The Church is a Party Like No Other. – Luke 5

This message is a part of our Rethinking Church Sermon Series.

Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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As I was thinking about this series and the idea of getting the right image in our heads of what the church is supposed to be, I remember one Christmas a few years back when Keith & Cheryl still lived in Virginia and we were there visiting for Christmas and Haven saw the phone that hung on the wall in their kitchen and said, what’s that? When I told her it was a phone she got this puzzled look on her face…
She had never seen a phone mounted on a wall- to her a phone was the screen her mom and dad carried around in their pockets…

We are tackling this idea of what the church Jesus designed is because whether we’ve never been to church and only have what we’ve feared and imagined church would be OR we’ve been to church our whole lives and gotten a really specific definition of what church is supposed to look like- we need to be certain that the picture in our heads and the church we are building matches the images Jesus laid out for us in God’s Word.

The blueprints for the church we are building are found in God’s Word.

This is so important because our mission here at Faith is:

We are building the church our friends and neighbors will join and our children will lead.

Today we are taking our next look at Luke’s verbal documentary and getting another picture of what the church Jesus designed is supposed to look like.  Last week we saw that the church is a new kind of generation. Today we are going to focus on the image Luke gives us of a party in Luke 5:27-35

In my early days at the Church we were desperately in need of growth. Every church should endeavor to grow, to reach the scores of people all around them in need of the gospel, but we really needed to grow because were averaging just under 40 people, several of whom who were in their 70s and we only had 2 kids consistently…

There was this sense, at least to me that we not only needed to grow to save our community, we needed to grow to save our church.

So in those early years, I did everything I knew to do to try and make evangelism happen…
That’s tough when you’re new to an area like Chandler…
Plus many of our people had invited all of their friends several times over…

So we did everything we could to meet new people, and train our people to be evangelists, and visit these people we had met…It didn’t really work…

I was frustrated with the lack of results, I was frustrated with my own inabilities, and I was worried about the future of our church. Then I came across something that was pivotal- I read “evangelism is the overflow of an abundant life in Christ.”

The idea was that, all the training and emphasis, and programs geared around evangelism won’t be as effective as the natural evangelism that takes place when someone is experiencing the grace and restoration of Jesus in their everyday broken life. The best witness for the power and love of Jesus is a profound ongoing personal experience of Jesus- so I shifted my focus to helping our people have that and constantly work at bringing new people into contact with our church so that if they desired what they saw happening here, they come seeking it… Then I realized that worship is the same way… Then I realized that church, the meeting of believers for worship and evangelism…. All of this is the overflow of an abundant life in Christ.

Church is the overflow of an abundant life in Christ.

What we see happen in this passage is a perfect example of this same concept- Matthew (Levi) invites all of his friends over to a party where Jesus is the guest of honor because of Matthew’s personal experience with Jesus.

We can’t appreciate or understand church without a personal experience with Jesus.

The significance of this moment… Matthew was a publican. He was a tax collector for the Roman Government. Rome had major battles and war and huge construction projects and you don’t accomplish that without funding. So they had taxes on everything. There would be tables at the entrances to city where they would charge for entering into the city- it was like an entrance fee…Tax collectors were considered politically, ceremonially, & morally, unclean.

Politically- Israel was a religious nation state where the Church ruled, by working for the Romans he was not only working for the enemy of the state, but for the enemy of the church.

Ceremonially – The Jews had ceremonies that they would perform in their religious practices, but if you were unclean you couldn’t participate… part health code and part holiness code, you couldn’t be in the assembly if you had just been spotted with leprosy or moved a dead body or travelled from a gentile (non-jewish) land. Because tax collectors of publicans worked with the gentiles, giving them money, carrying out their dirty work, they were considered ceremonially unclean.

Morally – It was common and accepted practice that the publicans would tack extra money on top of the tax which they would keep for themselves. If your tax was to be 4 denarius, they might make it 6 and keep the 2 off the top for themselves. It was common and accepted by the Romans- after all it fueled their revenue all the same and made recruiting tax collectors easy…So for Jesus to walk up to a publican at the place where he did his unclean, corrupt business would be like a preacher walking up to a trap house to invite a drug dealer to church or walking up to a massage parlor to invite a prostitute to church.

This was HUGE!

The other aspect of this that I don’t want you to miss is that when Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him, he wasn’t merely asking him to call himself a Christian… Many of us think that’s all this is, I call myself a Christian so I am one… He wasn’t asking him to take on a label, he was asking him to follow him.
In that day Rabbis would have a group of students who would learn from them and to learn from them they would just go with them wherever they went. Jesus was asking Matthew to go with him wherever he went, and that’s what Matthew did, he literally walked with Jesus everywhere that he went. They spent time together every day.

At Faith Church we invite everyone to:
Follow Jesus
Grow in a Group
Serve on a Team.

