Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2
Thesis: "Following" Jesus is not "optional".
Introduction: Life is full of mystery. The twists and turns we face on the road are quite beyond our grasp. Even Solomon, recognized by Jesus as a man sought out for his wisdom (Luke 11:31), gave up his quest for a comprehensive understanding of life's twists and turns in exasperation in Ecclesiastes 1:13-14. Therefore, it is a huge plus for us to have in our hands a comprehensive revelation from God that gives us the opportunity to discover enough truth to make life possible for this day. So, as we turn our attention this morning to the Word of God, we find ourselves confronted by a record of the summons of Levi the tax collector by Jesus.
In our former study of this paragraph, we noted that Levi's name is given for several reasons, one of which is the heritage that the name carries with it. Levi was named "Levi" in the context of a theological setting wherein the vast majority of people were being smothered by The Lie. The original Levi was so named because his mother was heavily involved in a competition with her sister over who was going to be the most beloved wife. She erroneously believed three major lies: the first was that she could gain her husband's love by means of her production of sons; the second was that God was on her side in this delusion; and the third was that she was supposed to "care" that her husband did not love her as he did her sister.
The tax collector in our text was a part of the flotsam of the long-term historical disaster of such delusions. He was wiser than his predecessor's mother in that he had come to terms with the reality that "love" is a grant by the "lover" that has no direct connection to any performance issues in the beloved. But, he was as blind as Leah in that he reacted to that reality with significant hostility. Though he was clear on the fact that one cannot earn love, he was enormously angry about being unloved. Thus, in his anger, he turned to collecting taxes for Rome as a way to compensate himself for his lack of status. This behavior did earn him something: the derisive hostility of the vast majority of his associates. In other words, the lack of status created an even greater lack of status.
It is into this downward spiral that Jesus stepped "after these things" with the words "Follow Me." This morning we are going to consider the import of those words.
June 24, 2007
- I. The Importance of the Words.
- A. They challenge the "I am unloved" delusion.
- 1. Love is revealed by significant sacrifice: John 15:13; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16.
- a. Both words are crucial.
- 1) Many "sacrifices" are not really sacrifices, but bribes (a participation in the "love can be earned" delusion).
- 2) Some "sacrifices" are really sacrifices, but not "significant".
- b. Jesus' decision to identify with Levi was going to cost Him a heavy price in a multitude of ways.
- 1) In the short term it was going to cost Him the respect of the movers and shakers.
- 2) In the long term it was going to cost Him His life.
- 2. Love is perceived when the lover is unexpected.
- a. Jesus was the most popular person in Levi's culture.
- b. Levi was not immune to the significance of being called into Jesus' inner circle.
- 3. Love is a reality when God is the Lover.
- a. Levi's problem was not that he was unloved: God had always loved him.
- b. Levi's problem was that he did not believe that God loved him.
- 1) He had permitted the treatment he received from men to determine his "reality".
- 2) He had hardened himself in cynicism by "believing" that what happened in his life was the revealer of "reality".
- a) Solomon warned us that this is not merely borderline stupidity; it is as bad as it gets.
- b) What happens to a person in this world has little to nothing to do with either the reality, the revelation, or the perception of love.
- i. Love is not revealed or perceived by the events of life.
- ii. Love is revealed and perceived by the persons involved.
- B. They challenge the "beloved's" course of life.
- 1. The "course of life" is directly determined by "love" issues.
- a. Levi was a tax collector for "love" reasons.
- 1) He "believed" that status in the eyes of God and men was a lost cause for him.
- 2) He "believed" that money and the things it could buy would be a sufficient compen- sation for that lack of status (i.e., he "loved" money).
- b. Levi was either going to "follow" Jesus, or not, based upon whether he "loved" Jesus.
- 2. The "course of life" hinges upon the "Follow Me" words.
- a. Up until those words were uttered, Levi was determining where he was going and what he was doing.
- b. If Levi was going to heed the words, Levi was no longer going to be determining much of anything about the course of his life.
- C. They set forth the true nature of God's universe.
- 1. Years ago there was a raging debate going on within certain evangelical circles over a "theological" issue called "the Lordship salvation debate".
- 2. This debate was never "settled" because the foundations were never secured.
- a. The foundations of God's universe rest upon relational realities.
- b. Relational realities rest upon either Truth or Delusion.
- 1) Delusion makes relationships a tool to get what "I" want (in this scenario, relationships are a means to another end).
- 2) Truth makes relationships a result of giving what others need (in this scenario, relationships are a by-product of love).
- 3. In a relational universe, nothing is "true" if it does not result in legitimate relationships.
- a. Relationships exist out of love as a by-product.
- b. When men attempt to make "doctrinal debates" rest upon "revelation" instead of "relationship", the debate will never be resolved.
- 4. "Follow Me" is a direct statement that in God's universe, there is no life where there is "self" determination: Life comes from wanting and getting daily direction for the twists and turns of a complicated existence where relationships are critical.
- II. The Application of the Words.
- A. Just like Jesus, God does not call everyone.
- 1. This is a plain fact of reality as we know it.
- 2. The "objections" that people give to this reality are nothing more than smoke screens to hide an "I can do a better job than God" kind of arrogance.
- B. Just like Levi, you are one of the "called".
- 1. Our vacation experience proved once more that most people do not have access to the divine gift of teaching.
- 2. Where it exists, God's "call" exists.
- C. Just like all of those involved in this record, you are going to be rebellious, religious, or relational.