Sun, Feb 03, 2002

"I CAN'T!" MARK 2:13-17

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
"I CAN’T!"
MARK 2:13-17
 

Please turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 2 as we are going to be looking at this morning how we can be unshackled from this world. You see, even as Christians we can allow the things of this world to keep us bound because we refuse to let them go, give them to the Lord. Charles Swindoll makes this point in his book, Come Before Winter. He said:

Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use can’t.

"I just can’t get along with my wife."

"My husband and I can’t communicate."

"I can’t discipline the kids like I should."

"I just can’t give up the affair I’m having."

"I can’t stop overeating."

"I can’t find the time to pray."

"I can’t quit gossiping."

No, any Christian who takes the Scriptures seriously will have to confess the word really should be won’t. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. Literally!

One of the best books you can read on overcoming depression is a splendid work by two psychiatrists, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier. The volume is appropriately entitled Happiness is a Choice, "As psychiatrists we cringe whenever [Christian] patients use the word can’t...Any good psychiatrist knows that ‘I can’t’ and ‘I’ve tried’ are merely excuses. We use language that expresses the reality of the situation. So we have our patients change their can’t words to won’ts...if an individual changes all his can’ts to won’ts, he stops avoiding the truth, quits deceiving himself, and starts living in reality."

"I just won’t get along with my wife."

"My husband and I won’t communicate."

"I won’t discipline the kids like I should."

"I just won’t give up the affair I’m having."

"I won’t stop overeating."

"I won’t find the time to pray."

"I won’t quit gossiping."

Non-Christians have every right and reason to use can’t, because they really can’t! They are victims, trapped and bound like slaves in a fierce and endless struggle. Without Christ and His power, they lack what it takes to change permanently. They don’t because they can’t! It’s a fact...a valid excuse.

But people like us? Hey, let’s face it, we don’t because we won’t...we disobey because we want to, not because we have to...because we choose to, not because we’re forced to. The sooner we are willing to own up realistically to our responsibility and stop playing the blame game at pity parities for ourselves, the more we’ll learn and change and the less we’ll burn and blame.

- Charles Swindoll, Come Before Winter

This morning I pray that if you find yourself in bondage like this, that you keep saying you can’t instead of the reality that you won’t, may you be set-free from that bondage. If you don’t know the Lord, that you would come to Him and be set-free from the bondage of sin and death and live the new life in Christ. But if you do know the Lord, and you are finding yourself saying "I can’t!" and you are stuck in that bondage, which most of us are from time-to-time, that you will learn to give it to the Lord and truly be set-free, walking in that new life in Christ! With that said, lets begin reading in Mark chapter 2 starting in verse 13, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MARK 2:13-17

Here we see Jesus calling Levi, a tax collector. Now most of us know him as Matthew, and like today, the people hated paying taxes, even more than today. You see, the Romans would collect taxes by a means called tax farming. In other words they would have various districts that would be assessed a certain amount of tax. Certain roads would be taxed, and I thought going through the tolls in Chicago were bad! They would tax what ever they could get away with. But the Romans themselves would not personally collect these taxes but would sell that right to the highest bidder. This person, like Levi, would collect the taxes for the Roman government.

The Jews, hating Rome and anything to do with Rome, hated to support Rome by paying these taxes. And it gets even worse. You see, the tax collector would make a profit by taxing the people over and above the fixed rate that Rome had set. They would even tax things that the Roman government didn’t tax. And Rome didn’t care as long as they made their money, received the taxes that were due to them.

So for these tax collectors there was a great incentive for them to be crooked, to rip people off! Thus, the Jews hated these Jewish tax collectors, they saw them as dishonest and supporting Rome, they were traders to their own people. So the only friends these tax collectors had were other tax collectors, sinners, other dishonest people. In fact, these tax collectors were ostracized by society, by their fellow Jews. They couldn’t testify in a court case because they couldn’t be trusted in telling the truth. They couldn’t enter a synagogue, they were unclean. So they basically sold away their life to make a profit.

So picture what is taking place here as Jesus approaches Levi. The people, the crowds were avoiding the tax collectors, but Jesus reaches out to this lonely man who is collecting taxes by the roadside and says to him, "Follow Me." And Levi does! Now many times we read over this and think "Bid deal!" It was a big deal. You see, once you left that position Rome would not let you back in, you could not get your old job back. In Luke 5:28 we are told that Levi completely gave up this line of work to follow Jesus. Luke tells us, "So he left all, rose up, and followed Him." Peter, Andrew, James and John could have gone back to the family fishing business, but not Levi, he truly gave up all with no hopes of returning, nor did he want to return.

