Whitten: ‘Gospel of grace is for all people’

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PENSACOLA—The kingdom of God focuses on grace, loves authenticity and sees your possibility, said Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa.

Preaching at the 2022 Florida Baptist State Convention, Whitten taught that the “greatest threat to the kingdom of God is ‘Phariseeism,’” which was on full display in Luke 7:36-50, as Jesus entered the home of Simon the Pharisee. In Simon’s home, Jesus was purposely ignored and insulted as Simon did not extend the common social etiquette of the day to Jesus. The Savior received no kiss on His cheek, no water to wash His feet and no oil for His head.

Simon, Whitten said, had a “’have to’ religion, not a ‘want to’ relationship with Jesus Christ.

'Religion is always about duty. Relationships are always about desire.'

Ken Whitten Senior Pastor, Idlewild Baptist Church

“Religion is always about duty. Relationships are always about desire.”

While Simon may have done his “duty” as a Pharisee, his heart was not in his actions.

“Can ministry become a ‘have to’?” Whitten asked.

When the sinful woman entered Simon’s house, Simon recognized that she was a sinner, and the women recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. “She doesn’t have the Old Testament memorized, but she knows who Jesus is,” Whitten said.

First, while Simon’s house focused on goodness, Jesus’ house focuses on grace, he taught.

Florida Baptist State Convention, Ken WhittenGrace, Whitten said, “receives us in our sin, rescues us because of our sin and releases us from our sin.”

The sinful woman wasn’t dressed like the others; she didn’t know the rules; men were glaring at her in lust. Jesus, however, had a “look of love” for the woman, making her feel valuable.

Second, while Simon’s house looked at formality, Jesus’ house loves authenticity, Whitten said.

The woman let down her hair, wiped Jesus’ feet, kissed His feet and anointed His feet with oil. Her actions were seen by many in the home as scandalous. Others may have been gasping in disbelief at her bold actions, but Jesus loved it, Whitten said.

“If we’re not careful, we can make church feel like a gated community,” the pastor said.

Third, while Simon’s house saw your past, Jesus’ house sees your possibility, Whitten said.

“Jesus knew it wasn’t where your heels have been; it’s where your toes are pointed,” Whitten said.

This one experience, chronicled in the Gospel of Luke, teaches much about God’s kingdom, Whitten believes.

“The Savior is for all people, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, how you look, where you’re from. The gospel of grace in God’s kingdom is for all people.”

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