Jesus' Footprints

Posts Tagged ‘tax collectors

Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).

Basically, you are a member of God’s family when you live in obedience to His Word.  It makes sense that if you want to be a child of God or if you already are, you would do what it says in His Word.  God has spelled out clearly what He requires of us.  Just look at Jesus’ teachings.  They are filled with how God wants us to live our lives.

We are told to forgive others if we expect God to forgive us.  Jesus told a wonderful story about a king who showed mercy to a servant who could not repay his debt and begged the king not to sell him.  The king forgave the servant his debt but that same servant refused to release another servant from the debt he owed him although it was far less than the debt the first servant owed the king.  Of course, the king was upset and that servant received a just punishment for his unforgiving attitude toward the other servant. 

joesph-and-his-brothersJoseph is a perfect example of someone who forgave his brothers although he could have easily justified holding on to his anger and bitterness.  After all they had planned to kill him and then decided that they would sell him instead.  He never saw his mother again and years passed before he was reunited with his father who thought he was dead.  He was falsely accused of and thrown into prison for attempted rape.  He spent years in prison before he was released.  In spite of all of these things, Joseph chose to forgive.  And he even saw the good which God achieved from the bad things that happened to him (Genesis 50:19-21).

We are told to love our enemies.  This is a tough one but Jesus said that we are to be like our Heavenly Father who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”.  We are to be different from the rest of the world who loves those who love them and hate those who hate them.  We are called to love those who hate, spitefully use and persecute us.  

We are told not to judge.  Jesus used the example of a person looking at the speck in his brother’s eye when he has a plank in his own.  How could he possibly see that speck when he has a plank in his eye?  Why is it that we look at the sin of others and ignore the sin in our own lives?  Let us deal with our own sin problem.  It’s like the religious leaders.  They were judging the tax collectors and other people they considered outcasts when they were far from being righteous themselves.  They were envious, unmerciful, judgmental, self-righteous and hypocrites.  Are we guilty of judging others because they don’t measure up to our standards?  Do we think we are better than non-Christians?  We should always bear in mind the words of Paul, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We cannot judge people.  Only God can.  He knows the heart.

We are told to be persistent in prayer.  God is just waiting to give good things to those who ask Him.  All we have to do is ask, seek and knock.  We ask as often as it takes.  We ask in faith, never wavering.  And if it is God’s will, what we ask for we will receive.

We are told to enter the narrow way.  Don’t do what is popular or easier or less resistant.  Don’t follow the crowd if it is contrary to the Word or will of God.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not go along with the rest of the society in worshiping the idol image of Nebuchadnezzar even if it meant their deaths.  They stood apart from the crowd and make a strong stand for their faith in the one true God.  We are to enter the narrow way which leads to everlasting life and not the broad way which leads to destruction.

We are to bear good fruit.  As Christians we are exhorted to bear good fruit.  Good fruit means we act in accordance to God’s word and will.  We bear fruit worthy of repentant and changed lives.  This means we are no longer living as we did before we came to Christ.  We practice what we preach.  We are Christians in deed and not in name only.  We follow Christ’s example and bear the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  This goes back to what Jesus said about not acting as the heathen do.  We love those who hate us; have joy even during tough times; experience the peace of Christ during the storms; are patient even when it’s hard; are kind and good to others whether or not they deserve it; stay faithful to God even when it seems like our prayers are not being answered; show gentleness even when people are unkind or inconsiderate toward us; we exercise self-control no matter what kind of situation we are dealing with.  Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not easy as we know that the flesh and the Spirit are always warring against each other but those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh.  Christ living inside you enables you to walk in the Spirit.

