Does faith in Jesus make a difference to my life? by Revd Amanda Denniss

Luke 19.1-10  Itchen Valley 30th October 2016

 Today we celebrate All Saints Day.  I wonder what you think of when you think of a saint?  Do you think of somebody in the distant past who lived a particularly good life?  Maybe you think of people in stained glass windows?  Possibly wearing old fashioned clothes?  Maybe you remember snippets of stories about saints from your childhood.  Actually, when we read the New Testament, we find that a saint is simply someone who has put their trust in Jesus as their Lord.

What I’d like us to look at this morning is: Does putting our faith in Jesus make any difference to our lives?  We’re going to look at the story of one man called Zacchaeus in Luke’s gospel and see that encountering Jesus made a radical difference to not only his life, but to many people in his community.

Luke tells us that Jesus was passing through the town of Jericho.  A crowd of people had gathered around Jesus.  A man called Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was.  His problem was that he was short and couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd.  Zacchaeus was a wealthy man.  He was a tax collector.  Men like Zacchaeus were unpopular.  They were known to be corrupt and to cream off part of the taxes they collected into their own pockets.  So Zacchaeus was not the sort of man that people would make room for at the front of the crowd.  Zacchaeus is not put off by this.  He doesn’t stand on ceremony, he really wants to see Jesus so he hitches up his robes and climbs a tree to get a better view.

  1. Jesus Sees Jesus sees Zacchaeus in the tree.  Jesus looks up and sees this small man and knows exactly who he is.  He knows him by name.  He knows the longings of Zacchaeus’ heart.  How Zacchaeus longs to see him.  He knows all about Zacchaeus’ life.  All his weaknesses.  All the things he’s done wrong.

Jesus is the same today.  Jesus looks and he sees us.  He knows us each by name.  He knows the longings of our heart.  Our joys.  Our pains.  He knows the things we’ve done wrong.  The brokenness in our lives and families.

The psalmist says in Psalm 33.13-15

From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling-place he watches all who live on earth –

he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do

  1. Jesus speaks Jesus sees Zacchaeus.  Jesus looks up and speaks, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus is not put off by all the things that Zacchaeus has got wrong in his life.  The corruption.  The deceit.  Jesus speaks into Zacchaeus’ heart.  Jesus can see Zacchaeus longing to meet him and to welcome him into his life and his home.

Zacchaeus responds by clambering down the tree and welcoming Jesus into his home.

In the same way that Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, he speaks to us today.  He sees us exactly as we are.  With our joys and our pains.  Our strengths and our weaknesses.  Jesus’ words are spoken into our deepest needs.  His words echo his words to Zacchaeus as he asks to be welcomed into our lives and our homes and our relationships and our workplace.

The question for us is: am I willing to welcome Jesus into every area of my life, my home, my relationships, my workplace.  Or do I keep Jesus at a distance?

We all need to consider this one carefully as when Jesus is welcomed into our lives: our lives will change.

We see this radical change in the life of Zacchaeus.

  1. Jesus saves

Jesus says to Zacchaeus, ‘Today salvation has come to your house…’

When Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus into his home he welcomed in Jesus as Lord.   Jesus comes to bring transformation and wholeness to our lives.  He begins by restoring our relationship with God our Father.  As we welcome Jesus in he offers us forgiveness for all the things that have separated us from God.  We receive this salvation as a free gift.  The gift is free for us.  The gift is costly for Jesus who bore the pain of the cross to bear the cost of our selfishness.

This gift of salvation will affect all of our lives.  As we welcome Jesus, he brings restoration to our minds, our bodies, our emotions, but also to our relationships at home and in our workplace.  This in turn will affect our communities.

We see this in Zacchaeus’ life. His life just couldn’t stay the same once he had welcomed Jesus in.  In Jesus, Zacchaeus encountered acceptance and love.  To follow Jesus would mean that his life would have purpose and meaning way beyond a desire to store up money and be wealthy.  We see the evidence of this as he stands up and boldly states ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’

Zacchaeus turns away from a life of wrongly squeezing money out of other people and promises to make generous restitution to the people that he has extorted it from.

Jesus is the same today.

  1. Jesus sees you exactly as you are. He knows you by name.  He knows the longings of your heart.  The joys.  The pains.  The hopes and fears.
  1. Jesus speaks to us as he spoke to Zacchaeus asking to be welcomed into every area of our lives.
  1. Jesus saves. As we welcome Jesus in as Lord, our lives will not stay the same.  Jesus brings transformation and wholeness to our lives and relationships and this will spill out into our communities.

I can testify to the transforming power of Jesus in my life and in the lives of so many Christians that I have known.  That is really what we celebrate on All Saints Day.

In my church in Coventry was an older lady in her late seventies.  She had been a teacher and was unmarried.  She had felt led by God to buy a small house on the estate where our church was.  When I knew her, she had started holding English classes in her home for some of the international students at Warwick University.  Many of the post grad students come over with their families and they are quite isolated as their English is so poor.  Gill, together with others from our church, taught these young students to speak English by reading the bible.  Her home became the centre of a loving and welcoming community of young people.  She was affectionately known as Grandma Gill.  Many, many people came to know Jesus through her.

On the outside she looked like a little older lady, but she has welcomed Jesus into her life and he had not only transformed her life, but through her transformed countless others.

On Thursday I spoke to a great friend of mine called Sarah.  She and her husband Edward were part of a small group of people who have moved to worship at a city centre church in Hastings.  It is a big rather dilapidated Victorian church.  There is a lot of deprivation and poverty in Hastings and wonderfully they are seeing many, many young people become Christians.  Edward has recently retired from a very successful life as a stockbroker in the City of London.  On the phone, Sarah told me that Edward has spent the last two days in overalls, taking out the grotty stained loo and basin in the basement of the church and replacing them with new ones.  Edward’s faith in Jesus is not a private thing.  It has a radical effect on the way he lives his life.

This morning I’d like to encourage all of us:

  • Jesus sees you and knows you by name
  • Jesus is speaking to each one of us
  • Jesus brings salvation and transformation as we welcome him into every area of our lives as our Lord

Is there an area of your life where Jesus is asking to come in this morning?

 

 

 

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