Jesus, The Guest of Honor
One of the best ways to help people meet Jesus is to throw a party!
Do you know anyone with a front porch?
No? Me either.
Well, maybe you can think of someone.
A grandma, or a great aunt.
But if you drive around Blaine, you’re unlikely to find one.
I know…people “SAY” they have a front porch today…but all that means is that they crammed one patio chair onto the concrete space of their entry way.
However, in the beginning and middle of the 20th century…EVERYONE had porches.
It’s where you hung out after a long day’s work.
But it’s not just where YOU hung out…it’s where your friends & neighbors hung out too.
But front porches started to fade from their architectural existence as air conditioning was invented, and the TV was invented…along with TV dinners, and of course the nail in the coffin for the Front Porch…the Back Deck.
The back deck is perfect for our isolationist culture.
Or is it?
Maybe we need the front porch again?
Maybe as, followers of Jesus, our churches, our homes, oughta be front porches for people to gather…and see Jesus.
This morning, we are concluding our Illuminate series…as we talk about how to help more people see just how amazing Jesus is.
And we’re going to look at a story in the Bible of someone who did an amazing job at illuminating a path to Jesus.
And I think it’s something that few of us do well in, so I expect this to be challenging if you truly apply it to your life.
LEVI THROWS A PARTY
(Luke 5:27-32) – NIV
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
So, let’s talk about this guy Levi.
Levi is a Tax Collector.
People didn’t like Tax Collectors.
You think people don’t like the IRS nowadays…multiply that times 100.
See, the Jews were occupied by the Romans…and they had to pay taxes to their occupiers.
Except…the Romans often contracted out the collection of their taxes to local people.
Imagine comes down and occupies the U.S. (with their enormous Canadian army J), and they ask for American volunteers to collect taxes (to be paid to Canada).
Do you think you would like your neighbor if they showed up at your house to collect your taxes for Canada?
I don’t think so.
So, Levi is part of the outcast, hated class.
“A sinner” they called him.
“Decent” people treated tax collectors like they were prostitutes or worse. They didn’t associate with them.
But then Levi meets Jesus.
And Jesus is so amazing…and so compelling…that Levi leaves everything, presumably his work too, to follow Jesus.
And he thinks Jesus is so amazing that he throws a party with Jesus being the Guest of Honor.
And who does this new Christian (new follower of Christ), Levi, invite?
All of his friends, the tax collectors! People who don’t know Jesus yet!
So, Levi is going to throw a big party.
And throwing parties is a ministry.
See, Levi’s a smart guy.
He knows that if he just sits down and confronts his friends with, “Do you believe this Jesus is the Holy Son of God or NOT?!” That might not be all that effective for a lot of people
But! But…if they could only meet Jesus in person…then…then they would see how amazing He really is!
And here’s what I think we need to learn from Levi:
All of us need to provide environments where we can best introduce people to Jesus.
Environments where we can illuminate Jesus to others.
And what I want you to see is that those environments, those “parties” are going to look different for different people.
FOR MANY, THE PARTY CAN BE AT CHURCH
For a lot of people, I believe that party can be at church.
Churches need to throw more parties. J
Some people get nervous about this.
It doesn’t feel “churchy” enough to them.
But this is completely Biblical, and it’s right here in Luke chapter 5.
Levi isn’t throwing a banquet just so all of his friends can come over and have a good time.
He’s using the banquet as a tool.
He’s being wise by doing something that’ll make it easy for his friends to WANT to come and meet Jesus.
He didn’t just host a “lecture series” for Jesus…although I’m sure that would have felt more “Holy”
He knew his “outsider” friends were never going to come to something like that…so he throws a big banquet with free food and a good time, and they come
He’s being wise in introducing his friends to Jesus.
And it’s important to note, he’s not being deceitful either.
It says, Levi throws a banquet FOR Jesus at his house.
His friends know that Jesus is a guest of honor…He’s just making it easier for them to come.
And we want to do the same thing.
It’s why we would do something like put together a huge Easter Egg Hunt.
It’s why, next Sunday, we’re having an enormous party with Free Food Trucks & Inflatables.
We’re not tricking anyone.
