Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make Things Right with Other People

Those who experience the love of Christ show evidence of their life-change in their earthly relationships. Zacchaeus, though not a Christ-follower before this encounter with the Redeemer, provides an excellent picture of a life transformed by grace. Upon experiencing the undeserved love of Christ, the tax collector’s right relationship with Jesus resulted in his reconciliation with earthly relationships. Students will examine their own lives and then follow in the footsteps of the tree-climbing sinner by extending olive branches to those whom they have wronged with their selfish behavior.

Luke 19:1-10  (NIV)
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
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.”
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 the lost.”

 - Repentance results in reconciling with others. Zacchaeus did not have a relationship with God, and everyone in his hometown of Jericho knew it. After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaimed that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and that he would pay those whom he had cheated four times the amount that he had taken from them. Jesus exclaimed that salvation had come to Zacchaeus because of his change of heart. Before Zacchaeus met Jesus he defrauded many people, but after he met Jesus he became a generous giver to others. Zacchaeus could not have made this change in his life without the power of the Christ changing Him. Believers today have the Holy Spirit working to transform their lives and make them more like Christ. When a person has truly come to Christ in faith, the transformation by the Holy Spirit is evident in the way that that person lives, including very tangible ways such as Zacchaeus’ reconciliation with others.

1. Before encountering Christ, we are identified by our sin (Luke 19:1–7). 

Zacchaeus worked as the chief tax collector and possessed great wealth. Tax collectors typically lied and charged more than the required tax so that they could keep the extra money. Therefore, people hated tax collectors. Even those of Jewish descent were despised. His reputation for dishonesty and cheating behavior identified him with sinfulness. His occupation, his actions, his reputation— everything about this man’s identity was wrapped up in his sin against God and others. As a result, the religious leaders were appalled at Jesus’ interaction with such a man.  As believers, we are to reflect Christ in our life. We are to be known by a godly life and not by the sinful nature of the world. We have left that world behind, and in doing so we have left sin behind as well. Although we still struggle against sin, we now find our identity in Christ. He is the one who gives us our value and who tells us who we are. We are no longer to be known by our sin

2. An encounter with Christ leads to us to make amends with those we have wronged (Luke 19:8). 

Whereas the crowd responded to Jesus’ action with grumbling, Zacchaeus responded with joy and generosity, and his actions demonstrated a change wrought in his heart by faith in Christ. Zacchaeus’ heart change was reflected in his recognition of Jesus as “Lord” (Luke 19:8). Zacchaeus’ encounter with the ruler of the universe disrupted his life of sin. He went from defrauding people to serving them. He gave half of his possessions to the poor, and to those whom he had stolen money Zacchaeus repaid four times the amount that he had taken. Zacchaeus’ inner transformation showed itself in his concern for others and his extensive efforts to make things right with those whom he had cheated.  Zacchaeus’ act of generosity was a response to Christ’s grace, for God’s grace had transformed his life. Zacchaeus was able to make amends fairly easily by repaying those whom he had cheated. When we sin, we will not always be able to reverse the situation as easily as Zacchaeus did. Sometimes we may only be able to admit our wrong and seek forgiveness. But we must do what we can to try to make amends. We may not always be received well if we have hurt another person, but we are responsible for trying.

3. A transforming encounter with Christ gives us a new identity (Luke 19:9–10). 

Jesus played on the phrase “a son of Abraham” to indicate that Zacchaeus was more than a physical descendant of Abraham. The phrase was also used to explain that because of Zacchaeus’ faith in Christ, he was a true spiritual son of Abraham. He became a son because he was saved by his faith in God. Jesus was telling the crowd that only those who believe in Christ as Savior and Lord are spiritual children of the promise that was given to Abraham (see Rom. 9:6–8). In verse 10, Jesus revealed His purpose—to seek and to save the lost, for He desired to restore to Himself what was lost in the Fall (see Luke 15). Although Zacchaeus stole, lied, and cheated, he was not beyond God’s salvation. He had a new identity in Christ.  Think of it this way - When a child is adopted, she gets a new family name. She is no longer an orphan but belongs to a family and is identified by her new last name. It wasn’t her physical connection to the family that made her a daughter but her identity as a chosen child. Her identity with the family didn’t depend on who gave her birth but rather the adoption by loving parents. She now has a new identity as a true daughter.  Zacchaeus’ encounter with Christ was evident through the way that his life changed. His new identity gave him a new life. As believers, our identity is found in Christ alone. This identity means that we treat others differently as well. When we truly behave as a child of Christ, we will seek to make amends for any sin that we committed against another person.

So here's the question that needs to be asked and the only "Small Group" question needed -  What steps do you need to take to make amends with others? Description: The crowd’s assessment of Zacchaeus was correct—he was a sinner. However, his encounter with Christ made him a new man. His faith was made evident through his restoration with others. Application: How will you respond to Jesus with radical faith and obedience and make amends for the sin that you have committed against others?

Whoever accepts Jesus into his or her life and enters a personal relationship with Jesus receives salvation. No longer dominated by guilt and sin, the saved person’s life is transformed inwardly and outwardly. Selfishness is replaced by selfless action. Dishonesty is changed into honesty. Hatred or indifference is eradicated as one becomes compassionate and loving toward others, especially the marginalized in society. These are some of the fruits of salvation. Yet even followers of Christ at times fall back into selfish behaviors, fail to display compassion, and encounter problems in relationships. Transformation is a process that occurs throughout a lifetime. When Christ saves us our lives are revolutionized, but we continue to experience a process of being changed into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, when we notice that we are not treating others with kindness or that we are exhibiting selfish attitudes, we must repent of such attitudes and actions and seek to reconcile with others.

Our culture consistently tells us that admitting fault is something to avoid. Fraud, lies, deceptions, cheating and other sinful and unethical activities are paraded in public by political leaders, celebrities, and “reality” television. Instead of admitting the sinfulness of their ways and seeking restitution, many of these circumstances display a blame-throwing game and efforts to spin information. It is rare today for people to see someone take full blame for sin and make efforts at reconciliation. We must not only show them with our lives, but we must also help them to see the importance of a forgiven life in Christ and efforts at reconciling with others. We must help others to see that our relationships with others are intertwined in our pursuit of righteousness in Christ.

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