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Luke 19:1-10 - In The Way of Grace

Pursuing Habits of Grace: The Spiritual Disciplines in the Christian's Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:04
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The spiritual disciplines are the means by which we place ourselves in the way of God's grace

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Introduction

This certainly has been a year for making you realize all the things you missed, hasn’t it? Every month that goes by seems to remind us of things that we always took for granted that have been taken away from us. This summer, one of the things that got cancelled was the Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration in Brockway—nobody I know throws a better celebration for Independence Day. That was our family tradition every 4th of July—going to the parade and then staying for the fireworks at night (which, Mom and Dad will tell you, I watched from Grandma McGaughey’s living room window because of my childhood phonophobia (fear of loud noises—it’s a thing!) But that’s another story.
When you’re a kid, the best part of the Brockway Fourth of July parade (as with any parade, really), is waiting for the floats to come by throwing candy (the only time of the year when we teach our children to consume food they’ve picked up off the street!) But again, the Brockway 4th of July parade was the best, because they had the best treats—one float even gave out ice cream sandwiches!
Now if you wanted one of those ice cream sandwiches, what did you have to do to get it? How hard is it to get candy and treats at a parade? (Other than being faster than the other kids next to you!) The only requirement for you to get candy at the parade is to be there along the parade route! That’s why you always see folding chairs and blankets along the sidewalk before a parade—you can’t be part of the parade if you don’t get yourself a good spot on the route! If the parade is on Main Street, you’re not going to get any candy if you’re sitting on Elm Street—even if there’s plenty of room to sit there!
This is something that Zacchaeus understood, isn’t it? He wanted to see Jesus, and so what did he do? He put himself in the place where he knew Jesus would be coming!
Luke 19:4 ESV
4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
It sounds so obvious as to need no explanation, but Zacchaeus’ actions here represent a profound truth. As we are studying the role of the spiritual disciplines in a Christian’s life, we were very careful to make clear last week that the grace of God is far beyond any of our skills or techniques—we cannot manipulate God into showing His grace to us. But the Scriptures are equally clear that there are paths along which God has promised His favor—like Zacchaeus placing himself in Jesus’ path, like a child getting a good seat along a parade route,
The spiritual disciplines are the MEANS by which we PLACE ourselves in the way of God’s GRACE
And so my aim this morning is to walk through this account of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus to see the ways that he placed himself in Jesus path—and from there to consider how we can place ourselves along the parade route of God’s grace in our lives.
In verses 1-4, as we’ve seen, Zacchaeus committed himself to getting to a place where he would be in Jesus’ path—he ran ahead, and he climbed up into the sycamore tree so that he could see him. And the first thing that happened was that Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ voice. Pick up the story in verse 5:
Luke 19:5 ESV
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
Pursuing the habits of grace—the spiritual disciplines—means that you

