AGCC Sun. a.m. 9/9/2001
#1 (The MUST Series)


TEXT:  Luke 19:1-10


Humanity is obsessed with "change." Our culture changes clothing styles, music styles, entertainment programs, the news, we want to know what the changes are every day and we are often anxious to see changes! On the other hand some people hate change, too bad for them though, because nothing stays the same! There is one change in our lifetime that is a MUST … the change from sinner to saint! You cannot make heaven and avoid hell any other way, Christ MUST stay at your house, and be in your life today! A rich Jewish tax collector discovered this one day, and Jesus' words to him are still true today, "I MUST stay at your house TODAY?" Conversion is critical, even the world recognizes this but they have the wrong kind of conversion in mind! ILLUS:In Russia, in 1989, the number-one graduate-study subject was conversion, but not from a Christian or spiritual point of view. They understood the political significance that if there is a way to change a person's values, motivations, goals, and lifestyles, you have the ultimate power beyond nuclear weapons. So they wanted to know: If it's possible, how can we as a political force for the state use sudden conversion? -- Bruce Larson, "What about Sudden Conversion?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 72. PROP. SENT:      The bible teaches us that Christ desires a personal relationship with EVERYONE … and He is anxiously looking for you with an invitation to come and stay with you!

I. OBSTACLES     19:1-3

A. Great Defiance!     19:1 1. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified, only days away! On the way He chooses to pass through Jericho. However, there were two people who needed Him there and he never passes by anyone who really wants Him: a. Blind Bartimaeus whom Jesus healed. b. A CHIEF tax collector named Zacchaeus who wants to see Jesus. 2. Jericho was a priestly city … and Jesus evidently was NOT planning on stopping in Jericho … the language suggests this in the text when it says, "Jesus entered Jericho AND WAS PASSING THROUGH." (emphasis mine) a. Jesus' plans were subject to need … though he planned to just pass through he found two people who needed and wanted Him … and Jesus never passes by anyone like this! b. Jericho was not exactly friendly territory to Jesus, it was a priestly city, there were lots of Pharisees and thus a lot of legalism and outright rage at Christ's message. c. It was also a very wealthy city … and Jesus had so often spoke against the wealth of this world and touched so many of the poor and needy … not exactly the class of people who lived here. 3. Tragically, it was these kind of people who needed to change the most … but their self righteousness and self sufficiency kept them from changing. ILLUS:J. C. Penney was a man of advanced years before he committed his life fully to Jesus Christ. He had been a good man, honest, but primarily interested in becoming a success and making money. "When I worked for six dollars a week at Joslin's Dry Goods Store back in Denver," he confessed as he looked back on his life, "it was my ambition, in the sense of wealth in money, to be worth one hundred thousand dollars. When I reached that goal I felt a certain temporary satisfaction, but it soon wore off and my sights were set on becoming worth a million dollars." Mr. and Mrs. Penney worked hard to expand the business, but one day Mrs. Penney caught cold and pneumonia developed, which claimed her life. It was then that J. C. Penney realized having money was a poor substitute for the real purposes in living. "When she died," he said, "my world crashed about me. To build a business, to make a success in the eyes of men, to accumulate money--what was the purpose of life? What had money meant for my wife? I felt mocked by life, even by God Himself" After several more fiery trials, J. C. Penney was financially ruined and, naturally, in deep distress. That is when God could deal with his self-righteous nature and his love for money. After his spiritual conversion he could testify of God's working. "I had to pass through fiery ordeals before reaching glimmerings of conviction that it is not enough for men to be upright and moral. When I was brought to humility and the knowledge of dependence on God, sincerely and earnestly seeking God's aid, it was forthcoming, and a light illumined my being. I cannot otherwise describe it than to say that it changed me as a man." -- Submitted by Rev. John Fitts, Clearwater Community Church, Clearwater, Florida -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 49. 