So, things haven’t gone the way you planned. A dream has died. Life has thrown you a curveball. You’ve hit a wall, and the hope has started to fade. Sometimes we fail to remember when the possibilities were endless. Sometimes it’s hard to think back to when it all started. Sometimes we forget to remind ourselves that the sun bursts through the darkness each and every morning.
What if there was a way to bring what was dead back to life? What if the resurrection power of Jesus Christ still exists in us? Is our God truly a God of redemption? Is it possible that He can make all things new? Not just once a year, not just when things are bad, but every single day? Maybe God really can provide new mercies, new compassions. Do you believe in new beginnings?
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re starting a new series today called “New Beginnings,” and I think all of us, if we’re honest – and I think most people at 10:15 are pretty honest people – would say that there are areas in our lives where we would like to have a new beginning. I think that’s universal. It may be different things for different people, but I think we all would agree that, “Hey, if I could really have a new beginning in some areas in my life, I would take it.”
It reminds me of a story of a lady that had the opportunity for a new beginning. She was in her latter 50’s, and she had a really massive heart attack. Of course, she didn’t realize that she’d had a heart attack. She was unconscious. But, on her way to the hospital as they were trying to revive her, she had a vision with the Lord. She heard the Lord speak to her, and He said, “Listen, I want you to know something. You’re currently suffering a heart attack and I’m going to perform a miracle. I’m going to use the doctors and modern medicine, but you’re going to live. You really wouldn’t live if it weren’t for me getting involved. It’s going to be a miracle. I’m going to give you at least 15 more years in your life when you come to, and I want you to know that.”
And she’s like, “Oh, this is awesome,” and she knows she’s hearing from God. Well, she wakes up. When she wakes up, she’s in the hospital and she’s attached to a bunch of stuff. She realizes that she’s had some surgery, and it’s not long after she comes to and realizes where she’s at that the doctor comes in. The doctor says to her, “It’s a miracle that you’re alive. You should’ve died, but you’re alive.”
And she’s like, “I know. I had a vision. The Lord told me that I was going to live and I’m going to have at least 15 more years.”
The doctor thinks, “Whatever,” and says, “I’m just glad you’re alive.”
She’s like, “But, I know!”
This is a lady whose well-to-do, and her husband passed away several years before. She’s thinking, “Man, if I’ve got 15+ years left, I might have a chance at maybe some new romance. So, she, as a woman of means, finds the best plastic surgeon in town to do some work. She does a lot of work. When she’s done healing up, she puts on the nicest outfit that she’s got. She’s going to go out on the town. She’s got 15+ years. She’s looking for romance and a new beginning in life. As she crosses the street, she gets hit by a Greyhound bus and she dies.
All of a sudden, she’s in heaven. She’s like, “God, what’s up? You healed me and You told me that I would have 15+ years. It was a new beginning. I got plastic surgery and all of this stuff.”
He’s like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t notice you. I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t recognize you.”
Anyway, let’s talk about new beginnings. Okay? What are we talking about when we’re talking about new beginnings in life and so on and so forth? You know, a lot of us, when we think of these terms – if I were to get a microphone and say, “What does a new beginning in life mean,” we really would get a bunch of different answers. There’s no question about that. And is new better? New’s not old, but is new better? You don’t have to raise your hand, but I know I’ve gotten new things in my life that, when I look back on it, the new wasn’t better. I should’ve never got that new thing.
So, is new always better? What does it mean to have a new beginning? What’s a beginning? Is a beginning a continuation of the things that have been going on or is it really a new beginning in life? What does it mean to truly live? We hear people all the tie that say, “I’m alive, but I’m not really living.”
Could a new beginning in your life be a possibility? Is it possible that you could truly have a new beginning in your life that truly gave you abundant life like Jesus says in John 10:10, that He’s come to give us life and life more abundantly? Is that a possibility? Because, a lot of people go, “You know, I’m not really sure. There’s a lot of water under the bridge, Chip. There’s things that I’ve done. Some of the situations that I’m in, relationships and all of this, I’m not quite sure that there could be a new beginning.”
So, what I want to do is this: I want to talk to you over the next four weeks, and I want, at some point over the next four weeks as we just dialogue about new beginnings, we talk about it and we’re real, honest and we share, I’m hoping that somewhere, whether it’s 10 minutes into the message today, whether it’s at the end of this message or what’re it’s three weeks from now, I’m hoping at some point that everybody here at Grace and every service of Grace, people who watch vie the internet and the mobile app, we’ll all realize that you can have a new beginning no matter where you’re at in life. You really can have a new beginning.