I. Place yourself in the way of His VOICE (Luke 19:5)

If Zacchaeus hadn’t been there in the tree, he would never have heard Jesus’ voice calling him to come down. But because he was committed to placing himself in Jesus’ path, he heard Jesus’ voice and responded:
Luke 19:6 ESV
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
Here is the first, and perhaps most powerful, path of grace that God has given us—His Word. You cannot expect to find yourself in the channels of God’s grace for you, Christian, if you do not commit yourself to His Word! When Zacchaeus came down out of the sycamore tree, He was responding to Jesus’ voice—but more than that, Zacchaeus was responding to the voice of God Himself, because Jesus Christ is
The INCARNATE Word of God (John 1:14)
John writes in the first chapter of his Gospel:
John 1:14 ESV
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
That’s the literal meaning of the word “incarnate”—Jesus is the “enfleshment” of God’s voice to us.
The writer of Hebrews tells us
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Do you want to know what God is like? Do you want to know Him in His grace and mercy and compassion and love? Then look to Jesus, the one who perfectly shows God to us. We place ourselves in the way of God’s voice when we look to Jesus as God’s “Final Word”--
John 1:1–3 ESV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
And we place ourselves in the way of God’s voice when we place ourselves in the path of
The GOSPEL Word of God (Colossians 1:5-6)
Paul writes in Colossians 1:
Colossians 1:5–6 ESV
5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
The “Word of truth, the Gospel” is the Word that comes to us that transforms us in salvation— “it is bearing fruit and increasing since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth”. Do you see the connection there? When you place yourself in the way of hearing and believing and receiving the message of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, you “come to understand the grace of God!” The Gospel bears fruit in you, it changes you. The Gospel message is one of the paths along which the grace of God runs deep and wide, and you place yourself in the path of that grace when you place yourself in the path of the Gospel word of God.
We hear the voice of God in the incarnate word, Jesus Christ, we hear His voice in the Gospel word that saves us, and we hear His voice in
The WRITTEN Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
How do we come to know the incarnate Word, Jesus? And how do we come to hear the Gospel Word that saves us? It is through the written Word of God in the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. This Book does not just contain the Word of God, it IS the Word of God—every single word that makes up this Book has been spoken by God Himself. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Christian, do you want to hear the voice of God today? Do you want to hear Him speak to you directly? Then read the words of this Book—study them, dig into them, read them over and over and ask Him to show you the meaning of what you read. Every time you pick up this Book to read, pray the way the Psalmist did in Psalm 119:18:
Psalm 119:18 ESV
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Place yourself in the way of God’s grace by placing yourself in the path of His voice.
Zacchaeus heard the voice of Jesus call him down out of that tree, and when he heard Him, he “hurried and came down and received Him joyfully” (Luke 19:6). When it says he “received Him”, it’s referring to Zacchaeus bringing Jesus (and His disciples) into his house as his guests. The scene shifts in verse 8 to Zacchaeus’ house, where he and Jesus speak together. And this brings us to our next means of placing ourselves in the path of God’s grace--

II. Place yourself in the way of His EAR (Luke 19:8)

Consider for a moment the incredible privilege that you have, Christian, of having the ear of God in prayer! Just as we hear God’s voice through His Word, so we have the opportunity of speaking to Him and knowing that He hears us! It is
An INTIMATE relationship
Jesus has come into Zacchaeus’ house, and now they talk together, one-on-one. The crowds that followed Him were outside—the crowds that had separated Zacchaeus from Jesus were no longer keeping them apart; he had Jesus all to himself! Zacchaeus’ position as a tax collector (a chief tax collector, in fact), would have put him in a very lonely position—tax collectors were universally hated by their fellow countrymen and despised even by the Romans who hired them. So don’t imagine this scene as some kind of banquet or feast where Zacchaeus “invited all his friends”—there wouldn’t be anyone within miles willing to go anywhere near his house! So he has Jesus all to himself, because Jesus is the only Person willing to spend time with him! Think of it, Christian—even when no one else in the world wants to hear from you, your Heavenly Father is always present to listen to your prayer!
Prayer is an intimate relationship, and it is
A CONTINUOUS relationship (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Eventually Zacchaeus’ one-on-one time with Jesus came to an end—the rest of Luke 19 tells us that the next event in Jesus’ life was His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. He had Jesus’ ear for a precious few moments—but you, Christian, have God’s ear always! There is never a time when you cannot come to Him in prayer, when He is too busy to hear you or has to go away to another task, or will be separated from you in any way! That’s why we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:17:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV
17 pray without ceasing,
and
Colossians 4:2 ESV
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
and
Romans 12:12 ESV
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
As one author put it, to be “constantly praying” is like being “constantly eating”—it doesn’t mean that you are shoveling food into your mouth every second of the day; rather, the idea is that you “never miss a meal”. To be constant in prayer means that you never pass up an opportunity to talk to God, knowing that you have His ear, and He will always hear. Pray with the confidence of the Psalmist, who sings,
Psalm 17:6 ESV
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Having God’s ear in prayer is an intimate relationship, it is a continuous relationship, and it is
A TRANSFORMING relationship (Hebrews 7:25)
When Zacchaeus had Jesus all to himself there in his house, with no one but Jesus’ disciples, and he only had a short time to speak one-on-one with Him, what did he talk to Jesus about? He talked about his sin and repentance!
Luke 19:8 ESV
8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus completely changed his life, didn’t it? When Jesus called him to come down out of the tree, he came down and received Jesus “joyfully” (v. 6). It’s not a stretch to say that Zacchaeus’ life was not a very joyful one, is it? Despised by his fellow Jews, used as a pawn by the Romans, all the wealth he had accumulated brought him no happiness, only isolation and hatred from everyone around him. But when he placed himself in Jesus’ way, Jesus transformed Zacchaeus’ whole world! The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them”—Jesus transforms us when we cry out to Him because He is crying out to the Father on our behalf!
Zacchaeus repents—he turns away from his grasping, selfish, corrupt life, he confesses that he has defrauded his victims, and comes to Jesus with a new heart that seeks to honor Him with generosity to the poor and justice for those he had swindled. Zacchaeus had placed himself in Jesus’ path—he heard His voice, and now he has His ear, and his life is transformed!
We place ourselves in the way of God’s grace when we place ourselves in the way of His voice, when we place ourselves in the way of His ear. And there is one more way we see Zacchaeus placing himself in Jesus’ way, one more piece to the “habits of grace” that we pursue, and that is to

