How God Turns Trash into Treasure
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - October 21, 2012
*Back in 1996, Craig Randall was 23 years old, and drove a garbage truck for Waste Management in a Boston suburb. Sometimes Craig liked to bring his work home with him. There was an old-fashioned sewing machine he salvaged, also some books he got from the trash.
*Then one day, Craig lifted a cup off of a pile of trash. It was a contest cup from Wendy's. The week before Craig had found another cup, and when he peeled the sticker, he won a chicken sandwich. This time, he figured he'd win some fries to go with it. But this time the sticker said: "Congratulations -- You have won $200,000 toward a new home." (1)
*Craig turned trash into treasure, and that's what Jesus Christ wants to do in our lives. How does the Lord do it?
1. First: Jesus finds us.
*In vs. 9, Jesus found Matthew sitting at work in the tax office. And in that day, Matthew was certainly considered to be a piece of trash. Matthew was a hated tax-collector for the Romans.
*William Barclay tells us that: "There was never a more unlikely candidate for the office of apostle than Matthew. Matthew was what the King James Version calls a publican; the publicani were tax-gatherers, and were so called because they dealt with public money and with public funds. . . . These tax-gatherers were universally hated. They had entered the service of their country's conquerors, and got their fortunes at the expense of their country's misfortunes.
*Tax collectors were notoriously dishonest. Not only did they cheat their own countrymen. They also tried their best to swindle the government. They also made a booming income by taking bribes from rich people who wanted to avoid the taxes they owed." (2)
*But in vs. 9, Jesus found Matthew sitting at work in the tax office. Jesus finds us. He meets us right where we are. In Matthew 4, Jesus met Peter and Andrew after they had been at work fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Then a little while later, Jesus met James and John as they cleaned their nets. This was not the first time Jesus had met these men. But He met them at work to call them into His service, and in Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." In John 4 Jesus met the Samaritan woman at a well. In Luke 19 Jesus met Zacchaeus when he was up in a tree!
*Jesus met people where they were. And remember that He wants us to do the same thing. Jesus wants us to go to people where they live and work and shop and go to school. In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable with this message: "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
*God always wants us to be inviting people to His church, but next Sunday is a special day to invite. Who could you invite to come to Sunday School and church next Sunday? Will you do it? Jesus said, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
*Jesus finds us where we are. But this is not just a matter of the highway. It's a matter of the heart.
*In Acts 9, the Lord met Paul on the Road to Damascus. But the real story is about Paul's heart, because at the time, Paul was as far away from Jesus as you can get. Paul certainly did not know Christ as his Savior. He did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. And Paul was doing everything he possibly could do to persecute Christians. Acts 9:1 tells us that Paul was "breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord."
*But the Lord found Paul right where he was. That means we can come to Jesus just as we are. We don't have to clean up our lives to come to Jesus. We come to Him just like we are, and He cleans us up.
*One of the hymns that has meant the most to me over the years is "Just As I Am." We were singing that hymn 37 years ago on the day I made my public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. We were singing it in Macon, Georgia 8 years later on the day I went forward to answer God's call into the ministry.
*"Just As I Am" was written in 1835 by an English woman named Charlotte Elliott. Charlotte was visiting some friends in London, and met Pastor Cesar Malan. While seated at supper, the preacher said he hoped that she was a Christian. Charlotte was offended by this, and told him she would rather not discuss that question.
*Dr. Malan said that he was sorry if had offended her, that he always liked to speak a word for his Master, and that he hoped that some day she would become a worker for Christ.
*They met again three weeks later at the home of a mutual friend. Charlotte told the preacher that ever since he had spoken to her, she had been trying to find her Savior. And she asked him to tell her how to come to Christ.
*Dr. Malan answered, "Just come to him as you are." -- Charlotte did! And she went away rejoicing. Shortly afterward she wrote the hymn with these words:
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come." (3)
*When Jesus finds us, He calls us to come to Him just like we are. He turns trash into treasure by finding us.
