September 13, 2011

He still receives sinners

No matter what you do, somebody is apt to grumble about it. I knew a woman who, when they stayed home grumbled that they never went out, and when they went out, she grumbled that they never stayed home. We all know people who fiddle with the thermostat because it is either too warm or too cold. The tea is too strong or too weak. The toast is too light or too dark. Nothing ever suits them.

Jesus was perfect, the only person who never sinned. He treated everyone with respect and always did and said the right things, but people complained about Him too. 

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)
For the religious leaders of His day, receiving and eating with sinners was tantamount to defiling yourself with the same sins. Imagine thinking that. If I want to be pure, I could not spend time with people who are impure? Who qualifies? I don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does.

Yet Jesus, the perfect man, receives sinners. Why should He do that? For one thing, He had no fear of defiling Himself. He said that defilement comes from the heart, and His heart was pure. He was safe, but that was not one of His reasons for spending time with sinners. Perhaps the most important motivation was that He had the power to forgive their sin. He loved them so much that He willing gave His life that sinners could be pardoned.

Other people might receive sinners. Those in exalted positions sometimes hold receptions for common people, that they might “receive” them. But this is not the same as what Jesus did. Think of royalty waving to passing beggars or receiving sinners in an “out-of-doors reception place” or a special location where they offer charitable entertainment.

Instead, Jesus opens the gates of His heart, and receives sinners right into Himself. This reception is an intimate personal union in which Jesus makes repentant sinners members of His own body. There is no other reception like this.

Perhaps the most amazing part of it is the humility and lowliness involved. Jesus is far above all others, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from even the best of humanity, yet He receives all, even the lowest of the low. He is none other than the eternal God; angels bow before Him and worlds were created by Him, yet He receives sinners.

Humanity raises its fist against God, and if not quite that brash, sinners silently and sinfully still go our own way. Sinners reject His plan of salvation or just ignore Him. Yet He still took upon Himself the form of a servant and bore our sins. That He is willing to receive the vilest of the vile, or even the most self-righteous goody-two-shoes is marvelous and beyond comprehension.

However, He does not hold a reception party, pat sinners on the head and wish them a better life. His offer is new life. The sinners that He receives do not have to remain that way. He will take them from whatever state they are in, transform their lives, and wear them as jewels in His crown — but only if they are willing to be received and changed. 

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
It is a great wonder that Jesus receives sinners, but for this greater wonder of new life and adoption into the family of God to take place, sinners must also receive Him.
Jesus, many years ago I did not know how to describe You or Your invitation to me. I just knew that my life was a mess and that I needed help. In that helplessness, You walked in, revealing who You are and inviting me to come to You. At that point, nothing sounded better and resistance was not an issue. It is the same today. In You, there is acceptance, love, joy, peace and perfection. Because You have received me, I have absolutely nothing to grumble about.

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