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2016-10-30 Luke 19:1-4 Incarnation's Purpose (1): It Could Happen to You

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INCARNATION’S PURPOSE (1): IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (Luke 19:1-4) October 30, 2016 Read Lu 19:1-6 – This passage ends with the verse that is the theme of Luke – and the whole Bible for that matter. Lu 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This statement presupposes mankind’s problems are not the imperfections of a random evolutionary process. Rather, it assumes the perfection we crave was once within our grasp but lost thru Adam’s fall and our own daily contributions to the mass of human failure. We veil our Creator’s glory and require saving to reach the purpose for which we exist. Enter the Lord and Jonah 2:9: “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah’s great epiphany from an entombment that left him helpless. His fate was in God’s hands. “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” It certainly does not belong to us. So, this passage is about how salvation came to one man whom Jesus came to seek and to save: V. 9: “Today salvation has come to this house.” No sweeter words in the Bible! Don’t you want salvation to come to your house -today?! What’s it take for that to happen? One woman joining the church knew. Asked for her testimony, she said, “It’s pretty short and sweet. I did my part and God did his.” The elders asked what exactly that meant! She replied, “Well, I sinned and God saved me.” How right she was. It’s all grace, and that’s what this passage shows. We choose Him only to find that He chose us first. It’s all here in salvation coming to Zach. Just before Jesus had said, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (18:25). The disciples, thinking rich people have the advantage, ask, “Then who can be saved?” (18:26). Jesus answers, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (18:27). Luke follows with 2 examples. First, Jesus heals and saves a poor, blind beggar – low end of the spectrum. Then, He saves a rich, self-sufficient tax collector. What man can’t do, God can. He can save a rich man. There is no limit to what Christ can do. Luke even shows how. Jesus had just said: “17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” If ever anyone entered like a child, it was Zach. He’s a prime example of all Jesus has been teaching and why He came. This text is what incarnation is all about --The Sinner, The Savior, The Salvation. It’s a wonderful text. Today, how Zach illustrates childlike faith -- shows 4 things about – The Sinner. 1 I. Zacchaeus Was Sinful (same starting point as blind man) No one has been saved without knowing they needed salvation. This is why those who preach only the love of God are so devastatingly cruel. Does God love? Absolutely. Rom 5:8: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He loves us personally more than any one ever could or would. But love alone saves no one. Love alone won’t save my buddy whose parachute failed and love alone won’t save me from my sins. Gal 3:10: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Any wrongdoing puts us under a death sentence. You say, “You mean God can love someone and condemn them at the same time?” Aboslutely. Now you’re getting the picture. Jesus loved that rich young ruler, but when he would not repent Jesus let him go – condemned by his loving riches more than Jesus. To insist we have a free pass because God loves unconditionally completely distorts God’s Word. So stage one of childlike faith is the recognition that I am a sinner. Zach knew that. Everyone knew he was a sinner. He was a tax collector – chief actually – godfather of one of three major tax districts in Palestine. Everyone knew tax collectors cheated. Everyone knew they had sold out to the Romans. Everyone knew they were at the low end of the moral and social totem pole. And he was the biggest cheat of all! People would have been horrified to know that of all the people in town, he would be the one known by name to millions of people 2,000 years later. With all his money, Zach knew he was a sinner. Look at v. 7. The people complained that Jesus had “gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” The people knew it. Jesus knew it and Zach knew it. He was looking for Jesus because -- he knew he was guilty. So have you made the childlike confession that you are a sinner – by nature and by act? Oh, that is hard. We long to hide. We live lives of denial. We call it anything but sin. Most preachers have eliminated the word sin from their vocabulary for fear of offending someone, but in so doing they commit the ultimate crime. What would you think of a doctor who knows you have cancer, knows a cure, but withholds the news because he doesn’t want you to feel badly. Is that ultimate love or ultimate malice? It’s sadistic and inhumane, that’s what! If you don’t know there’s a problem, you’ll never seek a solution. In his 1973 book Whatever Become of Sin? psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote, “The very