January 17, 2012 Devotion Sharing (Luke 5)

Submitted by Sarah K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Self-Study

When Jesus approached Levi, he was sitting at his tax booth.  He was doing what he probably did every day, making his daily living.  In the midst of that, Jesus calls Levi to follow him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed.  What can I learn from this?  First, I can learn that Jesus’ call is very simple.  These days, it seems that people get caught up with trying to “figure out” what God’s calling is “for me.”  But through this text, it’s pretty clear what Jesus’ calling is for each of us:  “Follow me.”  Be with me.  Do what I do, see the world as I see, obey me.  Once I decide to simply follow, everything will fall into place.  Another thing I can learn is that Jesus’ calling can come in the midst of the mundane, and that it might not be at a time when we expect or feel “ready.”  Perhaps, in the midst of our day to day life, there is a never a time when we feel quite ready.  He didn’t call Levi when Levi had retired or when he had nothing else to do.  Jesus didn’t wait for Levi to tell him when it was a convenient time to follow.  He simply saw Levi and called him.  Jesus must have considered this calling as the most important invitation, the most important thing.  He considered it worth getting up and leaving the tax booth.

I have experienced God’s calling to me in the midst of the mundane.  There were times he called me to leave my sinful habits, and this would entail rearranging my schedule, being inconvenienced a little bit so that I would not be tempted to revisit places or fall into patterns that were not spiritually healthy.  There were times I was called to help a person in need, maybe someone who was sick, or who needed someone to talk to or be with.  I always had my own list of “to do” items that might have felt pressing, but that I had to set aside.  Most recently, I was called to move from northern California to San Diego to help fill a need at our church.  I don’t know if I would have ever felt “ready” or in the “right position” to do this, but the need arose, and the call came, and we decided to obey.

What did Levi do when Jesus called?  He immediately got up, left everything and followed.  He did not ask Jesus to hold on while he wrapped up his business.  He didn’t seek out the most lucrative way to liquidate his tax booth.  Instead, his response was so simple and so powerful.  It illustrates what it looks like to respond to Jesus’ calling.  I have heard in many sermons that we have all experienced people around us leaving everything to follow.  People leave everything at a moment’s notice to respond to the call of the school of their dreams, or a high-paying or prestigious job.  What is truly worth leaving and following?  The result of leaving everything for a school or a job may be comfort, momentary pleasures, fleeting successes that only lead to the need to move up the next step.  All too often, the sad result of this is a life lived in isolation, without meaningful relationships.   Over the years at our church, I have seen people leave their own ambitions to follow God’s calling.  My leaders, my friends, younger ones in our midst have left their worldly plans for materialistic success in order to be better positioned to minister to others.  I have seen people settle for lesser paying jobs or less prestigious programs because they got caught up in the vision of spreading the gospel to people on college campuses, along with people they had come to trust and love.  Even though some other job or school “called” their name, the call to minister to others along with those who they committed to build the church together with called out stronger to them.  What was the result of this?  An inspiring picture of what is truly worth following.  Lives impacted eternally by the love of these people.  For myself, every time I chose to “leave everything” I had known, some aspect of the life I was living, and follow Jesus, this led to greater blessing in my life.  When I responded to the call to “leave” what was familiar and precious to me, my friends and community in northern California, and go to help our church plant in San Diego, I experienced so much, most of all, a greater confidence in God’s love and provision.  Just this past week, we had a group from Berkeley, Austin and San Francisco to help us with our welcome events.  Through all of us working together, we were able to experience God showing us His love for our campus.  We rejoiced together as we met people with genuine spiritual interest, looking for answers and meaning in life, and were in awe that we could be the ones who could show them the amazing love of God that we found.  As the week went by, with all of us working hard and giving our all, I felt so much awe at the fact that God was using us to change the trajectory of people’s lives forever, and to show people a new life that they never imagined.  I see the simple invitations to come to our event, or to engage in some discussion about God, as God’s simple calling of “Follow me,” to the people that we met, and it’s incredible that God would use people like us to invite people in this way.  Although I can’t say that I’ve really “left” that much to follow Jesus, again and again, I experience that when I answer God’s call, though it may not seem like the most convenient time for me, and though it may mean leaving something I thought was important, I receive much, much more than what I had before.