And I put “you” there not because I was trying to say “you” like I’m speaking at you or whatever. I did that so we could personalize it. I could say “we,” because I’m in this thing as well. But that we as people, that you in your seat, could truly have a new beginning no matter where you’re at in life. For many of us, that would be awesome, because some of us have struggling relationships. Some of us have problems with dads, moms or kids. Or we’ve got problems at work. Or we’ve got health issues or finance issues. There’s a myriad of things that we could all sit and share and say, “Man, if I could have a new beginning in this area of my life, it would be awesome.”
So, what I want to do over the next four weeks is take some unlikely biblical passages of people that you would go, “Man, there’s no way that day that person would’ve thought that they would’ve had a new beginning. They are an unlikely person for a new beginning.”
The reason I want to do that is because I want us to see that these stories that Jesus did in people’s lives can also happen for you and me. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about a very unlikely person that had a major, major new beginning in his life. And, if you grew up in church, you probably remember this song: “A wee little man was he.”
You might have remembered that. This guy’s name is Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector. Tax collectors, if you remember, because you’ve heard me talk about them before, weren’t liked at all. The way they made their money was basically by exploiting people. So, they were not liked at all, and this guy was a chief tax collector. So, he would’ve been hated in his town. And yet, one day, he has an interaction with Jesus that completely changes his life, and a new beginning happens.
So, we want to look at that. I think it’s going to be fun to go through that passage. And then what we’ll do is we’ll move into some application for you and me today. But to get there we’ve got to understand a little bit about what Luke does. Luke is a beautiful Gospel. I mean, if there’s one thing I hope that you all learn here at Grace, it’s that, man, the Bible is really an awesome book. And I really hope that, at some level, I inspire you to want to read that book and to get into that book, because I just really believe reading God’s Word can change your life. I mean, I just think these stories are just incredible. I mean, they’re just more than stories. They’re God-breathed stuff.
So, as we look at Luke and the way he writes, because he writes different than Mark, and Matthew. Then, of course, you get to John and you’re like, “What happened to him?”
But, the deal is that Luke starts off and he is immediately showing you and me that God is doing something different. The way we normally intuit things are different, because Zachariah goes into the temple, the angel visits him and tells him some things, and he doesn’t believe. You’d be thinking, “A priest would believe.” But yet, when the angels visit this poor little Galilean peasant named Mary, she believes. So, we’re immediately caught, when we open up the Gospel of Luke, with this juxtaposition of the people that you think are one way are really not, and a woman? I mean, that would never be. A peasant girl? A priest? You think he would be the one. I mean, you’d think the pastor would be the one that believed, and he wasn’t.
It was the young, little girl. So, we’re immediately confronted with these changes that are going on. And when John the Baptist comes on the scene, he’s saying, “You need to repent, change your ways and take a different course,” and they’re like, “Well, how do we do that?”
He’s like, “Well, you know, if you’ve got something, you need to give to other people.”
There’s this transaction that’s going on in people’s lives that are meeting Jesus where it’s not just affecting them, but it’s also effecting others. Then Jesus comes on the scene in Luke 4 at the synagogue, and He preaches this messages that everybody’s like, “Whoa,” out of Isaiah. He says, “Listen: I’ve come to preach the good news to the poor and I’ve come to open the eyes of the blind and I’ve come to set captives that are in prison free and proclaim the great, favorable year of the Lord.”
And everybody’s like, “Whoa, man. That’s like the Year of Jubilee.”
We don’t do that anymore. That’s when people get released of their debts and all of this stuff. I mean, major, major stuff. And then Luke starts giving us all these stories that are just really making us question how life is, who’s in and who’s not, and all these great stories that we get. You know? The Prodigal Son. That’s a great story. The Good Samaritan. That’s a great story. These are stories in Luke that Luke is telling us. All these parables of lost things and different stuff. And then we come to The Rich, Young Ruler. The rich, young ruler is this good man. He’s keeping the law. He would look like he’s the one that’s good, yet he has an encounter with Jesus and Jesus says, “You know, if you really want to get right, sell everything you’ve got and go give it to the poor.”
And he’s like, “I can’t do that. I can’t lay that down. I want what is for me.”