4. It is tragic that only two people in a huge city like this would find Christ … and only days before Jesus died on the cross. B. Great Difficulties     19:2-3 1. To the Jews Zacchaeus was hardly a prospect for God's love! a. His name was a joke … Zacchaeus means, "Pure" or "Innocent"!!! -- yet his own people saw him as anything but "pure." b. He was not just a tax collector, but the CHIEF tax collector. c. He was Jewish but worked for Rome … thus considered a traitor to his own people. d. He oversaw a network of thieves and traitors … the CHIEF traitor! e. His wealth came at the expense of others. f. Zacchaeus was a man of small stature, so in a big crowd he wouldn't even get to see Jesus much less meet Him. 2. He had so much going against him … except a desire to change! a. Evidently he was tired of being hated, of having wealth but no love, he was looking for something to change. b. Jesus offered a possible new approach to life, he was determined to see Jesus! c. Jesus only looks for those who WANT to change, not just what we would consider the "cream of the crop" … God is drawn to those who "hunger" for Him. ILLUS:There is not a "type" for sudden conversion. The Bible tells us that all of us have this opportunity. Consider these classic cases: Here is C.S. Lewis: militant atheist, Oxford don. The last thing he wants is to be converted. God sneaks up on him, and Lewis is "surprised by joy," and he says, "I am dragged kicking and screaming--the most reluctant convert in all the world -- into the Kingdom." Or here is John Wesley: fanatical son of a minister, a missionary to America, a great theological mind, but a total failure as a human being and a minister. One day he sits in the chapel in England, a failure as a missionary, and his "heart is strangely warmed." He becomes a great fountain for life. John Wesley becomes converted. Or … a man in his eighties who had been a vice-president for McGraw-Hill, one of the great publishing firms of our land. He was a brilliant businessman. He was a senior vestryman in the Episcopal church, on the city council in Sanibel, respected, and loved by all. One weekend, he went off to a Cursillo Movement conference with a bunch of lay people who began praying with him and talking about Jesus. This beautiful man comes home transformed and says to his neighbors and friends, "I met Jesus." "What happened to you?" He says, "I don't know. I fell in love." "He's always been a good man," his neighbors said, "but now he's a new man." You see, there's no single type that conversion happens to. Or Saint Augustine, the monk with a mistress, who is struggling with his soul, sitting under a tree, saying, "O Lord, make me pure, but not yet." One day God gets him, and Augustine becomes Saint Augustine. There's William Booth, a very unlikely, rough-cut man, who says over a hundred years ago, "Nobody in London cares about the poor, the drunks, the winos." He invented the Salvation Army. One day he said, "Lord, I give you everything there is in this man William Booth. Do with me what you will." A movement starts that changes the lives of tens and hundreds of thousands of people, because one man is suddenly converted. -- Bruce Larson, "What about Sudden Conversion?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 72. 3. Anyone trying to see Jesus won't be disappointed! a. But for those only curious or not interested He will just pass by! b. There were thousands that Jesus passed by that day, not one of them were changed by the experience, only a blind man and a chief tax collector! c. How about you, are you just part of the crowd, or looking for Jesus? II. OPPORTUNITY     19:4-7 A. Great Determination!     19:4 1. Being a hated tax collector had made Zacchaeus a resourceful man … and when he found himself unable to see Jesus he puts this talent to good use, he finds a sycamore tree … many city streets were lined with the great trees. a. They grew upwards of 30-40 feet tall but had short trunks with branches that spread out sideways, they could easily support a human being. b. Zacchaeus would not let anything stop him from seeing Jesus, not a hostile crowd that saw him as a traitor nor his physical limitations … he was a determined man to see Jesus, note here: "So he (Zacchaeus) RAN ahead … to see Him (Jesus)." (Emphasis mine) c. IF you are determined to find Jesus you will NOT be disappointed! 2. Zacchaeus placed Himself in the path of Jesus … and when you do this Jesus will not miss you! a. Zacchaeus surely believed who Christ was and he didn't want to miss him, but probably thought he wasn't good enough for Jesus to pay much attention to him. b. Certainly Zacchaeus would not have put himself in the middle of a hostile crowd and look like a fool by climbing into a sycamore tree unless there was something he longed for in this Jesus, something more than that Jesus was simply a good man. 3. Belief was so strong he would do anything to see Jesus … a. How strong is your belief, would you do anything for Jesus? ILLUS:Charlie Peace, a criminal in England, on the day he was being taken to his execution, listened to a minister reading from the Word. And when he found out he was reading about heaven and hell, he looked at the preacher and said, "Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say, and even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that." -- Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind," Preaching Today, Tape No. 118. b. Sometimes our lip service to truths are defied by our inaction towards those truths. 