Sermon Series Part II
Luke 19:1-10 1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8But 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.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Ephesians 2:4-10 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
Theme: “God’s All-Saving Grace”
Do you know that the narrative of the Bible is a dramatic love story? It’s the story of a loving God going after the ones he loves and calling us into relationship.
It is like the story of how a young man met his future wife to whom he has been married now for many years. She was on the University of Kentucky marching band field-a dancer with blond hair. She was a freshman and he was a junior. He narrates “I watched her the entire practice; her every move captivated me. To my delight she showed up about a week later at Bible study that met on our campus. I honestly cannot tell you anything the study was about, but I remember every move she made. I remember watching her laugh with her friends and cry as she was touched by God’s word.
I do remember making one decision that night: to get to know her and her friends so that I could soon ask her out on a date! I worked hard at this, and on one great night I got up the nerve after the Bible study to walk across the room and asked her out, to which she agreed. Then I realized that I had a problem. I didn’t have any nice clothes to take her out to a respectable place. I panicked and called my mom, “Mom, you can never tell anyone this, but you’ve got to take me shopping.
Wearing a new outfit, I took her on our first date. At the end of the night, I summoned all this courage and asked her if she would go out again. The next day, he picked up the phone and called his mom again. “Time for more shopping.”
After eleven months of this drama, he was ready to make a full commitment to her. He goes on, “I had earned extra money and bought a small ring. I took her on a date dressed in more new clothes, nervously sang a song to her while playing my guitar and gave her roses. After the song, I got down on one knee and asked the question: “Will you marry me?” And she said “Yes!”
If we compare the season of grace to a love relationship, then the dating period is the season of prevenient grace. All this Youngman’s effort, made in the background and unknown to this young lady was to bring her the point of saying, “Yes” to him.
In the same vain, in God’s All-Reaching or Prevenient grace, God works behind the curtain to bring us to the point to say “Yes” to Him. Like a love relationship, the moment we say “yes” to God and put our faith in Jesus Christ, the dynamics of the relationship changes immediately. We then experience God’s Saving Grace, which is also called “Justifying Grace.” God forgives all our sins and gives us a clean slate. We enter a new season of grace with God, which is his Saving or justifying grace, which brings us into a genuine relationship with God for the first time.
Talking about this grace in Ephesians 2, Paul tells the Christians in the Roman province of Ephesus, remember all of us, including you and me at one point lived according to our human cravings, and by nature we were children of wrath. But God who is rich in mercy, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive in Christ. Paul goes on, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is a gift of God, not a result of work so that no one may boast.”
In Romans 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul writes, “ Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ.
Church, this is God’s Saving Grace at work. This is God’s Justifying Grace, given to us not on the bases on merits, but freely. It’s this grace that saves us.
Most of us grew up hearing messages from parents and those who cared about us, that sounded like this. Do your best, keep your chin up! Work hard! There is no free lunch. Pull up your bootstrap!
There is nothing wrong with doing our best and working hard. Hard work is a virtue that we should ascribe to. But when the notion of our effort, ability and achievement creep into our relationship with God, when we try to climb the performance or goodness ladder to earn a place in heaven, then we miss the mark. For all our goodness is not good enough to earn us a place in God’s Kingdom. That’s why Isaiah 64, says, “all our righteousness is like a filthy rag.” But through God’s Saving (justifying) Grace, God accepts and make us his own, not because of who we are, or what we have done, but in spite of who we are and what we have done.
That’s why the people in Zacchaeus’ story grumbled. A man like Zacchaeus did not deserve to have Jesus at this home. As far as a fellow Jews were concern, Zacchaeus was a notorious sinner empowering the Roman oppressors by being their chief tax collector and extorting money from his kens to enrich himself. So, his entire community hated him. In their eyes, Zacchaeus deserved nothing but condemnation and judgement, because the OT law (Deut. 25:1), says, “the judge must justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. But to the contrary Jesus says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” So, when Zacchaeus heard about Jesus, he would not allow anything to hinder him. Something stirred up in him. I am sure this was God’s All-Reaching (Prevenient) grace propelling him. And when Jesus saw him in the tree and extended the self-invitation, “come down Zacchaeus; for today, I will be at your house, and Zacchaeus said “Yes. “Jesus entered his home and into his heart as well. Thus, Zacchaeus experienced God’s saving grace.
Zacchaeus was not saved because he offered to give half of his goods to the poor, but he made the offer because he had already been saved. It was a sign of his new life. And Jesus confirmed, that, “today, salvation has come to this house,”
Every Christian, including you and me, is a recipient of not only God’s All-Reaching (Prevenient) grace, but also God’s Saving (justifying grace) as long we have said yes to God. If you have not, Jesus says “behold now is the acceptable time; behold today is the day of salvation.” ( 2 Cor. 6:2). All you must do is to say Yes to Christ.
Our yes to God can come in a moment or in a season in life, according to Acevedo and Olds. Some of us say “Yes” to Christ in what they called a “light switch” salvation experience, like Zacchaeus. It’s like you flap on the switch and it brightens instantly. Such people still remember the date, time and every other detail about their conversion experience. Then we have the “dimmer switch” salvation experience. These are Christians who cannot trace any date or time. When their parents presented them for baptism, the dim light slowly shone brighter and brighter and has kept shining since.
It does not matter how yours happened. The fact that you are here this morning tells me that you have said “yes “to God. It means you have placed your faith in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he has wrapped his gracious arms around you. If you have not, the chances are yours even now.
You are I are saved not because of anything we have done, but because we have said Yes to God and embraced him as our savior. This is the work of God’s Saving Grace.
As we leave from here today, know that God’s arms are open to everyone. To those who have not said yes to him yet, God’s All-Reaching (Prevenient) grace is being pouring out on you each day, as his Saving or justifying grace awaits you. To us who have been saved through his Saving or justifying Grace, God’s Character-Shaping (Sanctifying) Grace is available to us each day. Continue the journey with me next week, as we talk about this third season of God’s grace to us in this sermon series: A Grace-Full Life from the Womb to The Tomb”
God bless you.