Then, as Jesus is walking towards Jericho – and, back in those days when you would come towards a city, people would go out and meet you and then they would bring you back to the city. They’d gone out to meet Jesus and, as He’s walking along, there’s a blind man that can’t see Jesus. And he’s determined to get to Jesus and he yells and hollers. Jesus comes and heals him, and then Jesus is on His way through Jericho. We’re going to pick this story up here in Luke 19, and I think we’re going to enjoy what we see here. Maybe, for some of you, you’ll see it in a little bit of a different way. I’m hoping that the story will speak to you, because it really is a new beginning.
So, in Luke 19, it says, “He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through.”
Now, when you read that, a lot of times people have read the story and so they know the story and we don’t really stop sometimes and look at what Luke is really saying. Luke is really condensing a larger story into a few verses. So, there’s some sequence here, and we’re getting sort of snapshots of things as we go through, because Luke’s wanting us to realize what Jesus has done here and what’s going on.
So, He enters Jericho. Now, if you’re really a good biblical student, you would know that if you’re reading the Old Testament in Greek, Joshua’s name is Jesus. The Greek transliteration of Joshua is Jesus. So, Jesus is to Joshua. Joshua; Jesus. You would understand, man, here’s Jesus, Joshua. He’s coming into Jericho. And, if you remember the story, when Joshua came to Jericho, they marched around and the walls fell. Is it possible that the greater Joshua is coming through Jericho or there’s some more walls that are going to fall down? What’s going on? I mean, he didn’t have to mention Jericho. He didn’t have to tell the story. There’s something going on here.
And He was passing through. That’s an important line. The important line is He wasn’t planning on staying as far as the crowd is understanding what’s going on. They see Jesus is passing through. He didn’t say, “I’m going to stop for a night. I’m going to hang out. I’m going to stay at somebody’s house.”
The crowd that’s following Jesus, that’s met Him outside of the city, is going through and realizes He’s passing through. He’s not staying. He’s not there to hang out. But, invariably, because of the culture – and, you know, Kenneth Bailey is a great, great, great scholar. I would encourage you. He’s got “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes,” “Paul Through Middle-Eastern Eyes.” It will really change the way you read Scripture. It gives you a really great culture and understanding of what’s going on during that time.
Kenneth Bailey makes the comment that as Jesus was passing through Jericho, there would’ve been tons of people that would’ve said, “Hey, stay at my house. Rabbi, please. Let me honor you. Stay at my house.”
And as Jesus is going through Jericho, it’s not like one or two people would’ve done that. There would’ve been several people, and they would’ve been good people. They would’ve been people that were like seriously followers of Yahweh, because they knew that Jesus was a teacher and He was a rabbi. They would’ve said, “Jesus, stay.”
He’s like, “You know what? I’m passing through,” and they would’ve been disappointed, because they would’ve wanted Him to stay at their house. So, He’s going through Jericho. He’s passing through.
And then the next verse says, “And behold,”
Now, listen: When you get a “behold” in Scripture, you just need to stop. Do this for me when you read Scripture. Sometimes it’s good to read it out loud. If you’re reading it and it says, “And behold,” stop there even though you’re reading it in your head. Just stop and go, “And behold!”
That’s what I want you to do. Okay? Do that, because it’ll arrest your attention here that the next thing that’s happening, I need to see.
“And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.”
Wow, this is pregnant. Because, see, Jesus has just had a conversation with a rich, young ruler. The word “archi” is the Greek word. You don’t need to know that, but chief and ruler are the same word, okay? It’s beautiful. You’ve got a rich, young ruler who is righteous. He’s a good dude, but he’s rich and he can’t give it up. Now we’ve got Zacchaeus who’s a ruler; chief. He’s rich, but he’s scum. But, his name, Zacchaeus, means “righteous.”
Really cool stuff going on here. That’s why it says, “Behold. Stop here and listen for a second. Behold.”
So, what’s great here is, if you’ve read Luke all the way through, you know a couple of things. You know that Jesus hangs out with tax collectors, because Jesus does that. He’s turning things upside down. But, this guy’s a chief tax collector, so he’s like really – there’s the bad dudes, and he’s like the mob dude over everything. You know? He’s like The Godfather. He’s like, “Hey, take that guy out.”
You know? He’s one of those guys, okay? He’s the chief tax collector. So, it’s like, “Okay, what’s going to go on?”
