Levi gave Jesus a large dinner of influence. There Jesus touched lives. I have to believe every single one of us will cross the paths of someone this holiday season that is messed up and needs Christ. It may well be a relative, or a friend of a relative. It might be at the mall, or at a large dinner. My point is for you to be ready.
By Pastor Delbert Young
Dinner of Influence
Dinner of Influence
Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 5:23, John 4:7-9, John 4:27, Luke 5:27-29, Luke 5:29, (NLT) Luke 5:30-32
When we are talking about INFLUENCE 3-D, we are talking about seeing people in their total dimension more as God sees us.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your WHOLE SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We’ve been talking about the Lord touching our eyes so we can get beyond the one-dimensional or two-dimensional aspect of people. I want to get beyond their idiosyncrasies and external appearance and see a second dimension – their soul. I want to get beyond that 2-D and see them 3-D – their spirit and the WHOLE person God loves. I want every one of us to see people like they truly matter to God. When we look 3-D, we see with love. When we look 1-D and 2-D we are judgmental and prejudice. If we are going to love people the way Christ followers are to love, we must look 3-D. We talked about finding our “lamp stand,” or the thing on which we place our light – INFLUENCE – that best affects our worlds. Jesus said to put your light on its lamp stand for maximum influence.
It’s the holiday season and the time of the year we all see many people we love and care about. We will have many gatherings and dinners together. What better time to use our INFLUENCE 3-D? That’s where I want to go today with our lesson, but before I go there, I want to tell you of an experience I had a few years ago. If we are going to influence people the way we want, we must get beyond their issues.
Several years ago, I was in my study and it was about 10 a.m. I heard a knock on my door and said, “Come in.” It was my son Lance bringing in a young man to talk to me. I recognized the young man and knew some of his history, which was not good. He had given his godly and loving parents fits. He was now married with a child and continued to give his parents and wife fits. His hair was matted. His clothes were dirty and wrinkled, looking like he had been in them a week and as I stood to greet him, from across the room I smelled the heavy odor of alcohol. It wasn’t only the odor of someone when they recently had a drink. It was the obnoxious odor of a heavy overnight hangover drunk. I’m thinking, “Oh me. What’s this about?” I recall being annoyed. I’d been interrupted in the morning, my study time when I resist interruptions the most, but not only interrupted; I had a hung over drunk on my hands. He began telling me his woes. I was expecting him to ask for money or something, but that’s not where he went. He began telling me about losing his job, about his addictions, and that now he was on the verge of losing his wife and family. He said, “I’m nothing but a no account loser. I’m good for nothing and I’ve messed up everything.” He put his face in his hands and began weeping. I realized his confession was partially because of beverage influence, but I couldn’t discount the fact God was influencing too. I called him by name and said, “You are not a loser. You are created in the image of God. You are full of potential and abilities. God has a plan for you. If you will get to where you need to be in God, the Bible says God will turn your mourning into dancing and your weeping into a great, happy life.” He said that’s why he came to see me and asked me if I would pray for him. I said of course I will pray “for” him, but he needed to pray and ask the Lord to come back into his life and help him. He said, “That’s what I mean. Will you help me do that?” Of course, I did and God used me to reconcile that young man with God. I was able to join his hand back to the hand of God.
You may say, “Well Delbert, that’s what you do.” You are correct, but I have to believe that every single one of us will cross the paths of someone this holiday season that is messed up and needs Christ. It may well be a relative, or a friend of a relative. It might be at the mall, or at a LARGE DINNER. My point is for you to be ready.
I had no idea of the influence I had on that young man. When the moment came, I had to see beyond the drunken flesh. I had to get beyond my aggravation and disgust. I had to see a person God loved and the only way to do that was 3-D. God loves him and desperately wants his life reconciled and he was one prayer away from being reconciled to God.
One day Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria and they came to a placed called Jacob’s well. The disciples went to town to get food and Jesus remained at the well. The Bible doesn’t spell this part out clearly, but it had to be. As the disciples went into town a Samaritan woman was coming from town to the well. The disciples had to pass and see this woman, but Jews, representing God’s people in the scriptures, are very prejudice and they despised Samaritans. Because of prejudice, the disciples only saw in 1-D. (No love lost. Samaritans despised Jews – God’s people) Samaritans had racially mixed marriages. Samaria was a human “melting pot” in those days. Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar captured Samaria and imported people from all over the world to live there. It’s sort of like God did with America (Selah). How do you feel about racially mixed marriages? It’s ok for everyone else, right, but what if it’s your child or grandchild? The Samaritans also worshipped strange gods from all over the world. How do you feel, let’s say about Moslems? Does God love Moslems? Do we? Neither did the Jews like Samaritan government. They were way more liberal than the Jews – sexual preferences were ok, religious toleration was fine, abortion (Molech – Lev 18:21) was ok, you know, sort of like the “left liberals” in America. How do you feel about people who support say gay rights? I’m just checking you out and making this story and my sermon relevant. When you walk by a mixed marriage couple, or see people of a different religion, or people openly homosexual, or perhaps someone who had an abortion, in what dimension do you look? Do you look 1-D and then look away maybe like Jesus’ Jewish disciples did? You know, unclean. Many are convinced God is looking for an opportunity to rain down fire from heaven and destroy those people (Luk 9:54). Prejudice causes us to think that way and as Jesus did with his disciples, Jesus rebukes that type thinking. Still, the disciples sized up the woman 1-D, looked away, and walked right by her.
