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Making Jesus My Lord

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Conversations with Jesus Making Jesus My Lord Luke 19:1-10 Pastor Pat Damiani March 24, 2019 NOTE: This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript. There’s a story about a local fitness center, which was offering $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate that they were stronger than the owner of the place. Here’s how it worked. This muscle man would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and then hand the lemon to the next challenger. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out would win the money. Many people tried over time ­ other weightlifters, construction workers, even professional wrestlers, but nobody could do it. One day a short and skinny guy came in and signed up for the contest. After the laughter died down, the owner grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains to the little man. The crowd’s laughter turned to silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the manager paid out the winning prize and asked the short guy what he did for a living. “Are you a lumberjack, a weightlifter, or what?” The man replied, “I work for the IRS.” If you haven’t already filed your income taxes this year, you still have a few weeks left, but when you do, please don’t be like the person who sent this letter to the IRS several years ago: “Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.” I don’t think there is anyone here this morning who really likes to pay taxes, even though fair taxation was an important part of the civil and religious structure of Israel and we are clearly commanded in the Bible to pay taxes that are fairly imposed on us. But for the most part, none of us would really consider an IRS agent to be a particularly evil or villainous person. But things were much different in the days of Jesus. The Romans divided Israel into three tax districts and then hired a chief tax collector to oversee the collections in each district, usually based on who would pay the most for that right. Then that chief collector would hire additional IRS agents to help collect the taxes. But instead of fair and consistent tax rates, the Romans just told the chief tax collector how much money he had to remit to the Roman government and then he got to keep anything else he could raise on top of that. So it’s easy to see why the tax collectors became greedy extortioners who used pressure and intimidation to get as much as they could from their fellow Jews. And it’s also easy to see why they were the most hated and reviled people in that culture. But interestingly, in the gospels, and especially in the gospel of Luke, tax collectors are shown in a favorable light. Even one of Jesus’ twelve apostles was a tax collector. So it’s not a big surprise that Luke uses the account of a conversation Jesus has with one of those tax collectors to illustrate an important truth about the gospel. That conversation with Jesus is the perfect follow up to the one we looked at last week. In fact, in Luke’s gospel account, this event occurs right after Jesus conversation with the rich young man. In essence, we are going to see that it is indeed possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, at least spiritually. And we’ll see living proof that while it is indeed difficult, it is possible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And we’re also going to see that this passage provides us with some appropriate standards that we can use to evaluate our own lives in order to determine if Jesus genuinely is our Savior and Lord. [Read Luke19:1-10] Jesus is now on His final trip to Jerusalem where He is going to be crucified in just a matter of days. He has a divine appointment there in Jericho with a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus, whose name ironically means “clean and pure” or “righteous”. But as we’ve already talked about, as a chief tax collector that hardly described his character before he meets Jesus. Zacchaeus was rich, but apparently he realized that there was still something missing in his life. So when he heard that Jesus would be passing through town, we are told he “was seeking to see who Jesus was”. We can’t be totally sure why he wanted to see who Jesus was because we’re not told specifically, but what is clear here is that he was willing to go to great lengths to do that. But there was a problem. Most of us here are probably familiar with the song about Zacchaeus that reminds us that “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.” Or as Luke puts it here, he was “short in stature”. While that certainly refers to the fact that he was vertically challenged, I think it is also a reference to the fact that his character fell short of God’s standards. So it’s pretty easy to picture the obstacles Zacchaeus would have faced in trying to see Jesus. As the crowds gathered along the narrow roadway, he would have tried to find a prime viewing spot, only to have someone else taller step in front of him. No one was going to make it easy for a despised tax collector to get a prime viewing location. After that happened a number of times he finally threw all caution to the wind and did something that was well beneath the dignity of a person of his standing and literally went out on a limb for Jesus when he climbed up in a sycamore tree. When Jesus got to that spot, he looked up at Zacchaeus and told him to hurry and come down from the tree because it was necessary for Jesus to stay at his house. The phrase translated “I must” is the same exact word we saw back in John chapter 4 when the text said that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria”. In both cases, Jesus had a divine appointment that would radically change the life of just one person. The verb “stay” in verse 5 is also notable. It indicates that Jesus was telling Zacchaeus that He wasn’t just dropping in for a quick chat, but rather that he was going to spend the night. Zacchaeus immediately scampered down from the tree and received Jesus joyfully into his home. The reaction of everyone else in town wasn’t quite so joyful. They grumbled that Jesus had gone in to be the guest of a man they considered to be the worst of sinners. In that culture, no self-respecting Jew would ever even eat a meal with someone like that. We don’t know what occurred between verses 7 and 8 or even how much time passed between them. Likely Jesus and Zacchaeus had a long conversation that stretched well into the night. But we do know the results of whatever conversation they had. The first thing that we see is that Zacchaeus calls Jesus “Lord”. We’re