Friday, April 19, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

Text Size



I want to come into your home
Sermon by Jan Fluit
 
 
 
I would like to read a passage with you from Luke chapter nineteen, verses one to ten.
 
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner”. 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 any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
 
This is a well-known story, which most of you have heard before.
A story we can learn at lot from.  That is what is so wonderful about the stories in the Bible. There is so much we can learn from them, and what we learn, we can put into practice in our daily life.
 
What is the first thing that comes to mind, when you hear the name Zacchaeus? A corrupt tax collector? A little man who climbed into a tree? His yearning for material things, or the good things he did?
We all form our own personal idea about people from what we have heard about them. We form an opinion of them in our minds. Sometimes it is positive, and sometimes it’s not. And the opinion we have formed can be influenced by all sorts of circumstances. But it is still a personal opinion, and isn’t necessarily correct.
 
That was the case with Zacchaeus. People who had dealings with him were very negative in their opinions of him. He had a very bad reputation. His name was synonymous to fraud and deception. But do you know what his name actually means? The meaning of his name is: innocent and pure.
 
Well that’s just what he wasn’t according to all the people who knew him, but to Jesus he was. And so we see that there is an enormous difference between the way most people see Zacchaeus, and howJesus sees him.
So does Jesus overlook all the wrong things? No, not at all, but he does have a unique way of approaching people. Instead of looking at what someone does, or has done in the past, he looks at the heart of the person, at what sort of person he is. He looks at us through eyes that are not biased, and wants so much for us to learn to do the same.
No matter how much may have gone wrong in your life, Jesus doesn’t judge, but looks at people out of the pureness of his heart, in the hope that his loving andcaring attitude will change the hearts of those who do not yet have that pureness of heart……. just like it did with Zacchaeus.
 
Let’s have a look at the story. It says that Zacchaeus was small. Well, you can be literally small, small in stature, but you can also be figuratively small, small in the way you act. A person can be big in the literal sense of the word, or big by doing good, and helping others, or by achieving something. In the same way, someone can be figuratively small because of his negative behaviour, hislow self esteem, or because he has been rejected.
 
Zacchaeus was in fact very small and very rich. Because although he had a lot of money, he had nothing else. No real friends, maybe some so-called friends who were more interested in his money than actual friendship. But you can’t buy real friendship.
So actually he had nothing at all. He was extremely lonely, and he felt small and unimportant, which is how other people saw him too.
 
Well, it seems that everyone wants to be big and important, to BE something. And you can become so engrossed in trying to achieve this, that you lose sight of everything else.  Sometimes people want be rich and spend all their time end energy on accumulating a lot of money. Sometimes they want to be popular, or just for others to think they are important.
 
And so people spend all their time trying to achieve their goal,  because they think it will bring happiness. And it is even stimulated in today’s society, because it is generally accepted that you CAN buy friendship and happiness. But in fact what actually happens, is that you LOSE the friendship and happiness that you want so much.
 
This story doesn’t tell us exactly how Zacchaeus got to be in the situation he was. But I often wonder, how can someone become so engrossed in things that really don’t matter at all.
 
Maybe you can apply this to your own situation. Do you sometimes spend far too much time on things that aren’t really important? Do you spend too much time on things of which Jesus teaches us not to.  Do not focus your hope and attention on irrelevant things; don’t waste your time on them (Matthew 6 verse 19).
Some things seem to demand all your time and attention, but once you give them your attention, where do they get you? Are they really as important as they seem?
 
If you do let yourself be drawn in by these unimportant things, to the extent that they take up all your time, then gradually you change. You lose part of your identity, part of yourself, of your happiness and peace. And people sometimes become so engrossed in something, that it takes over their whole life. But justhow importantare these things really?
 
They may even be nice things, and there’s nothing wrong with that in itself. But if something serious happens, then suddenly they don’t seem to be important after all, and are forgotten just like that. While, just before, they were so important that they took up all your time.
 
Zacchaeus was small, and because he was small, in his eyes other people were big, and they got in his way. Because he was small he couldn’t see Jesus over the crowd.
 
Maybe you too find yourselves hidden by the crowd, because you feel very small or unimportant.
The other person is important, he can do things well, he is intelligent and knows a lot, while you don’t and are not so successful.
 
In this way you can have a whole crowd of people, or a whole crowd of thoughts, that keep you from seeing the real truth.
They keep you from being able to see the real Jesus. So many things have been said about Jesus,  and  about the Father. So many wrong things, and they can blur your vision on the love and warmth of Jesus and the Father.
 
