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When I was in middle school, my Youth Group did a costume party. I was a shy kid, but for me the idea of being dressed as someone I wasn’t gave me a sense of security and confidence. After days of searching, I found my costume. I would be going as SHAGGY from Scooby-Doo.

I had a blast! I don’t recall knowing they were doing this beforehand, but at the end of the night, a handful of kids where nominated for the “best costume” of the night. They let the room decide the winner by the loudest cheer. And I didn’t believe it, but I actually won “Best Costume”. I felt a little guilty because I beat some amazing hand-made costumes, and mine was just bought from the store… but I think I won because I hilariously fit the part. I was lanky. I was already 6ft tall, and my voice was all cracky. I was SHAGGY.

At this costume party, I had a great time; probably a lot more fun than I did on most youth nights. But looking back, I think it was because I used my costume to hide behind. I had many insecurities as a middle schooler. I was shy, I was quiet. And because of this, I constantly worried about people liking me for who I was. I wonder if any of you were like me and struggled with acceptance in this way? Maybe you still struggle with acceptance… maybe from others, or maybe even yourself? What if I told you that Jesus accepts you just as you are…

Levi the Tax Collector

In the Bible, in Mark Chapter 2, we’re introduced to this man named Levi, also known as Matthew. He was a Tax Collector. Tax collectors have never been popular, but at this time, tax collectors were despised by the culture. They were known as “traitors” because they helped the foreign government, and as “thieves” because often they would take more money than the tax required so they could pocket some extra cash for themselves.

Well in Mark 2:13-17, Let’s see Jesus’ encounter with Levi…

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

Mark 2:13-14

This was crazy. People in that day did not dare associate with people like Levi, yet here Jesus is saying I accept you. I care about you. In fact, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for dinner, and it created quite a stir…

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  [with people they didn’t accept] 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”.

Mark 2:15-17

Wow. What Jesus is saying is that he came looking for people like Levi. He wasn’t coming for people who pretended to be perfect, for people everyone wanted to be like. He didn’t come for people who had it all together… Jesus came for people who were not perfect, people who have issues. He came for the rejected and the hurting. The great news is that Jesus accepts people as they are! And He loves us enough to help us become better people along the way.

We are God’s masterpiece

I used to worry so much about winning the approval of others, but what changed the trajectory of my life is when I realized that Jesus already accepts me as I am. Someone who messes up. Someone who was really shy. Someone who has questions and doesn’t have their life all figured out… He accepts me for me.

One of my favorite verses in the bible, Ephesians 2:10, tells us that “…we are God’s masterpiece”.

This is amazing to me because when I think of a masterpiece, I think of a piece of art like the Sistine Chapel. Or in sports, like a Perfect Game. But when God thinks of a masterpiece, He thinks of you and me. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t have to worry about being perfect for Jesus to love me. He already loves me. He already loves us.

YOU don’t have to hide. You don’t have to pretend to have it all together, or act perfect, or even be popular in order for Jesus to accept you. He already does, and He wants a relationship with you… the real you. So the question is, do you want a relationship with Jesus? Will you, like Jesus asked Levi, will you follow him?

God loved you so much that He sent Jesus. You don’t have to be perfect. Jesus said it himself, he didn’t come for “healthy/perfect” people. He came for people like Levi, like me, like you. He is asking you to follow Him, to build a relationship with Him.

So, if like Levi the tax collector, you’re ready to start a relationship with Jesus, to follow him… just say yes.

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When I was in middle school, I was shy, really shy. I mean, if you caught me at an event with 5 or more people, you might have suspected I was practicing a vow of silence based on how quiet I was. But I was lucky in having my best friend. He was my polar opposite. He thrived around big groups, and with him, I could go anywhere with confidence, because he would do ALL the talking. BUT…

How many of you have that friend that can’t seem to stay out of trouble?… or maybe you are that friend? That was my best friend. He wasn’t an intentional trouble maker…trouble just seemed to find him. Like the time his dad told him to chase a cat off their front lawn; he got creative and threw a rock at it…well he missed the cat…and broke a car window.