It’s AT a CHRISTIAN church. It says… “you go to church.”
Jesus is CLEARLY the guest of honor.
Just like at Levi’s banquet.
We’re just being wise with creating environments where people who don’t know Jesus yet can meet him…just like Levi.
(Show Sunday Funday Slide)
So…Next Sunday, we’re going to line the parking lot with some free Food Trucks (Free Cheese Curds, Free Mini Donuts, Free Kettle Corn, Free shaved Ice)
And for kids (they get food too), but they also get to jump in a bouncy house, obstacle course, and since half the kids here are like 2 and under, we’ve got a little animal land for them to play on.
And you’ll have fun…but it’s not really for you.
Levi didn’t throw the banquet just because he wanted to have an excuse to eat some great food himself.
He wanted to see his friends meet Jesus
And that’s EXACTLY what we want to see!
Later this Fall…we might throw another party with a free lunch
Why would we do that?
Because like Levi…we want to create environments where it’s easy for people who haven’t met Jesus to come in and meet Him.
I think next Sunday is quite possibly the easiest Sunday ever to invite your friends to church (just like it was easy for Levi to invite his friends to a Huge Banquet).
On the way out today, we’re going to hand you 3 invite cards to this party.
If you’ve got neighbors with kids…bring a card over to them…invite them to the party…so they can see Jesus.
If you’ve got co-workers who’ve been talking about State Fair Cheese Curds…invite them to the party…so they can see Jesus.
It doesn’t matter if they’re young or old…we’ve got something for them.
I want every person in here…to think of 1 or 2 people that you can invite AND bring with you next Sunday to meet Jesus.
Who is it?
Neighbor? Co-worker? Friend? Family member? Dental Hygienist? The worker at the gas station you always see?
Could be anyone.
Pray about this!
Ask God to put people on your mind and in your path this week!
If you’ve been thinking the last 3 weeks about being more bold about your faith…this is THE perfect first step.
And I’m telling you, God is going to do amazing things…because people are going to see Jesus at this party!
FOR OTHERS, THE PARTY WON’T BE AT CHURCH
Next Sunday is going to be great…and I believe we will see many people stand up and give their lives to Jesus Christ.
However, and this might possibly irritate some of my fellow pastors of other churches…I believe we are being both short-sighted and poor observers of our culture…if we think everyone will come to a church party.
Too many churches have made this the only option to do evangelism: Invite a friend to church.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great option! One of the easiest and best!
In fact, the MAJORITY of Americans would still come…if you invited them to this.
However, you and I both know people who are (at this moment anyway) NOT going to come to church.
It’s just not going to happen J
And that’s a growing population in America.
And so…how do we reach those people for Christ?
It’s pretty simple.
The strategy is the same.
Except…the party’s at your house. J
For many people…they’re not ready to walk into a door of a church…but they would walk into the door of your house.
And the same Jesus that’s at work here is IN you…
And when you invite people over…they get to see Jesus at the banquet.
THE PATTERN OF JESUS (NOT JUST LEVI)
But do we even think about this kind of stuff as Christians anymore?
This is one of those many passages that wouldn’t be very challenging to the Rwandans or Haitians…they constantly host people.
You just walk by a Haitian’s house, and they might say, “Please…please…have a seat! Let’s get to know each other!”
But for us as Americans…this is…hard.
But if we’re going to live out the words of Christ here…we’ve got to take steps forward in this.
Jesus says, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
How’s your heart for the sick?
How’s your heart for the lost? People who don’t know Jesus yet?
Are you pursuing them?
Jesus has such a Doctor’s heart.
I read Runner’s World Magazine because I love to run and read…so it just seemed right. J
I was reading an article this week about some of the doctors who were present at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Bombings.
If we’re honest, when the bombs went off, I think most of us would have grabbed our families and ran.
And yet, some of these doctors did the complete opposite.
The ran INTO the chaos.
It’s what doctors do.
Healthy people don’t need a doctor…Sick people do.
And yet, let’s go ahead and ask ourselves a really hard question:
Why do so few of us spend any time with lost people (whether it’s having them over or even doing missions work)?
Let me come to an unpopular conclusion. J
If we look a little deeper, I think it’s often our selfishness that gets in the way of us being like Jesus.
