Grace comes first
God is reaching out to offer you a second chance. Are you ready to take it?
Are you feeling burdened by sin? Not sure if God loves you? Wondering if Jesus will really welcome you in to his kingdom?
Don't give up. God's got some great news for you.
Have a look at the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10 which offers incredible hope for the lost and broken.
A desperate need for Jesus
Zacchaeus was an evil man.
A corrupt tax collector getting rich by ripping off his own people.
And so he was hated and despised.
And then he hears that Jesus is passing through Jericho.
But the crowds surrounding Jesus are so big and Zacchaeus is so little he can’t see over the top of them.
But he’s desperate. And resourceful. So he climbs a tree.
It would have been pretty embarrassing for a rich and powerful man like Zacchaeus to be seen up a tree. But something about Jesus seems to have already captured his heart. And he figures it’s worth the risk.
A shocking invitation
So there’s Zacchaeus hiding up a tree - waiting for Jesus to pass by.
Except Jesus doesn’t pass by. Instead he comes right up to the tree.
And he sees Zacchaeus.
And he knows Zacchaeus.
And he knows how corrupt Zacchaeus is and how much the people hate him.
And yet instead of treating Zacchaeus like the grub that he is.
Jesus says, "Zacchaeus, hurry down; I’m coming to your place today."
And everyone is shocked. But no one is more shocked than Zacchaeus.
Because here is Jesus, a man who truly bears the likeness of God.
A man who is always honest. Who handles anger well, is totally trustworthy and generous, and who speaks to build others up not to tear them down. A man who is fully devoted to God
But Jesus doesn’t treat Zacchaeus with bitterness or wrath or anger or wrangling or slander but is kind and tenderhearted and forgiving.
And he just invited Zacchaeus to be his friend.
A powerful transformation
When Zacchaeus sees how lovely Jesus is, then he sees how far short he has fallen from who HE is meant to be.
He senses his sin.
What would happen at this point if Jesus didn't offer forgiveness to Zacchaeus?
He’ll be crushed. He’ll despair. He’ll accept the verdict of the crowds that he’s worthless. He’ll decide that the gap between who he is and who he is meant to be is too large to cross. And he’ll never change.
But what does he do instead?
He welcomes grace. See Luke 19:6?
"So Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome him."
And so the reason Zacchaeus wasn’t crushed by his sin is because he welcomed and was welcomed by God’s grace. In fact grace came before repentance.
An irresistible offer
Zacchaeus didn’t have to go seeking grace because grace came seeking him.
This is the beautiful news of the gospel. Grace comes first.
And so in that terrible moment when he finally saw how far he’d fallen short of God’s glory - he wasn’t paralysed by despair. Because before he even knew he needed to repent grace was there to welcome him.
Zacchaeus can repent because he welcomes grace.
When you look through God’s eyes at your lost self and discover God’s joy at your coming home it means you know you are loved.
And so you can dare to grasp your destiny – without being crushed by your sin.
A chance to start again
You can put off your old self with its ruling desires and embrace the desires that God has for you. Even though that might feel like you’re giving up something that you cherish. You can do it because there is something - someone - who you cherish more.
The reason we can give up our old self for Jesus - is because he gave up himself for us. When we see Jesus on the cross, looking like 'a fool' in the eyes of those around him but bearing our sin. When we see him holding out eternal friendship while we still sinned.
When we welcome his grace. Then we can repent and change like Zacchaeus did.
Not out of guilt. Not out of obligation. But out of joy because we finally understand just how much God loves us.