Most of us walk
around with labels attached to our lives.
Some of these labels were attached to us by our parents others were
attached in seasons of personal failure or by unresolved fears that currently
inhabit our lives. We will live out the false identity of these labels unless they are removed and new ones are attached.
When I was a little
boy I can still remember some of the labels that were put on me by the kids at
school. Some of these labels were hurtful. Most had to do with my appearance or my inability
to perform in some athletic event. These
labels have an ability to cling to our lives well into adulthood unless we let
God remove them and replace them with a label that reveals how He sees us.
One day Jesus called
a man named Levi to get up from his tax collector’s booth and follow Him. The story is revealed in Mark 2: 13-17.
Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to
him. 14 As he walked along,
he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me
and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. 15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and
his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and
other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’
followers.) 16 But when the
teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors
and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum? 17 When Jesus heard this, he told
them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call
not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
to hang out with what some people called “scum.” His love was radical. He purposefully positioned His life to be near
those whom the culture might reject.
Jesus, spiritually “sick” people, like the Pharisees, didn’t see their illness. People like the tax collectors and disreputable
sinners saw their need and were drawn to the Great Physician for healing.
of the Pharisees was thinking they had it all together. They felt they had
arrived and had nothing more to learn. They perceived their mission in life was
to label people so they could distance themselves from the “scum” and live out
their warped sense of self-righteousness.
Those who gathered
at Levi’s home realized Jesus had something to offer beyond the imprisoning
labels placed on them by the Pharisees. They would soon be re-labeled by Jesus.
told Levi to follow Him, Jesus was inviting Levi into an undiscovered destiny. Following
Jesus would move Levi away from old labels towards something new that he would
discover by simply being with Jesus.
In some ways,
I think our understanding of discipleship today is too process-oriented. Our current models of discipleship are many
times more about gaining knowledge and accumulating ministry skills at the
expense of having an encounter with Jesus.
discipleship process of Jesus gave people permission to peel off old labels of
sin and dishonor and then paste on God’s label of a new identity. God’s label reveals newness and invites us
to something we never thought possible while living under the influence of an unrighteous
asked Levi to follow Him He was asking Levi to come and watch. Watch how Jesus dealt with the identity of
the woman at the well. Watch how Jesus
talked to Zaccheus. Watch how Jesus
dialogued with legalists. Watch how the woman caught in adultery would be told,
“Go your way (into a new destiny) and sin no more.” Watching Jesus offered the disciples another
way to live.
follow Jesus, we will come across places in our lives that need
re-labeling. We can continue to live
under the “scum” label or choose to peel it off, even in the middle of circumstances
where we have yielded to our personal brokenness. Once the old label is peeled
off through confession and repentance, we can then attach the new God-label to
our lives and begin living forward into the personal destiny God has planned.
I am going
to preach this text on Sunday. This
morning, I called Mary, our Office Coordinator, and asked if the church had a
label-maker. She said we did and I asked
her to set it aside for me. On Sunday, I want to walk through our sanctuary and
re-label people. I’m going to create some
new labels like, “Beloved”, “Hopeful” and “Joyful”, and hand them out to people
as a sermon illustration.
I am also hoping
that some of you reading this today will reevaluate the labels you are living under
and make sure they are from God. If a
label is not from God, peel it off and throw it away and ask the Holy Spirit to
give you a new one.