After Levi leaves all to follow Jesus, what follows?  He throws a great banquet for Jesus at his house.  Immediately, he uses what he has to invite others to meet Jesus and I can only imagine that party being one of great joy as people were coming to meet the one who could change their lives forever.  Again, this is something I’ve experienced through my years of serving Christ.  And this past week, we experienced this together as a church as we rejoiced at all that God did through our welcome events.  Even though some of us had only met a few days before, we had worked hard together for God’s purpose and it resulted in collective awe and celebration.  This type of celebration is indescribably different from anything I’ve experienced after any worldly accomplishment.  The call to follow Jesus is not the call to a life of drudgery, but of unspeakable joy.  It is something that this world can never offer, and it all starts with that one simple invitation from Jesus to “Follow me.”

Submitted by Joanna K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Reflection Questions

Luke 5:27-28

 ·         Note Levi’s response to Jesus’ calling. 

Levi’s response to Jesus’ calling was so radical.  Upon Jesus’ invitation to follow him, Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.  That kind of immediate and total response is very shocking and unusual. It definitely would’ve turned heads and made people wonder what made Levi do such a drastic thing.

·         What did Levi leave behind in order to follow Jesus? 

Levi left behind his tax collector’s booth which was basically his livelihood.  He left a very lucrative career, and one that gave him a lot of power over his fellow neighbors.  He may have been despised by his fellow man, but he was probably respected and feared in a way since the tax collecting business was rough. He was perhaps leaving a very reckless and “exciting” life where he got to do whatever he wanted since he was probably rich and hung around a rough and kind of wild crowd. The kind of life that Levi built up for himself benefitted him and it was a life he was used to and was probably comfortable with.

·         What are the things that I am struggling to leave behind to follow Jesus?

Although my life is very different from Levi’s life, as on the outside it seems like I’m living a relatively “good” life.  I’m Christian and have been serving at church for a while now.  However, there is still that comfortable life that I have to keep struggling to leave behind to follow Jesus.  It’s because Jesus constantly wants to help me grow up and mature, and right when I feel comfortable in my Christian life, he gives me a new challenge or a new invitation that rocks my boat and forces me to make a fresh new decision to leave behind what I find comfortable and follow Jesus.  Jesus is asking me to leave behind my comfort, my fears, and insecurities to go on this crazy adventure with him and just follow his leading.

Having the advantage of knowing the outcome of Levi’s decision, I have the comfort of knowing that responding to Jesus with Levi’s complete surrender was the best decision he could ever have made. He got to have front row seats to Jesus’ earthly ministry, he got to experience the cross, and the resurrection first hand. So this encourages me to respond to Jesus with Levi’s reckless abandon. Even though it seems so scary and so uncertain, I know that through responding to Jesus’ invitation to do something scary for him will allow me to draw closer to Jesus in a way that would’ve have been possible if I just shrank back and clung onto my comfortable life.

Luke 5:31-32

·         Who did Jesus say needs a doctor? 

Jesus said that it was not the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick.

·         How well do I react to the news that I am “sick”, or that there is something not right about me? 

Sadly, I do not react well to the news that I am “sick” or that there is something not right about me. I can easily say that I am a sinner and a failure in general, but when someone brings up something specific it’s another story.

·          When people give me constructive criticism, what is my usual response? 

When people give me constructive criticism my usual response is to come up with some kind of excuse for myself, or some mitigating circumstances that make what I did not that bad.  When I catch myself, I get surprised at how effortlessly I can defend myself against any criticism that I did something wrong. When I see other people do it, it’s so obvious and bemoan the fact that people don’t just fess up to their mistakes or sins.  However, I am so blind to how obvious I am when I come up with excuses and defend myself when something is pointed out about me.  I find a ridiculous commitment to myself to feel good about myself and to deflect criticism that makes me feel bad.

Recently, I did a horrible job planning for the food for the Winter Welcome Night and so many things went wrong. It was obviously my fault and I caused unnecessary stress to some people through my own laziness and negligence. Yet, when specific things were pointed out to me that I should’ve thought of, I would automatically say that I didn’t have time to plan for it or think through that part of the food logistics.  Hearing myself say that made me cringe because I realized quickly that whether or not I thought I had adequate time, I was the one who didn’t think through the details, and I was the one who was careless.  So what would’ve been appropriate was to just immediately affirm that the criticism was true and apologize.

Thinking about the context of this passage, my unwillingness to acknowledge my own “sickness” is so ridiculous because I forfeit being healed by Jesus.  It’s those moments where there are no more excuses for myself and I finally face the truth that I am a hopeless sinner, as hopeless as someone who is very sick and cannot heal myself that I can repent and experience the amazing gift of forgiveness from God.  Jesus himself said that if I think I am healthy, then he really has nothing for me. It’s only when I throw my hands up and admit my sin that I can experience what he came on this earth to do, to forgive sinners and bring them to repentance.

