• Tony Birkhead

Messy Grace Week -2

Don’t just Accept the Mess, Pursue the Messy!


Who were your closest friends growing up? How would you characterize your friendships with them?

How do your friendships today differ from your childhood friendships?

Between childhood and adulthood, we go through a lengthy process of maturity, well, at least some of us. Part of that maturity might include being more discerning about our relationships, but it should also include more intentionality on our part, recognizing that our friendships can and should serve a purpose. As Christians, we shouldn’t be self-centered in our relationships, seeking to get what we can from associating with others; rather, our relationships with others should be about giving of ourselves in order to bless others—giving the blessings of love, encouragement, and especially, the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Read Proverbs 17:17.

What does it look like for a friend to love at all times? What actions would characterize such a friend?

What are the responsibilities of a friend who loves at all times?

Friends are typically ones who will drop just about anything in order to help out one another. They encourage, support, and even challenge one another, but this should always be within the context of a mutual love and affection. “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy,” Proverbs 27:6 says. Friendships should be built on honesty, or truth with grace. What greater demonstration of this ideal friendship than to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus with those we call our friends? Sharing the gospel will involve some “wounds,” as we explain sin and our need for a Savior, but if we are truly friends, even these “wounds” will be trustworthy and seen as faithful love.

How do we build these types of friendships, ones with honesty and grace?

How can we earn the right to be heard?

Share a time when you were honest with a friend, but you lacked grace and love. How did your friend respond? What did you learn from this experience?

Read Matthew 9:9-13.

What is the general opinion of IRS workers in our day? Who are some types of people who would be labeled as “sinners” in our day?

Why did Jesus welcome and spend time with people who were considered “lower” on society’s scale?

Jesus willingly and graciously spent time with the outcasts of His own society—those labeled tax collectors and sinners. What’s more, Jesus was derided for these associations when Pharisees would call Him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Yet Jesus was pleased to be ridiculed in this way because it was part of His mission. He intentionally sought relationships with sinners in order to show them mercy, to give them Himself. If we are to live like Jesus “at all times,” then we will follow in His pattern here. We must be intentional about our relationships for the sake of sharing the gospel. Genuine, faithful love toward others points people to the ultimate Lover, Jesus Christ.

What efforts are you making to love the “messy”?


  • What are some ways we can demonstrate our love for our friends “at all times”?

  • How can we begin to show love to the outcasts of our local community and society as a whole?

  • Are there specific situations that God has laid on your heart for sharing the gospel with a friend or acquaintance? How can we encourage and pray for one another to show love in sacrificial ways?


Father, we pray You would renew in us our joy and gratitude for the friendship that is ours in Jesus. We also pray for the strength and boldness of Your Holy Spirit to be intentional in our relationships—to give ourselves to others as Jesus did, and to share the good news of Christ’s finishing work on the cross.


Matthew 9:9-13

9:9. Again Matthew showed Jesus violating a cultural taboo by associating with a tax collector. The Roman Empire’s practice was to recruit tax collectors from among the people they had conquered. These natives worked for the hated oppressor. This made them traitors and outcasts among their countrymen. But it was common practice for tax collectors to demand more from their countrymen than was actually due in order to line their own pockets. If the people refused to pay, the tax collector had the threat of the Roman military to back him up. Tax collectors, in general, were known for their greed and lack of conscience, so they were thought of as the lowest form of humanity.

Not only did Jesus speak to such a vile sinner, but he invited Matthew, a tax collector, to become one of his closest followers. Implied here is the ultimate in forgiveness and unconditional acceptance. Matthew’s conscience must have been in torment for him to accept the Master’s invitation to spiritual cleansing and restoration, giving up the wealth and privilege of his position. Again the Messiah-King manifested the compelling authority of his word—turning the worst of sinners into disciples.

This brief passage is Matthew’s only mention of himself. It is natural that he should hold up—as an exhibit in his case for the identity of Jesus as Messiah—the key turning point of his own life. Matthew placed this account at the heart of Matthew 8-10, possibly as the crowning miracle authenticating the authority of the Messiah-King. This passage also links directly with 9:1-8, because it demonstrates the king’s authority to forgive sins.

9:10-11. Jesus proceeded to violate the cultural standards of acceptable behavior even further by visiting Matthew’s home and by eating with him and many of his tax collector friends as well as many other sinners. Eating together was the deepest form of social intimacy. Normally no “sinner” was welcome at a righteous man’s table, and no “righteous” man would consider eating at a sinner’s table. Jesus had no such misgivings; he displayed his unconditional acceptance and impartiality by participating in this meal.

The Pharisees did not address Jesus directly. Perhaps they were trying to use the disciples’ limited understanding to drive a wedge between them and Jesus. Their use of the title teacher may have been sarcastic. It was generally assumed that such a righteous man as a Jewish teacher would refrain from associating with society’s undesirables. Their question was mocking and critical.

