Jesus was not a stranger in Capernaum anymore. People recognized Him everywhere He went. Most of them had heard Him. Many of them knew someone

capernaum-ruins

Capernaum Ruins

in their family or neighborhoods that were healed by Him. Some of them may have even responded positively to His message. I’m going somewhere with this. When it says in verse 14 that Jesus saw Levi/Matthew and called him and he immediately left all, it does not mean that this was a first encounter. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him. I believe that Matthew had probably seen firsthand some of His miracles. He had probably gone to hear Him preach many times. This was not a random call to some random person demanding a spontaneous life-long commitment. God doesn’t work that way.

capernaum-street

Capernaum Street

What kind of a call did Jesus give to Levi/Matthew? Was it a call to salvation? I don’t think so because there’s nothing about belief in Jesus. Was it a call to discipleship, to growth in his faith? I don’t think so because discipleship does not mean that you have to quit your job. What kind of a call was this? It was a specific call that Jesus gave only one other time to people He picked to be His disciples. This was a call to a very specific life. Sometimes I’m amazed at how people flippantly talk about responding to God’s call to do this or that. Then they go out and make a mess out of things and return with their tail between their legs. What happened? I don’t know. I guess I misheard.

Here’s the point: Take the time in prayer to discern God’s call in your life. If God is tugging on your heartstrings this morning and you’ve never given your heart to Jesus, the first call you need to respond to is salvation. If you are saved and God is tugging on your heartstrings again, don’t run out and try to start some ministry. You will become a liability. First, examine your heart for any sin that you are ignoring or covering up. Maybe, God’s call for you is to repent. If you are saved, your sins are fessed up, and you still feel God is tugging on your heartstrings, check God’s Word to see if there is some place in your life that you need to be obedient. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting that unless all the boxes are checked that you cannot follow God’s call in ministry. That will never happen. I’m just saying that we need to discern God’s call before we respond flippantly.

Application: What is God calling you to do? Receive Jesus as Your Savior or repent of some sin or obey some truth from God’s Word or follow Him in lifelong service?

II. CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S CALL.

15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many…”

Background: We don’t know if it were the same day or a few days later but Levi/Matthew must have asked Jesus – “How would you feel if I organize a big feast (as Luke has it) at my place and invite some of my buddies to come? They probably won’t ever go to a synagogue but they might come to hear you. Just want to forewarn you – Some of them are a little rough around the edges.” You can picture a smile come across Jesus’ face as he replied – “Matthew, that’s why I came.” Matthew probably said – “I figured you’d say that.” Can you picture him going all out for this dinner party to invite all his friends to meet Jesus? I wonder if Jesus helped out? I think He did. I can see Him sweeping the floors, wiping down the tables, and even cleaning the fish.

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

They came and it was a party like none other. All lost people gathered around the Son of God having a party. What was the result? “…and they followed Him.” We don’t know the actual implications of “followed Him.” It could mean that they got saved and left their old lifestyles. It could mean that that got saved and gave their gifts to support the ministry of Jesus. It could also mean that they literally followed Jesus like Matthew. Tax collectors were among the literate people in ancient times. As you know Matthew wrote the first gospel. I can almost picture him telling his buddies who followed Jesus to take some notes. Is it any wonder the Matthew’s gospel is the most comprehensive of all 4 gospels?!! Matthew’s call was to go and call others.

Here’s the point: God reaches people through people. We are the instruments of His gospel. As a pastor, I may not be able to reach people that you can reach. They won’t listen to me but they will definitely listen to you. There are many people at Clearview who have come because a friend or neighbor invited them.

Application: Do you invite people to meet Jesus? Do you care about the salvation of your friends and neighbors? When was the last time you invited someone to church? Sometimes people are reluctant to come to church. When was the last time you invited someone to come over for a cookout and shared the good news with them in a non threatening manner?

III. OPPOSITION TO GOD’S CALL.

16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

Background: Tax collectors, even though they were Jewish by ethnicity, were out there with the gentiles and the prostitutes. The Romans had established a system of tolls and customs known as “portoria” all over the empire. Instead of wasting money and manpower to collect these tolls, they would farm them out to the highest bidder. Whoever won the bid would pay the amount set by the Roman government and then whatever he collected would be profit. These were the “telonai” or the “toll collectors” or “tax collectors.” You can just imagine how much this would get abused. Of course, they had the support of their tough guys and soldiers if needed. The people hated them and the religious leaders grouped them with robbers and even the Romans regarded them as brothel keepers (pimps). No religious parent in those would like their child to come home and say – “When I grow up, I’m going to be a tax collector.” Is it any wonder that the scribes and the Pharisees were shocked to see Jesus mingling with them?

What was Jesus’ response? 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus was not saying that the religious leaders were the “righteous” who did not need to be saved. He was being sarcastic. The point was – “It is so much easier to convince an outright sinner that he/she needs to be saved than to convince a church going, Bible-toting, so called Christian that he/she is lost.”

Illustration: A man complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the TV. His children watched cartoons and didn’t do their schoolwork. His wife watched soap operas instead of doing housework. He said, “I am going to fix the problem. I’m going to pulling the plug as soon as the baseball season’s over.”

Unless you are willing to admit that you are a sinner, you are not ready to be saved. Are you lost? What is God calling you to do? Is He calling you to lead your marriage and your home in His way? Is He calling you to some greater task? Did the Holy Spirit bring someone to your mind that you need to bring to Christ

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