We don’t want to take away from our time…our family…they’re our priority.
But…they’re also healthy. Most of us…HAVE Jesus already. And so do our kids.
What about the people who are perishing (as the Bible says) to an eternity without Christ? What about the sick?
Is our heart like the heart of Jesus?
You can’t read the Gospels (the 4 books about Jesus in the Bible) and not notice this about Jesus.
He’s always hanging out at some house with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners…ALL THE TIME.
He dines with Zaccheaus (the notorious tax collector) in Luke 19
A prostitute who is grateful for him anoints him with oil in Luke 7
The famous prodigal son story in Luke 15 is told actually told by Jesus in response to the Pharisees complaining that Jesus was constantly welcoming and eating with “sinners!”
And for how Christ-like we may think we are for having the right values, beliefs, and theology…most of us don’t look a thing like Christ when it comes to this topic.
And that ought to make us uncomfortable.
Because it’s when we’re uncomfortable…that we change.
We’ve got to move beyond reading these stories about Jesus and mentally excusing ourselves by saying, “What a guy!” but never stopping to ask, “If I’m striving to be like Jesus, how come I never do anything like that?”
THE LOST ART OF HOSPITALITY
One of the reasons that this is so difficult for us is because it’s not natural in our culture anymore.
The front porch doesn’t exist like it did 75 years ago…or like it does in many other countries around the world.
Hospitality is a lost art in this country.
But it’s an art…and a gift…that our culture desperately needs back.
There are so many people…in your neighborhood…at your work…that aren’t ready yet to come to church.
The soil of their heart (as Jesus says in Matthew 13) is still too hard.
But they will come to your house…to your apartment.
Especially if, like Levi, you’re having a party J
And they can see Jesus that way too!
Maybe even invite some friends from church…or your house group too…so they can see even more of what Jesus looks like.
In his book, “A Meal With Jesus,” author Tim Chester tells the story of a man named Mario who studied the Bible with a Christian named Jim for 4 years before he became a Christian.
A few years later, while they were reminiscing, Jim asked Mario, “What made you finally decide to become a Christian?”
Mario said, "Remember that first time I stopped by your house? We were on our way someplace together, and I had a bowl of soup with you and your family.
“As I sat there observing you, your wife, and your children, and how you related to each other, I asked myself, 'When will I have a relationship like this with my fiancé?'”
“When I realized that the answer was 'never,' I concluded I had to become a Christian for the sake of my own survival."
Jim, the Christian, remembered the occasion.
He remembered his children behaving badly and his frustration at having to correct them in front of Mario.
Yet Mario saw the grace of Christ binding that family together.
People will see Jesus in you…even in your imperfections.
Maybe even more so.
Like the typical American Christian, I’m not so good at carrying out this Biblical passage either.
I’ve never been much of a host.
Never been much for letting people into my own life.
I love parties. Love throwing parties even…but not at my house.
When I was a teenager…I used to throw huge parties…at my friend’s house.
I’d together these huge parties or events with 20+ people…but we’d always host it at my friend’s house.
When I retire as a pastor, I have a future in event planning.
And so…why am I not very good at this?
Especially because I DO have a huge heart for evangelism. I love it.
Maybe it’s because I am stupidly selfish…with my own time…my own family.
Or, maybe I think if people see who I really am…they’ll just see that I’m am imperfect hypocrite…just like everyone else
But remember, Christ is in us.
They will see Jesus.
And honestly…it’s not really about us.
The Gospel is not about us being perfect, but the fact that we’re not perfect…but loved by the Perfect one.
Remember, your goal is to illuminate the path to Jesus…not to yourself.
Listen, anyone can do this.
Any one of us can be a Levi.
You don’t need the perfect home or apartment or the perfect recipe from Pinterest
If you’ve got a table, chairs, and some food…you’re ready for this.
If you don’t know non-Christians…then by golly, it’s time to meet the neighbors…to be on mission w/ Christ.
THE ILLUMINATION OF JESUS IN YOUR HOME
And when you invite people into your home who don’t know Jesus…for dinner…for a party…for a game night…for a Vikings Game (it doesn’t have to be elaborate)…realize that for many of these people…this is the beginning of a long and amazing journey.