We are to do the will of the Father.  None of us wants to hear Jesus say, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Why would He say that?  There are professing Christians out there who believe that they will be saved because they have prophesied, cast out demons and done many wonders in Jesus’ name but Jesus will declare that He doesn’t know them.  These are Christians who, although they did all these things in His name, they did not do the will of the Father.  Only those who practice the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom.  If Jesus were truly Lord of their lives, they would not be practicing lawlessness.  They would be doing the Father’s will.  Their lives would bear fruit worthy of entering the kingdom.  Obviously, it is not enough to be active in church ministry, going to church, distributing tracts or feeding the poor.  If you are not doing something that God has revealed to you–that you need to change or renounce, you will not be among those of whom He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

We are to build on the Rock.  What is your foundation?  Is it tradition or the teaching of the church?  In Jesus day, the religious leaders seemed to place the traditions and teachings of men above the commandments of God.  Jesus made it clear that our foundation should be on His word.  When we hear His teachings and we apply them to our lives, we will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock and when the rain, floods and wind threatened to sweep it away, it stood.  It did not fall.  It’s the same with us.  Once we are anchored in the Word of Jesus and we do what it says, when the enemy comes and tries to topple us over with temptations, opposition, persecution, etc. we will stand because we have built our lives on the Rock.

Jesus taught many other things that would help us in our Christian walk.  All we have to do is to decide today to be doers and not just hearers of His Word.

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Fight the good fight of faith” – 1 Timothy 6:12

Faith should be a way of life, not an occasional pastime.  We can’t say we accept Jesus as our Saviour and refuse to follow His example.  Noah and Abraham are the kind of Christians we should aspire to be.  People who did evil things in God’s sight surrounded both men but they never sinned against God.

Faith becomes a habit or an accessory instead of heartfelt conviction and way of life.   People carry their Bible, wear their crucifix and Jesus pin to church but once they leave the church, the Bible goes back on the shelf, the crucifix and pin go back in the jewellery box.  Faith is not something you put on display to impress others.  Faith should be a commitment, a necessity.

Faith should not be a feeling.  It is a belief. We can’t say I feel like being faithful to God today and then tomorrow, we say, the opposite.  We should eat, sleep and drink faith.  We should embrace faith and be steadfast in it.  We should have unwavering faith like Abraham and David whose faith got them through the toughest of times.  Faith is our lifesaver, our anchor, and our hope in good things to come.  Faith is an expression of love for God.  Faith is relying on God to meet our needs, it is to believe that He will take care of us—that He will keep His promises and that He will come through each and every time we turn to Him for help.  Faith should be a long-lasting experience not a quick fix.  Faith is what gets us through tough times.  Faith should be growing stronger not weaker.

People are convinced that they can’t live the way Jesus did because they are ignorant of God’s Word and the power He gives us to live out genuine Christian lives.  They think their behaviour is acceptable because of how other Christians are living—they are looking at their friends, not at Jesus.  God promised that we can do all things through Him. (Philippians 4:13)  He encouraged us to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)  Among the rulers there were many believers but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Jesus because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.  They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

People are more concerned with following the example of others than following Jesus.  Jesus warned His disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12)

Some Christians are more committed than others in their walk with God.  They behave differently than those around them.  Their lives are completely surrendered to God and they stand out from the rest of crowd.  They are God’s peculiar people.  The apostles did not fit in with the rest of the people because they ate with tax collectors and sinners; did not fast; picked and ate grains of wheat on Sabbath; did not wash their hands before they ate.  They gave left their fishing nets, boats, families and homes and followed Jesus.  They gave up everything to follow Jesus.

Other disciples left Him because the things he said to them when they were in Capernaum were hard for them to understand. (John 6:53-66)  However, Peter and the other eleven disciples remained.  When Jesus asked them if they wanted to leave as well, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

We should be like Peter and the other apostles who remained steadfast in their faith.  They stayed with Jesus because they believed that He was who He said He was.  As Christians, if we accept Jesus as our Saviour and believe that He died for our sins, then we should accept all the trials and blessings that come with the faith.  We can’t give up at the first sign of trouble.  We should trust God to see us through hard times just as He did with Paul and the other apostles as they preached the gospel as they were commanded to.  It is better to be persecuted for following Jesus than for committing sin.  It is better to fit in with God’s wonderful plans for our lives than to fit in with the crowd.

Our aim should be to stand out—as one of Christ’s committed followers who are more interested in God’s wisdom than worldly knowledge.  We should want to please God not man or ourselves.  We should enjoy Christianity especially when it calls for real sacrifice because it is our opportunity to show God how much we love Him.  We are God’s children and should start acting like it.

