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Keeping the Right Company

Jesus' example of befriending sinners is the model for Christian mission.

It is often said that you can tell what a person is like by the company he keeps. Look at his friends, and from them you can deduce what his character is like. There is some truth in it. Birds of a feather, as we often say in the proverb, flock together. But you know it's not the whole truth by any means for the simple reason that you have to consider the motives of people for the company they keep. Why do they choose particular people to fraternize with? It is possible to seek people's company not because you like what they are and acquiesce in what they are, but because you hope to have some influence in changing them?

Teachers, for example, spend their lives in the company of children not because they prefer the company of children to the company of adults, but because they regard it a great privilege to have some share in developing the potential of children to become adults. Again, social workers spend their time with problem families not because they prefer families with problems to families without problems, but because they hope to be able to help to solve the problems in the families they serve. Now that's elementary, isn't it? But it was a failure to discern, to recognize, this and to inquire into the motive of Jesus in fraternizing with publicans and sinners that led the Pharisees to make a false judgement about him.

Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners, so they assumed he preferred their company to the company of the righteous. In fact they assumed that he approved of their sinful conduct. It doesn't seem to have occurred to these Pharisees that Jesus might have kept bad company for a good reason. But he did, you know. So should we. The problem we're going to face is that most of us don't have any bad ...

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John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011) is known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, author, and theologian. For 66 years he served All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, England, where he pioneered effective urban evangelistic and pastoral ministry. During these years he authored more than 50 books, and served as one of the original Contributing Editors for Christianity Today. Stott had a global vision and built strong relationships with church leaders outside the West in the Majority World. A hallmark of Stott's ministry was his vision for expository biblical preaching that addresses the hearts and minds of contemporary men and women. In 1969 he founded a trust that eventually became Langham Partnership International (www.langham.org), a ministry that continues his vision of partnership with the Majority World Church. Stott was honored by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. Levi Matthew invited his "sinner" friends to Christ

II. The Pharisees' mistake was separating themselves from sinners

III. Christ came to sinners to save sinners