2. Then Jesus invites us to follow Him.
*We see this truth in vs. 9, as Jesus saw "Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he arose and followed Him."
*"Follow me:" The word picture is "to walk the same road." It's the same word Jesus used in Matthew 16:24, when He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
*In Eph 5:1&2, Paul tells Christians to:
1. . . Be followers of God as dear children.
2. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."
*Jesus invites us to follow Him. And one of the most wonderful things about following Jesus is that it turns us into what Bill Hybels calls "contagious Christians". Following Jesus makes other people want to follow Him too. That's why in Matthew 4 Jesus told Andrew and Peter: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." This is also why Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Thessalonica:
2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
3. remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
4. knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
5. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
6. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,
7. so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
8. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-8)
*Richard Wurmbrand was a Christian hero who served the Lord in Romania during the dark days of Communist oppression. Richard was put in prison by the Communists simply because he was a follower of Jesus Christ. He was released from his first imprisonment in 1956, after eight and a half years.
*Although he was warned not to preach, Richard resumed work in the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. During this imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured. Richard later recounted having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off. The next day, his feet were beaten again to the bone. Richard never fully recovered from that torture.
*At some point in prison, Richard shared a cell with a young Communist who, at first, wanted nothing to do with Christianity. But food rations were very low in the prison, and Richard used to share his bread with that young atheist.
*One day Richard was telling the young man about another Christian who was considered to be like Jesus. Then the young man turned around to Richard and said, "If Jesus is like you, I would like to know him." (4)
*That's what happens when we follow Jesus. We become more like Him, and people begin to see the Lord in our lives. Jesus turns trash into treasure by inviting us to follow Him.
3. He also turns trash into treasure by fellowshipping with us.
*We see an example of this fellowship in vs. 10. Here Matthew reported: "And so it was, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples." Then in vs. 11, when the hard-hearted, judgmental, unbelieving Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus' disciples: "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
*The reason why Jesus fellowships with us is because He loves us. He draws close to us to help us and to change us. Jesus comes close to us to turn our darkness into light, and to transform us from the inside out.
*Hugh Redwood, told about a time years ago when he was at the breaking point. He was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, under severe nervous strain, confused, perplexed, and stressed out. On top of that, Hugh didn't know which way to turn on some highly important decisions he had to make.
*He was staying at a friend's house prior to speaking at a big meeting. And his friend said to him, "Hugh, you look tired. Would you like to escape all this chatter, and rest in a room upstairs?" Hugh said that he would like that very much, and to his delight, he was led to a beautiful, peaceful room.
*A bright fire was burning; an easy chair was sitting nearby. And at his elbow there was a little table with a Bible on it. The Bible was open to Psalm 59, where the first part of vs. 10 says: "My merciful God shall come to meet me."
*But in the margin, someone had written this interpretation: "My God in his loving kindness shall meet me at every corner." Hugh Redwood said that when he read those words the message came to him as light in a dark place, light from the very heart of God. That light lifted him, consoled him, encouraged him, revitalized him and gave him the strength to do what he needed to do. (5)
*This is the life-changing fellowship of Jesus Christ: "My God in his loving kindness shall meet me at every corner." Jesus turns trash into treasure by fellowshipping with us.
4. But the Lord also functions as a doctor to heal us from our sin.
*God's Word points us to this truth in vs. 11-12:
11. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?''
12. But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
*Doctors are gifted by God to do a great work in our world. And we thank God for doctors and all the people who work with them. They help bring healing.But Jesus Christ is the Great Physician. The Lord proved that when He miraculously healed thousands of incurable people.
*But infinitely more important, Jesus is the only one who can help us with the deadly disease called sin. If you need open-heart surgery, you don't want Rick Crandall cutting on you. No! Get me in to see Dr. Keith White or one of the other skilled surgeons around here.