4. Zacchaeus would not be stopped in seeing Jesus! B. Great Day!     19:5-6 1. It is clear from the language that Jesus was aiming His walk TOWARD Zacchaeus! a. "When Jesus reached the spot …" 19:5 b. "… He (Jesus) looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, …" c. There is no doubt Jesus had tuned into Zacchaeus' heart. d. Jesus even knew his name … which must have surprised him! 2. Christ knows a single heart in a crowd of thousands! a. He can hear the quiet cry of one amid the shouts of thousands! b. There is no mistaking the cry of a hungry heart reaching out to God. 3. The power of this moment must have been amazing to Zacchaeus … he had only hoped to get a glimpse of Jesus … he never dreamed Jesus would stop to actually speak to him, much less come to his house! a. This was more than he had hoped for … God loves to do this! b. The very spoken words of Christ are powerful enough to transform a heart! ILLUS:Testing the acoustics in the vast Agricultural Hall, Spurgeon shouted, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." A worker high in the rafters of the building heard this and became converted to Christ as a result. -- "Charles Haddon Spurgeon," Christian History, no. 29. 4. The moment was here, and Zacchaeus had to decide immediately … note Jesus' words, "Zacchaeus, come down IMMEDIATELY …" a. The opportunity might not present itself again like this, we must be careful that when God's Spirit is dealing with us we don't simply brush it away. b. In only a week from this encounter Jesus would be crucified, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die. c. Time was of the essence, this was the moment. d. Jesus was not too busy to avoid going to this man's house to bring a most unlikely character salvation however. 5. It is clear that Zacchaeus understood the urgency, and the joy of this moment … Jesus knew his name! … he would not lose this opportunity, notice: 19:6 "So he came down AT ONCE and welcomed him GLADLY." (Emphasis mine) C. Godless Disgust!     19:7 1. In a town of lots of priests and Pharisees, tons of religious people … and to see Jesus ONLY stop for a visit with someone like Zacchaeus … someone they wouldn't even acknowledge or claim brotherhood with … this was too much! a. They all react predictably: "ALL the people SAW THIS and began to MUTTER, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.'" (Emphasis mine) b. God help us to be guests of sinners … to love them, to see their value as God sees their value and not just their outward stuff, to be passionate about winning them to Christ! 2. Zacchaeus could not have dreamed that Jesus would even be willing to come to his home … he knew the "proper" rules on religious purity … (remember his name means "purity"!) a. As a Jewish tax collector for the enemy Rome he was not even considered as one belonging to God's family, hence a wicked sinner … no Jew would consider visiting his home, it would pollute them! b. Zacchaeus was simply overjoyed by Jesus' willingness to accept him, this was far more than he even hoped for!!! c. God always does far more than we can hope for when we seek Him! ILLUS:It's worth noting that Jesus didn't condemn bad people. He condemned "stiff" people. We condemn the bad ones and affirm the stiff ones. Whether it was a prostitute or a tax collector or an outcast ... Jesus reached out to them. It was a motley crew of riffraff that followed Him around, and it never embarrassed Him or made Him feel uncomfortable. One of the most radical statements Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 9: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (vv. 12-13). -- Steve Brown in Key Life (Mar.-Apr. 1994). Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 9. 3. This IS God's heart … to save sinners, but only those who look for Him can He save … and so He passed through the whole crowd of self-righteous religious people without saying a word to them, but stopped in His tracks by a sycamore tree that held a short corrupt tax collector whose heart ached for Him however. a. If your heart aches for God you will not be disappointed, God will happily make a HOUSE CALL! b. God will ignore the crowds to touch the life of ONE who longs to find Him, and He will know your name! 4. This crowd's disgust was disgusting to God, the only REALLY "PURE" (Zacchaeus means "pure") one in the crowd was Zacchaeus! III. OBJECTIVE     19:8-10 A. Godly Deliverance!     19:8-9 1. The real proof of Zacchaeus' transformed heart now shows … he quickly REPENTS of his sins, publicly! a. No doubt he does this publicly out of both concern for Jesus as well as to prove his sincerity of heart … he does not wish to see Jesus hurt, and he really is sorry for his sins, enough to CHANGE! b. And this is the real issue with repentance … we cannot simply cry at an altar for Jesus to forgive us and then continue to practice those sins! 2. Zacchaeus quickly states, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give HALF of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will pay back FOUR times the amount." 