Jesus, Friend of Sinners
David Marvin | 07.09.19
Before we approach God, we can feel like we need to clean ourselves up or do enough good works. We tend to put ourselves on the "sin scale" and hope the good outweighs the bad, but that’s not how salvation works. In this message, we look at Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus to see how Jesus is a friend of sinners.
Jesus, Friend of Sinners
Before we approach God, we can feel like we need to clean ourselves up or do enough good works. We tend to put ourselves on the "sin scale" and hope the good outweighs the bad, but that’s not how salvation works. In this message, we look at Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus to see how Jesus is a friend of sinners.
Let's go! Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth. How about Kanye starting us out? Let's go, man. The College Dropout was the greatest album Kanye had. Before Yeezy. Before Kim. The good ol' days. Hey, anyone fly a lot for their job in here? Good. Three of you. I'm going to start with a flying story that happened not long ago with our family.
Basically, when you travel with kids, it's kind of a nightmare. And by "kind of" I mean entirely, especially if you're getting on a plane. The day had come, and we had packed everything up. The reason it's kind of a nightmare is, first, because you're that person on the plane with the screaming child, and second, you're trying to do Frogger, essentially, through the airport with kids who are running all over the place.
So, the day had come. We'd packed up all of the bags. In addition, one of the challenges is you have, like, 95 extra things. The days of, "Hey, I have a carry-on. It'll be good. We'll figure it out" are over. You're packing a child seat. You're bringing all of these different things. This day had come. We were going on a trip with family. We got our kids there. We got to the airport. We have everything kind of locked in.
We had stuffed as much as possible into as few bags as possible. I think we were flying Spirit Airlines, which charges you for breathing. They're like, "Hey, you've hit your limit. It's 50 cents from now on, and you're wearing shoes. That's $20 more." So we were trying to save in terms of the baggage stuff. We stuffed everything in there. We get to the airport. We're beginning to go through the check-in process, get the bags checked in. We have the kids. They're kind of running everywhere.
I throw the bag up on the scale. I had already weighed the bag at home to make sure I'm going to be below 50 pounds. I throw the bag on the scale. Somehow in the car my bag gained three pounds. No idea how. The lady looks at me. She's like, "This is 53 pounds. You have to do something with three pounds." It's like, "Oh, come on, lady. We have kids running all around us. Can we just look the other way? What's it really going to do?" She goes, "No, you need to move things around."
So we have to take that bag off. Then you have to weigh the other bag to be like, "How much margin do we have to work with here?" So, we take that off, we get that bag out, and we realize, "Man, we don't have a ton of margin to work with. We have to get rid of these three pounds." We begin going through.
Here's the worst part of this whole situation if you've been to the airport before. No one is ever at the airport with tons of time to spare. Right? Unless you're psychotic and you're like, "You know where I love to spend a good afternoon? The airport. I like to get there early, take my time, enjoy the Starbucks."
So you're always in a hurry. They're like, "You have to get three pounds off." There are 150 people behind you. She's basically like, "Hey, you've got to get your stuff out of there." You're opening up your bag. Your underwear is falling out in front of all of these strangers in front of you, and you're like, "What weighs three pounds? Does a shoe weigh three pounds? What should I get rid of that's going to weigh three pounds, because I have to get less than that in here?"
So, we're going through that whole process of trying to figure out how to get the weight on the scale, because they're saying, "That's too much weight. We will not allow that to pass through. You need to make sure you do something with that." We're taking out shoes, stuffing them into our backpack, trying to get everything below the weight limit.
The reason I start there is because tonight we're going to talk about a subject that is related to the idea that when it comes to God, and particularly having a relationship with God, there are many people in our world and many Christians, sadly, or people who think they're Christians, who think God operates a little bit like the check-in clerk at the airport.
"Hey, you're going to bring your baggage in here, but let me make sure you know there is a weight limit. If you bring too much baggage in, you're on your own. You're either going to have to carry that onto the plane or you're going to have to pay an additional fee." That if you bring too much baggage in, God is going to cut you out of that relationship or it's going to cost you.
Not only that. We often think that as it relates to our baggage in life there are certain things, certain sins, if you will, that weigh more than other sins. Nobody would articulate it exactly like that, but we often think there are certain sins… If your baggage is just jealousy and gossip and occasional speeding and maybe you had too much to drink at prom, it's not that big of a deal, but if it includes adultery…oh, man! That's going to put you over the limit.
If it includes abortion, homosexuality, if it includes any of the more serious… That's just too much weight. You're going to have to either pay more or it's going to cost you and you're going to have to work some of that off or you're not going to be allowed in. Tragically, Christians often even contribute to this. For whatever reason, a lot of people think of our sins as though there's a scale and certain sins weigh more than other sins.