III. Place yourself in the way of His BODY (Luke 19:6-7, 9)

Now, think for a moment about what would have been involved in Zacchaeus “receiving Jesus as his guest”. We get a glimpse of the customs for receiving guests earlier in Luke 7, when Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee that he gave Jesus no water for His feet, did not greet Him with a kiss, did not anoint His head with oil (but the woman who was a sinner did all these things for Him.) So it’s likely that Zacchaeus, who was joyfully receiving Jesus as his guest, would have done all these things when he welcomed Him into his house—greeting Him with a kiss, washing His feet, anointing His head with oil. (Just let that sink in for a moment—Zacchaeus, the old scoundrel and traitor to his Jewish people, anoints the head of the Messiah, the Anointed One! What AMAZING grace Jesus pours out on sinners who come in repentance to Him!)
Zacchaeus placed himself in the way of Jesus’ physical body, demonstrating his love and joy for Jesus by his welcome. Christian, you and I have the immense privilege of being part of the Body of Christ, the Church—and when we seek to form our lives and our priorities around the Body of Christ, we place ourselves into one of the most powerful channels of His grace.
First, placing ourselves in the way of the Body of Christ means
BELONGING by faith (Galatians 3:7)
Jesus says to Zacchaeus in verse 9,
Luke 19:9 ESV
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
Of course, Zacchaeus’ kinsmen would have wanted to deny that he was a “son of Abraham” because of the way he had betrayed his own people. But Jesus is not just affirming Zacchaeus’ physical lineage—He is pointing to a reality that Paul would explain in the book of Galatians:
Galatians 3:7 ESV
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
Zacchaeus’ faith in Christ meant that he belonged to Abraham—he was a son of faith. And when you come in faith to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and salvation in Him, then you belong to this Body as well!
Not only do we see Zacchaeus belonging to the body of Christ by faith, but we see the importance of
GROWING in faith (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Zacchaeus says, before Jesus and the disciples, that he is going to “give half of his goods to the poor” (v. 8). In other words, Zacchaeus’ position in the faith-family of Abraham is the means by which he will grow into generosity and holiness. The Body of Christ is the way that believers are encouraged and built up in the good deeds of faith. As the writer of Hebrews puts it:
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
When you place yourself in the way of the Body of Christ, you place yourself in the channel of His grace to stir you up to love and good works, to reach for the holiness and righteous life that He has purchased for you by His death and resurrection.
When you place yourself in the way of Christ’s body, the grace of God is made available to you to be
GUARDED in faith (Heb. 3:12-13)
Zacchaeus stands before Jesus and pledges that “if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold”—he is making a stand that he is not going back to that life again. As he stands there in the presence of Jesus and His disciples, he makes himself accountable to them—the grace of God that he has received by placing himself in the way of Jesus’ body enables him to be transformed in his heart.
In the same way, this is what happens when we discipline ourselves to remain in the way of the Body of Christ. Hebrews 3:12-13 says
Hebrews 3:12–13 ESV
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
When you place yourself in the path of Jesus’ body, the Church, He provides you with the grace of His people to guard you from sin, to protect you from being hardened by its deceitfulness. The grace of God flows for your protection and keeping through His Body, the Church.
Zacchaeus placed himself in the way where he knew Jesus would be passing by—he placed himself in the way of grace. And when he did that, he placed himself in the way of Jesus’ voice that called him, he placed himself in the way of Jesus’ ear so that he could speak to him, and he placed himself in the way of Jesus’ body, as he became a part of His people by faith.
The spiritual disciplines—the “habits of grace”—are the means by which we place ourselves in the way of God’s grace: His voice that speaks to us, the Living Word speaking the Gospel Word by the Written Word. The immeasurable privilege of having His ear in prayer in an intimate, continuous and transforming relationship, and His Body that we join by faith, and where we grow in faith and are guarded in our faith. We cannot manipulate God into being gracious to us; He is overflowing with grace and love.