9:12-13. When he became aware of the question, Jesus rose to confront the hypocrites and their self-righteousness with righteous indignation. Jesus portrayed himself here, in the context of so many healing miracles, as a doctor for the human spirit. He defended his lack of association with the Pharisees (the healthy) by alluding to the fact that they saw no need for spiritual healing in themselves. He was not implying that the Pharisees were righteous, but only that they saw themselves that way, and so were not open to receiving his healing (forgiveness). It is safe to read some irony into Jesus’ use of the word healthy in referring to the Pharisees.

Jesus also defended his association with the tax collectors and sinners by their own self-awareness regarding their spiritual illness (sin) and their hunger for his healing (forgiveness).

Also implied in Jesus’ words was an affirmation of the basic equality of all people, a truth the Pharisees failed to grasp. This basic lack of understanding is why they needed to go and learn the lesson of Hosea 6:6. This Old Testament passage does not belittle sacrifice, but it elevates right treatment of the poor above it. By quoting the Old Testament, which the Pharisees knew well, Jesus shamed his opponents by confronting their misunderstanding of the spirit of the Lord’s Word. The word sacrifice here represents all the religious motions and rituals the Pharisees observed that were meaningless and empty. But accompanied by a heart after God, particularly a heart of mercy and compassion, righteous deeds take on positive significance before God (Matt. 6:1-18).

Compassion or mercy is an attitude toward a need that is compelled to take action to meet that need. A compassionate and merciful heart finds it impossible to remain neutral when it sees a need of any kind.

Jesus was not blind to the faults of the sinners with whom he dined, but his mercy caused him to withhold judgment. The Pharisees had no right to exercise judgment, since they were just as sinful themselves. They should have been the first to withhold judgment and accept the other sinners. But in their pride, they were unmerciful, demonstrating they had no grasp of Jesus’ statements in 6:14-15.

Finally, Jesus clarified his “physician” analogy by saying, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Again, we can read some sarcasm and irony into his use of the word righteous when referring to the Pharisees. They were not truly righteous, but they saw themselves as such. Thus, they were not willing to accept his forgiveness and respond to his call. The sinners, on the other hand, were aware of their sin (Matt. 5:3, “poor in spirit”) and hungered for forgiveness. They responded to his call to true discipleship. Jesus’ disciples were not perfect, but they accepted his forgiveness with humility and moved on toward maturity.



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

With almost everything in life, there needs to exist a healthy balance. You can work out all you want, for instance, but if you don’t balance that effort with a healthy diet it won’t do you much good. You can work all the hours in a day to buy anything you want but, if you don’t create balance with time off, you can’t actually enjoy your toys! Churches can fall into this trap, too. They may focus on only a few doctrines, and forget to teach the many others that are profitable to a Christian’s walk. One such doctrine is that of “good works”. There are many churches that do great community work. They feed the homeless, provide clothing to those in need, or even offer rehabilitation programs. The sad truth, however, is that some still never share the gospel with those they are helping.

At the same time, there are other churches that focus solely on evangelism. They will go door to door, stand on the street corners or outside sporting events yelling into a megaphone, but they won’t give the homeless guy standing right beside them a dime.

Jesus told us we need to have a balance with our good works and evangelism; that they go hand in hand. As we help those around us, do they know that we are showing them mercy and grace because of what Jesus did for us on the cross? When we are sharing the gospel, are we doing so with a posture of humility and service to others?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

Over the years I’ve learned something about myself. I’m the least effective and productive when I TALK a lot about what I plan on doing. And I’m most effective and productive when I simply DO what I’m planning! You see, when I’m actually doing something, it gives me something concrete to talk about and invite people into, rather than something hypothetical to circle around endlessly. This has been true of every high-producing person I’ve ever known.

In fact, let’s look at Jesus’s life. Yes, he did a lot of teaching. But he was a man of action more than talk. A perfect example is the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man lowered through the ceiling, in Mark 2. Jesus was teaching in a house that was standing-room only. Because there was no more room, a paralyzed man’s friends cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down right next to Jesus so he could be healed. What does Jesus do? He forgave his sins, then healed him. Then the man “got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!'” (Mark 2:12).

This is such a powerful example because Jesus’s action proved the power of his words! Because Jesus was able to heal the paralyzed man in front of a crowd, it also proved his power and authority to forgive his sins. This blew people away, because they had never seen anything like this before. Now, let’s turn this principle from both proverbs and Jesus’s life around on you: where are you “merely talking” where you should be “taking action”?

Is it time to share Jesus with a coworker rather than talking about “lifestyle evangelism” at small group?

Is it time to start a business rather than just talk about it?

