Pastor's Desk: Saved By the Grace of God

PASTORS DESK (002).jpg

God doesn't always do what you'd expect - after all, He saves sinners like you and me by grace through faith.

The Gospel of Matthew, among the best known books of the Bible, was written by a sinner saved by God's grace. Matthew was a tax collector, a man despised by his fellow Jews because people in his vocation were notorious for dishonest gain, extortion and abuse of authority. They, along with other "sinners," were the scum of their society. Yet, when Jesus saw Matthew, He said, "Follow me" and Matthew left everything behind and followed Him. His account of Jesus' ministry and miracles has since been a part of the most influential book in all of history.

"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

After Matthew decided to follow Jesus, he hosted a banquet for Jesus in his home and many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus. The Pharisees were expecting a Messiah who, like them, would condemn tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus explained his reason for eating with them, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." There will certainly be a time for judgment for the sinner, but God is patient, "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 2:9). Jesus ate with sinners because He wants to give us sinners an opportunity to repent of our sinful ways and respond to His call to an extraordinary life of following Him.

"How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"

John the Baptizer's disciples were familiar with fasting, but Jesus and His disciples freely ate. While fasting would have been appropriate for a time of mourning over sin, demonstrating repentance and seeking the LORD's mercy, it was not appropriate for the time of Jesus' presence among His disciples. Expecting them to fast, He said, was like expecting wedding guests at a wedding to mourn instead of celebrate. Here again, Jesus did not conform to the expectations of His observers. He did not fast with His disciples because His presence is a time to celebrate.

We should be so grateful that the LORD doesn't always do as we humans expect. He chose to use a crucified Christ as an atoning sacrifice to save the sinner. He calls the lowly, despised and weak among us to shame the strong. He displays His strength and wisdom through our weakness and foolishness. He deliberately makes it impossible for people to boast in themselves and take pride in their own accomplishments. He saves us by His grace through faith, "and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The next time you want God to meet your expectations, remember that it's a good thing He doesn't always do what we expect of Him. Rejoice that He chose sinners like Matthew and like you and me, and called us to an extraordinary life of following Jesus. Celebrate His grace that is greater than our sin.

John Newton (author of "Amazing Grace" on the three wonders of heaven: "When I get to heaven I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be, to see many people there whom I did not expect to see. The second wonder will be, to miss many people whom I did expect to see; and the third and greatest wonder of all, will be to find myself there."