Here is a brief recap of our Bible study last week @ Rebirth ESTL.
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
This week in Bible study, we looked at the passage of Mark 2:13-17, specifically highlighting this last verse. What strikes me about this passage is just how counter-intuitive it is. The God of the universe, perfect and holy, calls an ethnic outcast named Levi. He then chooses to “kick it” with moral outcasts. To top it all off, he declares that he came for those who are sick. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners. The reason I say this is counter-intuitive is because I believe the default mode of every human heart (whether you're from East St. Louis, South Carolina, or Chicago) is religion. In other words, we spend a great deal of energy just trying to cover up the fact that we are sick. We attempt to 'patch up' our sinful heart, or 'clean up' our shame. We think we can solve the problem of sin by making ourselves good enough. I think with many of the kids in East St. Louis, this is the case. There is a genuine desire to know God, or follow Him, or to change. But this is most often pursued by trying hard to clean oneself up enough so that they are acceptable to God.
This is where the radical nature of the Gospel comes in. Religion says, 'you can clean yourself up, all you need is a little behavior modification, if you do enough external acts of righteousness you can patch yourself up.' But the Gospel tells us quite the contrary. It tells us that we are sick, and we can't make ourselves right. It tells us that the only thing that qualifies us is knowing the fact that we don't qualify. It tells us that we don't need behavior modification, we need a heart transplant. Finally, it tells us that there is One (Jesus), who himself became sick in our place and for our sake, so that through Him we might be made well. The Gospel tells us that our patch up work will never do, but Jesus came to give us completely new life.
Our study this week concluded by looking at the response of Levi. It says Jesus called him, and in response, Levi 'rose, and followed him.' Jesus didn't call Levi because he was a righteous person by earthly standards. Levi was a sinner. Levi was sick. Yet, Jesus invites him to know him as Savior. He invites him to follow him. He invites him into this unique relationship. The answer wasn't for Levi to make himself look better externally, or try to be more like the religious people of the day (the Pharisees), it was to simply rise and follow Jesus. It was to acknowledge that he is sick, that he can't save himself, and to believe that Jesus could. Being a Christian isn't about patching ourselves up. It is recognizing our sickness, and coming to Jesus as we are. To be made well, we must know we are sick. And for those who know they are sick and turn to Jesus, there is an overwhelmingly amazing remedy.
My hope and prayer is that God would continue to work in the lives of these guys, causing them to see just how sick they are, yet how complete and marvelous the remedy is.