Is it time to get on your knees and pray instead of talking about how important a powerful prayer life is?

Is it time to serve your city rather than talking about the mercy and servant-leadership of Jesus?

Is it time to be an active parent rather than talk about how you should really be more engaged with your kids when you come home from work?

Here's the truth: people who change the world take action more than merely talking about it. They don't let fear stand in the way of fulfilling their God-sized purpose! Apply this in two ways today. Act where you’ve simply been talking about something. Take the first step toward whatever it is you KNOW you must do. Encourage a friend, family member, or fellow churchgoer who is more of a “talker” than a “doer.” Help them get started. Remember the wise words of today’s proverb: hard work ALWAYS profits, mere talk leads ONLY to poverty. Now get after it, today!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

As Christians, true love is defined by God himself. Love is not our God, love is shown to us by him. So, in today’s verse we learn what real love looks like: Jesus Christ and his mission to save us. What’s amazing isn’t simply Jesus’ sacrifice for people who are undeserving. It’s his sacrificing for people who are ill-deserving. There’s a difference.

Undeserving vs. Ill-Deserving - Imagine someone broke into your house. They robbed your valuables and destroyed the property. At the end, you were left with a shell of what once was your safe home. However, the police caught the criminals and took them to the station. Upon hearing this, your father went to the station. And rather than telling the cops to “throw the book at them…” Your dad says something else. He tells the police, “Please don’t prosecute them. I know they’re guilty. I understand they destroyed my home and stole my things. But I will stand in their place and take their punishment.” The officers are stunned—as are the criminals. It’s quiet for a moment as everyone processes what your father just said. Then one of the criminals breaks the silence. He asks, “Why would you do that?” Your father answers, “I love you.”

What Love Really Looks Like - This is a simple illustration of what love really looks like. You see, people are not only undeserving of salvation, we are ill-deserving. We aren’t mere bystanders. All it takes is a moment looking around the news to see humans are actively engaged in evil. Wars, human trafficking, murder, rape, robbery, and the list goes on… Yet, while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. He loved us in a scandalous way. On the cross, Jesus' perfection was exchanged for our depravity.

This is the measure of Christian love. This is the breadth of God’s forgiveness. This is the depth of his kindness. And remember, God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4).

Applying God’s Love:

How will you reflect God’s love for people today?

Where do you need to be drawn in by this radical grace and repent?

Is your heart thankful to God? If so, does your gratitude for his love overflow into your life?

How will this mark the fruit of evangelism in your life?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

Jesus, the master evangelist, used something that many Christians seriously lack today, which is tact. Tact has been defined as diplomacy, sensitivity. One definition of it is skill and grace in dealing with others. Isaac Newton defined tact as “the art of making a point without making an enemy.”

There is a built-in offense to the essential message of the gospel, but we don’t have to make it worse by being insensitive to people. And far too often this happens. I have watched it. You probably have too. A Christian will walk up to an unbeliever and start the conversation with something like this: “Hey, heathen. Did you know you are going to Hell?” That is not the way to build a bridge.

When Jesus approached the woman at the well in Samaria, He asked her a question. He drew her out. He engaged her. Evangelism is a dialogue, not a monologue. And the best way to engage a person in a conversation is to listen. In starting a conversation, the objective is to build a bridge. That is what we want to do. Ask people about themselves. Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. And as they talk, engage them. Ask them questions. You don’t have to cut people off. You don’t have to contradict them. You don’t have to insult them. Just listen.

Sure, there is a place for point and counterpoint. Sure, we need to defend our beliefs. But no one has ever been argued into the kingdom of God. And I have seen Christians win the argument and lose the soul. But I would rather win the soul and listen and engage with give and take. As you do this, you will know from the conversation how to respond with the gospel message. Listen patiently. And then respond appropriately.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

Isaiah 6:8

In all honesty, I think the reason more Christians are not sharing their faith is they really could care less. Their attitude is, “Look, we’ve got ours. That’s your problem.”

Jesus told the story of ten bridesmaids, five of whom were wise, and five were foolish. The five who were wise had oil in their lamps, and the five who were foolish did not. When the cry went out that the bridegroom was coming, the bridesmaids who had no oil said they needed some, while those who had it said, in effect, “Get it for yourselves.” In other words, “It’s not our problem. We’re set. We’re happy. You work out your own problems.”

Quite honestly, I think that is the way many people feel in the church today. They don’t want to be bothered with it. They just don’t care. They hear so much about the need for evangelism and hear sermons on how to share their faith with others. Programs are designed to mobilize the church to do it. But all this is of no consequence if we as believers lack one simple basic: a burden and a concern.

The great British preacher C. H. Spurgeon said, “The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest too; but if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope that you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child, or about your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘O God, give me converts, or I die.’ Then you will have converts.” We have to care.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:13

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