Pornography or addiction or alcoholism… That's going to be a really heavy bag. You have to deal with that or you're not getting in. But some other sins that are just kind of… You know, the occasional lying. You cheated on your algebra test one time. That's not that big of a deal. What we're going to talk about tonight and explore and study and discover is that our idea of a scale and this idea that there's a certain baggage limit and a certain type of sin or different sins that put you over the limit of the reach of God is totally false.
The Bible says God doesn't operate like humans think, that there's this scale of sins, and this is really intense, and if you do these types of things you're really far from God and have to work your way back. He doesn't operate like that at all. We're going to discover in a story in Luke, chapter 19, how Jesus approaches sinful people and do so by looking at one of the most notorious sinful people in all of the New Testament and an interaction Jesus had with him.
We're kicking off a series called Jesus Walks where for the next six weeks we're going to look at certain interactions and exchanges that Jesus… While he was on the planet, he would walk up to different people and have an exchange that would totally blow the paradigm of usually the person he was talking to and, certainly, everyone around him, and the disciples were always confused.
Jesus, who came to this planet to correct humanity's perspective on what God is like, shows up and says, "The scale everyone has is off. The way God sees humanity is not the way you think God sees humanity." So, we're going to jump into Luke 19. We're going to look at a very famous man whose name was Zacchaeus.
If you grew up in church, there's a song that goes along with Zacchaeus. Anyone know this song? Zacchaeus was a…what? Oh man! Whoever came up with that, hopefully they're getting royalties, because that thing went viral. He was a wee little man; a wee little man was he. He sat up in a sycamore tree. Some of you guys haven't been in church in like 10 years, but you have this one on lock. You know it better than Kanye's "Jesus Walks" song.
Here's the problem with that song, just before we dive in. That song sanitizes who Zacchaeus was. Zacchaeus was not a good guy. He wasn't a guy that people would be like, "Oh, little Zac. Little cutie right there." He wasn't a guy who we today would look at and be like, "Oh man, that guy. I just love how Jesus is going after him." Zacchaeus was a borderline criminal. He was a guy who didn't have a good reputation and was one of the most notorious sinners of his day.
So, we're going to dive in and look at Jesus' exchange. I'll explain more what I'm talking about in a second, but we'll start in verse 1 of chapter 19. "Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich." Here's what happens. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. That's the timeline. He's going to Jerusalem to be crucified. That's where we are in the story, if you will.
He's walking through, and on the way there's a town named Jericho. Here's all you have to know: Jericho is like Beverly Hills in Palestine. It is where the wealthy would live. It was only the richest of the rich. People got vacation homes there. It's like San Diego in that it's 70 degrees year-round. One of the commentators or historians writes Jericho was such a nice place because you could wear linens all year round, if that's your thing. The point being it was a very consistent 70 degrees. Palm trees are everywhere. Only the elite of the elite.
Inside of this town, there's a man named Zacchaeus. We're told something that would have made his audience and the original readers go, "What?" Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and not just any tax collector…chief tax collector. What does that mean? Is that like the IRS? Because nobody is big fans of the IRS. Is that what he's trying to say? No. There's really not a modern equivalent today.
It would be like the IRS if the IRS was known for cheating and robbing you out of your money (hopefully they're not) and the money they were using was financing an oppressive army. It would only be Jewish men and women who said, "You know what, dude? I'm deuces on God. I really don't believe this whole thing anymore. I don't believe the Jewish faith. I'm out on that. The Roman army is going to pay me to be a tax collector, and I can charge people whatever I want if I'm a tax collector, so, yeah, I'll do that."
He was seen as a traitor. This would be like a Jewish person in Nazi Germany saying, "You know what? I'm not really a fan of any of these other people too, so I'll work for you guys." Zacchaeus was a hated person. We're not told he was just a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector. He had not been doing this for a month or a year. Maybe 10 years, 20 years. He had worked his way up. He had tax collectors working for him. He was a man who was known for ripping people off, and he was extremely wealthy.
So, here's what you know about him: He was hated. He was feared, because you bump into him and he can take anything you have. He can tax you above and beyond. He was also incredibly rich. His only friends would have been other tax collectors. He's a dude who's driving around. He has the Lambo. He has the houses everywhere. He's wearing the nicest clothes, only eats the best food, has an unreal house.