And he’s rich. This is interesting. In Luke, nobody who’s rich up to this point has had a good ending with Jesus. So, this is pregnant. I mean, you’re going, “Which one’s going to give? Is it going to be the chief tax collector? Is Jesus going to find a way to really meet him where he is? Are his riches going to keep him from Jesus? What’s going to go on?”
That’s why it says, “Behold,” because you want to see what’s going on here. So, we get this idea and we know what’s going on.
It says, “And he was seeking...” – that’s important. Put that in your back pocket. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
“And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he couldn’t, because he was small in stature.”
The Greek word here is “shrimp.” He was a shrimp. No. It’s not. I’m just trying to keep you awake here. Okay? He was small in stature. He was like Pastor Chip. He’s small. Okay? He couldn’t see over the crowd. He wouldn’t have gone in through the crowd. What’s interesting is is the rich, young ruler could have walked into the crowd and, in the Ancient Near East, the crowd would have parted because this was a man of dignity, and they would’ve allowed him to go through. That’s probably why he got to Jesus and had that one-on-one conversation.
Zacchaeus, though, was hated. Probably the most hated guy in Jericho. In the crowd, if he would’ve gone into the crowd, they could’ve beat him up, they could’ve knifed him, they could’ve done anything and just left him along. They would’ve moved on and nobody would’ve known what happened. So, he’s not going to get into the crowd, and he’s too small to see over it. So, all of a sudden, we’re left with, “What’s he going to do? What’s going on?”
Sort of like those passages, you know? Like the paralytic people. They come up to the crowd. The crowd’s around the house. What do they do? Well, they dig through the roof. “Is this guy going to dig through the roof? What’s he going to do? How’s he going to act? Is he resourceful?”
Well, we know he’s resourceful. He wouldn’t be the chief tax collector if he wasn’t resourceful. So, what does he do? Well, it says that he ran on ahead. You didn’t run back then. So, he didn’t care about his dignity at this point. He probably didn’t care about his dignity that much at all, anyway, being a chief tax collector.
“So, he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus, for he was about to pass that way.”
Now, this is interesting. Sycamore trees, because of the way they were and the way the branches were and the leaves, big leaves – you could hide up in a sycamore tree. We find in the Mishnah and tons of Jewish writings that sycamore trees, they would cut all of the branches down inside of a city so that the tree wasn’t in the city. Because, the way they looked at it was, according to their laws, if I was under the sycamore tree doing something bad and you were under the sycamore tree just sort of hanging out – because these things are a big ol’ tree – you were guilty of the same thing I was doing, because it was like a tent. It was like we were guilty of the same thing.
So, what they would do is they’d cut everything up. We find in all of the extent stuff that we have, sycamore trees, they wouldn’t plant them in cities. They cut the branches down, took all the leaves off and everything. What they would do is they would plant them outside of the city. They needed to be somewhere between 75-100 feet outside of the city. So, this is incredible. What we’ve got here is he’s running on ahead. He realizes, “I can’t get in the crowd. I can’t see Jesus. What I’m going to do is I’m going to run on ahead, I’m going to go outside of the city, climb up into a tree,” – probably so that Jesus can’t see him – “and I’m going to wait because I know how He’s going to exit the city. Maybe when He exits the city the crowd will have dissipated and I can get a look at Jesus as He comes by, and then Jesus continues to walk out.”
What we don’t know is did the crowd continue to follow Jesus outside of the city? Probably so, but we don’t know that for sure. But, it’s really not that important. It would help to know because it would help us in interpreting this passage better. But, what we do know is Zacchaeus is out there waiting to see Jesus, probably being hid behind the leaves and all of those great things, and he’s looking because he knows Jesus is going to come out.
Well, it says, “When Jesus came to the place,” – when He came to where Zacchaeus was – “he looked up and he said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’”
Now, this is radical. If the crowd has continued to follow Jesus out of Jericho, people would have been in front of Him and behind Him. There may have been people in the crowd that spotted Zacchaeus and started hurling insults at him and telling him how bad he was. And then, when Jesus walks up, he takes on all the shame and the guilt of Zacchaeus by saying, “Come on down, dude. I’m going to stay at your house today.”
Now, whether the crowd’s there or not, we don’t know. If the crowd wasn’t there, this is still incredible. Because, remember, Luke tells us He was passing through, which means He would have declined the invites to people’s houses. But, with Zacchaeus, He looks up and He says, “I want you to come down. I must stay at your house today.”