For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” – Mark 3:35

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The operative word here is keep.  I checked the Thesaurus for the word keep and these words were listed:  continue, store, hang on to, protect, honour.  This is how we can apply each word to God’s commandments:

  • We continue to obey them.  God intends for us to always obey Him.
  • We have to store them because we will always need them.
  • We have to hang on to them because they are our insurance for good and productive lives.  They are the bane of our existence.  Without God’s guidelines, we are lost and have no direction in our lives.
  • We should protect these commandments because they are God’s and they are precious. 
  • We should honour them.  They are our lifesavers—they protect us from sinning against God.

As followers of Jesus, we should keep God’s commandments just as Jesus Himself kept them.  In John 14:31, He says, “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”  Jesus clearly demonstrates here that love and obedience are synonymous.  We obey God because we love Him and we keep His Word.  Jesus related everything His Father told Him to and He kept the word by setting a good example to His followers.  He didn’t just preach, He practiced what He preached.  He taught forgiveness and He showed it when He saved an adulteress from being stoned and said to her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He talked about mercy and He showed it to the multitudes because they were weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners because, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13, 36)

A friend is someone who is always there when we need him; someone we can confide in, depend on, trust, be intimate with, share things with, seek advice from and have a close and loving relationship with.  Jesus is the embodiment of all these things.  He’s not just our Saviour.  He is our Friend.  And because He’s our Friend, we should show Him how much we care for Him and appreciate Him.  We should be willing to do anything for Him and not want to disappoint Him.  We should be worthy of His friendship.  “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants; for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) 

We are no longer strangers to the gospel or as Jesus puts it, servants who don’t know what the master is up to.  His commandment is for us to love one another as He loves us.  There is no greater love than for a person to lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus laid down His life for us. We are His friends and friends stick together.  So, out of friendship and love for Him, we keep His commandment.  Commandments are for our own good.  David couldn’t have said it better, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7a, 8) Just as we follow good advice when it is offered to us, we should follow God’s commandments given to us out of love.

Jesus spoke the parable in Luke 18:9-13 because there were people who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. I found myself thinking about this parable and decided to study it.  The parable is about two men–a Pharisee and a tax collector.  First, let’s take a look at each of these men.

The Pharisee

– He prayed with himself

– He thanks God for not being like other men such as extortioners, unjust, adulterers or like the tax collector

– He fasts twice a week

– He gives tithes of all that he owned

The Tax Collector

– He stood some distance away

– He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven

– He beat his breast

– He prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner”

The Pharisee’s prayer was not so much a prayer as it was a self-promotion.  He was self-righteous.  He did not acknowledge that he was a sinner.  He felt that fasting twice a week and paying tithes made him righteous. He puffed himself up.  His heart was not with God.  His pride did not allow any room for God.  He made himself big, thus diminishing God in his eyes.  There was no reverence.  He exalted himself instead of God.  He was boasting not praying.

Instead of thanking God for His mercy, he looked down on others, thanking God that he was not like them.  His prayer is not the kind of prayer that would please God.  How could God accept a prayer from someone who shows not love or compassion for others?  This Pharisee condemned others because they were different.  What he failed to understand was that God loved these people.

When tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples, the Pharisees wondered why He would do something like that.  Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means:  I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  For I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13).

According to Paul we are all sinners.  In Romans 3:23, he says, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Like the rest of us, this Pharisee was a sinner who needed a Savior.

The tax collector could not even raise his eyes to heaven.  He was so humble.  He showed total reverence to God.  He stood afar as if he felt unworthy to approach or be near the throne of mercy.  He beat his chest as he begged God to be merciful to him.  He acknowledged that he was a sinner.  His prayer God accepted.  It was done in humility and with a contrite spirit.  He gave himself to God.  He, not the Pharisee, went to his house justified.

Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

Psalm 138:6 says “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.  The Pharisee’s self-righteousness and pride separated him from God.

James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  God resisted the Pharisee. 

God gave grace to the tax collector who was humble.  Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified.  I looked up the word “justified” in Strong’s Concordance and came up with the following definition: to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous or such as he ought to be.

So, the Pharisee left the temple the same way he went in–a proud, self-righteous and unrepentant sinner.  The tax collector went into the temple a humble, repentant sinner and left as a man whom God declared righteous.  He was vindicated.



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