Jesus’ invitation to Matthew included all 3! He would be walking with Jesus every step of the way over the next 3 years.  He would be growing in a group of disciples who would debrief with Jesus after each of his message, they would discuss the sermons to help them fully understand and apply the truths. Finally, he would be serving on a team that did small things in the beginning like get the food, find places to stay, but then would progress to things like praying for people, traveling to towns on the outskirts to preach on their own…

Matthew had just been invited into that, at his table of tax collection. Jesus had walked into the trap house and invited a dealer to become a disciple. He had banged on the door of the cathouse and invited the woman inside to become a deaconess… This was so outside of the norm that religious leaders are beside themselves… they can’t believe it. They were upset that Jesus was around these people, they didn’t even know what Jesus had in mind… They were upset that Jesus was sitting at the same table with these people, imagine if they knew that Jesus was going to have this guy write the very first book of the New Testament!

Can I tip my hand a little bit here? Can I show my cards- some of you are here and Jesus has saved you from your sin and given you new life and that’s amazing and powerful and beautiful, but I can I tell you something- I’ve got more in mind because I believe God wants you to grow in knowledge, love, power, and purpose. I believe God wants you to discover the gifts and abilities that have been in you all along and the gift he’s given you with the Holy Spirit because he wants to put you on a team that’s gonna be a part of God’s redemptive work in this broken city and culture!!!

So how does Matthew respond? He leaves everything. This is important. He leaves everything. Now people had been preaching to Matthew that what he was doing was wrong and Matthew had been made to feel bad but now Matthew just suddenly gets up and leaves it all behind…

Mark Clark was talking about when he first became a believer he smoked like a chimney… In Canada the Surgeon General not only put warnings on the packages but also pictures of brains and lungs ruined by years of smoking… Clark said he’d walk in and say yeah give me a pack of the black lung and a pack of the bleeding brain… That didn’t’ scare him off cigarettes. Then he met this girl and fell in love and she would become his wife one day and she didn’t like the smell of cigarettes and he quit. Why? New Affections… Everything in Matthew’s life changed that day because he had a new affection, he loved this Jesus. He loved this God who would walk into the middle of his corrupt life and invite him to follow him…

Then Matthew celebrates. He throws a party.

Look at the verse because I want you to see clearly what he does…

28And he left all, rose up, and followed HIM.
29And Levi made HIM a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

Matthew throws a party, but it’s a party for Jesus. It’s a celebration and Jesus is the object of celebration. Matthew invites all of his sinner friends and their escort girlfriends come along too, but the object of the party is Jesus. This is important. Matthew wants to celebrate Jesus and he wants his friends to meet Jesus but this was all about Jesus. This wasn’t a party for his friends that Jesus was invited to… This was a party for Jesus that sinners were invited to… There’s a distinction that I want us to get…

Church is a party where everyone is welcome, but it’s all about Jesus.

We live in a consumer culture and that pervades the church.  I gotta be honest, I’m not interested in church shoppers. Church shoppers are people who are looking for a church that fits their pre-determined expectations of what the church is to be about.

“We’re looking for young church but not too trendy, really good coffee, but we’re south beach diet so there will need to be communion options, and speaking of communion we think that should be done often but not TOOO often if you know what I mean.
What translation do you use?
Which songs do you sing?
We like hymns but not the old, old one’s you know?
Also, we’re looking for a small church that has that small community feel but we need the youth group to be like a rock concert so that our kids will want to go…”

I recently heard a guy talking about the history of rescue societies. Back in the days before the Coast Guard and so much travel and shipping was by boat and the hubs of cities were in ports and harbors, there would be rescue societies that people belonged to kind of like volunteer fire departments. When a ship was in trouble these people would hop in their schooners and fishing boats and go and rescue the people who were sinking or had fallen over board or whatever… When they got back from running one of these rescue missions they would throw a big party celebrating that they had saved lives and that everyone had come back safely and they’d recognize members of the rescue society that had done heroic things… People started to notice, these parties are pretty great and they would start having the parties on a regular basis, even if there hadn’t been any rescue mission… Then people were joining just to be a part of the parties and they belonged to the rescue society but they wouldn’t go on rescue missions…

These were the precursors for Yacht Clubs… I looked up one of the Yacht Clubs history and it started off as a split from another yacht club over something small and I thought, of course, because

When you no longer know why you exist, you’re not committed to stay the course.

Parties are great if we know what we are celebrating, and what better to celebrate than Jesus!? What better to Celebrate that someone being rescued!

I remember I once had someone tell me they thought it was in bad taste to clap when someone got baptized… If that’s not worth celebrating, nothing is!

May we never be too religious to celebrate what God is doing.

I originally had that worded don’t get too religious to party, but some of you definitely need to get too religious to party… Now, the religious leaders criticize Jesus and the disciple here by saying, your disciples never fast…Jesus responds with:

v34 “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
v.35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

They loved a wedding in Jesus’ day. They would party for 7 days… If you fasted one day a week normally, you wouldn’t fast during the wedding feast… Can I remind you of the last things Jesus said to the disciples?

I will never leave you nor forsake you…
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the ends of the age…

The Church is a party will never stop.