Tax Collectors and Sinners Like Us 

  • Have you ever been told or thought that you were “too far gone”. That you had done too much wrong to be forgiven? Maybe that is one of the reasons that you haven’t come to Jesus and asked Him for forgiveness of your sins.
  • What about this? The Bible says that there is one sin that God won’t forgive. Do you know what that is? Most people think it’s something to do with the degree of “badness” of a sin. Killing someone who was innocent, bringing a gun to church, cussing God out or telling Him that you hate Him. Other people would guess that it has to do with how many bad things you’ve done or if you’ve been doing bad things for too long. Even though we have our own ideas of what God probably does or doesn’t accept, the Bible is very clear. There is only one thing that will keep you out of Heaven.

Matthew 12:31 says “31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.”

  • The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit refers to if you decide that you will not accept Jesus’ forgiveness for your sins. If you tell God “Don’t save me.”, He will be a gentleman and respect what you ask. He’s not going to force you to have a relationship with Him and He’s not going to save you after you die and just take everyone to Heaven because He respects your choice.
  • Or maybe you once had a relationship with Jesus and you were walking with Him. You were going to church and doing well. You prayed and you were actually genuine. Then something changed and you decided to end it. Maybe it happened gradually or maybe all at once. Maybe it was a bunch of small choices are maybe something big happened and you decided to end it.
  • Well regardless of where you are at in your thinking about a relationship with God, I want to read Luke 15 with you.
  • To set the scene, you have to think back to the time of Jesus before He died on the cross. Back then there was a group of super religious holier-than-though type guys called the Pharisees. As Jesus began His ministry, people started being interested and seeing that He fulfilled all of the prophecies foretold in the Bible and thinking that He would be the one to save people. As He grew in popularity, the scribes and Pharisees were really annoyed because they weren’t looking so great and respectable. They made it their goal to point out things about Jesus that they thought would trip Him up or cause Him to be viewed as less than them. Back then, to eat with someone was a really personal experience. You both dipped your bread in the same oil and it was considered to be as if you were closely uniting with that person. So this is where we begin our reading.

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1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

  • Many times people think that a place like a church or a group of Christians is all perfect people who don’t do anything wrong. The truth though is that Jesus didn’t come for people who seem to be so good that they don’t need Him, but rather for everyone.
  • The tax collectors were people hired by the government to take people’s money and give it to the government that had been forced on them. Not only did they take the money due the government, they also had a habit of taking an extra cut for themselves. They were viewed as traitors and they were pretty much as low as you could go in society.
  • Now Jesus didn’t just go associate with a bunch of “bad” people, but rather He offered them the chance to follow Him and leave that life behind. Jesus invites you to come just as you are, but He doesn’t let you continue to do what you were doing, your life has to show a change or it’s clear that you don’t really know Him at all.

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Matthew 9:11-13 “11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””

  • So what Jesus is telling them here is that He came for people that don’t have it all together. He didn’t only call the seemingly perfect religious person, but all people. More than that, Jesus didn’t want them just to be looking good on the outside and doing good actions, sacrifice, but rather to repent, to turn a 180. To be going in one direction and then to turn around and purposefully go the other way.
  • Jesus cares so much about your thoughts and your motives, even more than just your outward actions.

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Matthew 5:20-30 says “20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • Now remember that the scribes and Pharisees were the top holier-than-thou guys around and to any observer, they appeared to be living perfect lives. They concerned themselves with keeping every part of the law.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  • So what is Jesus saying here? If you have ever hated someone, He views it as murder. If you have ever looked lustfully at someone, if you’ve ever gone back for that second or third look, you’ve committed adultery. You didn’t even have to outwardly have any action and yet you’re just as guilty. God even cares about your attitude! That means if you are told to do something and you put a nice, sweet smile on your face and say “Yes, ma’am, I’d be happy to do that for you” but inside you’re thinking the opposite, God is judging you based on what your thoughts, your attitude, and your motivation are.
  • Furthermore, He’s about to tell us what we should do.

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

  • Cut off your hand and pluck out your eye. Yes, that is exactly what it just said. Now the idea is for you to go “Did Jesus really say to cut off your hand and pluck out your eye?”. The goal was for the listeners to hear this and be shocked. Jesus didn’t intend for you to sin and then literally go chop off your hand, but rather to be so serious and extreme about your sin that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get away from it.
  • You know it’s not just about what you outwardly are doing that other people see, but about the fact that God knows everything going on inside your mind, too.
  • Did you ever consider how sinful we are? I consider myself a pretty good person. If you look at me from the outside, you’d likely agree. If, on the other hand, you could look at my heart and see the reason behind even my “good” actions and if you could see my internal sins, you wouldn’t think so.
  • We need to understand that none of us is good enough. Jesus didn’t come so we could have church on Sundays and have a religion. He came because we need Him. No one is good enough to get into Heaven on their own. No one is good. Even our best efforts when we feel that we have a totally good heart aren’t good enough. The reason is this.

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Isaiah 64:6 tells us that “But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags . . .”

  • Even our efforts to try to be good aren’t good. The reason is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross. Because He lived a perfect life, He’s the only One that could take our punishment. On the cross, God poured out all of His rather for every single thing that I’ve ever done and that you’ve ever done. He did this because He is a gracious and loving God who is willing to be associated with those who were the down and outers, the lowest rung of society because He came to save us.

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Romans 10:9 says “9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

  • No exceptions, He wants you. No one is ever too far gone. Even if you previously said and/or lived your life in a way that told God you didn’t need Him, He’s willing and waiting and wanting you to change your mind. Jesus didn’t come only for people who were “good” and He’s not wishing you would clean up your life so that you’ll be good enough to come to church for him to forgive you, He wants you now. All it takes is for you to tell Him from your heart that you know you need Him because He’s the only one that can forgive you of all of the sins that you’ve done. You realize you can’t do this on your own. You can’t be too bad and you can’t be too good, it’s all about what He did on the cross.
  • It also means that as you tell Him this from your heart, you are telling Him that you are ready for the person that you are now to spiritually die. That the life you have now is about to be over and that you are ready to give Him your life in order to really start living. Once this old life dies, there’s no going back to it. You’re not going to go back and pick up the dead man, but you are going to live a new life of freedom and forgiveness, peace and hope in Jesus. That’s what you are giving up. All of that ugliness and disgustingness that makes you up in trade for all of God’s love and forgiveness even when you fail again.
  • Just like we talked about with the cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye because you are so serious about not going back to your sin, this is the kind of 100% commitment it takes to have a relationship with God. This is a moment that you have to say it’s all or nothing. I’m completely in or I’m completely out. Don’t ride the fence. Don’t think showing up at church or doing something good is a favor to God or that it’s going to get you any points because that won’t be the case. If you don’t have Jesus, you’ll be judged for everything you’ve ever done for the fact that you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Make your wholehearted decision today; it will be the hardest decision of your life, but also the best one you’ll ever make. You aren’t promised tomorrow or even your next breath, so don’t put this off.
  • I encourage you to read the remainder of Luke 15. Look specifically at the fact that Jesus goes after what is lost. He isn’t content to have 99 sheep safe, He goes after the one that is lost. He’s not content without you because He loves you that much. You haven’t slipped through the cracks. You aren’t invisible, unimportant, or an afterthought.

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