However, Jesus doesn’t have 1-D, or 2-D judgmental and prejudice vision. 1-D or even 2-D vision is what makes us judgmental. 3-D pushes through and causes (makes) us to love. Jesus saw people in 3-D and he immediately began using his influence. He saw someone he would give his blood for in the near future. He saw someone who mattered. He looked for a lamp stand and began a conversation with that outcast woman.
John 4:7-9 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
God’s people refuse to have anything to do with the people needing God the most. Strange as it seems, Jesus began a conversation with her about a drink of water that took her to the place of salvation. A drink of water? Yes, he simply asked for a drink of water. Jesus went from water to reconciling that woman to God. That woman’s life changed because someone saw her in 3-D and used their influence to change her eternity.
How many think you might just have the opportunity over the next few weeks to begin a conversation with someone far from God over a glass of tea, or turkey dinner, or a gift, or something? How far can you take it? Jesus took it to reconciliation. Then the disciples came back.
John 4:27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
Not only were they amazed Jesus took time to talk to her and influence her, but they didn’t even care why he talked with her. They didn’t even ask about her.
Please, as some of you will go to work tomorrow and see people over the holidays, don’t walk right by people like the woman going to the well. Maybe they annoy you, don’t dress like you think people should dress, use language you don’t think they should use, or vote differently than you vote. Please find something to begin a conversation with them. Talk to them about “water.” They know you are a Christian. See what God will do.
One of the most interesting stories in the Bible along these lines is about a man Jesus surnamed Matthew. His name was Levi and before Levi met Jesus, he was a hated, obnoxious, despised tax collector. We are not fond of our IRS, but what we feel is nothing compared to what the Jews (God’s people) felt. To a Jew, the tax collector was a traitor who worked for the Roman government taking money from the Jews, taking their large cut, and giving the remainder to Caesar.
Luke 5:27-29 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, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. THEN Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating WITH THEM.
Levi was reconciled to God through Christ and THEN, immediately, next word, wanted his buddies to come to Christ too. He didn’t hand out tracks or go preaching to them. He talked to Jesus about it and purposefully planned a big party to invite his buddies. In other words, his lamp stand was to use his party influence the very best way he could. He could obviously throw a great party, so that’s what he did. However, this party had a purpose. He would have Jesus and the disciples come too. They were to talk to Levi’s buddies and spend a little time with them. Who knows what God might do?
Luke 5:29 Levi gave A LARGE DINNER at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner.
Isn’t that a great idea? We’ve done some of these “Matthew/Levi parties” in the past and they always worked out well. I’ve seen lots of people tremendously influenced for the kingdom this way. So, Levi throws his big party and it’s all going well when…
(NLT) Luke 5:30-32 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough.”
It seems the Pharisees crashed the party and approached Jesus. There Jesus was in the middle of those who were obnoxious to “those who think they are already good enough.” Sometimes I worry about us Christians. I worry that sometimes we lose the reality there are spiritually sick people. We have the medication. We know the cure, but because we think we are already good enough, we become like the Pharisees. We see “scum” and “sinners” 1-D and 2-D.
I can’t help but notice how pleased Jesus was with Levi (Matthew) when Levi held onto his love for his buddies and did something to try and reconcile them to God. So many of us become Christians and forget about our party friends. I need to balance that statement. We do need to break away from negative influences, but we can’t break away from God using us to reconcile them to God. Sometimes it’s a difficult blend. That’s why you need Jesus at the party with you. My point here is Jesus was happy Levi tried to reach his buddies. Jesus was happy Levi took the risk. Levi used his influence the best he could to reach anyone he could.
I want to ask you and me, would Jesus be happy with how we try to reach our “buddies”? Would Jesus say to you, “Way to go (Jack)! You tried. You went to the expense. You took the risk. You opened up your home. You gave it a shot. You have a heart for the spiritually sick. You looked beyond their annoyance. You looked 3-D.”? Would he? Or, might he say, “Hey (Jack), you walked right by them and turned the other way. People are annoyances and interruptions to you. It’s been years since you even shared your story of faith with anyone. You must think you are already good enough.” Which would he say to you?
Some of you have people you ache in your heart for. They are off the path God has for them. Perhaps it’s a son or a daughter. Perhaps it’s a mom or a dad. It may be a dear friend whose life has gotten messed up with some bad decisions. You want to help. You want to do a better job of reconciling them to God. If that’s you and you know you need to accelerate your abilities and concerns, would you raise your hand right where you are sitting? I want to say a few words to you and pray for you.
If that’s you, you need to begin every day praying for that person(s). You need to ask for a door, or that God would bring someone along their path, who would not see them as a nuisance, but INFLUENCE them 3-D. It’s the holiday season. Plan some type of Levi/Matthew party with the planned purpose of reaching them. Try to do something and get them around someone who can influence them. Last thing: NEVER GIVE UP. Never, ever, give up. God doesn’t give up on people, so neither should we.
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