Get the Fresh Start You Need
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - April 21, 2013
(Updated from sermon "New Year -- New You" preached at McClendon Baptist Church - Jan. 13, 2008)
*Sometimes height makes a difference. I like the story Gene Jennings told about a high school boy who was filling out an application to work as a lifeguard at a local pool. At the end of the form was a space that said: "Any further information that might show your suitability for the job."
*The young man filled in the blank with these words: "Depth of swimming pool: 6 feet 6 inches -- Height of applicant: 6 feet 7 inches." (1)
*Height (or lack thereof) can make a difference. It certainly did for Zacchaeus. But no matter how tall you are, no matter how smart, no matter how well-off you are, we all need fresh starts in life.
*Zacchaeus shows us how to get the fresh start we need, because if anybody ever needed a fresh start in life, it was Zacchaeus. His name meant "pure," but Zacchaeus was about as far from pure as you can get, because as vs. 2 tells us, he was a chief tax collector. Church: That doesn't mean he worked for the IRS. No, the system Zacchaeus worked in overflowed with corruption.
*James Moore points out that Zacchaeus must have been despised by his fellow townspeople. They hated paying taxes to Rome and they felt that Zacchaeus, a fellow Jew, had betrayed them, had sold out to Rome, and had gotten rich at their expense. So, they rejected him, shunned him, detested him. If you had conducted a popularity contest in Jericho that day, Zacchaeus may well have come in dead last. (2)
*Bruce Ball tells us that to become a tax collector you had to bribe an official. Rome told you how much to collect, and if you were able to collect more, you could keep the extra. Zacchaeus was pretty good at gouging his fellow Jews, so he ended up being rich. But for a Jewish man to become a Roman tax collector was unthinkable. This was high treason. It was like going over to Afghanistan and joining the terrorists who are fighting against us today. You would be hated for being a traitor.
*If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew it meant three things:
-Your family would disown you.
-You would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue.
-And you would be considered to be as evil as a murderer. (3)
*Zacchaeus may have had all the friends his money could buy. But deep down he was lonely, empty, and lost. He needed a fresh start in life. And he shows us how to get the fresh start we need.
1. First: Rush to get closer to Jesus.
*Make a real effort to get to know Jesus Christ. Make an effort like Zacchaeus did in vs. 3&4:
3. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
4. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.
*Jesus was now near the end of His earthly ministry, just days away from the cross. And by now, Zacchaeus had surely heard wonderful stories about Jesus:
-How He healed the sick and raised the dead.
-How He treated sinners with kindness and compassion.
-How He offered forgiveness and hope.
-How He called people to a new way of life.
*God was already at work in Zacchaeus’ heart. Deep inside he realized the emptiness in his heart. Zacchaeus was hungry for more in life. Then he heard that Jesus was coming to town! So he began to search for Jesus. And Zacchaeus didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus.
*He was short, but he didn’t let his size keep him away. "He climbed up in that sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see."
*I used to love climbing trees when I was a kid back in the 1960’s. It was an adventure. With a few boards and a few nails, we would build a fort or a rocket ship up in a tree. And it was easy. We could go up and down those trees like monkeys, but not anymore.
*I don’t think it was too easy for that old tax collector to get up that tree. But Zacchaeus didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus: Not his size and not his pride. We can almost hear the crowd, “Look at that goofy, little-ole-man up in that tree!” But Zacchaeus didn’t let that keep him from Jesus.
*He didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus! -- Not his size, not his pride, and not other people. That crowd wasn’t about to keep him from seeing Jesus. Is there anybody in your life coming between you Christ? Don’t let them do it! Don’t let anything keep you from Jesus: Not your pride, not other people and not your past.
*Zacchaeus was a crooked politician. He was a thief and everybody knew it. That’s why down in vs. 7 "they all murmured, saying, 'Jesus has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.'"
*Looking at his sinful life, Zacchaeus could have said, "It’s too late for me. What’s the use of even trying?" But he didn’t let anything keep him from Jesus, and neither should we!