Recently, through a podcast I listen to, I heard the amazing story of Rosaria Butterfield.
Rosaria’s book is called the “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”
And she certainly was an unlikely convert to Christianity.
Rosaria was an English Professor at Syracuse University.
She also considered herself a full-fledged feminist and a lesbian.
I’ve listened to multiple interviews of her, she’s a brilliant woman, but she also happened to believe, at the time, that Christians were “Intellectually Impaired”
Listen, this lady is not coming to church if you hand her an invite card.
So how do we reach her for Christ?
Well, here’s what happened: After she sent a letter to the editor complaining about a Christian Group coming to Syracuse University, a thoughtful Christian man wrote her a letter back asking questions and offered to meet with her.
So she took him up on it…and he and his wife had her over for dinner.
Years later, she remarked that she couldn’t believe how kind they were…how thoughtful and wise they were…and they even invited her back to come eat again.
She writes in her book, “Ken (the host) knew at the time that I couldn’t come to church---it would have been too threatening, too weird, too much. So, Ken was willing to bring the church to me.”
And as time went by, as she ate at Ken’s table…with many other Christians as well…surely Jesus was present at the party.
And her heart began to open up and soften, and she gave her life to Christ.
--One of the reasons so many people aren’t following Jesus yet is because they have so many incorrect stereotypes about WHO God is and WHO his followers really are.
And so many of those stereotypes (or roadblocks) can be broken down when you show yourself to be hospital, generous, entertaining, NORMAL, and full of grace…not judgment.
When people can see that you’re real about your own sin and flaws..and you’re just thankful to Jesus for what He’s done…
That’s going to be appealing!
When they can see that you have struggles and horrible days too…it’s just that you have hope now…it’s going to be APPEALING!
So many unbelievers incorrectly think that Christians are self-righteous – full of themselves for all of their good deeds.
But when they see that you’re not self-righteous…but quite the opposite…a mess…made righteous…in Christ…they’ll want to know more of Jesus (of course…over time)
Hospitality is a lost art of evangelism that we need to get back to if we’re going to reach our Post-Christian culture for Christ.
We’ve got to stop ignoring this common practice of Jesus.
You all can do this.
You might not be able to boldly share your faith with a stranger, but you can invite a co-worker to watch a Vikings Game at your house with some of your friends from church.
You can have your neighbors over for pizza.
We’ve got to get back to the model of Levi.
We’ve got to get back to hospitality.
Sometimes I think WE think that we do hospitality, but it’s actually what the Bible would call fellowship.
Fellowship is when you have your Christian friends over.
The word hospitality is meant for guests…for strangers…
Hospitality is when you open up your place like Levi in order for Jesus to be the Guest of Honor…
And we want to be a church that’s made up of individuals & families that make Jesus the Guest of Honor all over the place.
We want to throw parties for Jesus EVERYWHERE
We want to throw parties that people will want to come to on Sunday mornings (and many, MANY people in our culture still want to do that)
I think you will be MORE than pleasantly surprised when you start inviting people to come eat Free cheese curds this week!)
We want even our House Groups to be a place where unsaved people can come in and see Jesus.
So as you walk out of here this morning, I want you to think about how you can boldly start imitating Christ in ways you maybe have never dared to before.
What if you set a goal of finding a way to make sure…that by Sunday...you’ve successfully given out all 3 invite cards you get today?
Even if you have to go out on Saturday, and leave one by the pop at Culver’s for someone else to find to you can get rid of your last one J
But, seriously, what if you set that goal?
You pray that God opens up doors, and allows you to find 3 people to invite to a party where they can meet Jesus.
That, to me, sounds like being a disciple…like trying to rescue the lost…be a doctor for the sick
It sounds like being on mission.
And from a broader, longer standpoint…
What if…you boldly…set a goal…for how many times a year you want to have someone over at your place who doesn’t know Jesus?
If you live with someone else…I dare you…I dare you…to have that conversation with your spouse…parent…or roommate on the way home today.
“What if…to be more like Christ…we did this once a month?
What if we did this??
If you do…God will move.
Let’s pray for Him to do so.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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