The Message for Oct 11, 2015

The Open Invitation

Matthew 9:9-13

Rob Miller, Pastor

We continue with week two of our Not A Fan worship series based on Kyle Idleman’s book by the same title.

Prayer/Read Text

Have you ever seen one of those car commercials that says, “Anyone can buy a car for 0% financing or $1500 cash back?” But when you read the fine printyou find out there is a catch – “anyone” really means only the people who qualify – only the people who pass a credit check.

Ever try to get a special deal on a cell phone plan you saw advertised – you’re told this new deal is for anyone, only to find out,the discount only applies to a certain group of customers?

It seems whenever people say – “anyone is welcome,” or “anyone can cash in on this deal,” they don’t really mean it. There’s always a catch.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to follow me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”

When making that offer to potential followers, Jesus invites “anyone.” And he means it. That was radicalin his day and it’s still radical today. Jesus is saying that anyone can be his disciple.

When it comes to following Jesus there are four things for us to consider:

  1. Anyone Is Welcome

Oddly enough- when we hear Jesus say “anyone” we think, “Yeah right. What’s the catch?” But… there is no catch. No small print. No hidden fees. It’s spelled out in that verse from Luke’s gospel. It’s open to “anyone.” When Jesus said “anyone,” the crowds would have looked at his disciples and known that he meant it.

In the first century - a rabbi had a very special place in society. Jesus was a rabbi - homeless, unconventional, not the norm –but a rabbi nonetheless. A rabbi was a teacher of God’s Word – especially the written word.

God’s written word in those dayswasthe Old Testament. A rabbi had an extensive knowledge of the first five books of the Bible (called the Torah) and all of the writings of the prophets.

Rabbis were special because they had a group of “talmids” (pronounced tal-meed). The word talmid translates to “student” or “disciple.” Every rabbi had a class of students. This was an exclusive group –like no other.

Most people did not end up as a student of rabbis. In fact, a majority of the people didn’t make the cut – they would end up learning some sort of trade,usually passed down through the family. They would work as stonemasons, or fishermen, or tradesmen of some kind.

For any students wanting to become talmid of a particular rabbi, there was a lengthy application process. First, they had to meet the prerequisites. Like the prerequisites for getting into an elite college or academy nowadays.

If you wanted to go to a school like Harvard, you better have a 4.0 GPA, or a 1600 SAT score. Without those kinds of stats, you wouldn’t even considered, let alone get in. That’s the same thing with a talmid applying to join a rabbi’s school.

Talmids had to have an impressive knowledge of Scripture. A rabbi would quiz a prospective student, asking him (always a him - no hers allowed)… asking him to recite an entire book of the Old Testament, or to tell the rabbis how many times the name “Lord” appears in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus (11 times with 280 in the entire book of Leviticus).

This was an intense, painstaking process. A rabbi had to be thorough, becausethe excellence of a student reflected the excellence of the teacher.

If a rabbi let anyone in, it was obvious he was not a sought after teacher. On the other hand, if a rabbi’s group of studentswere especially brilliant – the cream of the crop – thenthe rabbi would be respected and admired.

Jesus changed that system, and the expectations, and the application process… especially when he invited a tax collector to be a talmid – to be one of his students.

Check out what Kyle say about this in a video…

Video - sermonette 2

When word gets out about a new rabbi picking followers at random, people started to wonder what’s going on. They came to hear from this incredible teacher named Jesus, but when they looked at his students – his disciples – they must have been confused.

They must have thought, “These are his students? They’re nobodies! Two used to be fishermen, a few of them are political hotheads, and that guy’s a tax collector! What a rag tag bunch of disciples…”

And yet - Jesus makes the invitation, and when people hear that anyone could come and learn from this incredible rabbi, I’m sure they considered doing so. People who had given up the dream of learning from a rabbi were now wondering if they would be welcomed in this new group of disciples – men and women, boys and girls. And People started coming. They wanted to follow this rabbi named, Jesus. When he said, “anyone can follow him,” he meant it.

That brings us to the second thing for us to consider

2) Anyone Means Everyone

Here’s the bug-a-boo… and I don’t like bug-a-boos. Although we’d never say it, we don’t always believe that church is for “anyone.” We kind of like church the way it is, don’t we? We tend to prefer things to stay the same. And “same” soon becomes the standard, and then the standard becomes a qualification.

I can’t help but wonder if somehow Jesus knew that that’s how things would go. As Luke 9:23 reminds us – there shouldn’t be any qualifications. Anyone means everyone…

We may not like that - we like to know who’s in and who’s out – who belongs and who doesn’t. Even our membership language suggests that to be the case. We want to know who’s a member and who isn’t. We tend qualify who belongs and who doesn’t...

Jesus did away with the qualifications to follow him. That’s really good news. He got rid of the prerequisites. He did away with the standard application process. Perhaps it’s time the church did away with any kind ofqualifications too – when it comes to discipleship.

Here’s why -- none of us are qualified to follow him. None of us are qualified to be here. Besides that -- Jesus doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

Here’s another bug-a-boo. We usually avoid talking about these things. They are like the elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we don’t want to deal with it. Well let’s deal with it.