We can’t even begin to understand how radical that is, because you didn’t ask someone to stay in their house in the first century. They asked you to stay in a house. This is breaking all protocol and everything with the rules of hospitality, and it is giving such an honor to a chief tax collector. Jesus calls his name out and says, “I want to honor you today, Zacchaeus. I want to come hang out in your house.”
Think about that for a minute. What if Jesus is calling your name today and saying, “I want to come hang out with you at your house?”
You say, “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done.”
You don’t know what Zacchaeus had done, and Jesus looks at him and says, “I want to honor you.”
Well, what’s his response? How does he respond? Well, he responds exactly the way you would think that he responds. He says, “Zacchaeus, get down here. We’ve got to go to your house, dude. We’re going to hang out together.”
It says, “So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyfully.”
The word “joyfully” there, the root word is the word that we have for grace. What he’s saying is, man, he has been given so much grace that he flies down that tree. He’s like, “Yes. This is awesome. Man, I can’t believe that You would come hang out in my house.”
Because, by Jesus hanging out in his house, it would make him ritually unclean. It would make Jesus unclean. So, maybe they’re coming back into the town. Maybe the crowd’s out there. We don’t really know for sure. But, we do know at some point the crowd realizes what’s going on, because here’s what happens:
It says, “When they [they crowd] saw it, they all grumbled,”
They were good church people. Right?
“Don’t hang out with that person. Why in the world would you give that person honor?”
I love Jesus. He doesn’t condone what Zacchaeus has done and he doesn’t ostracize him for what he’s done. He just simply loves him. Man, I’m going to stop for a second. That was better preaching than you all were letting on. I want you to think about that for a second. Think about that for a second. He didn’t condone what he did and he didn’t ostracize him. He simply loved him. Man. Can you imagine if we did that as a church? Man, we’d change the world. Wouldn’t we?
Anyway, “When they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
“What’s wrong with this guy?”
You’d think by now that everybody would’ve known that’s how Jesus rolled, right? You’d think that, but no, no, no. They’re like, “He’s gone into the house of a sinner. This guy’s like the worst guy in Jericho. Did you ask Him to stay at your house?”
“Did you ask Him?”
“And we’re good people. Right?”
“And He’s going to go stay with the scum? That’s where He’s going to go?”
And they grumbled. They just grumbled. And then we probably, to do a little fast forward here, have a dinner situation. As they’re eating, because they’ve seen that He’s gone into the house to be a guest, he stands. That’s pretty interesting, too. I mean, this is a short guy, so to stand up is – he stands up and he says to the Lord, “Man, all that grace You gave to me, man, it’s just overflowing. God, You called my name in a tree. God, I’ve got to tell You something. I’m going to give half of my goods to the poor. If I’ve defrauded anyone of anything, I’m going to restore it fourfold. God, what You’ve done for me is unbelievable.”
And see, Luke’s put us here. We have no idea what happened with the prodigal and his brother, because he doesn’t tell us. We have no idea what happened to the guy that the Good Samaritan ministered to. He doesn’t tell us. There’s so many things. But now, at the climactic point here of tax collector, rich, who can be saved, who can’t be saved and all of these things are just sort of climaxing right here into this unlikely dude’s life, he’s like, “Man, I have experienced so much grace, God. I want to help some other people.”
Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, Zacchaeus. You’re also a son of Abraham.”
See, the Jewish people would’ve considered him not a son of Abraham, even though he was Jewish, because of what he did. Jesus says, “No, no, no. Salvation has come to this house today. You’re a child of Abraham. I’ve come to seek and save the lost. That’s why I came.”
Now, unlikely story of an unlikely dude. Of someone that you and I’d probably go, “Man, did Zacchaeus think the new beginning was coming for him that day?”
Did anybody think the new beginning was coming for Zacchaeus? No. But, no matter where he was at in his life, he could experience a new beginning. So, this is a great story. And there’s so many things going on and there’s so many thoughts that we’re thinking and all of this stuff.
So, what I want to do is this: I want to transition from that beautiful story, and I want that story now to become real for you and me. Because, those stories aren’t just there to show us what Jesus did. Those stories are there to remind us that Jesus can do those same things today. He’s the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that.
