Dinner with the IRS?

If an IRS official showed up at your doorstep with the news that you are being audited, would you invite him in to sit with you for dinner first?  Ok, maybe that’s an extreme question, but I think we all know the answer. These people are placed even lower than politicians, yet if you had a politician you knew was a little crooked, or who didn’t have the same platform that you do, would you invite him or her in to sit with you for a meal?  Now think of the tax collector in the time of the earthly walk of Christ. He was usually a swindler, collecting more than he was supposed to so that he could line his own pockets.  Scripture takes us to this time: 

“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So He told them this parable: What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!” I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” Luke 15:1-7 Now that you have read this scripture, which one are you? Are you Jesus looking for the one lost, or are you the Pharisee or scribe who doesn’t even want to associate with those you don’t particularly care for? Or are you the Tax Collector or sinner, having your heart pulled in a direction toward one who represents words of hope and wisdom? This morning, I think I am a little like the Pharisees, and a little like the Savior, but I realize I can’t be both. Either I will think like Jesus and love the lost, and will leave the 99 to find the one lost, or I will be like the Pharisee, and subtly not have anything to do with those who do not believe as I do. What a crazy place we find ourselves in! But before we become too harsh with ourselves, part of listening and learning, is having our own hearts open to the truth, for it is the truth that will bring us to freedom, and it is truth that will touch our hearts in a way that we will indeed leave the 99 to go look for the one lost. Jesus is teaching us a valuable lesson here, and this lesson is for those who feel they are lost; it is a lesson for those who desire to look for the lost, but the pressures of the world weigh down on them so much that they feel defeated before they even start. It’s like, “I need to find that one lost, but I can’t find him/her, so I am a failure, and I will stop looking.” It’s a lesson for those who look at the world and don’t see hurting people, but disgusting people. It’s a lesson for those who believe it’s their job to judge those who are lost, and not have anything to do with them. The only question that remains is, ‘Which one are we?” If the adversary is convincing you that the only way you can look for the one lost is to go overseas, and you can’t do that, he has won in your defeat. But there is something that we all need to understand. God will lead us to the lost. When we can’t find that one, God knows exactly where they are, and with a heart willing to walk toward that “tax collector, or that sinner” He will lead to the one He wants you to be Jesus to. And all you have to do is show up, stand up, and speak up, and He will do the rest. I remember so clearly that once I was the sinner, lost to the truth; I was the one with the scarlet letter, who was ashamed of showing myself to anyone, because I didn’t want to be exposed. I was the lost! And it was one who answered the call. He was one who I never would become buddies with, or even invite to my house for dinner, but he found me to be wandering looking for hope, and all he did was show up, speak up, and stand up for Jesus. And Jesus did the rest. So now I learn another lesson on this journey forward to eternity. Along the way, we will find people searching, but they might not even know what they are searching for, and if we keep too focused on our own journey, we might just miss that part of the journey that is God-directed, and wants us to grab hold of that one, to bring them on the journey with us. And doing so, all the angels in heaven rejoice and there is joy in heaven over one that we invited to accompany us, and they accepted the invitation. Pastor Andy

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