word, “sin,” which has disappeared, was once a proud word -- a strong word, an ominous and serious word. . . . But the word went 2 away – the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?” He notes the last time sin appeared in a presidential message was in Ike’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation in 1953 – and he was only quoting from Lincoln in 1863. C. S. Lewis noted “The barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin.” D. A. Carson who often speaks on college campuses says the greatest hurdle is students have no idea of sin. He says, “They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin.” Our churches are culpable, Beloved. Not telling someone about sin isn’t the most loving thing you can do, it’s the most unloving act in the world. No one will seek salvation until they realize they have a need. That’s why Jesus said, “32 I have not come to call the righteous (those who think they are) but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). You must be hit between the eyes with the diagnosis before you seek a cure. Those in denial will never find salvation. Zach was not in denial, and we must not be either. We’re all sinners – just a question of saved or not saved?! II. Zacchaeus Was Seeking Casually at first. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was.” Literally – “And he was seeking to see Jesus – who he was.” Who in that huge crowd was Jesus? They didn’t have CNN. He didn’t know what Jesus looked like. So he was trying to figure out who Jesus was. But no doubt his curiosity went deeper than that. Zach wanted to know who Jesus really was, what He was about. He surely knew about the preaching and the miracles. His curiosity had been piqued. He knew Jesus loved people. He probably knew that He had a tax collector, Matt, in His inner circle. He knew Jesus’ enemies were Pharisees – same enemies that Zach had. But he wanted to know more. Saving faith often starts with a prickly curiosity. If that’s you -- keep seeking. Be like a child and let your curiosity lead you to investigate further. Zach was seeking. There is an old short story by Frenchman Jean Lorean which tells of dinner guests at a house one night. They learn if they put their hands through a set of dining room drapes into a darkened room, they can grab hold of the spirit. And if they could grasp it, the spirit would speak to them. Fishing for ghosts! But, Beloved, God has given us something far more wonderful. His Word – His self-revelation – reverses that process. We don’t have to grope in the dark to find God. Rather, He’s reached thru the veil of heaven and by His Word 3 revealed Himself. So, as curiosity strikes, don’t put it aside. Follow it. Read the gospels. Read Mark, then read it again. Read John. Get a study Bible or commentary. Ask questions. Seek Jesus and find someone you never expected. Isa 55:6: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Like Zach. When the Lord was near, he went looking. So can you. You don’t have forever, but you have now. Salvation is for seekers! III. Zacchaeus Was Single-Minded The Problem -- To understand this point, you have to see there is a problem and there is a solution. So hang with me; the problem’s deeper than appears. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.” All my life, I thought Zach’s problem was his stature. He was short. Think Danny Devito in Other People’s Money, right? Thus, a casual reading! But look again. The problem is twofold. There are two causative clauses here, not one. The first is obvious. He was too short. But the second is the crowd. He couldn’t see Jesus bc of the crowd. Why? V. 7 answers – the crowd considered him a great sinner. They weren’t just indifferent. They were not about to let him through. His stature was one issue. The primary issue was the crowd hated him and reveled in a chance to block him out. Usually someone taller doesn’t mind letting someone shorter get in front of them for a parade, right? They can see over them. But this crowd closed ranks on Zach. The crowd is often what keeps people from Christ. The crowd is a salvation killer. There are two kinds of crowd. First, there’s the unbelieving crowd that says, “You’re thinking of becoming a Christian? Are you insane? Don’t you know the Bible is full of errors? And Jesus may have been a nice guy, but God in the flesh – virgin birth – resurrection? Come on – you’re drinking the cool-aid. You have to check your brain at the door to believe that!” How many people have been intimidated right out of salvation by that crowd! Perhaps you are one. If so, I urge you to keep investigating. Believe me, there are answers to every single objection that your Philosophy 101 or Biology 101 professor threw at you. You don’t have to put your brain of a shelf to become a Xn. In the last 50 years, Xn philosophers and scientists have made unbelievable strides in tearing down the empires of pagan rationalists, and you owe it to yourself to investigate before saying NO to Jesus. But there is another crowd -- the so-called Xn crowd, the church crowd – those who claim His name but are not living consistently with His gospel. We are not loving our own brothers and sisters, let alone those outside. Defending 4 our rights and opinions means far more to us than following His command: “3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). We would literally die before we would do that. Many of us are one thing on Sunday and something else entirely the rest of the week. We are a deadly crowd. Potential believers look and say: “If Xnty were true, it couldn’t produce people like this. But it seems like it is producing people like this; therefore, Xnty can’t be true.” Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). When we fail that, we’re just one more crowd pushing people away from Jesus instead of drawing them toward Him. Crowds -- perhaps the single most critical thing keeping people from Jesus. And it was compounded for Zach because he was short to boot. The Solution – So what’d he do? He climbed a tree! You can’t get past the crowd; you have to get above the crowd. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.” You have to climb a tree. Jesus said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Lu 18:17). That’s the verbal message. Now for those of us who learn visually, Luke gives us the best visual of childlike faith you will find anywhere in the Bible. With the crowd doing everything it can to exclude him, this rich, powerful, highly positioned man does the unthinkable in that culture. He runs. Grown men never did that. They would never expose their legs in public. Then he throws all dignity to the wind and climbs a tree. If they’d had internet in those days, the video would have gone viral! But childlike faith ignores the crowd. It doesn’t mind being thought stupid! You must overlook the hypocrites that offend every sensibility you have. You must climb the tree and look only to Him. You must humbly repent your sin and accept the fantastic truth that Jesus died, was buried and rose again to pay for your sin. You must seek God’s mercy. There will be no dignified, selfimportant, self-made people in heaven. Salvation is for those who have thrown dignity and pride to the wind to win Him. Salvation is for those who care more what He thinks than what the crowd thinks. George Burns and Jack Benny went to dinner one night with Edgar Bergen (the ventriloquist for Charlie McCarthy). After dinner Jack Benny said, “I’ll take the check.” Amazed everyone bc he was renowned for his frugality. As they left, Burns said, “Jack, thanks. I was amazed you asked for the check.” Benny replied, “I didn’t ask for it! And that’s the last time I’m eating with a ventriloquist!” The lesson is follow the crowd, and sooner or later you’ll end up holding the check. Crowds are almost never right. Crowds kill. Forget 5 what anyone might think; climb the tree; look to Jesus. Deut 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Zach kept seeking with single-minded focus until he was found. It can happen to you. IV. Zacchaeus Was Submissive 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.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.” The final element of childlike faith – submission to God. Jesus said, “I’m moving in today, Zach,” and Zacchaeus couldn’t wait to abdicate. If there’s no abdication, there’s not salvation. If there’s no movement, there’s not faith. If there’s no obedience, there’s no reality. But when your heart responds joyfully and enthusiastically to Jesus, then you know. You are His. What a picture. Zach started the day as a guy who had sold his soul for money. He’d sold out his nation, his reputation, his character and his faith. He started the day as far out from the kingdom as you can get. And he ended the day hosting the King of Kings. That’s a pretty good day, wouldn’t you say? It could be you, too! Rev 3:20: “20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” When Jesus knocked on Zach’s door, he couldn’t open fast enough. How about you? Have you let Him in? Like a child, have you answered His knock? Conc – In 1989 a huge earthquake almost flattened Armenia. It killed more than 30,000 people in less than 4 minutes. One father rushed to his son’s school only to find it demolished. He remembered his son’s room was in the back right corner, so he rushed there and started digging. Other grieving parents told him it was too late. Police and fire units told him to go home; that it was useless. But he kept digging. For 8 long hours he dug – and then 12, and then 24 and then 36. Everyone thought he was crazy, but in the 38th hour as he pulled back a boulder, he heard a voice. “Armand!” he screamed, and a voice answered, “Dad? It’s me, Dad. You said you’d come. I knew you’d come.” Helpless to help himself, that young boy had childlike faith his father would come. And, Beloved, as we sit this morning, just as helpless to escape our spiritual guilt as that boy was to escape the rubble – there is one thing we can do. Put your faith in a loving heavenly father and you will find that you have searched for Him until He found you. It could happen to you! Let’s pray. 6
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