So, here’s what I want to do. I want to call this “Some Thoughts to Consider.” If you take notes, this would be a good time. You know? Get your phone out. Write them down. A sheet of paper. Write them down. Just some things to consider. If you’re note a note-tear, this might be God’s time of teaching you to be a note-taker. You know how that goes? But, these are some thoughts to consider, and I want you to really consider these thoughts, because these are practical applications for you and I’s life, especially in regard to new beginnings.
The first one I want us to see is this: New beginnings start with Jesus. That’s where they start. See, in this passage, remember when I told you that Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus? Remember that I told you about that? I said to put that in your back pocket. See, Luke uses what we call “literary devices.” He starts with a word at the beginning of what we call a pericope, okay? And that word then at the end is also highlighter to where you understand what’s really going on. At the end here, it’s the Son of Man that is seeking and saving the lost.
What we’re saying here is that it appears at first glance that it was Zacchaeus who was seeking Jesus, but we find out that it was Jesus who was seeking Zacchaeus. This is important for you and me. Listen to me: You may be here today and you may have been invited. You may be here today and this is your first time. You may be here today and you may have been here for three years. But, the question is this: Those promptings in your heart, those things in your heart – when we’re talking about the story and you’re starting to hear things and you think, “Man, could this be a new beginning for me?” All of those are God working in your heart to get you to the place where He can call you out by name and say, “I want to come hang out with you in your house.”
Maybe you’re here today at that place that He wants to call out your name. Maybe you thought you brought yourself to church today. Maybe you thought you were the one that said, “Eh, I’ll come. I’ll just show up today.”
But, maybe, it was because God was seeking you out. See, new beginnings start with Jesus. Look, I’m a professor and I love education. I’ve read great books that have really helped me understand things. I’ve had great teachers. But, let me tell you something: The changes that have happened in my life that are the radical changes, they didn’t come from a book or a DVD or from a person. They came from an encounter with Jesus. He’s the one that can start new beginnings in your life. It starts with Jesus.
The second thing I would tell you is this: New beginnings start with “me,” but flow to “we.” They start in your life, but they flow to others. One of the things that I would like to suggest to you is that in the culture we live in, we live in a very individualistic culture. It’s about me and my rights and what’s important to me and all of those things. The Bible doesn’t have anything – it doesn’t even think in terms of those concepts. It’s not even a biblical concept. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my” Father which art in Heaven, it’s “our” Father which art in Heaven. It’s all about “we.” It flows out of the fact that God is a Trinitarian God. He is a God that exists in relationship and community.
Salvation in the New Testament is far more corporate than it is individual. It’s far more cosmic than it is individual. It’s about all. It’s about people. It’s about churches. It’s about all of these things. And what happens is Zacchaeus gets a grace moment with Jesus where Jesus honors him and gives him dignity and value that he never, ever, ever thought anybody could give him, and it changes his life. As soon as it changes his life, it starts spreading to others. People ask me all the time: “How do I know when I’ve really had a real encounter with Jesus?”
It’s when you start to flow into other people’s lives. We have a very insidious thing going on in the church in America about how to get your stuff and your thing, and understand your stuff. The bottom line is if you and I really get touched by Jesus, it flows quickly into other people’s lives. It changes families. That’s why it says, “Salvation has come to this house.”
It’s far greater than just individualistic. And this is what he does. He says, “Look, I’m going to give half of my goods to the poor.”
Jesus didn’t tell him he had to do this. If you’re looking for a formula, He told the rich, young ruler to give all. Zacchaeus is happy to give half. Jesus isn’t looking for the amounts, He’s looking for the heart that’s truly been transformed. If you’ve been transformed, then it’s going to flow to others. And what happens is he says, “I’m going to give half of my goods to the poor, and anybody that I’ve defrauded, I’m going to restore fourfold.”
Let me tell you something: Joshua knocked walls down in Jericho, but the walls that came down in Jericho because of Zacchaeus’ salvation were massive. Can you imagine when Zacchaeus took his wealth and distributed half of it to the poor in Jericho, when he took the people that he had defrauded and gave them back fourfold, can you imagine the walls and the salvation and the cascading-ness of God’s grace that flowed into that community? It transformed the whole town.
Think about that for a minute. You want to really have a move of God in our lives? It’s when we get a true, genuine download of Jesus. What it does is it starts flowing into other areas of life. He’s willing to lay stuff down here. He stands up and says, “Man, I’m willing to lay it down. I’m not going to hold onto this stuff anymore.”
