The Friend of sinners

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ ” Luke 7:34 (NIV)

It is a strange thing that believers in Jesus accept the truth of our verse that Jesus mingled with the down and out of society but when they fall themselves this truth vanishes. Many times I have had someone in my office who had a life that was exemplary and walked well with the Saviour. Suddenly they fell and now they wonder if they could have been a  Christian after all. Shame and disgrace hound their heels as they weep over their sin.

This is odd simply because if anyone will benefit from Christ’s cross they must acknowledge they are a sinner and in need of a Saviour. They must seek the forgiveness that Jesus is authorized to give. Yet sometimes these are the very people who are fearful to come to the One who is meek and lowly of spirit. Somehow these poor souls have forgotten that they have already confessed to Jesus their need of a Deliverer from their sins.

Why do they forget their turning to Jesus in the first place and why are they now hesitant to come? Again, how come they are ignoring the great people who did wonderful things for the Lord but then fell most miserably?

Look at mighty King David. God’s witness to David was that David was a man after His own heart. David wrote many beautiful Psalms that are part of our Bible. Reading these Psalms we are greatly blessed. Even people who do not go to church know about Psalm 23 perhaps the most beloved of all the Psalms. David wrote such beautiful testimony to his walk with God and then committed adultery and murder.

How could God testify about David being so spiritually harmonious with Him and then David went and committed such sins? What is wrong with this picture? Well, the Bible makes it very clear that God’s own beloved people are still sinners while left on this earth. The best any Christian can hope for is improvement not perfection until we see Jesus.

David fell into sin and when it was brought to his attention by a prophet, David repented and wrote Psalm 51. This is the mark of a true child of God. Not that they do not commit sins of this sort or that, but when they do there is repentance. There is sorrow. There is also an absence of self-justification. True repentance that leads to forgiveness by God is seem in the person who does not plead extenuating circumstances but merely asks forgiveness of the person offended. David did not say anything about it not being his fault or that he was tempted beyond his ability to resist. David offered no excuse whatever for his failure to obey God.

People who seek to minimize the reality of their sins or hold a grudge against the other person or persons, is someone who is not truly penitent nor does God forgive them. They are still in their sins.

On the other hand, the one who confesses their part in the sin is forgiven by the Lord just as David was forgiven for murder and adultery. The story in Luke 18:9-14 comments well on those who are unforgiving and seek to show themselves righteous. Two men when into the temple to pray. One man was sure of himself and his own righteousness. The other man had been humbled by some sin. The self righteous man “prayed with himself” as Jesus tells the story. His prayers were to himself and not God.

The self-righteous man went on about how good he was and how much better he was than the other man behind him in the temple. He says that he did not do this or that but instead did all these righteous things. All he talks about is himself. He really confesses that he does not have need of God, such is his arrogance.

The other poor fellow would not come near but stood far away as though not fit to be in God’s presence. It says he went on beating himself on the chest in remorse. Nor did he  even lift his eyes to heaven which was normal in praying. He even called himself “the sinner” as though he was in a class by himself. He asks for mercy out of his deep sense of need.

So we see two prayers and two results. First there was a prayer of pride that achieved nothing with God. Second the prayer of confession which brought forgiveness from God.

Perhaps you read this today and feel like the second person. You know you have sinned against God and you are so very sorry. You find it hard to believe you can be forgiven. Look again to our verse for today. Jesus got the reputation of being friendly with sinners. Jesus came, we know, in order to forgive those who confess their sin. If you know yourself to be a sinner and sorrow over that fact, then you are exactly the kind of person Jesus seeks out to forgive and restore to a right relationship with God.

If you have fallen do not feel that you must make yourself better before you come. All you need to have is the recognition of your need. Jesus never has turned away a sinner who comes in humility of heart.

Let not conscience make you linger nor of fitness fondly dream,
All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him.

Joseph Hart

Come, and come now.

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