*But when it comes to the deadly disease of sin, no one else can help us but Jesus. Jesus knows exactly what is wrong with you. And He knows exactly what to do about it. Jesus will apply His life-giving, mercy medicine to your heart.
*Don't miss the mercy of God! The Pharisees in this Scripture knew all about the law. But they completely missed the wonderful mercy of God. It's the same kind of mercy that God wants us to have for each other. So Jesus pointed them back to Hosea 6:6, when in vs. 13, the Lord said: "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
*God's mercy is the medicine that will save you from sin, IF you will turn to Jesus Christ, and trust in Him as Savior and Lord. But like many medicines today, mercy doesn't come cheap. In fact, there has never been a higher price ever paid for anything in the world. Jesus Christ paid for our salvation with His life. He died on the cross so that we could be healed forever from sin and death.
*Don't miss the mercy of God! Did God's mercy make a difference in Matthew's life? This Book of Matthew is more than enough evidence to prove that it did.
*There was a time in this country when polio stalked our land. People lived in terror of this paralyzing disease. Many children died, and many more were left disabled, by its swift and merciless attack.
*I worked at Robins Air Force Base with a man who was struck with polio as a child. His legs were deformed, bent all out of shape at the knees. And virtually all of the muscles in his legs were ravaged by the polio. It was a terrible disease. But through the tireless work of dedicated doctors and researchers, a vaccine was eventually found to protect against polio. I remember lining up at our elementary school to take the new vaccine on sugar cubes. Now, the polio threat is in our history books, rather than a terror in our communities.
*The man who is credited with creating the first polio vaccine is Dr. Jonas Salk. Dr. Salk's devotion to his work showed up, not just in his long hours and painstaking research, but also in one symbolic act. Once he was as sure as he could be that his vaccine was safe and effective, Dr. Salk tested it on himself, his wife, and his three little sons. If the vaccine turned out to be defective, Dr. Salk and his family could have come down with polio. (6)
That was a great gesture, but only a shadow of what Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus KNEW that He would suffer and die to heal us from the sin disease. But out of His merciful love, He was willing to die on the cross for us. And more than anything else, this is how He turns us from trash into treasure.
*The man who worked at Robins Air Force Base with me was Johnny Williams, and the polio vaccine came too late for Johnny. When I worked with Johnny, he was very hard against God. He didn't even want to talk about it. That's because when he was young, he went to a service held by a very well known faith healer. Johnny got in the long line of people waiting to get help. But when he got to the front of the line, they just waived him on by.
*I stopped working for the Air Force in 1983, when I answered God's call into the ministry. About 10 years later, I got a call out of the blue with the amazing news that Johnny Williams had started going to church, and got saved! God did not heal Johnny's body. But He healed Johnny's soul for all eternity.
*And Jesus Christ can transform any life like that. Let Him turn your life from trash into treasure. Then do everything you can to help more people come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
*Let's go to God in prayer.
(1) "Lexington Herald Leader," Lexington KY, Oct. 27, 1996, p. A8 - Source: Sermon: "The Cross We Do Not Want to See" by King Duncan - Passion/Palm Sunday, Matthew 26:14-27:66 - Source: "Dynamic Preaching" - March 1996, Vol. XI, No. 3
(2) Adapted from "BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT)" by William Barclay, Revised Edition (C) Copyright 1975 William Barclay - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - THE MAN WHOM ALL MEN HATED - Matthew 9:9
(3) "Just as I Am" - Words: Charlotte Elliott - 1835 - www.cyberhymnal.org
(4) SermonCentral sermon "Abide in Me" by Martin Dale - John 15:1-17 - 05182003
(5) Sermon by Dr. Jim Moore: "There is No Spot Where God is Not", May 28, 1989 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Singing In The Rain" by Maxie Dunnam - John 15:1-17
(6) Harold and Doris Faber, American Heroes of the 20th Century - New York: Random House, 1967 - p.135 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Heroes" by King Duncan - Rev 7:9, 14-17 - Dynamic Preaching, 1st Sunday in May, 2001