Changing for Good

An attorney once told me, “Do you know what I’d really like to be? A gym teacher.” Chalk up one more for the “golden handcuffs,” the allurements in life—income, status or power, for instance—that entice us away from what we really want to do, be or become. More sinister are the temptations that, perhaps one small step at a time, coax us away from what we know to be right and down a deceptive path to disillusionment and despair. We awake one day in a place seemingly far away from God and with no apparent way back to Him, but this too is temptation—temptation to doubt God’s seeking love and His saving power. For God knows our proclivity to stray from His ways, and yet in great love He draws us back to Himself, where we find a new and refreshing life of purpose. “God’s Kingdom is near!” proclaimed Jesus as He traveled from town to town, “Turn from your sins and act on this glorious news!”1 It remains today the promise of redemption and freedom and an invitation to change course.

Today’s post is our second look at transformation through the life of Zacchaeus, and standing tall amid all we learn from him in 10 short Biblical verses is this: The change to which God calls us is not an obligation we endure, it is the opportunity we desire. “Look, Lord!” exclaimed the liberated tax collector, “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.”2 His was not the “have to” humiliation of penance, but the “get to” enthusiasm of release. Behind him lay the discarded handcuffs he once thought golden, and before him “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”3

Most of us don’t need to be convinced of our wrong turns in life or the directions in which they’ve sent us; we are well acquainted with them and have lived to regret them. What we all need to realize is that God calls us, saves us and then leads us for a lifetime through the change we seek—change for good on His paths of joy.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 ESV)

Father, it is a privilege to know your love; it is a relief to know your redemption; it is an honor to walk your paths. Send your Spirit to lead me in your ways and use me for your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Mark 1:15 TLB
2 Luke 19:8
3 Ephesians 3:8

He Sought Us First

“He wanted to see who Jesus was.”1 The chief tax collector may have been short in height, but he was big on desire—determined, a doer we might say. So, when Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, not even the towering crowd would stand in his way. He found a suitable sycamore, climbed to an acceptable height, and waited—a curious man curiously perched in a tree. What happened next is something no one of any stature could have seen coming. “Zacchaeus,” said Jesus, stopping now and looking up at the man, “come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”2 The tax collector had become accustomed to religious scorn, but this man of God was different—engaging and unafraid to befriend a person cast off by others as “a sinner.”3 And He had called him by name.

With the exception of a couple notable exchanges, we are not privy to any detailed conversation that ensued between the rich man and his house guest that day, but we do know this: He who had harshly seized from others amounts they did not owe now humbly received from God a gift he could not earn—salvation. It was a grace that would change Zacchaeus forever. “Look, Lord!” he exclaimed, “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.”4 Said Jesus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”5 Indeed it had, spiritual birth already bearing spiritual fruit.

Luke opened his gospel narrative with Zacchaeus wanting to know who Jesus was, but the story began quite differently and long before then. It began in the heart of God, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”6 It is Jesus who seeks us out, both as a people and personally as individuals. And when He stirs in us, we respond by seeking Him, too—the sheep recognizing his Shepherd, the created reconciled with her Creator, neither content with separation but each finding joy in the other. Then being born of the Spirit, we begin to grow as He transforms us into the likeness of Him who knows us best, loves us most, and calls us by name. In this very real way, Zacchaeus’ story is our story, too.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus to seek and to save the lost. Thank you for sending Him to seek and to save me. Change me to be ever more like Him. Amen.

1 Luke 19:3
2 Luke 19:5
3 Luke 19:7
4 Luke 19:8
5 Luke 19:9
6 Luke 19:10

Glory To Go

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

When I first saw him on that Kairos Prison Ministry weekend, his body betrayed the weight of his wrong—bent at the shoulders, anguish commandeering his face, emotionally distanced, without hope. But as we gathered the final morning of our time together, the inmate entered the room with a radiant glow that testified outwardly that something glorious had transpired inwardly. And it had—he had come to trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection were for him, too. Later that day, he told the 70-plus men listening, “This morning, for the first time in 19 years, I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw.” I’ve seen this man many times in the ensuing years, and his face still beams newness of joy.

Over the past few weeks, we have been beholding God’s glory—the splendor of His infinite perfection—proclaimed with power throughout creation, magnified in character of Christ, and then born in the unlikeliest of places—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”1 As Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”2 We gasp in wonderment, and we ask, What do we do with such lavished love?

In short, we shine, for glory is not something to be hoarded, rather we’ve been given “glory to go”—the radiance of a people who go as we’ve been sent, serve as we’ve been served, give as we’ve received, and speak liberating truth in the language of love. For all around us are people who “blinded, … cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”3 We’ve all been there; we can all relate. So, we go with this in mind: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”4 We don’t know who will be liberated or in what way, but we can be confident in this: We’ll like what we see.

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

Father, in great mercy, you’ve given us your glory. Grace us to shine it however you’ve called us, wherever you lead us, and to whomever you send us. Be happy with us, your people. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

1 Colossians 1:27
2 2 Corinthians 4:6
3 2 Corinthians 4:4
4 1 Corinthians 10:31