Recently I was talking to a very lonely man. He often feels depressed, and stays at home a lot. He has no self esteem at all. He told me that he sometimes thought about ending his life.
Because, he said, what is life worth? Absolutely nothing! Take a look around you. What a hopeless world.  People don’t care about each other any more. And because I am what I am, and feel as I do, people have written me off. They have stopped caring about me. The only thing I enjoyed doing was working in the garden, growing flowers and vegetables. But what’s the use of that? I might just as well buy the vegetables, then I won’t have all the bother of growing them myself.These thoughts demand all his attention, and his pleasure in life is lost.
But, he says, then I stop listening to these negative thoughts, and I make myself get up and go back into the garden and start working there, and then I come back to life.
 
He also told me that he reads a lot, also about God, in lots of  different books. And just lately he had read about people saying that all things come from God. That God created good and evil. It all comes from God, and it all has a purpose. And, he said, more and more people agree about this.
 
So I said, Well I absolutely disagree. If there is one thing that I do not agree about, then it is that ! I told him, it is written very clearly in the Bible in James chapter three verse eleven, “can good water and bad water come from one spring? Of course not.”
It is either good water or bad water, but not both.
 
What’s more, I couldn’t live with a God like that, I really couldn’t.
A God who is continually changing his mind about things.
A God who not only created good things, but also bad. If that were the case, then He wouldn’t be trustworthy. How can He create something, and then tell you not to have anything to do with what He has created because it is not good. How can he tell you not to eat a fruit, and then change his mind and say you can eat if after all. How do you know when he means what he says, and when he doesn’t?
If I were to get cross and swear a lot in front of my child all the time, and then when he did the same I would punish him because of it, then I would be making my child very unsure of himself. He would never know what reaction to expect from me. He wouldn’t know when he is doing the right thing and when he is not. He wouldn’t know the difference between good and bad. So how can you have a God who advises you not to do certain things, and who helps you not to do them, because they are bad, but who has created them himself???
 
I think it is such a shame that people no longer know what God is really like. They have so much contradictory information about God that they don’t know what’s right and what’s not. And then they begin to doubt, and wonder: “what good is a God like that to me?’’  And that makes you begin to doubt yourself as well. Because you are made in his image.
 
I have picked a rose that was growing in the garden to use as an example. It was a beautiful red rose. Just imagine that someone gives the rose to you as a present. And you tell them that you are going to throw the rose away because it is not beautiful at all. And that is because the plant has been damaged by insects. Then the person who is giving the rose says, “That’s strange. Instead of getting rid of the insects who have damaged the rose, you get rid of the rose itself.
Why don’t you get rid of whatever it is that is damaging the rose, then you will be left with a pure flower, in all its beauty.“
 
Youare the rose. You are a wonderful person. Sometimes you lose sight of that fact. Then there are so many problems, so many things that are damaging you, that you lose sight of your real self, the way God sees you.  So it is good for youtoo to meet Jesus, who will help and support you, so that you can get rid of the bad things in your life and find your real self again. That’s why it is so important to have a correct image of God, to know what He is really like.
 
And that is what Zacchaeus wants too, he wants to see Jesus. Why does he want that? Well, he has heard all the wonderful stories about Jesus. Jesus is different, really different to anyone else. But he wants more than just to hear about Jesus, he wants tosee him for himself. And it is a good thing for us to make that decision too.
 
Not just to hear all about Jesus, but to see Him for ourselves, to meet Him personally, so that you are not like the man in the garden who hears all sorts of different opinions of what other people think Jesus and God are like, but so that you hear from God personally who He is and what He wants.
 
 
In order to see Jesus Zacchaeus doesn’t just sit around and wait, hoping that Jesus will come up to him. No, he goes in search of a place where he will be able see Jesus, despite his being so small. He climbs into a fig tree.
 
That, by the way, is a wonderful illustration in itself. The characteristic of a fig tree is that there are fruits in it for the present, butalso for the future. It is not an image of a temporary fruit, but of apermanent one, a fruit for the present and for the future. That’s why this illustration is so special.
 
And so Zacchaeus climbs as it were out of his barren, lonely and unfruitful existence into a fruitful existence, full of life and with a future. A fig is also full of seeds, full of hope. Zacchaeus is going to see Jesus and talk to Him; there is so much promise in that. Through His words and love Jesus brings healing to the people, a permanent fruit. Zacchaeus took a step towards healing and restoration without even realising it at the time.
 
He probably chose that particular place so that he wouldn’t be seen.  He didn’t want to be seen, because he knew the people didn’t want to associate with him anyway. Because, despite all his riches, he knew that nobody liked him.
 
