Saturday, October 10, 2009

How To Pray for Sinners

What do I need in order to love the lost like Jesus did? I was reading Luke again, and I became mesmerized by the story of the call of Levi, whom we also know as Matthew. Matthew had been a tax collector. This made him a man who was hated by all and a target for scorn, disdain, and contempt by the religious crowd. In the estimation of his fellow countrymen he had “sold out.” As a tax collector Levi was probably involved at worst, directly or at best, indirectly with extortion, “muscle,” and robbing the average person of their livelihood. If there were a “family” as in the sense of the “mob”, Levi more than likely would have been a card carrying member. At any rate Levi occupied the detestable position of a “publican.” He was the worst kind that you could be. According to the Rabbis there was no hope of redemption for a man like Levi. Levi would have been excluded from all fellowship and forms of worship. His money would not even be accepted as gifts in the Temple because it would have been considered tarnished. Tragically, the Rabbis had no words of comfort, hope, or help for a man who was a publican. No hope; what a horribly and devastatingly wretched place to be. Yet, Levi was a Jew. He had been raised with the same monotheistic faith of the same countrymen that despised him. He began his education with the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, 9; Numbers 11:13-21; 15:37-41. He would have been taught by both his mother and father to kiss his fingers and touch the Mezuzah attached to the doorpost of their home. He would have been part of the family’s stringent observance of the various feasts and festivals as he grew up. His father was required to teach him the Torah. It is possible that Levi’s father possessed rolls of some of the Scripture, such as the Law, or the prophets, or maybe even the Psalms. Levi would have begun his education in the synagogue at about age six. There he would from age six to about ten study the Old Testament. At fifteen Levi would move to the study of the Mishnah. It is interesting to note that one of the first books of study for Jewish young men was that of Leviticus. Here was Jesus who had a completely different picture of Levi. Jesus had come to seek and to save men like Levi. Jesus came to save sinners and save them to a better life. Jesus was making himself friends to men like Levi. Was there hope for Levi? Jesus left Peter’s house one morning and took a walk on the beach. This was one of his favorite things to do it seemed. Jesus had to get away from his enemies, from overwhelming activity of ministry, and from the constant needs of people and walk the beach and pray. Jesus would more than likely have passed Levi’s custom house a number of times. I wonder if they had seen each other? Had they nodded their heads in polite recognition of one another? Had they exchanged good mornings? Maybe Levi had even taken some time to go hear this Jesus preach and watch as Jesus healed the sick. It doesn’t really matter, because on one of those walks Jesus walked up to Levi and said follow me. Levi does the unthinkable. He gets up, leaves everything and follows Jesus. Levi would have had a Messianic expectation with his childhood reading and education. Levi could have heard Jesus preach one or more times. He may have meditated deeply over what he had heard. He was drawn to Jesus and he found hope and help in him. Briefly let me begin to end this familiar story. Levi became Matthew and was so moved that he threw a great banquet celebration. Who could he invite? He invited his fellow co-laborers, friends, and tax collectors, who were like him – sinners. This, as you know infuriated the Pharisees who grumbled within themselves that this Jesus was eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus replied with the axiom that first caused me to meditate on my relationship to sinners, and secondly prompted me to write this post: “...Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32 ESV) In meditating on this passage and on my consideration of the hopelessness of sinners I developed a list of at least seven things that I am praying that God will develop within me in order to always remember that the well have no need of a doctor, it is the sick who do. Therefore, I am praying: 1. for a deep and compassionate burden for those who are lost without Christ
2. to weep over the lost souls of the hopeless and helpless
3. to without fear, hesitation, or condition share the gospel
4. to wrestle with God for the souls of those whom he has laid on my heart & list
5. to deflect and defeat the powers of darkness that hold sinners in bondage
6. to fully understand & realize the end and doom of the sinner apart from Christ
7. to love the sinner as much as Christ did when he came to seek & to save them

1 comment:

John said...

A great list, and one that we should all pray.

I love the story of Levi, and especially the way that you have laid it out. Jesus is truly hope for the hopeless.