Or another time, he was riding his bike home from school, and out of nowhere, a parked car hits his bike! Yes, a parked car.

How to Get Right with God

In both instances, what do you think the consequence was for his mistake? Yes, he had to not only apologize to the person who owned these cars, but he had to PAY to fix his mistakes. To fix the damage he had done. But at the time, he couldn’t afford it!

Have you ever had to pay for something you couldn’t afford? Have you every needed help accomplishing something you couldn’t do on your own?

I believe all of us can relate in some way to my best friend. He did damage, and the right thing was to pay to fix the damage he had done. With the help of his parents, it took him months to earn the money to do so… But what if I told you we are all guilty of doing something that we can never pay off on our own?

Missing the Mark

We are all guilty of sinning in some way. Sin is a word that is found all throughout the Bible, but it really comes from the sport archery, and it means “missing the mark”.

The bible is clear in telling us that we all have missed the mark. And that there is a consequence for SIN; and that is separation from God, our creator, and death. Sin created this Gap between us and God.

And to make the problem worse, the price that must be paid to fix SIN is something we don’t have… it can’t be payed off with money or earned through good works… it can only be payed for by the death and sacrifice of someone who has never missed the mark. Someone who is perfect.

In John Chapter 3, we learn about this man named Nicodemus. He was an extremely intelligent man. He was a Pharisee, which were Teachers of the Jewish law, and most of them wanted to discredit Jesus. But Nicodemus, let’s call him Nic, was amazed by Jesus’ teaching and wanted to talk to Jesus face to face. But to save face, he found Jesus at night so none of the other Pharisees would know about it.

When Nic talks to Jesus, this really powerful conversation takes place. Nic asks this question “How can I be born again?” Which essentially translates into “What do I have to do to pay for the price of my sin”? “What do I need to do to be made right with God and close the gap between us?”

Let’s see what Jesus says…

John 3:14-17

…the Son of Man must be lifted up [onto the cross], that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life [New life]. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:14b-17

Jesus is this “Man” and God’s one and only Son. Jesus was perfect, and that means he was capable of paying for, for fixing, for forgiving our SIN.

Later in the book of John, we read how Jesus WAS lifted up on a cross and crucified. This is probably one of the worst ways to die. But why did God allow this to happen? Because Jesus loves us enough to pay for the mistake of our Sin. Jesus, the only person who never missed the mark, died for us, so we could live with Him. Jesus’ death on the cross was accepted as the price to FORGIVE our sins, to pay for our sins.

His death on the cross is the ONLY bridge to the gap, the separation, between us and God. It’s the only way we can get right with God. Crossing this gap is something we cannot do on our own. Because we have all sinned, we are disqualified.

But Jesus, through his death on the cross, made the way for us. All we have to do is believe. If we believe in Jesus, and put our trust in Him, we are reconciled back to God and have a new life today, have eternal life forever. We will be saved from the consequence of our Sins. We will be made right with God.

I would like to encourage you to consider this: What will your response be to Jesus? You are cannot pay for your sin, but Jesus paid for it on the cross…all you have to do is believe in Him, and Trust in Him. Will you? Or maybe you still have questions…Nic had questions, and he brought them to Jesus. Jesus isn’t afraid of your questions. Ask him.

Pray with me

Jesus, I thank you so much for paying for the penalty of our SIN. I know it can be hard to understand, but YOU loved each of us enough to send Jesus to die in our place, so we can be with you forever. If you are here today, and you are ready to believe in Jesus, and put your faith in him, pray along with Me. Jesus, I know I have missed the mark, but I also know you loved me enough to pay for my sin on the Cross. I choose to believe in you. I choose to trust in you. Amen!

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The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Psalm 32:8

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But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15

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Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

 

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 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Romans 12:20

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Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

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 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:7

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 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9

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For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

Psalm 103:11

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