going to come back and focus on that important fact more in a moment. He also vows to give half of his goods to the same poor people he has been extorting money from as a tax collector and on top of that he is going to make restitution to anyone he has defrauded by paying them back fourfold. We’ll also talk more about that in a moment. Jesus replies that salvation has come to Zacchaeus that day and that Zacchaeus was now a true son of Abraham, not merely because of his bloodline but because of his faith. This account closes with Jesus’ proclamation that this encounter demonstrates clearly the reason that He had come to the earth – to seek and to save the lost. I had a really hard time narrowing this passage down to just one gospel takeaway this week. There are so many aspects of the gospel that are evident in this short, 10 verse, passage. But here is the one that I settled on that I think is most relevant to us as a body: TODAY’S GOSPEL TAKEAWAY We clearly see here that Zacchaeus proclaimed that Jesus was his Lord with his words when He addressed Jesus as “Lord.” The importance of making that proclamation is confirmed by the apostle Paul in Romans 10: …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV) But we know that Paul is not saying here that just calling Jesus “Lord” is some kind of magical incantation that guarantees that He will save us. He certainly would have been familiar with these words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 ESV) In other words, just saying the word “Lord” doesn’t actually make Jesus your Lord unless you also demonstrate His Lordship by giving up control of your life to Him and actually doing His will and not your own. It is Zacchaeus’s actions, and not merely his words, that demonstrates that Jesus is genuinely his Lord. Before we get to the application of this gospel takeaway for our lives, let me first share the same caveat that I’ve shared often in this series. My purpose this morning is not to in any way make you doubt your salvation if you are a genuine disciple of Jesus. None of us measure up perfectly when it comes to the principles we’re going to draw from this passage. So if you occasionally slip up when it comes to one or more of them, it just means your human – it does not necessarily mean there is any reason to doubt your salvation. On the other hand, it is also likely that there are some people here this morning who sincerely think that you are saved and that Jesus is your Lord, but that just isn’t the case. Maybe you think that because your parents were Christians or because you come to church regularly or even because you serve in our church or give generously, that somehow makes you a genuine disciple of Jesus. If there is even one person here this morning who is in that group, then I would be remiss if I didn’t exhort you to seriously consider what it really takes to make Jesus your Lord in both word and deed. So let’s use our remaining time to see what this passage teaches us about… HOW TO KNOW IF JESUS IS MY LORD 1. I recognize my lostness In verse 10, Jesus tells us that he came to seek and to save the lost. That is the nature of God from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and hid from God, God came looking for them. And He hasn’t stopped seeking lost sinners since then. Our English translations have a hard time fully describing what it means to be lost. The word Jesus uses here describes a permanent state of being ruined or destroyed. And those are the people that Jesus came into this world to save. I think deep down inside, Zacchaeus somehow sensed that he was lost like that. And because of that, Jesus was able to save him. So being “lost”, in the sense that Jesus uses the word here, means that I recognize that if Jesus left me to my own devices, I would never seek Him or believe in Him. It is acknowledging the fact that apart from God’s grace, I would justly spend eternity in hell. On the other hand if you see yourself as a pretty good person that deserves your salvation, you are not really “lost”. If you make excuses for your sin or call it something else, like a mistake, or a fault, or a weakness, then I think I’m on solid ground saying you’re not really lost. This is a crucial aspect of salvation, which is why Luke, in particular, devotes so much of his gospel account to developing this idea of lostness. Go ahead and keep your place here in Luke 19 and flip back a few pages to Luke chapter 15. In that chapter, we find the parables of a shepherd seeking a lost sheep, a woman seeking a lost coin and a father seeking a lost son. Jesus came to seek and save those who know they are lost, not those who self-confidently don’t even think they need to be saved. 2. Jesus has changed my life at the point of my old weakness This account bears a lot of similarities to the one we studied last week. In both cases a rich man seeks out Jesus. In both cases these men were consumed by their riches. But their motivation for seeking Jesus and the results of their encounters are strikingly different. For both the rich young man and Zacchaeus, the glaring weakness in their lives was their love of their material possessions. And Jesus pointed out that weakness to both men. But the rich young man wasn’t willing to let Jesus deal with that weakness. We might even say that he was not “lost” enough to even see that weakness. And so he left unsaved and unchanged. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, came to recognize that his love for money was a weakness that he needed Jesus to deal with. So we see here that the reality of our new life in Jesus is almost always demonstrated at the point of the most glaring weaknesses in our old life apart from Jesus. Zacchaeus’s point of weakness was greed and so that is the point at which Jesus began to change his life. So let me ask you a question. What was your biggest point of weakness before you made Jesus the Lord of your life? Pornography? Lust? Lying? Bitterness? Gossip? Disrespect for authority? And I suppose in light of today’s passage I ought to add cheating on your taxes to the list. And then let me ask you a follow up question. Has there been a radical transformation in that area of your life? Obviously I’m not asking if you now handle that weakness perfectly, because none of us can do that. Nor is it likely that the change will be as dramatic and as quick as what we see here with Zacchaeus. But if you have genuinely put Jesus in control of every area of your life, then it’s just not possible for you to remain unchanged when it comes to those kinds of weaknesses. At a minimum the changes should be significant enough that others begin to take notice. 