Faithlife Sermons

Saving Grace

Way, Truth, Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  52:49
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Luke 18:35–43 NRSV
35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Luke 19:1–10 NRSV
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 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 down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

The Trouble with Sin

The Bible tells us the truth about life as it is. There’s no whitewashing of how things go. People suffer and it changes their lives for going through it. Many of us have watched friends and loved ones have to adjust to illness or physical challenges. Even just the ravages of aging can be devastating and oh so frustrating to deal with. Often it is out of someone’s control and it can come to define a person’s existence, especially with a little help from friends.
We meet the blind man in Luke. Being blind he likely could not work and was utterly dependent on others to take care of him. We see over in John’s gospel that often times people would assume someone or their parents had sinned if they were born blind. This is really bad theology and Jesus works to correct it, saying directly neither a blind man nor his parents had sinned. But even so, in our story, this man was reduced to sitting on the road side of life, begging for food and money to live.
Although this man had likely not sinned, we know that others were likely infected with bad ideas about him. Sin goes all the way back to the earliest days of human existence. In our desperation to survive in a broken world our coping mechanisms don’t help us as much as we think. And this gets handed down from generation to generation. Even people who know better can fall back into small, sinful thinking that blames people instead of showing compassion. Sometimes people not to be blamed are sentenced to a life of suffering made worse by sinful attitudes around them.
Other times, the cause is different, but the devastation is the same or worse. Zaccheus was a wee little man or so the song goes. Randy Newman joked that short people got no reason. But as the words to the song unfold you realize that the song is really about the trials and limitations all of us deal with. Isolating others based on their size is a sin of its own. It reveals how our attitudes and judgments fall short and we are become less when we look down on others. But Zach had a double problem. Perhaps others isolated him I don’t know, but if they did he turned the tables on them by becoming a tax collector. Might have been some ruthless irony as some who laughed at him found themselves at this mercy. Maybe he enjoyed it, I have no idea. But we know that he did cheat others and charge them more than he should. He felt shame and guilt and wanted to change his life. So he found himself reaching for a higher branch that day. Trying to get above the life thrust upon him and the broken life he had built for himself. But the outcome was uncertain at best for this wee little man.

Trouble in our World

Consider this troubled modern couple: as they drove along on a Saturday afternoon the setting sun cast long shadows on the road and on life in general. The conversation was desperate. They didn’t see many options. Should they declare bankruptcy? Should they get a divorce? Should they turn suddenly into a tree or a wall and, well, end things altogether? All three seemed like perfectly viable options in their minds. And so they drove on… How did it get to this point? They had just been to the casino one more time, hoping against hope that they could win back what they owed. More than they could afford. Their life would not cash out and the results were even more devastating. They were in it up to their eyeballs in the most embarrassing and pressing way possible. What would their family say? Where could they possibly turn? Curiosity had turned to excitement, had turned to greed, had become a controlling addiction and had given birth finally to humiliating devastation the likes of which they had never imagined. They had enjoyed a good life. They both had good jobs. Somehow they had fallen into addiction that led to sin and sin had crept into every corner of their life until it had them by the throat. Now it was all in jeopardy and they could see no answers...
Sin touches all of our lives. Whether we suffer at the false ideas of others or at our own hand, the devastation is all too real. Answers can seem out of reach. Without doubt sin levels the playing field. All of us deal with it. All of us eventually fall prey to it. There are ways to respond that are better than others, but we need more than human ingenuity to be set free from the problems of sin...
Sin levels the playing field. Sin is destructive. Sin is opting for a life less than what we were created for. Sin is rebelliousness. Doing what we know to be wrong. In this way sin is a breach of trust.
Sin is also enslavement at times. Paul writes about sin this way in Romans 6, 7, and 8. I’ve spoken on it many times but once we let sin into our lives and begin responding on its terms, sin is not unlike the virus. It’s not satisfied until it has overtaken its host and sucked the life out of their years. It becomes a power with a life of its own. The friends in the story above were deep in the grip of gambling. Without God’s help they could find no way to get free from the grip of sin.
Sin is a break in relationship. It is estrangement from God and eventually from others. This is also one of the most devastating consequences of sin. Sin will separate us from God if we resist God’s desire to deliver us and restore us. And as we saw with the blind man, the sin of others can cause them to treat us differently, push us away, leave us feeling abandoned on the side of life’s road. Of course it works both ways and we must take care not to allow sin to darken too much how we view others. But I have been surprised some times the extent to which people feel free to dump their load yet not receive even the slightest push back. So we must take care if we are to maintain relationships across the years. Sin makes human beings prickly at times. So much is lost when folly comes between friends. Sin is devastating to relationships. But understand we are all struggling under the weight of it.

Grace in the Text

In both biblical stories, Jesus is the answer to the needs of each man, even though their needs are radically different. The blind man realized Jesus was the only one who could help. As usual, most people thought this man should be quiet and just accept things as they are. But he wasn’t having it:
Luke 18:37–39 NRSV
37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Have mercy on me…
Zaccheus too was looking for Jesus to change his life. He knows that many of his problems are self-inflicted. He’s ready to meet Jesus and confident he will be able to help him turn his life around. • Jesus makes time for both of these men. • Both of these men are completely dependent on the grace of Jesus. • Both of these men are saved by the grace of God. One is saved physically and restored to life. One is saved spiritually. Complete salvation comes to two homes because both believed in Jesus and sought his mercy. Saving grace lifted them from misery. Saving grace helps us truly see. Saving grace restores us to our community. Saving grace calls us out of hiding and slips into our homes. Saving grace convicts and liberates. Saving grace restores and commissions. Zaccheus went to everyone he had wronged and sought to make it right. I’m sure he made a lot of friends that way.

Grace in our World

Remember the desperate couple driving along on the late Saturday afternoon? At their most desperate moment they looked up and came upon a church building. It seemed like a sign. They pulled into the parking lot. It happened to be a church I pastored. Some friends of mine happened to be there, they were dropping off items for the service the next day. The couple inquired about service and now they had someone to look for the next day. They were so ashamed, they were almost afraid the walls would cave in if they stepped inside. But they overcame all the shame, doubt and fear. The grace of Jesus met them at their point of need. Salvation truly came to their home.
Before long a gambler’s anonymous group was meeting in our building. That grew into a Celebrate Recovery ministry that changed dozens of lives.
It’s so wonderful when God’s prevenient grace paves the way for God’s saving grace. Do you think it was a coincidence at the darkest moment of their lives they drove up to a church building they had never noticed, where someone was there for exactly three minutes and could invite them to come? It was God’s amazing prevenient grace. Sometimes it catches us by surprise but it’s always right on time. All the tangles and snares of a life of addiction began to unravel and they were set free by God’s amazing saving grace.
God still pours out his abundant grace and mercy on lives today. I hope you have been drawn by God’s prevenient grace that goes before and paves the way for us to come to him. I hope you’ve been saved by the love and mercy of Jesus who died for you and rose again to make all things new.
Put yourself in position for it. Don’t think you have the answers. Realize Jesus is your only hope. Cry out for God’s mercy. If you’ve sinned, repent. Ask forgiveness. Let God change you from within. If others have sinned and wounded you, forgive them. Ask for God’s help and find peace and healing. Jesus doesn’t always instantly fix our physical problems. But his grace works in many ways through our lives. All the healing that flows into our lives is from his hand whether it’s medicine, surgery, therapy, diet, or a miraculous touch. Jesus restores us to life and even prepares us for death when our time comes. There’s nothing he can’t help you with unless you refuse his help. Don’t refuse him. Let him change your life today.
Let’s pray...
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