Maybe some of us need to lay down our marriage. Maybe some of us need to lay down our finances. Maybe some of us need to lay down the relationship with our dad or our mom. Maybe some of us just need to lay down our ego and pride and say, “Jesus, I need You in my life. I’ve been trying to do my life my way, and it’s not working. Man, I’m here today. You’re calling my name. I’m up in the tree. You’re giving me dignity and value. I want to run to You. I want to grab You and say, ‘Thanks, Jesus, for making a difference in my life.’”
If that happens, it’s going to cascade into other areas of your life. It’s going to make a change.
The third thing I would tell you, and this is important: For those of you all who grew up in church and you sort of still think it’s all the check mark things that you’ve got to do and all the little things that you’ve got to perform and all of that stuff – you know, the religious stuff? Jesus will break religious protocol to bring new beginnings to your life. You know how I know that? Because, here’s what He says: “I must stay at your house today.”
That’s radical. You didn’t ask somebody to stay at their house, and you certainly, as a rabbi and a teacher of righteousness, didn’t stay at the chief tax collector’s house in Jericho. Especially when you’ve been invited by others to be at their house. Jesus broke all convention to get to Zacchaeus.
Let me tell you something: Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion. Jesus came to have a relationship with people and to bring the prodigals home. That’s why He came. The last thing I would tell you is this: New beginnings really begin by running and climbing a tree. You say, “What do you mean by that, Chip?”
They begin when we decide, “You know what? I’m not going to put on my mask anymore. I’m not going to put on my facade. I’m not going to pretend like I’ve got it all together. I’m going to drop down my dignity, I’m going to drop down my pride, I’m going to run up and climb and tree and stand there, because what I want is I just want to get a glimpse of Jesus. That’s what I want. A glimpse of Jesus. That’s all I want.”
See, if we’re willing to lay those things down, we’re going to realize that you can have a new beginning no matter where you’re at in life. For some of you today, that new beginning genuinely needs to be, “God, I’ve been doing life my way, and I hear it today. It’s in my heart. It’s pounding in my heart. I need to do it Your way. This is the day. This is the day that You called me home. This is the day that the prodigal came home.”
Some of you, that’s what needs to happen. The new beginning needs to be a spiritual journey today where you connect with God, because what you realize is that He’s connected with you. The beauty of this is this, listen: Zacchaeus goes up in a tree, unrighteous, but comes down from the tree righteous. That’s because, in just a few short chapters, somebody else is going to go up in a tree, righteous, and take on all the unrighteousness so that all of us can become righteous.
Zacchaeus is told by Jesus, “Come down,” and he can, because he meets Jesus. When Jesus is on the cross, He’s going to be told to come down, but He won’t because He hangs there for you and me to be redeemed to the Father. Maybe today is your day to step across that line and say, “I’m in. I’m tired of doing it my way. I’m going to do it God’s way.”
For many of you, the new beginning may be in all kinds of areas of your life. It may be your relationship. It may be your marriage. It may be children. It may be jobs. It may be whatever it may be. But, many of you are going, “Yeah. I want a new beginning today. I really do.”
And what I’m going to ask you is this: What did Zacchaeus do? He knew that Jesus had called his name. He knew that he’d been given honor and he wasn’t worthy of that honor. But, Jesus did it. He came down and received Him joyfully. And what he decided to do is he stood up and said, “I’m laying it down. Things I’ve been holding onto, I’m laying them down. I’m laying them down because You have shown me that I can trust You. You have given me dignity and value. I’m laying it down.”
And I don’t know what it is that you need to lay down today, but if you want a new beginning, maybe you just need to stand up and say, “I’m ready for a new beginning, God. I’m laying whatever it is down that I’ve been trying to hold onto. Maybe I’ve been fighting for this in my marriage. Maybe I’ve been doing this. Maybe I just need to lay that down. Maybe I just need to stand up and say, ‘God, I know You’ve called my name. I know today’s my day. I heard my name. You gave me honor and dignity. God, I’m just going to lay it down. I’m going to stand up and lay it down.’”
It may be for a myriad of things. Those of you all who know me, you know me well. I don’t ever do anything weird. I don’t ever do anything to make anybody feel guilty or do anything to make anybody feel a little off-put or anything like that, because it’s just not how I am. In fact, if I get ridiculed for anything, it’s because sometimes I don’t push people to do things. But, I am going to do something today. I’m not doing it to be weird and I’m not doing it to do anything. I’m doing it for you. Because, sometimes – you know, the world champion swimmer was asked one time, “Hey, you swim 10 hours a day. What’s the hardest part of your day?”
