Not him!

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I am not an athlete and so in teen years when athletic prowess is so important, I had no skills necessary for the games in high school phys ed class. When the appointed captains picked teams I always felt humiliated. I stood there listening to name after name called, mine being one of the last. Then I was assigned some insignificant position from which I was basically an observer. I did not get to ‘play the game’ or experience the glory of the home run or touchdown. It’s been a half century and that feeling of being the one excluded can still return.

Many of you can identify with the feeling of rejection or devaluation in others ways. You were told you were not smart enough to get the job. You figured out that Dad loved your sister more than you. That person you fell in love with chose not to love you in return.

We all want to ‘belong,’ to be included. And, most of us find closed doors in front of us from time to time. There are no closed doors to the Kingdom of God! Oh I am not naïve enough to think that all churches are accepting, or that all Christians love everybody, but God does!

In my ongoing reading of Matthew, there is a story about Jesus at the beginning of His ministry and He’s choosing a team. Those disciples were invited to be with Him, learning His ways, hearing His words. In just 3 years He would send them with the Good News to the ends of the earth. Who was worthy of the calling? Who did He choose?  It was not the Jerusalem ‘insiders’ nor was it the ‘scholars.’  It was not those with a network of connections to positions of influence. He chose ordinary men, even some that society considered outcasts!

Here is one of those stories. “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-14, NIV)

Matthew was an outsider in the worst sense of the word. He was labeled by the town because he cooperated with the occupation army of Romans as a tax collector. Shunned for their work, tax collectors avoided the synagogue which was the center of Jewish life. Thus they were also labeled, ‘sinners.’ Jesus saw past the job title and the social label into the heart of the man and there he saw a desire for God. And, He called him – “Follow me!” It was scandalous. How could the Rabbi, a teacher about the things of God, invite a person so compromised in character (in the opinion of most) to become His friend and associate?

Those who were thought to be closest to God because of their scrupulous observance of the Law of Moses were confounded. “Why does your Teacher eat with these ‘low-lifes,’ these nobodies, these people who are not worthy of our God?”  Jesus overheard the conversation and defined His mission for them. He was the Advocate of the broken, the Healer of the spiritual sick, the Giver of mercy to those who had failed. And, He still is.

By the way, Jesus never told ‘sinners’ to keep on living the same way they were when He found them. He accepted people and led them to change and transformation. Oh how I pray He would give Christians today the sensitive and loving ability to do the same.  We tend to fail at one extreme or the others. Either we determine that only the ‘select’ are good enough for God and our fellowship, our spiritual pride making us ugly and exclusive; or we make grace cheap and we are unable to ‘speak the truth in love’ and thus, to invite people to become like Jesus, to wrestle with those parts of life that need to be restored to the will of their Father.

The inarguable fact is this – Nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace.
A second  truth is that everybody can be transformed by the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
He loved me and is changing me, day by day, into Christ’s likeness. How about you?

Have you been told you were the wrong … gender, color, age … not smart enough … too scarred by your past … to be included in God’s love, to be invited into His Kingdom? Those are lies. Reject them and listen to the Spirit of God who says, “You are invited.”  Respond with faith and God will put you on His team, equipping you for spiritual service, preparing you for an awards banquet where He will overlook nothing, forget no one.

Here is a word from the Word. I pray it will invite ‘outsiders’ in and remind all of us to open the doors to Christ to ALL. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30, NLT)

______

Who You Say I Am
(Are you living in this amazing grace?)

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

 Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

 Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

 In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

 I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am

 (Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

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