Sometimes people are convinced that no one loves them, or accepts them. And often it’s not at all true, but the idea that they are worthless has got its hold on them. That happened to me too, you know. For a long time I used to think that almostno one cared about me. And then you start to act as if it doesn’t matter. What do I care -  that sort of thing.  That’s a lie in itself, because the very fact that you even think like that, just shows how much you do care, because otherwise it wouldn’t hurt so much. But you say it, because you feel so lonely, and broken, and you pretend it doesn’t matter.
 
And then Jesus comes along, on his way somewhere. And hecould have thought, I’m on my way to an appointment with someone else, so I haven’t got any time for you Zacchaeus. But He doesn’t. Jesus stops and looks up. He stops whatever it was he was doing, and gives Zacchaeus his full attention. And the crowd of people, who all wanted to see Jesus, and all wanted to speak to him and be healed by Him, they all had to wait. At that moment Zacchaeus is the most important person to Jesus.
Nobody else had time for him, but Jesus did. He says to Zacchaeus: “Come down quickly from the tree!”  
 
Jesus wanted to bridge the distance between them. He doesn’t just want to see Zacchaeus, he wants to be able to talk to him. Come quickly. In other words, It has lasted long enough, all the loneliness and rejection. All the lies and deceit and low self esteem.
 
Jesus could have made himself extremely popular by exposing Zacchaeus as a liar and a cheat. The people would have enjoyed seeing him confronted and humiliated. People join in readily with negative talk and criticism about someone else. And Zacchaeus was a thief, and he had stolen money from people. So it would have been good for him to have been admonished and judged in public. Jesus should have told him what he thought of him there and then!
 
Well, actually, that’s exactly what hedid do. But it was a completely different truth. It wasn’t a truth that brought judgment for Zacchaeus, nor one that brought popularity to Jesus. It was a truth that sets you free.
 
He does that by saying: “I want to stay at your house today”. I want to go home with you, and spend some time with you. And that was exactly what nobody else wanted to do. Nobody felt at home with him.
 
The crowd don’t like it. They say: He has gone into the home of a sinner. He just leaves us here, and goes home with a sinner.
It had been said before, that if Jesus were a real prophet then he would know what wrong a person had done. He would see a person for what he is. And so I find it very interesting that a real prophet doesn’t think like that. A real prophet looks at people in just the same way that God does.
 
And Jesus looks at Zacchaeus, looks at his heart, and he sees that this man’s identity, his name, is innocenceand purity. And he also sees that he has lost it, “but I am going to give it back to him”, he vows.  Not by going into his home and telling him off for all the things he has done wrong. Zacchaeus is well aware of that himself.  Jesus wants to go into his home so that he can show him love, and care, and attention.
 
I think it’s wonderful that Jesus didn’t have to say: “Now Zacchaeus, I want you to give away half of your possessions, and give back in four fold what you have stolen from the people. That is the least you can do.” Jesus didn’t have to say this, because the idea came from Zacchaeus himself.  All of a sudden Zacchaeus wanted to put things right. And that’s just how things work when you are shown friendship and love, affection and trust. It brings out all the good in a person, and the desire to do good.
 
 
If you get what you deserve, then you get God’s love, because everybody deserves God’s love. And when you experience that love, that is when you, like Zacchaeus, are able to start doing things differently. To make different choices. To do the right thing.
 
The money that he had thought to be so important, hadn’t made him happy, and he wasn’t interested in it any more.
What did all that money matter, it hadn’t made him happy. The problem was that his yearning for riches had blinded him to everything else.
.
But when someone shows you love and affection, everything else becomes clear again. When they forgive your wrong doings, and want to be with you in your home, and in your life, and meet you as equals, that is very special. Here is someone who doesn’t belittle you, and doesn’t try to show you how much better he is than you are. No;  here is someone who, by his actions, says to you, ”I want to be your brother, will you be mine?”
 
I think that Jesus said something like this to Zacchaeus: “Won’t you start to love me, because I love you so much.  Your life was barren, but through me you have access to a fountain of life.
I am so glad that I can finally meet you.”
 
So it was not just that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but Jesus saw Zacchaeus. And as a result of that, as a result of their meeting, everything that is wrong in the life of Zacchaeus is sorted out and done away with. Isn’t that wonderful?!
 
That’s why I believe in deliverance that works like this. Deliverance is not a violent act. It simply means being set free from the satan and from his lies and slander. And this is possible, James says, if you ”look into the perfect law, the law of liberty”. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His victory over death in His resurrection, gives us this liberty, because it sets us free from satan.  
 