3. Nothing or no one but Jesus owns me Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once said If you own something that you cannot give away, then you don’t own it, it owns you.” Unfortunately last week we saw that the rich young man didn’t really own his wealth, that wealth owned him. And so he couldn’t give it away. But Zacchaeus responds in exactly the opposite way. He is willing to let go of his wealth in order to make Jesus his Lord. It’s hard to know exactly how much of his wealth Zacchaeus is pledging to give to others, but it is likely pretty much everything He has. First, he is going to give half his wealth to the poor. And then out of the remaining half, he is going to make restitution to those he has wronged over the years, and knowing how the tax collectors operated, that had to have pretty well wiped out the other half. Is there someone or something in your life, other than Jesus, that owns you? Is there something in your life, that if Jesus took it from you or asked you to give it up that would cause you to turn away from Him? • What about your home? What if it were destroyed by a fire or flood and your insurance wouldn’t cover the loss and so you lost it? • What about your health? I know there are some of you here this morning that have actually had to answer that question because of chronic health issues. • What about your job or your position? I’ve often thought about how I would respond if Jesus removed me from pastoring this church. • What if the stock market crashed and you lost all your retirement savings? • What if there is some relationship in your life that is keeping you from growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you willing to let go of that? • What about some hobby or activity that you like to do or to watch? What if Jesus were to take away your quilting, or your video games, or your NFL football, or God forbid, NASCAR? There are some of the things I just mentioned that I would just tell Jesus to go ahead and take. But honestly, there are some others that would be a bit more difficult. So my prayer for you and for me is that we won’t have anything in our life that we wouldn’t be willing to give up for the sake of our relationship with Jesus. 4. I strive for maximum obedience, not minimum compliance As I’ve worked with other officials over the years I’ve noted that there are two kinds of officials. There are those who just want to do the very minimum they can so that they can go out and make as much money as they can. They don’t ever get any additional training. They don’t work for a good score on the rules test. They show up to games right on time or late, but never early. Then there is the other group, which is unfortunately much smaller. These are the officials who show up early for the games, who score well on the rules test because they have taken the time to really know the rules, and who go to clinics and camps to get extra training. I can tell you that without a doubt those are the officials you want working your games. In much the same way, you can tell those who have genuinely made Jesus their Lord because they are the ones who are striving for maximum obedience and not just looking for some cheap fire insurance. There are always those who are seeking to find the minimum they can do and still squeak into the kingdom of heaven. I think the rich young man that we talked about last week was like that. He was looking for a shortcut, an easy way into the kingdom. Zacchaeus takes just the opposite approach. He offers to pay back anyone he has wronged four times the amount he had wrongly taken from them, So how did he come up with that amount? In the Jewish law there were various regulations concerning making restitution. The most common kind of restitution for stolen property was to return the property plus 20%. There were other situations in which the offending party was required to pay back double the amount taken. But by far the most demanding requirement for restitution is found in Exodus 22:1. If you robbed someone with violence and destruction, a fourfold restitution was required. Zacchaeus, who would have been familiar with all of those provisions in the law, chose the most demanding to apply to himself. Because Jesus had so radically transformed his life, Zacchaeus wasn’t looking for the least he could do in order to get into the kingdom, but rather was trying to find the way that could obey Jesus to the maximum. It is obviously important to note here that it was not Zacchaeus’ obedience that saved him, but rather it was his response to the fact that he had already been saved by his faith. I can’t possibly underestimate the importance of knowing whether or not Jesus is genuinely your Lord, so I’m going to run through these four principles one last time and ask you to make an honest evaluation of your life. As I said earlier, none of us can do these things perfectly, but if Jesus is my Lord, they will be my heart’s desire and will characterize my life most of the time. 1. Do you recognize your “lostness”? Have you acknowledged your own sinfulness and your need for a Savior, or do you think that basically you’re a pretty good person? 2. Has Jesus transformed your life at the point of your greatest weakness? Do others see a noticeable change in your life in that area of your life? 3. Is there anyone or anything other than Jesus that owns you? Is there anything that you would not be willing to give up for the sake of your relationship with Jesus? 4. Do you strive for maximum obedience to Jesus or are you looking to just get by with minimum compliance? For those of you who have already made Jesus your Lord in both words and deeds, my prayer is that this morning you will leave here more confident than ever that your salvation is genuine. And for those of you who haven’t yet done that or who are maybe unsure whether you’ve done that, I pray that this message will encourage you to do like Zacchaeus and go “all in” for Jesus so that you, too, can have that same confidence. Discussion questions for Bible Roundtable 1. Even though we have no record of the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus, what reasonable conclusions can we make about that conversation from what we do have in the text? 2. How do we know that Zacchaeus’ vow to make restitution was not the basis for his salvation, but rather a response to it? 3. Is it possible to make Jesus my Savior, without also making Him my Lord? What are some of the implications of your answer for your personal evangelism? 4. Why is important to declare that Jesus is Lord with both lips and lives? 5. What are some of the dangers of trying to make Jesus my Savior, but not my Lord?
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