*Let’s do what Zacchaeus did. Start running in the right direction. Get as close to Jesus as you possibly can. Climb a tree if you have to! Put that kind of enthusiasm into seeking Jesus, and you will see great things happen in your life too.
-We can have a fresh start in life, if we will rush to get closer to Jesus.
2. And you can have a fresh start, if we will joyfully receive the Lord.
*Zacchaeus gladly received the Lord. This is the most important thing that he ever did, and we see it in vs. 5&6:
5. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."
6. So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
*Zacchaeus had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. His life was changed forever when he met Jesus. Look at vs. 5 again: “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’”
*Imagine what Zacchaeus must have thought: “He sees me. He knows me. He knows my name. He knows all about me. But He is calling for me! And He wants to be with me!” When Zacchaeus had this personal encounter with Jesus, he opened his house to receive Jesus. But much more important, he opened his heart to receive Jesus.
*The greatest thing that can ever happen in your life is to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ! -- To come to the point where you can say: “He sees me. He knows me. He’s calling for me! He wants to be with me!”
*And now we know something that Zacchaeus could not know that day: He died for me! Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins. He took all of our guilt and shame. Then Jesus rose again from the dead, and sent His Holy Spirit into the world. So that we can know Jesus today just as surely as Zacchaeus came to know Him 2,000 years ago! You just need to open your heart to receive Jesus just like Zacchaeus did. What a terrible mistake it is to refuse to receive Jesus.
*In 2001, the tax company H&R Block offered customers a chance to win a drawing for $1,000,000. Glen and Gloria Sims of Sewell, New Jersey won the drawing, but they refused to believe it when a Block spokesman called with the good news. After several more contacts by both mail and phone, the Sims still thought it was all just a scam. They usually just hung up the phone or trashed the special notices.
*Weeks later, H&R Block called one more time. They wanted to let the Sims know that the deadline for accepting their million-dollar prize was near. And they were calling to say that the story of their refusal would soon appear on NBC's “Today” show.
*At that point, Glen Sims decided to investigate. A few days later he appeared on “Today” to tell America that he and his wife had finally claimed their million dollars. Sims said, “From the time this has been going on, H&R Block explained to us they really wanted a happy ending to all this, and they were ecstatic that we finally accepted the prize.” (4)
*Can you imagine how they would have felt if they had never received their prize? What a waste! What a terrible mistake. Think how sick they would have felt. -- But it is infinitely worse to refuse the greatest gift of all.
*Open your heart to receive Jesus Christ and you will receive the greatest gifts of all: Forgiveness for all of your sins, a new life that lasts forever, an eternal home in Heaven and a close relationship with our Creator God and Savior Jesus Christ. You can have a fresh start in life, if you will gladly receive the Lord.
3. And you can have a fresh start, if you will rededicate yourself to righteous living.
*A remarkable change took place in Zacchaeus’ life, when he received Jesus. Zacchaeus was changed from greed to generosity. Listen to him in vs. 8, “Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor. And if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusations. I will restore him four times as much.”
*Zacchaeus was fully committed to right living. “If I have taken anything from anyone, I will more than make it right.” And as Zacchaeus talked about money, he was in effect saying, “Lord, I am giving you control of the thing that has meant the most to me.”
*Zacchaeus was surely saved. We know that because the Lord told him down in vs. 9. But how did Zacchaeus show that he was saved? -- By his new way of living! He went from serving himself to serving His Lord. And he was passionately dedicated to righteous living. Zacchaeus was so grateful for his relationship with Jesus. He was so grateful for his salvation, that he wanted to do everything he could to please His Savior.
*James Moore compared it to the relationship between two friends named Bill and Tom. They were best friends, and had been for years. Bill and Tom had grown up together. They loved to hunt and fish together.
*One Saturday morning, they went hunting and there was an accident. As Bill was climbing over a barbed wire fence, he fell and his gun went off, and he shot himself in the leg. He began to bleed severely.