One person said Zacchaeus is the wealthiest person in the New Testament. I'm pointing all that out because, a lot of times, we think of Zacchaeus as "Man, he's like the prostitute and the marginalized. There's Jesus again going after the guy… I love that about Jesus." This would have been like, "Jesus, why would you have any interest in this man? He's the guy who took my grandma's retirement savings away. He's a guy who has ruined lives." Jesus comes along, and they're about to have an exchange together.
Verse 3: "He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd." Jesus is walking through. By this time, Jesus is really famous, because we're told earlier, shortly before this, he had raised a guy from the dead. Something happens when you raise people from the dead, as I'm sure you know. Your popularity kind of goes through the roof.
So, everywhere he goes now there are crowds following him. There's a parade that begins to form as Jesus is walking through. They've heard this man Jesus is coming. Zacchaeus is too short, we're told. He can't really see, and he's looking through the crowd. So here's what he does:
"So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. 'Zacchaeus!' he said. 'Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.' Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. 'He [Jesus] has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,' they grumbled."
So, Jesus is going through the parade. Zacchaeus is kind of getting up, wondering what he's going to look like, and all of a sudden, Zacchaeus is looking down at the parade from the tree, and he sees this man. Everyone is gathered around to see Jesus, and Jesus stops the parade, looks up in the tree, and says, "Zacchaeus." What was that moment like? A total stranger shows up from out of town, and he knows your name? He says, "Come down. I'm going to spend the rest of my day with you. I'm going to your house."
What that basically meant at that time would be like, "I'm associating with you. I want to have a relationship with you." The crowd reacts like many of us would react. "What are you doing? Do you not know who this person is? Do you not know what home you're going into? Do you not know how he paid for the home you're about to go into?" This is Jesus coming through town and going into Hugh Hefner's home. He's the guy they don't want to spend time with. In this whole city, he doesn't talk to anybody but Zacchaeus.
My biggest fear is that the three points I'm going to give you tonight are truths that are so tremendously important, and yet for many of you, they're going to fall on deaf ears because you've heard them, but you really haven't embraced them. Here's the first idea we see from this interaction of Jesus saying, "Before you do anything right, Zacchaeus, I'm coming to be with you":
1._ Your sin doesn't keep Christ from seeking you_. Your sin, anyone else's sin, sin in general, is not a barrier for Christ to come and have a relationship with you. This was not just a wee little man. This was a wicked little man, and Jesus, before anything had been done right in Zacchaeus' life, says, "I want to have a relationship with you. I'm coming in to spend time with you before you get anything right in your life. You're the one I want to have a relationship with."
I know there are many of you in the room. You think there's a barrier between God wanting to know you, seeking after you, having a relationship with you because of sin in your past, sin in your present, that your behavior today or your behavior in your past is a barrier for the God who's there, but the truth of the Bible is your sin does not keep Christ from seeking after you. Christ was far more interested in seeking Zacchaeus than Zacchaeus was in seeing him, and he said, "I'm going into your house today."
Oftentimes, it seems like we're so bent to be like, "Dude, if I'm going to have a relationship with God, I really need to get things in order in my life." It's kind of like this. This past weekend, we had a birthday party for my 1-year-old daughter. It was her birthday. It was at our house. We'd planned it all out, and we realized the day before, "Man, we need to clean this place." We had family and friends coming over, family in our community coming over.
So, for eight hours straight, we are cleaning this entire house. We're putting candles in rooms that have never seen candles before. My wife is getting out brownies and baking. We haven't baked brownies maybe ever in this house. We're cleaning everything. It's as though we're like, "Hey, we need to make this place look like no one has ever lived here before." We're cleaning. We're throwing pillows on different stuff.
If it can't be shoved in a closet and it's clutter in the way, it's like, "Just throw it in the trash. We need to get this stuff out of here. There are people coming over here to see us." True story. We got a babysitter so we could clean. How embarrassing is that? It was like, "Man, this is terrible." And this was our closest friends and family! It was the people who are closest to us in the world. "We need to pretend that our life is a lot more in order than possible."
So, people are coming over. There's music on. "Let me light this candle." I'm in an apron just baking over here. "Hey, how are you? Yeah, this is just our life. This is always what it looks like." How ridiculous is that? Despite being the closest people we have relationship with, there's part of us that feels like, "We need to pretend that our life is in order and this is all great."
Sadly, that is how a lot of people think when it comes to God, that you have to get life in order, that if God is going to come have relationship with you, if you're going to really experience knowing Jesus, you first need to clean yourself up. You need to make sure things are in order. You need to put things and just keep them in the closet of your past before God wants to come in and have a relationship with you.