19:8 a. What a contrast to another rich young man that Jesus had asked to sell his goods and give to the poor … that one went away sad and unchanged .. and lost! b. What a statement to the religious leaders in Jericho too … for this was WAY BEYOND what the law of Moses had required, note in Lev. 6:5 & Ex. 22:1 … in the case of fraud a penalty of 20% was to be added back, in the case of theft it was FOUR times the amount ... but Zacchaeus is not only willing to obey the law he admits he committed theft and not just fraud and so pays back FOUR times the amount, he was also willing to give HALF his wealth to the poor beyond the other! … this was way above the law's requirements … (1. How ironic that Zacchaeus is willing to go BEYOND the law's minimum requirements … remember the crowd he was in? -- a bunch of self righteous legalists of Moses' laws … they would not have gone this far! (2. He is not afraid to confess his sins before God or this crowd, and to change … proved by his actions! c. REAL repentance means a change of action, not just a tear stained confession. (We've seen too many of these in the past decade or so) 3. When we get saved our lives should change, in real ways! ILLUS:The American Red Cross was gathering supplies, medicine, clothing, food and the like for the suffering people of Biafra. Inside one of the boxes that showed up at the collecting depot one day was a letter. It said, "We have recently been converted and because of our conversion we want to try to help. We won't ever need these again. Can you use them for something?" Inside the box were several Ku Klux Klan sheets. The sheets were cut down to strips and eventually used to bandage the wounds of black persons in Africa. It could hardly be more dramatic -- from symbols of hatred to bandages of love because of the new creation. Nothing else matters, says Paul. -- Maxie Dunnam, Commentary on Galatians -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 51. 4. Jesus recognizes the real thing: "Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham." a. Did you catch this, "this man too, is a son of Abraham." … to the crowd Zacchaeus had been disowned as a Jew since he collected taxes for Rome … they did not consider him a 'brother' … but Jesus did! b. The man without a country or a family was IN! c. Zacchaeus was a "TRUE" son of Abraham … because "he had faith, and it was counted to him as righteousness." d. Pretty amazing stuff for Zacchaeus … the Lord considers him a TRUE JEW even though his peers didn't … he really did live up to his name now, "PURE"! 5. How has your life changed with Christ? B. God's Directive!     19:10 1. For all the "STUFF" we do as a Church, as Christians, all the good causes we support and fight for … there is ONLY one passion that God has and His Church SHOULD have … to save the lost! ILLUS:The late venerable and godly Dr. Archibald Alexander of Princeton had been a preacher of Christ for sixty years and a professor of divinity for forty. On his deathbed he was heard to say to a friend, "All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass - Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) a. IF we are not careful we can get lost in "good causes" … and FORGET the real mission of the Church … to save the lost! b. In Jesus' day they had problems with abortion, divorce, greed, corruption in politics and religion … and Jesus did speak on these issues, but His MISSION was saving the lost and not just battling social ills … because saving the lost would begin to solve the social ills, He starts with the heart first! 2. Ever noticed how BUSY God's people can be doing good things, even the Church ... but where are the lost? Are they coming in? Are they getting saved? ARE WE REACHING THEM? a. Jesus gave no other directive to His disciples when we ascended than this one: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel…" b. It's not about buildings, it's not about big staffs, it's not about programs, it's not about attendance … IT'S ABOUT MISSIONS … WINNING THE LOST! 3. Can we spot that one in the crowd, maybe the one that no one else thinks is worthy or would respond? 4. Can we take the time to stop in our busy schedule … Jesus was hurrying to get to Jerusalem in time for the feast and His appointment with the cross, He had not planned to stop in Jericho … but He found the time to stop for one tax collector, even going to his house for fellowship. a. Do you know someone RIGHT now that needs a visit, to be given the word that God loves them … but are you too busy to get to them (THEN you're TOO BUSY!) b. "For the Son of Man came to SEEK and SAVE what was lost." (Emphasis mine) c. Do we just wait for those times when it might "just happen" or do we SEEK to save the lost? 5. Ministry must be DELIBERATE, it must be DEDICATED, it must be a DIRECTIVE, it must be DECISIVE! Are we ministering, are you? CONCLUSION:    Jesus is passing by … are you really looking for Him? If you are He WILL come to your house TODAY too! There isn't an obstacle to block Jesus from touching your life … only if you are not looking for Him. Jesus can change ANYONE! Have you met Him yet?