Luke 5:36-39

“Those who like old wine do not try the new, for their minds are already made up: ‘The old is good.’ So Jesus expects many not to respond to his new way. They are com­fortable with life and piety as it is. Jesus’ remark is both a description and a warning. John the Baptist came to tell the people that a new era of change was coming, but Jesus knows that some do not want change.”

·         Why does the new wine need to be poured into a new wineskin?

The new wine needs to be poured into a new wineskin, so that when it ferments and expands, the new wineskin will be flexible and moldable enough to expand with the new wine.  If the new wine is poured into an old wineskin that does not have the elasticity to stretch with the fermenting wine, the wineskin will burst and both the wine and the wineskin will be ruined.

·         What do the new wine and new wineskins symbolize? 

The new wine symbolizes Jesus and the new era of God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ teachings and understanding of God were so radical and it really challenged the traditional ways of thinking about God.  The new wineskins represent people’s hearts and whether they will welcome Jesus into their own lives and allow him to completely change their lives.  People with an old wineskin as their hearts will resist the changes that Jesus brings, and will not budge because they are comfortable with their lives and do not want Jesus or anyone else to disrupt it.

·         Are there some ways in which I have I been resisting God because I don’t like to come out of my set “old ways”?

There are ways in which I have been resisting God because I don’t like to come out of my set “old ways.”  I get comfortable at the level of maturity I’m at, or the level of responsibility I’ve been given, and I am careful not to take on too much more because I mistakenly think I can’t be stretched more. However, Jesus is always that new wine in my life, wanting to bring something new into my life, wanting me to expand the capacity of my heart. There’s always some challenge in my life that I feel like Jesus is pushing me towards so that I can grow whether it be to claim more and more people into my heart, or to take more ownership over the church and not to think of my own little sliver of responsibility.  Very quickly this sense that I am finally comfortable and just getting the hang of things settles in and I do not want anything else to throw off my balance, lest I feel out of control.  Yet, in ministry, in the business of loving others, there are always interruptions, always unexpected needs that come up that Jesus wants me to respond to and through that grow.  I always have the decision before me whether to be a new or old wineskin, whether I’m going to accept the challenges or respond to the needs that are in front of me, or to turn my back on it and say that I already have enough on my plate.

Even just with the beginning of the winter quarter I sense Jesus telling me to let go of my old ways and to stretch the capacity of my heart.  With all the new friends who came to the Winter Welcome Night and many who signed up to take Christian Foundations Course, I cannot just operate the way I have been doing as if it was the same as before. God has shown me that there are more people to love and embrace, more people to own and to get involved with, more people to fuse my destiny with theirs and invite more suffering and anguish into my life. With these precious people, I can extend my heart out to them, pray for them, and think of ways to help them grow in their faith and grow in my capacity to love.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                          

Dear Lord, thank you for today’s word as you’re showing me that you want me to grow and expand in my capacity to love others. You call me like Levi to leave my comfort zone and follow you with full surrender. Through this new quarter, you’re giving me this fresh opportunity to leave my old ways of comfort and complacency and to really embark on this new adventure with you to love and minister to the people you’ve sent. I commit to being that new wineskin that is ready to expand and share your heart for people.

Submitted by Kevin L. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 5:27-28

  • Note Levi’s response to Jesus’ calling.   

Levi was sitting at his tax booth, when Jesus came by and said, “Follow me.” Upon hearing the call, Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Levi didn’t hesitate or tell Jesus to wait a minute. It was as if Levi was waiting for this moment, waiting just for some greater purpose, higher calling, someone worth pursuing, and upon this chance, he immediately left everything to follow this cause. He did not look back and wonder if he was making the right choice. Rather, he was willing to give up everything to follow Jesus.

  • What did Levi leave behind in order to follow Jesus? 

Levi left behind his career and what defined him and gave him status the past many years. He had worked hard to become a tax collector, and had to even compete with others, betray his own people, do whatever it took to come to this position. He was able to make lots of money and have power among the people. Although Levi was probably not well liked by his people, since he was collecting taxes for the Romans, this job still gave him security, comfort, something to lean on and depend on and point to, to say “I made it in life.”

  • What are the things that I am struggling to leave behind to follow Jesus?