The message of this story we're looking at is before anything had changed, Jesus said, "I've been seeking after you." Before anything changes in your life, in your world, Jesus has been seeking after you, and you don't have to pretend, just like you shouldn't have to pretend with family and friends. "Hey, this is what's going on." The God who's there knows everything, and it's crazy that there's still some part of us that feels like we have to pretend.
What do I mean by that? I mean, the desire to seem like, "God, I'm worthy of your love" can manifest itself in all kinds of way. Some of you pray weird because you're trying to impress God. Have you ever been around someone like this? All of a sudden, they're like, "Hey, I feel like I just need to downshift into King James Version," and they're just beginning to pray. Or the way you pray it's basically like you're reading the Declaration of Independence. It's like, "Our Father, we hold these truths to be self-evident." You're trying to almost be impressive, as though that's why God would listen.
Others of you feel like you can't come to church after you got wasted on Saturday night. You're like, "I've got to give a little space, let this thing breathe a little bit. I feel like I haven't behaved in a way that God really would want to have anything to do with me." Some of you are not reading your Bible because you're looking at pornography consistently, and it just fills you with shame, and you continue on the cycle. Shame can manifest itself in all kinds of ways.
Maybe some of you feel like God, if he's there, doesn't want to have anything to do with you because you're filled on the inside with shame, when you're alone and when you're really honest with yourself, and it drives you from him. The message of Zacchaeus and the message of Jesus all throughout the Bible is that there is no sin that keeps the Savior from seeking to have a relationship, from seeking to walk in relationship with you.
The truth is God knows everything about your life. There is no pretending. There is no hiding. He sees all of the closets. He sees what's in everything. He knows what you did last summer and four summers ago. He knows everything broken and messed up, and he says, "I want to come spend time with you, Zacchaeus, and I want to come spend time with you [fill in the blank]." Your sin does not keep Christ from seeking after you.
The Bible teaches that it is not that there are some good people and bad people. There's another flawed way a lot of us think about ourselves and as it relates to God. If the first is that flawed idea that I have to clean myself up before God wants to know me, the second is that "I really don't even have that much to clean up. There are some people who are pretty messed up, and they really need to clean up."
It's the lie that, "I'm not really that bad of a person. Jesus wants to have a relationship with sinners, and I love that, and he also wants to have a relationship with me because I'm a pretty good guy." The Bible would say that's crazy. Humans think like this. They're like, "Hey, there are good people and there are bad people. There are people with a good heart and people with a bad heart. Good heart, which is you and me, of course, and then there are the bad hearts who are like Hitler and Osama bin Laden and ISIS. Those are the bad apples."
The Bible doesn't teach that there are some good people and bad people. It says there are only bad people and one good guy: Jesus, who came to die for all of the bad and broken people in this world. Inside of the room, the other lie you can buy besides, "I need to clean everything up in my life before God could want me" is "I deserve for God to want me in all of my greatness, because I'm really not that bad of a person."
Jesus said, "I came for sinners. The only way you can have a relationship with me is to acknowledge you are a sinner. You have fallen short of God's standards. You're not a good person." Another way of saying it is the gap between you and Hitler is much smaller than the gap between you and Jesus, and he has come for sinners.
Let me be abundantly clear, because there are some people in the room who have this works-based theology. "If I'm good, God will accept me. If I pretty much don't steal and murder anybody, I'll be fine." The Bible doesn't teach that. It teaches everyone is messed up. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone is broken. Jesus did not just come to be a friend of sinners. Let me be abundantly clear. He is only the friend of sinners.
He's only the friend of people who are willing to say, "I need a Savior. My life is messed up. No matter how good I think I am, no matter how I stack up to the person next to me, no matter how bad I think I am and how far I've fallen from the standards of my parents or the standards of my friends or my own standards, I need a Savior." That is the person who, like Zacchaeus, is a candidate for God's grace.
Here's the irony, the craziness of the crowd. They look at Jesus as he goes into the house of Zacchaeus, and they go, "What? This guy has gone in to be the home guest of a notorious sinner!" The irony in that is everyone in that crowd was a sinner. Think about it. Jesus could have come out of that house and been like, "Look. All right, Beverly. I know what you did. You had too much to drink last night. You slept with somebody who wasn't your wife, and I feel like you got a little tipsy at prom that one time."
He could have come out and pointed out everything wrong and broken in every single person's life in that crowd, but the crowd couldn't see it. They saw, like many people today see, "Hey, there are good people like us, and then there are bad people. We deserve God's love, but they don't." You are never more in danger of hell than when you begin to believe things like that. "If God is out there, as long as I'm a pretty good person, he should accept me."