As I have said before, it does cost us something to follow Christ. Sometimes your own family will avoid you like you have the plague, they won’t even want to talk with you. Sometimes your friends will ignore you because you no longer fit in with the crowd, or what some think is in. Levi counted the cost and decided to follow Jesus was more valuable than the old life he had. You see, for many it is not that they can’t follow Christ, but they won’t follow Christ, and they are missing out what the Lord has for them. They think by surrendering to Jesus they are going to miss out on something, and in a way that is true. You will miss out on all the things that will guide you down a path of destruction. Think about it, what are you missing? Drugs? Alcohol? Sexual promiscuity? Cheating? Lying? Stealing? And of course that negative list can go on-and-on, but that is not what God desires for you, and Father God knows what is best for your life!

Now we are going to do a name change here, from Levi to Matthew. You see, Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." And that is not only true in our lives, but it was true in the life of Levi. You see, the name "Levi" means "to be joined to." What was Levi joined to? This world! He was shackled to the things of this life and it was dragging him down. If you don’t believe that to be true, listen to what John has to say regarding this world and the things of this world in I John 2:15-17, where we read "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."

But now Christ has called this man and he leaves that old life behind to follow Jesus, he is no longer shackled to this world and the things of this world. In fact, his name is now "Matthew" or "a gift of God." I like that for that is exactly what happens to each of us when we come to Christ. We are set free from the bondage of sin and we become a gift of God. In Ezekiel chapter 11 the Lord is speaking of the Jewish people, but we can apply this to every person who comes to the Lord by faith and He also speaks of those that reject the gift, refuse to be placed on display for the world to see the richness of His grace. We read "‘Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord GOD."Ezekiel 11:19-21. What a gift we have become in Jesus, and He does place us on display for all to see the richness of His grace towards us. People can look at me and say, "Man, God is gracious, Joe is saved!"

Now what do you do when you have a gift? You want to show it off so you invite people over to see the gift. "You have to come over, I just bought a new car!" And, in a sense, that is exactly what Matthew does, he throws a party for Jesus and invites all of his friends so they can see this gift and that they may also receive this gift into their own lives.

Now who do you think would show up to a party that Matthew would throw? Tax collectors and sinners! Not necessarily the who’s who of people, but these were his friends. He cared that much for them that he wanted them to experience Jesus as he had. For us, many times it is not that we can’t, but that we won’t. We are unwilling to let people see the gift that God has given to us and that is wrong.

Let me ask you this, considering who is attending this party, what do you think Jesus would do as He walked in and saw this group of people? Do you think Jesus just got up and left the party because He didn’t want to associate with sinners, the scum of society as some thought? Maybe He sat alone so He would not be contaminated by their filth? Of course not, and we don’t have to guess for Mark tells us "...that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him."Mark 2:15. Jesus was right in the middle with them, feasting with them, fellowshipping with them, and the result is that many followed Him, were touched by Jesus!

This is interesting to me for it tells me that the religious leaders were watching closely the things that Jesus did to try and catch Him and bring Him down. And it is these religious leaders that had a hard time with what Jesus was doing, eating with tax collectors and sinners. On the other hand the religious leaders saw themselves above the tax collectors and sinners, and thus, they didn’t want to associate with them. You see, it wasn’t that they can’t, but it was they won’t be around people that don’t fit their idea of being holy, I guess?

Tragically, that kind of attitude hasn’t changed in some 2,000 years! People refuse to reach out to those who have long hair, ear rings, wear make-up, have a different style of dress than they have, because of the color of their skin, the kind of music they listen to and a wide variety of foolish things that keep us from ministering to those in need, it keeps us at a distance to those that need help, and that is not the example Jesus gave. You see, it is not that we can’t, it is that we won’t!

I am so thankful and blessed that we have such a wide variety of people within this church and pray that God would bring many more that are not afraid to go up to someone and share the love of Jesus with them. Young, old, rich, poor, single, married, long hair, short hair, no hair, whatever. That is what Jesus is showing us here and when you examine His life you will find out that He hung out with the so-called undesirables of society. Jesus came to those in need, and so should we. If people of all kinds of backgrounds can’t find refuge in the church, then something is wrong with the church. Listen to this true story that will show us what God wants us to do. The story goes like this:

During the reign of Oliver Cromwell the government ran out of silver with which to make the coinage of the realm. Cromwell therefore sent his men everywhere to see if they could find more of the precious metal. They returned to report that the only silver they could find was in the statues of the saints which were on display in various cathedrals in the land. "Good!" replied Cromwell, "we will melt down the saints and put them into circulation!"

- H. G. Bosh

There are some saints that need to be melted down and put into circulation instead of being dead and lifeless hanging around a building. You see, God does not want us to just sit around in some church, in some building, but He wants us in circulation, ministering to the lost, ministering to people, having compassion upon them and not looking down upon them with some self-righteous holier than thou attitude.

That is what these religious leaders were doing and they can’t believe that Jesus would stoop down and eat with these wicked people. And as Jesus hears them He responded back by saying, "...Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17.

In other words, Jesus is telling them that if you are healthy you don’t go to the doctor, only if you are sick. Thus, He came to cleanse, He came to heal those who are sick. The problem for these religious leaders is they saw themselves as healthy, as righteous, and in need of no one. But, Paul said in Romans 3:10, "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God."