There is so much potential here, so much life and hope, and it makes you strong, and gives you back your self-esteem. Satan would love to have kept Zacchaeus and us feeling small, but that won’t happen if Jesus is with you. Because He speaks with authority. He doesn’t doubt, but refutes all the arguments that satan comes up with to keep us feeling small, because Jesus is the living proof of love. He shows us his love, in so many ways, and in that way he ties satan’s hands.
 
I think it’s wonderful that we also have that right. I also have the right to tie satan’s hands. Not only for myself, but also for others. And I don’t do that by getting angry. James says in verse 20, “for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God”.  
I limit satan’s power by loving,  just as the Father does. Loving myself, by not feeling small, and loving others by respecting and helping them
.
It is so wonderful, to learn to love others like that. So was it easy to do? No, not easy. In order for us to have this free life, Jesus had to make the biggest sacrifice ever. But he did it. He endured to the end and conquered satan.
 
From what we have heard about Zacchaeus you probably wouldn’t expect him to change overnight.  After all he had been like this for years, so it will probably take him a while before he changes his mind about things and begins to think differently. But it doesn’t. He changes very quickly. How? Why? Well, he totally accepted what Jesus said, how He believed in him, and how He loved him. Wonderful.
 
Then Jesus explains what happened here. He says: “Today salvation has come to this house”. Zacchaeus has been freed from all the negative and belittling thoughts, and from all the accusations of satan. And the truths that Jesus utters, are always stronger than the lies of satan. Jesus is stronger. And if you can accept that, then you can draw the life and spirit of God,  the truth of God, into your life.
Jesus also says in Mark, in the passage about Zacchaeus: “since he is also a son of Abraham”. Why should he say that? Because of his faith. He doesn’t mean that Zacchaeus now belonged to God’s chosen people, because Zacchaeus was already a Jew. He didn’t become one here. But hedid believe what Jesus said to him, just as Abraham believed what God said to him, and that proved to be his salvation.  He believed against all odds, just as Abraham did, despite the opposition and oppression.
 
His salvation came because he took Jesus at His word, and felt his love and power. He didn’t let himself be disheartened by the thought that soon Jesus would be gone and he would still be there in the village. He didn’t say “Nobody will believe that I have changed, or they will probably say ‘once a thief always a thief. Well they will, won’t they. And then I’ll have to deal with them all on my own.“
 
No, he believed and accepted everything Jesus said about him, and what the Father thought about him, and that gave him new life. That is salvation, because this man now has a different goal in life, a different sort of wealth, one that can’t be damaged, and Jesus is the guarantee.
 
So how do we treat the Zacchaeusses around us. People of whom you think:  they are a nuisance, or they have cheated me, and they have treated me unfairly.
Well, it is a challenge and a privilege to learn to treat them as Jesus would. To learn to think from his truth, purity and integrity, and to remember how beautiful a person can be, and in fact is, deep down. We can learn to be a representative of Jesus in the way we treat other people, by what we say and what we do.
 
So it is good to remember that we all need the same thing. That is simply, the love of the Lord, who loves you unconditionally. We are learning about that together. And sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is hard. So it is good to know that the Lord will helps us, and that we can help each other, so that more and more we can learn tothink and see ashe does.
 
There is a hymn that says there is hope for the hopeless, and rest for the restless, and life for those who have lost it. And it is our privilege to tell people about this, and let God’s love shine through us.
 
I think it’s wonderful that we are able to see as the Lord does. He always looks on the bright side. He sees only wonderful people, a good future, and lots of opportunities for your life. And we can do that too.
 
And don’t go and say, oh, but we haven’t got as far as that yet. Wehave. We have reached the stage in our exciting voyage of discovery that we can see how good the Father is, and the wonderful plans He has, and how we can help him carry them out.
 
So enjoy life. Put an end to pain and sorrow and belittling, and rejection of yourself and others, and start living a real life, as God meant it to be.  What a privilege that is. Let’s do it together.
 
 
 
 
Let us pray:
 
Lord, we feel at home with you, just as You feel at home with the Father. It is wonderful to live together in this way, to meet you and to hear you speak to us. Thank you for the fellowship we have, which is becoming profounder and stronger, so that we can become a whole person again, living as you had always meant us to. Thank you for the freedom and relaxed way of life this enables us to have.
 
Lord we bless each other with peace and strength and life.
Thank you Lord, You give us all we need, and more.
Thank you for the wonderful life that you offer us, in all its beauty and purity. We say yes to this life from the bottom of our hearts, because it gives us true life and happiness, perspective and a wonderful future.  Thank you Lord that you are always there for us.            
 
Amen