We in the church tend to have our own unwritten qualifications, don’t we? We try to qualify who’s in and who isn’t -- who’s welcomed here and who isn’t.

For example:

Weexpect people to dress a certain way when they come here to FLC.

Weexpect people to clean up their act before they come here to FLC.

We expect certain music or a certain worship style to happen here at FLC.

We expect people to think and act a certain way when they come here to FLC.

The list goes on and on.

We might say “anyone is welcome.” But the stares and glairs suggest otherwise. It’s clear that there are some qualifications we tend to maintain here at FLC. But all of that is changing – thank God! Say that with me – “Thank God!”

Here’s the thing. Jesus got rid of the qualifications when he says “anyone.” He also got rid ofthe excuses too.

That brings us to the third thing to consider today.

3) No Qualifications Means No Excuses

When Jesus invites anyone to follow him, he doesn’t just break down the barriers that keep so many people from experiencing God’s grace, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness. He also gets rid of all the excuses that people tend to hid behind.

Now the tradesman has no excuse not to follow a rabbi.

Now the drop-out student cannot complain about his or her past anymore.

Now the single mother of four cannot say she never got a chance to learn from a rabbi.

What’s your excuse?

Many of us have been holding off going to the next level in our relationship with Jesus because we have our own excuses.

What’s your excuse? Some people say they are you too busy. They need to work on their family or their marriage or their careers and they don’t have time for Jesus.

Others say it’s because of their past – baggage from the addiction or the divorce or the bankruptcy has been their excuse for a long time.

It’s really easy to hide behind our excuses, because who’s going to argue with someone who’s been through the trials and tribulations that life throws at us from time to time?

And yet -- Jesus gets rid of all the excuses when he invites “anyone.”

Here’s where grace comes in -- anyone is welcome to have a relationship with Jesus. Anyone.

Sexual past? Anyone.

Ex-con? Anyone.

Inmate? Anyone.

Recently divorced? Anyone.

Legalist? Anyone.

Alcoholic? Anyone.

Pot head? Anyone.

Addict? Anyone.

Hypocrite? Anyone.

And the list goes on…

If that’s true and I believe it is -- then we need to be ready for what can happen when we embrace the invitation to “anyone.” Because if anyone can come to church, that’s going to mess things up. The church will get filled with a lot of “un-churched” people.

If we really accept “anyone” into our church to follow Christ, we’ll be forced to deal with our unwritten codes. We’ll be forced to get out of our comfort zones and rub shoulders with people we don’t know –

people from different backgrounds

people from different social circles,

people who listen to a different kind music

people whoengage in different recreational activities,

people whose clothingis confusing and maybe even annoying to us,

people who are hard to tolerate and even harder to love.

Followers of Jesus are willing to break down the barriers, throw away the unwritten codes, and welcome “anyone” into God’s family and into a life-giving relationship with Jesus and his church.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Wait a minute! We can’t just let anyone into our church! We can’t just let people show up and invite them into God’s family and tolerate anything they want. That’s not Biblical!”

And you’re right. That’s not Biblical. I’m not saying we tolerate or allow anything sinful. When a person is moved by the spirit to grow in the faith and their relationship with Jesus they wehelp them understand what God’s Word allows and what it doesn’t.

When Jesus makes the invitation, he says, “anyone.” So some of the people who respond will have a past that we may not approve of and some of the people will have been involved in lifestyles we would be embarrassed to hear about.

Fans don’t know how to handle new people like that. They prefer not to know. They take the – “don’t ask don’t tell approach.” Fans prefer things to be shallow and comfortable. But followers are willing to get down and dirty, willing to listen, willing to hear the stories of brokenness and sin and still welcome such people with open arms.

That brings us to the fourth thing we need to consider here today. And this is crucial… as we help people take that next step in their faith journey.

4) It’s Anyone, And It’s Everything

When Jesus makes the invitation to follow him, he welcomes anyone. He also makes clear that when you choose to follow him, you are giving up everything. So it’s anyone, and it’s everything.

When a talmid was accepted into a rabbi’s school, they would leave their homes, their jobs, whatever was holding them back, and they would go and follow the rabbi. They would literally follow the rabbi wherever he went.

If the rabbi decided to go to market, his students would follow. And if a rabbi decided to go to another town, his students would follow. If the rabbi needed to visit someone in the area, his students would follow.

Now, to follow the rabbi named Jesus, this would cost even more.

If Jesus, the rabbi decided to live without a home, his students would follow. And if Jesus, the rabbi decided to go among the sinners and the shameful, his students would follow. And if Jesus, the rabbi decided not to flee from persecution, his students would follow.

That’s what Jesus offers. The greatest teacher who ever lived offers you the chance to become one of his students. And when he says anyone, he means everyone -- no qualifications, and no excuses.

Here’s the thing - Jesus makes the invitation to anyone and he guarantees that it will cost you everything. That means as his students we died to everything we think is important and we live for everything that Jesus says is important.

Are you ready? Are you willing to follow the rabbi, Jesus? Amen.