Tuesday, January 17

Most people who are not Christians are not going to cross over to the Christian side of the street and come to us.

If we expect people to come to us in order to hear the message of Jesus then we aren’t going to be very effective at spreading Jesus’ message.  Why would we expect those we are trying to reach to do all the work and come to us?

Jesus never did ministry that way.  Jesus did not camp out in one place and make everyone travel to him.  Jesus traveled to where the people were.  That’s what Jesus was doing when he went to Jericho.  Jesus went to where Zacchaeus was.  That is what we should do.  We should go where the people are who we need to reach.

Where would you find yourself going if you went where people were in need of Jesus’ message?

Monday, January 16

Zacchaeus was interested in and curious about Jesus.

In the story it says that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.  I just imagine that Zacchaeus had heard about this traveling teacher and all the marvelous things he had done.  Zacchaeus was intrigued by Jesus.  However, I believe that Zacchaeus didn’t want much to do with the religious form of Judaism that was popular in the Pharisees.  Why wasn’t Zacchaeus attracted to the religiosity of the Pharisees?  The reason why is because the Pharisees rejected him.  They considered him to be a “sinner” not in a sympathetic manner but in a judgmental and dismissive manner.

Whether it is legitimate or not many people feel that way about the church.  They have had experiences with the church or heard about experiences others have had and whether it is justified or not they have turned a deaf ear to the message of the institutional church.  However, most people in today’s culture are, just like Zacchaeus, interested in Jesus. 

I hope this does not offend anyone but if this is true (people being interested in Jesus) then why don’t we stop trying to sell them the church and offer them Jesus?  Why don’t we help people discover Jesus and when they do they will discover the true church.

How have you offered people Jesus?

January 15-21

Start Where People Are

Luke 19:1-10
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 being a short man he could not, because of 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.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

The main purpose and goal of the church must be to spread the good news of Jesus to others.  The primary method that has been used in the past to promote the message and salvation of Jesus has been to do what we can to get people to attend a worship service at a church.  In other words, we try to get those who have not come to Jesus to come to us.
That approach was reasonably effective when the church was considered to be a respected and relevant institution in the culture.  That is no longer the case.  Most people don’t even pay any attention to the church.  60-70% of the population of our country won’t even consider coming to our churches for worship or any other kind of event.  This week we are going to use the example of Jesus and Zacchaeus to help us learn how to reach those people in our culture who will not respond to the traditional church.
This week I am not going to list specific verses of scripture for each day but will be referring to some of the principles that are implicit in this story to help guide us toward being able to share the good news of Jesus with others.

Saturday, January 14

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I think we all would agree that as we read the New Testament books written by Paul, that Paul is a very mature Christian in his words and his actions.  Right?  I don’t know about you but I would say Paul is much further along in his discipleship than I am.

But look at what Paul says here:  “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on…”

If Paul feels he has room to continue to grow in Christlikeness, to keep “going on to perfection,” it seems that we all would have room to keep
“going on…”

Think about and write down how you can take steps right now to keep growing and to keep
“going on…” to perfection, holiness, Christlikeness.

Friday, January 13

Philippians 1:6, 9-11 (NLT)
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. … I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

There are several points to be made from this reading.
God started the good work in you and God will finish it!  In other words, while we do need to cooperate with God (make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit) as we grow in Christlikness throughout our lives, God is the one doing the work.
Perfection does not occur all at once.  It continues to come over your lifetime as a Christian as we “keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”
The fruit of our salvation is the righteous character produced in our lives by Jesus Christ.

The result of all of this is that our “going on…” will bring much glory and praise to God.  Because of what God has done for us, is that not a reason by itself to keep “growing?”

Thursday, January 12

Matthew 5:48 (NLT)
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Review the reading from yesterday.   At the conclusion of that lengthy passage, Jesus tells His hearers to “be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

The readings from Matthew (Jesus’ words) sound very similar to the readings from Leviticus in the Old Testament that we read earlier this week.  They should!  Leviticus would have been part of the Hebrews Scriptures that Jesus would have memorized as a young Jewish boy.

Considering these two passages, answer this question: are you holy/perfect?

Wednesday, January 11

Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28,
31-32, 33-37, 38-39, 43-44 (NLT)
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’  But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.   “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.   “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’  But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.  And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black.  Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.  “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

This passage is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  In this passage, Jesus asks His hearers to think about the Hebrew Scriptures.  He says “you have heard that our ancestors were told…”  He then quotes one of the decrees that came from “the law,” that God says that we need to obey that maybe even came from the book of Leviticus.  But then Jesus takes it a step further with the phrase, “But I say…” and then He takes the expectation up a notch.

In other words, Jesus is saying that we need to consider the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.  The law was written to create an environment where we “love God and love neighbor.”

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being not at all, 10 being all the time) on how you follow the law as Jesus phrases it.