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Sermon - The Friend II
Matthew 11:19

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The Friend II

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners. Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Matthew 11:19)

When you meet someone who does not know the Lord, what do you do? We all are likely acquainted with "non-Christians," though as said in another context, we were intrigued recently by a Christian educator who said, "80% of Christians lose all meaningful contact with non-Christians within 2-years after they receive Christ."

The educator's concern? We tend, as humans, to withdraw into little worlds where we only meet and receive people who think like we do. His suggestion: We should be willing to be open to the idea that God is sending us to be a FRIEND to someone who is not like us that God is placing into our lives. They may not find us comfortable and you may feel the same about them. But consider the possibility that God may have a different idea than yours about who you should associate with.

Think about the person who is next to you at work or lives in your neighborhood. You may like them or you may find them irritating, but God, who is sovereign in your life and mine, does not have accidents. There is no "Oops, I didn't want those two to meet" with Him. Your family, believe it or not, was carefully chosen with you (and them) in mind. We tend to only see the human standpoint and miss that God often gives surprises by offering people to each other who normally wouldn't "mix" at all.

If you are not a "Christian;" that is, if for whatever reason you have elected to NOT receive Christ Jesus on a personal level, you may wonder about "Christians" you meet. Some of them have a special "something" you would like to have. There is a peace, a calm, a loving acceptance and deep inside you want it, too. Others with the label "Christian" can be grating in personality and you may want nothing to do with them.  But it isn't just about "Christians."  The key to life itself is to recognize that God exists, He loves YOU, and you need to know that He (the Father) sent the Son. If you accept the Son as your Friend, He pardons you.

In 1830, a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. The man deserved his sentence, but U.S. President Andrew Jackson sent him a pardon. George Wilson did a strange thing – he refused the pardon. The case was referred to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the opinion: "A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged." And he was.

God the Father saw that we have sinned and we must see that our sin is without human remedy. To honestly look inside ourselves and at others is to understand that in the sight of a Holy, Just and Pure God, we should have been vaporized a long time ago. But to recognize the justice of God is to see only one side of Him. He is also full of love and mercy, and this is clearly seen in the Son He sent to die in our place. The Son who is our Friend.

George Wilson deserved to die - and so do we. Scripture says: "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23). George Wilson was given a written pardon and we are given the blood of Christ. As Chief Justice Marshall said, "a pardon is a slip of paper." We are set free by the blood of Christ, which is of infinite value, however the pardon must be received in order to take effect.  Romans 6:23 continues, "...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." 

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners. Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Matthew 11:19). Jesus, "the Son of Man," befriended us, both in His life and by His death. He was accused of associating with the very people He came to save. The "nice" people of His day, who really weren’t nice at all, made those accusations and they hated Him for associating with people just like you and me.

Jesus became our Friend by dying in our place. When we receive Him, He actually changes us, rendering us acceptable to God. He said "You are My friends, if you do what I command you" (John 15:14), which is scary because we cannot do the things of God. But He continued "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you" (John 15:16). Jesus carefully selected us and He changes us, using the analogy that we are like trees that now can produce "fruit" useful to God, including the wonder of answered prayer.

And we are told what the command of God is: "This I command you, that you love one another" (John 15:17). He became our Friend. He gave up His life for us. When we trust in Him and what He has done, He makes us fit for His kingdom. And then He tells us what He wants: we are to "love one another." That which we could not do (and would not do), He does in us when we receive the Son.

In 1928, in Massachusetts, a man fell off a boat dock and was in trouble. He yelled "I can’t swim" and kept going under. His friends were too far away to help him, but a young man who could swim was sunning himself in a deck chair, just a few yards away. The man in the water died and the family sued the sunbather. They lost. The court reluctantly ruled that the man on the dock did not have a responsibility to help the other man.

That is not God’s way. We are given an affirmative command to help one another. And more – we are to love others with every ounce of our being. But only in Christ can we truly love that other person. We may be charmed by them and interested in them or we may not find them likeable at all, but God has a different idea.  LOVE is action and we become able to give God's love through "the Son of Man." Let's say "yes" to Him today.

Thank You for being our friend, Lord Jesus. We receive You, now. Change us, Lord, and render us able to love one another. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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