Mercy, Not Sacrifice – Gospel in Life

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Tim Keller |  September 17, 1995

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  • Mercy & Justice
  • Repentance
  • Understanding the Gospel
Matthew 9:9-17
RS 265-02


We are looking at the account of the tax collector, Matthew, coming to Christ. By looking at how Jesus brought Matthew to himself, we are laying out important principles about what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who is called by a force outside themselves — both called away from something and called toward something. In this message, we will focus on what we’re called away from.

Jesus says you can’t be a Christian unless you’re willing to be called away from religion. In this message, we’ll see 1) What religion means; 2) How Jesus smashes that definition; and 3) Some tests to see the extent to which we’ve moved away from religion.

The Story of Matthew in Matthew 9:9–17

Matthew’s transformation into a Christian shows that Christianity is not a choice, but a divine invitation. This invitation involves leaving behind old habits and adopting a new way of thinking, like embarking on a surprise journey. It means letting go of mere religion to fully adopt the teachings of Jesus and the gospel.

1. Religion often separates people into two groups

Religion can sometimes be used wrongly to justify ourselves and to categorize people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This flawed approach can lead to a sense of superiority and is widespread in society, regardless of belief in God. But the radical message of Jesus Christ emphasizes humility, self-awareness, and acceptance of our own moral shortcomings.

2. Jesus provides the standard

Jesus wants his followers to deeply understand the teachings of the Old Testament. He emphasizes the importance of thinking and understanding in Christianity. He points out that God values mercy over religious rituals, warning against feelings of superiority that can come from focusing on sacrifices. He suggests that salvation is found in recognizing the love and mercy God wants from us, which can lead to humility and a reevaluation of our spiritual beliefs.

3. How we handle moral failure

In Jesus’ time, sharing a meal was a way of showing close friendship and personal connection. Jesus shared meals even with people who had done wrong, showing his compassion for those who felt sorry and needed help. How we respond to moral failures, whether in others or ourselves, can show if we are displaying the grace of Jesus or the judgment of the Pharisees. In the end, Jesus’ willingness to eat with those who have done wrong shows that admitting our own shortcomings, not our past actions, is what truly matters. By admitting our mistakes, we are accepted by Jesus and invited to his table.



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