But if the parade of God’s grace is marching down Main Street and you put your lawn chair out in front of your house on Elm Street because its too much bother to go to Main Street, how can you expect to receive any of the grace and mercy and blessing and joy that He pours out? Of course, God is able to make a side-trip to Elm Street, as it were, to bless and strengthen and shower you with His grace even if you refuse to seek Him—He can speak to your heart without your ever opening the Bible, but why wouldn’t you want to hear His voice every time you open this Book? You have a personal, intimate, transforming relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of all the Universe—why wouldn’t you want to speak to Him every single chance you get? You belong by faith to His Body, by means of which you receive grace upon grace to grow in faith and be guarded from sin—why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that Body at every single opportunity?
His voice, His ear, His body—Word, prayer and fellowship. It is in these paths that God has promised His blessings for you, Christian. Not just so that you can receive salvation, cleansing and belonging, but because it is in these paths that Jesus Himself is found! Zacchaeus climbed that tree so that he might just have a glimpse of Jesus, but in His grace Jesus gave him far more than he expected! And so it is with you, Christian—when you “fight to walk in the paths where He has promised His blessings” (Piper, When I Don’t Desire God), He will reward you with so much more than you could ever hope for! Zacchaeus just wanted to “see who Jesus was”, but Jesus wanted far more of a relationship with Zacchaeus than Zacchaeus could ever know!
Even when you feel like you don’t get enough out of your Bible reading, even when you feel like your prayers are weak and ineffective, even when you realize that your priorities for gathering together with the Body of Christ are way lower than you know they should be—remember that it isn’t how perfectly you carry out those disciplines! All that matters is that by those habits—no mater how weak or small or insignificant you think they are—you are placing yourself in the way of One who delights to pour out grace that is ridiculously out of proportion to the effort you’ve put into getting there! Jesus delights to pour out His grace on you when He finds you in His way!
And if you are here today apart from Jesus Christ, and you look at your life and realize that you are about as far from His grace as it’s possible to be, then look here and see yourself in Zacchaeus—a man who had cut himself off by his treasonous greed and treachery from everyone around him, a man who had no reason to think that Jesus would have anything whatsoever to do with him, a man whose physical stature even worked against him. But he simply did what he could to put himself in Jesus’ way. And Jesus poured out the riches of His grace and mercy and love and fellowship and joy on him!
By coming here this morning and joining with the Body of Christ—even as an outsider, even as one who deserves nothing but reproach—don’t you see that you have placed yourself in Jesus’ way today? For whatever reason you have found yourself in one of the channels of God’s grace, here in this body of believers. And just like He did for Zacchaeus, He is calling you by name! So hear the voice of Christ calling you through the Body of Christ today: You can have forgiveness, you can have cleansing, you can have the weight of guilt that you bear before almighty God removed completely today! Come and talk to us after the service, come and let us help you know for sure that you are free from the penalty and power of your sins by faith in His death and resurrection. Hear His voice calling you today, cry out to Him in repentance knowing that He will incline His ear to your prayer, and receive the salvation that He purchased for you by offering His body on the Cross! His grace is calling you today! So come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

What does it mean to “place ourselves in the way of God’s voice?” How has the voice of God spoken to you in the Gospel message—what do you learn about yourself and your life? How can you be sure that you are hearing God’s voice and not your own thoughts and imaginations?
Read Acts 1:14. Luke says that the people in the churches were characterized by “devoting themselves to prayer”. What does it look like for a person to be “devoted” to prayer? Would you say that you are “devoted” to speaking to God in prayer? Why or why not?
Zacchaeus received Jesus as a guest in his home, and would very likely have showed Him all of the courtesies of a guest. What is your relationship with the Body of Christ, the Church? Do you delight to serve His Body and be a part of it here at Bethel? Ask God this week how you can grow in showing your love for Him and His people.
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