*Tom rushed to him and made a tourniquet to slow the bleeding. Then Tom picked Bill up, put Bill on his back and carried him over two miles through rough terrain to get to their car. All the while he was saying, “You hang in there, Bill. Don’t you die on me. I’m going to get you to the hospital and we are going to get you well!”
*Tom tenderly got Bill in the car and rushed him to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery. It went well and afterwards the doctor told Bill that he would be all right and that he would recover nicely. The doctor also told Bill what Bill already knew -- that Tom had saved his life.
*Some years later, Tom had to undergo heart surgery. Bill stayed with Tom and Tom’s wife around the clock for days and days. He would not leave the hospital. He would not leave his best friend.
*The medical staff at the hospital noticed this. They told Bill to not worry that everything was going great for Tom. He was recovering just fine. They told Bill that it was O.K. to leave and get some rest because he must be exhausted.
*Bill thanked them for their concern and then he told them the story of how Tom had carried him on his back for over two miles to save his life years before. And then he said: “After what Tom did for me there is nothing I would not do for him. If it weren’t for Tom, I wouldn’t be here today. I owe him everything. I owe him my life!” (2)
*That’s how Zacchaeus felt about Jesus. That’s how all Christians should feel about Jesus, because He has saved us forever! Jesus even died for us. He took our death on the cross so that we could have His life forever.
*And when we receive the Lord, we dedicate ourselves to right living. But sometimes we seem to forget what the Lord has done for us, so we need to rededicate ourselves to right living. You can have a fresh start in life, if you will rededicate yourself to righteous living. --
4. And you can have a fresh start, if you will keep resting in the grace of God.
*The people of Jericho were not happy when Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus. Vs. 7 tells us that “when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’”
*King Duncan explains that: It is almost as if Jesus is sabotaging his own ministry. Certainly he is giving ammunition to his enemies. He could have gone home with the mayor, perhaps or the city's chief rabbi. But he chose the most despised man in town, a traitor to his own people, a cheat who lined his own pockets at the expense of those who were powerless.
*What in the world does Jesus think he is doing? He is doing what he was sent to do -- to seek and to save the lost. (5)
*Jesus explained it in v. 9&10, when He told Zacchaeus:
9. And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;
10. for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
*By His grace, Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus long before that crook ever thought about seeking the Lord. And we may not have robbed people like Zacchaeus did. But when Jesus comes to my house, He is coming to the house of a sinner. But by His grace, He comes. When Jesus comes to your house, He is coming to the house of a sinner. But by His grace, He comes.
*As Duncan said:
-He didn't come for those who are well. -- He came for the sick.
-He didn't come for those who are strong. -- But those who are weak.
-He didn't come for those who are found. -- But for those who are lost.
*Does that fit anybody here today?
-Is this a time of discouragement for you?
-Have some of your most cherished dreams been shattered?
-Do you feel that no one understands?
*There is one who does understand. He knows your name. He knows all about you. And he cares. He cares so much that he would lay down his own life for you. In fact, He already did. (5)
*How can we get the fresh starts we need in life? -- Zacchaeus shows us what to do:
-Rush to get closer to Jesus.
-Joyfully receive the Lord.
-Rededicate yourself to right living.
-And keep resting in the grace of God.
*Let Jesus Christ give you a fresh start today, as we go to God in prayer.
1. Original source unknown
2. Adapted from ChristianGlobe.com sermon “Jesus and Zacchaeus” by James Moore - Luke 19:1-10
3. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “Are You Unworthy?” by Bruce Ball - Luke 19:1-9
4. KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 28649 - SOURCE: Leadership Journal, www.christianitytoday.com, "to Illustrate" - TITLE: Winners Refuse Cool Million - DATE: Summer 2002
5. Adapted from ChristianGlobe.com sermon “Danny Devito in a Tree” by King Duncan - Luke 19:1-10 - 2005