The Bible says there are no exceptions to who God will accept as long as the acceptance is trusting in what God did, what Christ did on my behalf. He paid for it. Not because I earned it, not because I deserve it, but because he paid for it. Zacchaeus went in, and he experienced for the very first time a relationship with God that he'd given up long ago, and something happened. Verse 7:
"But the people were displeased. 'He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,' they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, 'I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!'"
There's something that happens between verses 7 and 8 that we're not given vision into. Jesus goes into the house. They share a meal. We don't know if it was four hours. We don't know if it was an entire day. Maybe it was just an evening. But they're hanging together, and you have to think, "What is Zacchaeus thinking?" He's looking into the eyes of probably the most compassionate person he has ever seen and will ever see.
He's seeing the man crowds want to see, and they're eating a meal together, and he doesn't feel condemnation and rejection and shame. We're not told any of that. Something begins to happen inside of that meal. If I was Zacchaeus, I'd be wondering, "Does Jesus know what paid for the food he's eating right now? Does he know what I've done? Does he know who I am?" The answer would be yes. Throughout the course of that meal, something happened to Zacchaeus, and everything began to change.
It's as though in the midst of the conversation he wells up. He can't stand it anymore. He stands up. He's like, "I have to make a toast. I'm changing everything. Jesus, I'm changing everything. I'm giving half of everything I own away to the poor. If I've cheated anyone, if I've sinned against or robbed anybody, I'm not just going to pay back what I took from them. I'm going to go back and pay four times what I took from them originally." Everything began to change. Zacchaeus experienced the love of Christ, and it changed him.
2._ It is love, not laws that leads to lasting change_. What drove Zacchaeus was he encountered the love of Jesus, and it drove him out of a love in response to that to extravagant ends. What do I mean by that? He just said, "I'm going to give half of everything I own to the poor, and if I owe anybody, I'm going to pay four times…" He's like, "Dude, if I go broke on all this, I don't even care. I'm selling the Lambo. I'm getting rid of the camels and the chariots, whatever I have. I'm giving it away, Jesus, because you're worth more than all of that."
Think about that. Half of everything you own. If your roommate came home tonight and was like, "Hey, dude, I met Jesus. I'm giving away half of everything I've done. Can't believe it," what would you think? Some of you don't even tithe, and when you do you're like, "I feel like I'm doing a favor to God. Here's $25." Zacchaeus says, "Half of everything. I don't even care anymore." Clearly a man who had changed.
Further extravagant was the fact that he said, "I'm going to pay back way beyond what the law requires." This was not about what the law says; it was about love. He had encountered the love of Christ, and it changed him and moved him, out of a love for Christ, to change. What do I mean by that? In the Old Testament, if you cheated somebody, if you stole from somebody, there was a law. It said this in Leviticus 6:1-5.
It says if you steal, you have to pay back what you stole plus one-fifth. So, if I steal $100, I pay back $100 plus one-fifth. That's $20, so $120. Zacchaeus says, "Everybody I stole $100 from I'm giving an additional $400 to. I'm going above and beyond," way beyond what the law even required. Think about that. This would be the equivalent of, if you've ever had your car's stereo stolen, somebody showing up at your door and being like, "Hey, sorry. Stole the stereo, so here's this, and here are four more." You'd be like, "What? Who are you?"
Zacchaeus, one by one, went to the people he had stolen from, because it was not law that drove him. This is what changes people. What changed people in the room is not like they've come to church and they have some new rules and some code that has led them to be like, "Oh, now I'm going to really try to be a good person." That doesn't work. What changed Zacchaeus was love. He encountered the love of Christ, and it drove him out of a response of love toward Christ, and everything began to change.
Some of you inside of the room… Maybe you're here and you came with a friend and you've seen their life. I hear this story all the time. "Dude, a buddy of mine has been going to your church, and he's like über-Christian, all over the top. He's there four nights a week. He doesn't do any of the stuff… We used to go smoke a bowl. He's not into that anymore. He has totally changed."
Why? Is it because of some new rules he has found? No. He has found and fallen in love with the Savior and experienced the love of Christ that has made him go, "I don't care what I have to leave behind. Everything I'm experiencing here is so much better. So if no one goes with me, I'm going." Zacchaeus said, "Whatever it costs. I don't care. I'm making a change." It was out of an overflow and response to that love that he moved.
The reason Christians hate sin and the reasons we fight against sin is not because we have to in order to have a relationship with God; it's because we have a relationship with God and we don't want anything to interrupt the intimacy we can experience with him. It's like, "I'm going to fight against anything. I'm going to confess sin inside of my life, whether it's anger or lust, masturbation, pornography, stuff from my past, anything that could inhibit that, because Jesus is so much better."