“Jumping in the water for the first time, because it’s cold.”
Sometimes the very first thing that we do is the hardest thing to do. And sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just stand up and say, “God, I’m laying it down.”
It may be for salvation and it may be for marriages. It may be for whatever. But, “God, I’m ready for a new beginning in my life. I feel like I’m here today because You’ve called my name. God, I want to start that new beginning.”
So, here’s what I’m going to ask you to do: If you would like to start a new beginning in your life today, for whatever those reasons may be, I’m going to ask you to do what Zacchaeus did. I’m going to ask you to stand up and just say, “God, here it is.”
So, if you want to have a new beginning today, I’m going to ask you: Will you stand up? Will you stand up? I told you I wouldn’t embarrass anybody, and I’m not. I want everybody in the church to stand up. But, many of you all stood up. People are always asking me, “Did you see me stand?”
I’ve got lights in my eyes. It’s hard for me to see. I just know people stand up. Okay? It’s hard for me to see each person. But, what I know is this: You stood up for a reason. Church, we had many people that stood up today and said, “I’m willing to stand up, because I want a new beginning in my life. I want God to do something different in my life than what’s been going on.”
For some of you, that was because you wanted to know that you’re cool with God and that everything’s alright. If that’s you, if you stood up today, what you need to do is, at your chair, say, “Jesus, I believe You came for me. I believe You called my name today. I believe I showed up here today and You gave me value and dignity. I heard all of that. I’m overwhelmed by that. But, God, I want You in my life. Forgive me of the things that I’ve done. I want to move forward in a relationship with You.”
If that is your prayer and that’s what you’re saying at your chair right now, please don’t leave here without finding somebody with a name badge or somebody that you can go to with a Grace shirt so that we can get you involved in Next Steps, we can get you baptized and all of those things and to move forward in that journey. For many of you all, it may have been standing up for a myriad of things. What I want to do is I want to close in a prayer for everybody. I want to pray for everybody that stood up. Will you bow with me?
Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that Your power still lives today. I believe people can be new creations in Christ Jesus today. Lord, I believe people can be moved on miraculously today. Lord, what I’m praying is that that would happen in every single person’s life that stood up. Lord, for those that stood up and said, “I’m ready for Jesus in my life. I’ve been doing it my way,” Lord, I pray that at their chair right now they would make an alter and say, “God, come into my life. I want to follow You. I want to come home. I want a relationship with You. God, I’m so serious about it, as soon as this prayer’s over, I’m going to find somebody and grab somebody and say, ‘I accepted Jesus today and I want to know what’s next. I want to know where I need to go.’”
God, I pray that that would be a reality. And Lord, for those that stood up that had a new beginning in their life for whatever it may be – relationships, physical ailments, Lord. Whatever it may be, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that the people that stood up today and laid it down would know when they walk out those doors. I pray that when they walk out those doors today, they would say, “I left it there in the building. It’s done. New beginning. I’m on my way. God’s going to do something great in my life because God is a God of new beginnings.
Lord, let that be a reality in this church for Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake. We lift Jesus up in this place. We pray that the power of God would fall on this place and that new beginnings would start for every single person that stood up. And, when they walk out of here, they’ll walk out of here with their chin held high because Jesus Christ changes lives today. He’s the same today, yesterday and forevermore. And Lord, we thank You and we love You and we praise You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”
Can we give the Lord a big hand clap? Walk out of here today with your chin up. New beginnings. On your way out, be thinking about who you can drag in next week. We’ll put some chairs out. Maybe they can sit in your lap. We’ll figure out how to make it happen, but there’s a great message of Jesus and we want people to hear that. Amen? Amen. He’s a good Lord.
Let’s close here.
Dear Heavenly Father, we pray that as we leave that You would lead, guide and direct us, that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray, Lord, that as every single person that stood up, when they walk out of here today, they would walk out with their chin up, knowing that new beginnings start as soon as they walk out of this place. Lord, I just thank You for what You’re doing here at Grace. Continue, Lord, to show Yourself strong. Continue, Lord, to change the lives of people. Continue to move in Your church, for Your glory and for Your honor. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.