Things that I am struggling to leave behind to follow Jesus include comfort and security. Growing up in a well-to-do family and having everything provided for, I’m just so accustomed to everything going smoothly, not facing any difficulties nor resistance, not really struggling. Consequently, I’ve developed such an attachment to comfort, whether materialistically, physically, emotionally. That is something I struggle with in Taiwan. Physically, I see how I still want to get enough rest each night or do the least amount of work to get by. Emotionally, I see how I avoid having difficult conversations with people, find it hard to open up my life to be hurt by others, or refrain from giving my all in prayer meeting because it’s emotionally draining. I also don’t like to do new things in ministry or moving out of my comfort zone, in terms of what I’m familiar with, how I think each day should go, and my agenda for each day. Materialistically, I still want to hold on to some semblance of security in terms of having a job, financial security. I don’t like it when I’m uncertain about the future or don’t have something to lean on. These are all areas in my life I really need to struggle with and surrender to God.

Luke 5:31-32

  • Who did Jesus say needs a doctor?

Jesus says that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. It’s not the righteous who need God, but it’s the sinners that Jesus came to save and to call to repentance.

  • How well do I react to the news that I am “sick”, or that there is something not right about me? 

Maybe after a message or prayer meeting or after I have done something I know I shouldn’t have done, I am convicted of my sinfulness. But on a regular basis, I still negatively react to the news that I am “sick.” I find it hard to accept not because I disagree, but because it feels uncomfortable and vulnerable. I still want to hold on to some semblance of decency, that I’m not that bad, that I can do something right. Although mentally I can assent to the fact that I’m a sinner and know how it applies to everyone in general, when somebody points out something about me and my particular sins, I become defensive.

  • When people give me constructive criticism, what is my usual response? 

When people give me constructive criticism, my usual response is becoming defensive and think of ways I am not like that. Whether it’s my leader who points something out, or my spouse who says something, although I could agree on the outside, I see how my ego flares up and finds it hard to take in the criticism. I quickly use different mechanisms to justify myself. I come up with various excuses, say that this person doesn’t know what I’m going through or doesn’t know these other factors, say that this was only a special incident, or subconsciously compare myself with others and say, “how about that person.” Through these ways, I see that the identity as “a sinner,” that I have cancer, is not a day to day reality in my life. If it were, when people correct me, I would gladly accept it and see how it is an accurate picture of me.

Luke 5:36-39

“Those who like old wine do not try the new, for their minds are already made up: ‘The old is good.’ So Jesus expects many not to respond to his new way. They are com­fortable with life and piety as it is. Jesus’ remark is both a description and a warning. John the Baptist came to tell the people that a new era of change was coming, but Jesus knows that some do not want change.”

  • Why does the new wine need to be poured into a new wineskin?

New wine needs to be poured into a new wineskin so that it wouldn’t break, that it would be able to contain the new wine and that it wouldn’t taint or alter the flavor, potency, and nature of the new wine. It is only appropriate and deserving that the new wine is poured into new wineskin rather than using old wineskin to contain it.

  • What do the new wine and new wineskins symbolize? 

The new wine symbolizes the new life that Christ has come to give us, this precious gospel. New wineskin refers to the kind of higher dimension, new way of life that God has called us to live so as to properly contain and carry this precious gospel.

  • Are there some ways in which I have I been resisting God because I don’t like to come out of my set “old ways”?

Ways in which I have been resisting God because I am set in my old ways, include my clinging onto what I’m familiar with my old patterns of thinking, living, views, values. I still want things to go my way and according to my agenda. I don’t like interruptions in my life or when things call for me to drop what I am doing to attend to that need or that person. I still have my notions of how a Christian life should be–living a contained, manageable kind of Christian life rather than giving myself wholly to God and living an interruptible life. I can follow God as long as I don’t have to get out of my comfort or do this or that. Another way I still hold on to my old ways is in terms of my values and how I view people. Instead of viewing each person as a forgiven sinner and precious child of God, I subconsciously still value people based on their performance, competence, what they can do for me. In these ways, I am still that old wineskin in which God wants me to completely change so that He can dwell in me.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                          

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help me to come before You and surrender all my old patterns of life, thinking, values, behaviors, etc. all to You. Help me to be like Levi, who left everything to follow You. May I surrender all things I’m holding on to, my comforts and security, so that I can be used by You. May I be that new wineskin to contain the new life You want to give to me. Help me to continue to struggle with my values and different strongholds in my life.

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