This is how and why people change. It's not because of something like, "Here, keep these 12 different rules you have to run through." Zacchaeus, in a moment, encounters the love of God and changes. We've seen love changes people. We've all seen this. If you know somebody dating, if you've ever dated before… You see people adopt new habits, new hobbies when they start dating somebody.
Maybe you have a guy friend who's like, "Yeah, now I get pedicures. It's what we do. It's cool, man. I'm into it." You're like, "Okay." Or the girl who's like, "Yes, I love the Cowboys." It's because she started dating some guy with the Cowboys. You're like, "Can you name a Cowboy?" "Uh, Dirk Nowitzki." You're like, "I think you're just into this because he's into this." When people fall in love, they change.
The best one of all time is particularly around guys… Ladies, you may never even see this, but this is what happens. Let me tell you what happens every time a guy calls you if he's hanging out with his buddies. It happens to all of us, myself included. Hanging out with your buddies. You're out there like, "Yeah, dude, I cannot believe Dak, that that happened. Man, it's the worst." Then you'll call, and it's like, "Hey, give me a sec. Oh, hi. Yeah. Oh, no."
It's to the point where it changes them so much… We always walk away. We're like, "We're going to give you guys a second." It happens every single time. You walk over there. You're like, "No, I love you. No, you hang up. No, you hang up." It's like he goes from thug life to Romeo, because love changes people. Dude, that is true. It happens every time. Guys, you know what I'm talking about.
Love changes people. It leads to different behavior and different actions. It far exceeds anything the law could do. Just like in that dating relationship, if somebody told you, "Hey, I want you to like that girl. Here are the rules. When you talk on the phone, you have to talk like you're back in seventh grade, pre-puberty, and that's what you have to do," people would not do it if they didn't actually have a desire, a love, and an affection for that girl.
In the same way, this is why and this is how Christians live the Christian faith, the Christian life. This is why people change. This is why people begin to make decisions more in line with that, because they're like, "I just want more of Jesus. I began to experience it in such a real way, I just want more and more of that." Zacchaeus experienced it, and everything changed. It's love, not law that leads to lasting change.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, has one book in the Bible. It's only one chapter long. It's a very short book. In that chapter, he says something about the way the Christian life is lived. Here's a guy who actually… Jesus' baby brother. You may not know that. There are two guys in the Bible who wrote books in the New Testament who scholars say are the brothers of Jesus: Jude and James. Jude writes, and in the twenty-first verse he says, "Here's what I want you to do."
"…keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.""What do I do, Jude? We're waiting on God. We're trying to make sure we live out the Christian life. How do I spend the rest of my life?" "Keep yourselves in the love of God." Think about that sentence from the little brother of Jesus who says, "Let me give you a secret. Keep yourselves in God's love for you."
Do you want to be someone who actually experiences change in your life? Do you want to live out the Christian life? It won't come by bootstrap obedience, by trying harder, and anyone who tells you it will is lying to you. It comes by experiencing God's love, understanding how God sees you, that despite the fact you did not earn it and you don't deserve it, God loved and sought and seeks you.
Wherever you're at right now, whatever you're going through, whatever you did today, there's a God who's crazy in love with you. Jude says, "Here's what I want you to do while you wait. Church, for all of eternity, until Jesus comes back or for how many thousand years, keep yourselves in God's love." Then do you know what happens? You'll love because he loved you. That's what 1 John 4 says. It ends up overflowing inside of your life.
More than anything else, I hope you hear that, that you are to think and operate as someone who sees themselves, that your identity is so wrapped… "Jesus loves me. The God of the universe, the God who created the stars and breathed all things into existence loves me to the point where he would die on a cross for me." For you, despite everything messed up in your life. Zacchaeus experienced that love, and it changed him.
Verse 9 says, "Jesus responded, 'Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.'" Salvation has come to this house. "He's a child of Abraham" basically means he's a true child of the faith. He's one of the descendants of Abraham, the father of faith. He's one of those followers. He's a true follower. He had experienced a conversion with Jesus in that moment.
What does he say? Salvation came to this person's house. He personifies salvation, which is so interesting, because who came to Zacchaeus' house? Jesus. The third thing we see from the story… This is so huge for so many of you who grew up in backgrounds and denominational faiths that don't teach what we see in this passage.
3._ Salvation begins and is about a person, not a process. Salvation comes with a person, not a process. Salvation comes with a person named Jesus. It has a name: _Jesus. It is not a process. It doesn't take place over you keeping sacraments over your life. The Bible teaches the message of Jesus… "Salvation showed up at this guy's house because that salvation is me." Salvation begins and is experienced and is about a person.
