2015-6-14 Changing The Heart

LUKE 19:1-10                                                                                            JUNE 14, 2015

“CHANGING THE HEART”

Over the years I have wanted many people, whom I know, to come to faith in Jesus Christ. I have often attempted to convince people to come to Christ. No matter how hard I try to convince someone; my efforts fail. I have finally come to the conclusion that I am powerless when it comes to changing the heart of someone else. This is a spiritual truth we need to understand. We cannot save someone! Only God can change a human heart! Jesus told us this truth, but we still think if we try hard enough we might persuade someone. Jesus told his disciples in John 6:44 (NIV) 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

This is why there are so many who claim to be a Christian, yet their lives bear no evidence of a changed heart. You must remember that Jesus warned that there would be many who would give lip service to knowing him. Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ This passage in Luke clearly reveals that a heart must be changed and that he/she must obey the commands of God.

Last week we looked at the healing the blind man as he was about to enter Jericho. This incident also occurred as he entered Jericho. Jericho is the oldest city that has existed continuously for 8,000 years. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and Luke indicates that he was just passing through when he encountered Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-2 (NIV) 1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.”

We know from earlier encounters with tax collectors and from comments by the Pharisees that tax collectors were considered social outcasts and traitors. Tax collectors worked for the Roman authorities by collecting the taxes that the Roman Empire levied on the people. It was well known that these officials also collected more than was necessary and kept the money for themselves. “The Jewish Mishnah, a collection of Jewish teachings on the scriptures, states that it was permissible to lie to tax collectors to protect one’s property.” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary) Zacchaeus was over an entire region of tax collectors and taking his cut of the profits. As the scripture indicate he was a very wealthy man, but one who was greatly despised and hated.

As the Children’s Sunday school song says, Zacchaeus was a wee little man. Zacchaeus, just like the blind man outside of Jericho, had heard of Jesus, and how he made friends with notorious sinners. Jesus had even called a tax collector to be one of the twelve disciples, Levi (Matthew). Remember the reaction when Jesus ate at Levi’s home. Luke 5:29-32 (NIV) 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Zacchaeus was definitely a sinner.

Notice what Jesus says to him when he sees him in the tree! Luke 19:5-6 (NIV) 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Jesus took the initiative in this encounter and told Zacchaeus that he was inviting himself to come to his house. It is obvious that Jesus did not care about his reputation. Jesus was on a mission and he was not going to let the opinions of others sidetrack him from calling him to faith and repentance. Do we let the opinion of others hinder us from being obedient to Christ, to speak of our blessed Savior?

The actions of Jesus irritated the people. Luke 19:7 (NIV) 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” It irritated everyone! Yet, God calls us to reach out to everyone. I recently heard the story of how a Christian man gave an ISIS soldier his
Bible before he was executed and asked him to read it. In the face of death the man reached out to the one who was going to kill him!

Many people have misunderstood the gospel and what it means to accept Christ. We come by faith in Christ and we ask for the forgiveness of our sins and we are called to repent of our sins. This means to turn away from our sins. This involves a change of heart and a change of direction. Zacchaeus revealed his change of heart in the actions he took. Luke 19:8 (NIV) 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “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.”

The Old Testament asked for people who had cheated or defrauded someone to make restitution and pay them 20% more. Zacchaeus offered to pay back four times the amount he had taken from people. Remember the rich ruler who was not willing to give up his wealth and follow Jesus? Zacchaeus revealed a change of heart in that he was willing to go way overboard in paying back the numerous people he had cheated. He knew his sins and he did something about it.

I know many of us have asked God to forgive us for our sins, but are we willing to make it up to those we have wronged? If we are willing then the Holy Spirit will remind us of the people we have wronged. If God has not changed our perspective on what is most important in life and people see little change in our behavior then we might need to take a self-test to see if we are truly saved. Are we listening to the Spirit and using our resources/finances for the work of the Kingdom or are we hoarding it for our own use? A changed heart will result in changed behavior as we grow more loving and more willing to give to others, of our time, money, and a willingness to share our testimony with others.

Jesus made a bold pronouncement about Zacchaeus. Luke 19:9-10 (NIV) 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  A tax collector was seen by the people as one who had abandoned the faith of Abraham and here Jesus is proclaiming the news that here was a true believer in the God of Abraham. He proved it by his actions!

We are not Christians, only because we claim to be by our words. Our actions must reveal that we have had a change of heart. There are two lessons that the church needs to learn from this encounter with Zacchaeus. (Taken from the NIV Application Bible) First, we must not separate ourselves from the rest of the world and hide our faith from the world. Second, we must not allow ourselves to fall into pride and think that we are better than the “sinners of this world”. God has called us to show love to the world, and even to our enemies. Are we willing to give up our pride, our prejudices, our desires to enact vengeance? If, we are not willing to give up our will and follow the will of Christ, then we have a problem that only God can fix!

Let us pray.

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