As we are entering into the third full week of January I want to think about how you have begun your new year. Did you make any resolutions? Why or why not? Have you already broken your resolutions? If so, what made you let them go so soon? If not how are you staying true to your goal?
This week I am going to talk about some common New Year’s resolutions amongst Christians, their biblical founding and some strategies to help us keep these resolutions. My hope for you this week is that you take a moment to evaluate where your relationship with God is, where you would like it to go and how you are going to get there. If you did not make any resolutions or goals for 2018, that is okay, but maybe after reading this you will consider refocusing certain things in your life.
Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions in general are people wanting to be healthier, people wanting to save more of their money, getting better grades, maybe even trying to get a new and better job. These are all good, but so many people lose sight of their goals within the first 3 months of the new year, for a multitude of reasons. They made their “rules” too drastic, or they did not make their goal focused enough, or they did not have any accountability. These are all reasons people ditch their resolutions. Some common resolutions amongst Christians, in regards to their faith are to read their Bible more, go to church more often, pray more, etc. Again, even people of faith abandon these goals more often than not, because they want to do everything on their own, or they want to be absolutely perfect and when they are not they feel like they failed. All of these feelings are valid, but do not let them hold you back.
My first challenge to you if you are wanting to deepen your faith and your relationship with God, is to seek him and his son. Seek Jesus. This is the first topic of the week. Seeking Jesus. I want you to go ahead and read Luke 19:1-10.
Luke 19:1-10 is all about Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see”- Right? That is not the only thing we can take away from this passage. Zacchaeus was too short to see Jesus over the crowd, but why did that matter to him? He most likely had heard the stories of Jesus and the people he had helped and the lives he had changed. Zacchaeus probably wanted to know what all this “salvation” was about, and how he could live eternal life. His entire knowledge and experience of Jesus prior to this day depicted in Luke was through the accounts of other people. If your faith is struggling or you feel lost, ask for other people’s stories. Ask people to share how they grew to know God, ask other people how they rely on him, and you may receive the help you need and some amazing relationships along the way.
Another thing to take away from this account is this; are you afraid to look silly for Jesus? We are called to not be of this earth, we are called to be different and not follow the ways of the world. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, everyone knew who he was and the power that he had. Not only was he powerful, but he was extremely wealthy. Here was this man of high power and esteem, and in order to see Jesus he climbed a tree. That would look a little silly. How silly are you willing to look in order to see Jesus? I hope the answer means that you would fall on your knees before him, or praise God whenever you are compelled to do so. The opinions of others do not matter, your relationship with God is far more important.
To have a relationship with God, and to truly seek him and his son out is much more simple than we make it. Many times we feel like we need to be perfect in order to come to God and ask him for help, or to come to him and thank him, but that is not the case. He sent his one and only son to the world to die for us while we were still sinners. He put that salvation plan in motion so long ago, because he wants us to come to him in every time in our lives, good or bad. God wants us to come to him in our darkest hours, but also in the best times.
Jesus is Coming! What preparations do we need to make before Jesus comes? Climb a tree to get a good vantage point? Put his money to work? Spread your cloak on the road? These were all mentioned in Luke 19 as ways people prepared for Jesus’ coming.
The wealthy, though short, tax collector Zacchaeus was curious about this Jesus who was coming into town. Not wanting to miss out he climbed a tree to make sure he could see Jesus.
In the Parable of the Ten Minas, during the master’s absence most of the servants took what had been entrusted to them (a mina – about three months wages) and put it to work to earn more – and were rewarded for their work.
When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they gathered to pay him honor as they spread their cloaks in the road in front of the colt carrying Jesus. And with loud voices they joyfully praised God for the miracles they had witnessed Jesus perform: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. (Luke 19:38)
This greeting reminds me of the words spoken by the great company of the heavenly host about 33 years earlier when the angels were telling the shepherds of the birth of Christ. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).
No doubt, today, Christmas Eve, many many preparations will be made – supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of a King. In the midst of our busyness how will we actually prepare for Jesus? What will we do and say and give and pray TODAY to celebrate his FIRST Coming in a way that will honor him? Perhaps there will be some things that we decide we will NOT do, in order to better celebrate Jesus’ coming.
And, EVERY day – how will we prepare for his SECOND coming?
Will we take the time and effort to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did? Will we joyfully accept his invitation to meet together and then find ourselves changed – repentant and obedient – because of the time we spend in his presence?
Will we take the talents, time, possessions and minas/money we have been given and diligently be trustworthy in using them to prepare for the coming return of our Savior – spreading the word, growing the church, and caring for the lost? Or will we be like the scared servant who just hid away the treasure that he was responsible for – and even what he had was taken from him?
Will we work at honoring Jesus, the Son of God who is indeed coming to be crowned king in a kingdom like no other. Will we give of ourselves, not afraid to get our clothes a little dirty, not ashamed to speak boldly, not persuaded to keep quiet by the Pharisees in our midst? For if we don’t speak – even the stones will tell of his greatness (Luke 19:40).
I pray we celebrate his first coming well while we wisely and diligently prepare for his even greater second coming!
Jesus is Coming!
Monday, May 22
The ending of chapter 18 and the beginning of chapter 19 have an interesting parallel. Whereas the end of chapter 18 includes the story of Jesus curing a man of his literal blindness, in chapter 19 Jesus cures another individual, Zacchaeus, of his figurative blindness. However, there’s a reason why Zacchaeus is so memorable, and it’s probably obvious to those of you who’ve ever gone to Sunday school as a kid.
Zacchaeus is remembered as “the guy who climbed the tree”, and that’s not an insignificant detail of the story. In fact, (in my translation, at least), there’s nothing in the beginning of chapter 19 that necessarily states that the events of the two chapters happened in linear order. In fact, it could have been that Luke himself placed the story of Zacchaeus directly after the story of Jesus curing a blind man on purpose, and perhaps to indicate something to the reader.
My interpretation of why these two stories correlate together goes like this; Luke shows that Jesus was capable of curing people of their blindness. He shows us Jesus curing a man of his literal “blindness” to show Jesus’ ability to purify us. After this, he tells the story of Zacchaeus who not only received redemption from Jesus, but he had to exert a clear effort, (so much so that he had to physically and figuratively rise above the crowd), and from there Jesus was able to find him and make his way to him. What Luke seems to be relaying to us here is that Jesus has the capacity to redeem us, but that it’s not enough to know this. Having this knowledge is only the first part, and the second part for us is pursuing him ourselves. Whatever qualities Jesus has to purify us and turn our lives around, it is something that we must actively pursue before we’ll really be able to experience it.
(Photo Credit: http://www.daily-bible-verse.net/Luke19-10.html)