It's about you knowing Jesus, not about you keeping a process over your life. Salvation is about a person, not about you doing confessional, getting baptized, keeping a certain number of sacraments, praying a certain number of times a day. It begins and has always been about a person. Zacchaeus encounters a person in a moment of faith, and in doing so, he encountered salvation. Everything changed. His eternity changed, his current day changed, and he changed.
To keep going along those lines, as we've already said, the process only takes place after the person and that relationship with Christ is started. You enter into this unending, unbreakable covenant with Jesus, and then the process takes place. But the Bible says that's his responsibility, not yours. He's the one who's faithful to continue the good work he started in you, Philippians 1:6 says. It is that relationship, that new covenant that brings about change.
It's not dissimilar to this. When I got married, there was a new covenant relationship I entered into, a new person in my world in a new way, and everything changed. What do I mean by that? Practically, a lot of things changed. I went from eating TV dinners and sleeping on a futon, and all of a sudden, it's like we have three meals a day. We have pillows and pillows. We have pillows everywhere. If anybody needs a pillow tonight, I've got you, and then some.
I used to be in a flag football league. Men, now I am a member of the arboretum. Everything changes. Where you go changes, what you eat changes, what you do changes, how you spend your time, because there's a new person, a new covenant. That's what Christianity says happens when somebody has encountered Jesus.
This is why some of you… You've come to know and trust in Jesus, and it's hard for you to go back. Do you know why that is? You want to go back to the club or go back to the bar and hang on Friday night, and it's like you can't even be who you used to be anymore. You can't even do it. You try to pick up a girl, and you're like, "Hey, girl…do you have a Bible?" You can't even do it, because you have stepped into this relationship and it has begun to change you.
The God who's there is saying, "I have a hold on you. I am entering into relationship with you, because this is about a person, not a process. For the rest of your days, I'm going to finish that work." That's why some of you are like, "Dude, I can't even do it anymore. I can't even do it with the same enjoyment I used to be able to," because Jesus has gotten ahold of your life.
For some of you, this is why Christianity never worked, because you thought it was about a process, and Christianity is about being in relationship with a person. That is how change begins to come. The thing that stood out in addition to that is something I've never really noticed before. I was trying to explain this to someone earlier, so hopefully this comes out clearly. It says Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost.
When I read that verse, I've always focused on, "He came to save. He came to save lost people." It tells us something about the heart of God. He came not just to save lost people. That is a very big part, and that is clearly a part, one of a two-part thing of why he said he came, but he came to seek. There's not a person on the planet God has not been seeking since the moment they breathed their first breath. He's all about seeking lost people, which is everyone.
As bad as Zacchaeus sought to know Jesus, Jesus was far more interested in knowing him. What do I mean by that? Think about it. Zacchaeus said, "I'm willing to climb up and do whatever I have to in order to see Jesus." Jesus said, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes, including die, in order to save Zacchaeus." Zacchaeus was willing to climb up a tree to see Jesus. Jesus was willing to die on a tree to save Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus said, "I'll give half of my money to the poor." Jesus said, "I'll give all of my life for you, Zacchaeus." Whatever length to which you think, "I'm interested in knowing God," he is far more interested in knowing you. He is far more interested and far more seeking of you, because that's the heart of God. That's what he is.
No matter how far people run, and no matter if they run until they die, God is seeking after lost people to know him. He sought after Hitler every day he was alive. He's seeking after every member of ISIS. He's seeking after every political person, depending on which side you fall, who seems like the enemy. I'll tell you what God's first and biggest concern with Joe Biden and Donald Trump is: Jesus. His biggest concern with you is the same concern he had with Zacchaeus, that you would know him. He's doing everything he can to let you know that.
The truth and the irony in that whole bag and weight situation… It's a funny thing. You take the bag out, and I've been told there are weight limits on the plane, so you can only bring certain amounts. They stack them in there, and they account for each person to weigh a certain amount. The reason I say it's ironic is it's still coming on the plane. I'm taking it out of that bag, and it's going in my backpack, and it's still going on the plane. Everyone knows that, right? Are we all good there?
It's a little bit like, "Yeah. Okay. I'll hold the socks. I guess I'll do that if that's going to really make this thing go down in the Pacific Ocean." But it's still coming on. They may say, "There's a weight limit, and you can't get past here with that" or "That's too much weight. You're going to have to carry that yourself, because we can't afford it. We can't put that down there, not that weight."