Thus, these religious leaders needed the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, just as much as everyone else! And please understand this, the one person Jesus can do nothing for is the person who thinks he is good and does not need anything. That is where the religious leaders were at. On the other hand, the friends of Matthew saw themselves as sinners and in need of forgiveness of their sins. It is those who come to Him that will receive the forgiveness of God. But just because you don’t come doesn’t mean you are not sick, we all are and need His touch in our lives!

Now the problem for us as Christians, as I have said, is when we say "I can’t!" for it is not true, it is correct to say "I won’t!" but is that what God wants from you? I don’t think so!

If you are struggling in your marriage this morning, maybe at your wits end, wanting to just run away and leave it all behind, STOP! You need to bring it before God and ask Him to forgive you for your heart, for your attitude. You see, it is not that the marriage relationship can’t work out, you won’t let it because of your heart. You can’t change the other person nor does God want you to, but you can change your attitude, your behavior, and that is what God desires.

Maybe you are struggling with a relationship this morning, upset because of what someone said to you or what they did to you, and you are ready to throw in the towel, give it all up and run away, STOP! You see, it is not a matter that you can’t forgive them, it is that you won’t forgive them, it is a matter of the heart! Again, you need to give it to God, ask His forgiveness for your hard-heartedness and forgive that person as God has forgiven you of all of your sins. Again, you can’t change the other person nor does God want you to, He can handle it. But you can change your attitude, your behavior, and that is what God desires.

Maybe as a son or daughter you think your parents are the dumbest people around, their elevator doesn’t go up to the top floor! They don’t have a clue to what is going on and you can’t wait to get out of the house and on your own, STOP! It is not that you can’t get along with your parents, it is that you won’t get along with them! Again, you need to give it to God, repent of your sin, and ask God to change your heart towards your parents. They are not perfect, but they are your parents and they do love you more than you will ever know. And you will be out on your own before you know it and you will see that it is not always easy and you will desire grace to be shown to you, won’t you show some to your parents and enjoy the time you have with them? You can’t change them, but you can change your attitude, your behavior, and that is what God desires.

If you refuse, you might as well call yourself Levi, for you will be shackled to this world, in bondage to the things of this world, and fighting against the will of God for your life. Won’t you surrender to Him and become a Matthew, a gift of God, that as you enter a room people are blessed by your presence. That may sound simple, it may sound even funny to some of you, but isn’t that what Jesus brought everywhere He went? Of course it is!

You see, you can change if you want to, if you are willing to surrender to him, giving Him control of your life. Remember the story of little Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke chapter 19. When his life was touched by Jesus we see that His behavior also changed. Remember, tax collectors were crooked people, dishonest for their own gain, they ripped people off. But now he is touched by Jesus and we read in Luke 19:8, "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’" The story does not end there for we read in verse 9, "And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’" Luke 19:8-10.

In other words he was not only going to help those in need, minister to them instead of looking out only for himself, but he was also going to repay fourfold those whom he ripped off, all those he over taxed! That was a lot of money and yet he saw the wickedness of his old ways and now in Christ, he is a changed man. It wasn’t that he can’t pay them back, but that he won’t until Jesus touched him and now he was going to follow at any cost. And Jesus says that this is the evidence of his salvation, Zacchaeus is saved!

Perspective is everything. Listen to this letter written to God. It goes like this:

"You see, God, it’s like this: We could attend church more faithfully if your day came at some other time. You have chosen a day that comes at the end of a hard week, and we’re all tired out. Not only that, but it’s the day following Saturday night, and Saturday night is one time when we feel that we should go out and enjoy ourselves. Often it is after midnight when we reach home, and it is almost impossible to get up on Sunday morning. And you must realize that you have picked the very day on which the morning paper takes the longest to read - the day when the biggest meal of the week must be prepared. We’d like to go to church, and know that we should; but you have just chosen the wrong day."

- Twentieth Century Christian

You see, it is not that we can’t, it is that we won’t! For me, I love to spend time with you sharing God’s Word, worshiping Him. I look forward to church and unless I have a note from my doctor, my wife knows she can’t keep me home, nor does she want to. You set your priorities, seek God’s will for you life and don’t let the can’ts stop you, for it will be the won’ts that truly do! Don’t make the excuse that you can’t change, the reality is you won’t, it is a matter of the heart and the surrender of your will to Him. Won’t you do that?

As Charles Swindoll said, "But people like us? Hey, let’s face it, we don’t because we won’t...we disobey because we want to, not because we have to...because we choose to, not because we’re forced to. The sooner we are willing to own up realistically to our responsibility and stop playing the blame game at pity parities for ourselves, the more we’ll learn and change and the less we’ll burn and blame."

May we learn those lessons that God is trying to show us. And as I close this morning, let me share with you what Paul says in Romans chapter 6. He said "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:17-23. Don’t be shackled to this world, be set free in Christ as you surrender to His will!

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