That is so unlike what Jesus says he is all about. In fact, he says the opposite is true. He says it's not "I'm going to carry most of it, but if there are any overages, then you're on your own; you have to carry that onto the plane." He says, "I carry all of it or none of it. I carry every sin you've ever committed, everything messed up you've ever done, or I carry none of it. There's no you carry some and I carry some halfway and you really work hard and then we can have a relationship together." Jesus says, "I carry all of it or none of it."
If you're going to have a relationship, it's going to involve you saying, "God, I surrender everything. You paid for every sin I've ever committed in my past, everything I've ever done in my present, everything I'm going to do in my future. You paid for all of it, God. I don't have to wonder anymore if I'm going to have eternal life. You paid for everything." That's what the message of Jesus says. It's not "Whosoever achieves can have eternal life." It's "Whosoever receives Jesus has eternal life."
The Bible says in Romans 5:6-8… This is so huge. It's so applicable to all of us. Paul is writing this letter, and he says, "Let me tell you about what God did and when he did it for you." "You see, at just the right time…" What is the right time, Paul? "…when we were still powerless…" When we couldn't obey God, we didn't want to obey God, we had nothing to offer but sin to God.
"…Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person…" He begins to go into an analogy. "…though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die." In other words, most people won't die for somebody great, though every once in a while, somebody dives on a grenade for a brother in the army or somebody does something valiant and heroic. "But God [shows] his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
The message of the Bible, the message of Zacchaeus is that all of us are like Zacchaeus. You are like Zacchaeus. You bring nothing to the table, and while you were powerless, the God of the universe said, "You know what time it is? It's the right time, when they can do nothing, they don't care about me, they are an enemy of God." God comes out and says, "Do you know what I'm going to do for my enemies? Die for them."
There is no love like this that anyone has ever heard of, ever expressed. There's no other religion in all of the world, no other belief system that includes anything like the love Paul just described here, the love every page of the Bible expresses and the love Jesus demonstrated perfectly on the cross. There is no expression of "Allah is love, and he will die for his enemies."
There's no other belief system in the world that says God is a God who goes out and dies for his enemies, who says, "Let's come to the battle line. Here's what we're going to do. There's a war taking place. Here's the truce: I will die for all of you." There's no love the world has ever seen like that.
The Bible says, and could it be true, that the God who's there is a God who says, "You know what I do for those who can do nothing for me? I'm so in love with them that I would lay down my life for them, my enemies, let alone my friends or let alone some good people. For those who reject, who will always reject me, I still die for them."
The God who's there has died for sinners like you, sinners like Zacchaeus, and sinners like me before anything was done, before you could do anything for him. My biggest fear is there are a lot of you in the room, candidly, who think you bring something and have something to offer God. You kind of view like, "You guys take that much luggage, and I'm going to carry on a little bit. I'm going to do my part, because it makes me feel better, and I feel like that will keep me in relationship." You have bought a lie.
The message of the gospel is before you do anything right, before you could do anything right, in order to have a relationship and be right with God, it takes you saying, "I'm too broken and undeserving. I've fallen short of God's standard, and I'm receiving. I'm not seeking to achieve anymore. I'm receiving what God did on my behalf."
Jesus didn't come to give you what you deserved; he came to give you what he deserves. The message of Zacchaeus, the message of the New Testament, the message of the gospel and the God who's there is that you can have what he deserved, what Christ alone deserves if you will just accept it by faith.
"You paid for my sin. You died on the cross. You rose from the dead. You showed the check cleared. It was more than enough. I'm not going to believe and put my faith in what I do, how good I am, what I haven't done or what I did do. I'm not going to let what I have done keep me out. I'm trusting in Jesus." When you do, you, like Zacchaeus, become a child of Abraham, a child of faith, the one Jesus came in to seek and to save, like those of us who believe. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for any man or woman in this room who has never put their faith in what you did on the cross. You paid for their sin. You died in their place. You offer eternal life, and you offer abundant life now. That tonight would be the moment they would step off the ledge of trusting in themselves and step into a relationship with the God who has been reaching out in their direction all of their life.
That they wouldn't allow what they've done, their sins, how embarrassed they are, the shame, the guilt, all of those things they feel like make them unworthy of having a relationship with God do anything other than drive them to you, the God who said, "I paid for all of it while they were still powerless, while they were still weak. I demonstrate my love in that while they were sinners I died, because I love them."
Tonight, would men and women receive that free gift? Would you help the parts in our hearts that still feel like we need to clean ourselves up and run from you in shame to be overtaken by the truths we see in the New Testament? You are a God who runs toward us and calls us to walk with you and experience life and freedom. Would that message penetrate deeper into our hearts? Start with me, God. We worship you in song, amen.