Thursday, October 23, 2014
Turned around life
Imagine Zacchaeus telling his story. The elements of his story are a good model for us.
YESTERDAY we considered two people that encountered Jesus and had their lives turned around — and had a pretty definite story to tell as a result.
If you have been blind from birth and then, having met Jesus, miraculously you can see, your story almost tells itself. If you have led a wayward life, caught in wrong living and all the shame that goes with that, and then met Jesus who sprung you out of that trap and enabled you to feel good about yourself – that’s a story that will connect with others in that kind of situation.
However, these are specific and dramatic stories that present a bit of a “follow that” to the rest of us. So let’s look at another Bible character’s story which may be a better model for us.
Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector whose idol in life was money, and whose game plan was getting more of it. Then Jesus Christ invited Himself round for a meal, and around that meal, everything changed. It changed so much that Zacchaeus declared he would pay back every pound he had stolen and extorted, and moreover he would give half of his net worth to the poor.
So when people asked him,”What this thing with you and God these days?” you can almost hear him reply.
“I’ll tell you what happened – it was unbelievable! I fell into a pattern where my whole life was wrapped up in money. The grip of greed was so strong that I couldn’t break free. It distorted every relationship I had. But then I met Jesus. And you know what? Jesus set me free from the tyranny of greed. He taught me how to care – really care – about people, particularly the poor. That’s what Jesus did for me – He unhooked me from unhealthy habits and got me pointed in a new direction.”
How many times do you think Zacchaeus told that story? Hundreds of times, probably. But in itself, it’s a simple story. Sharing Christ’s impact in our lives doesn’t have to be any more complicated than this.
What would Paul’s one-minute story have been, talking about how he was on his way to round up the Christ-followers of the day in Damascus?
“But then I met Jesus Christ in a blaze of light on a road to Damascus, ” he might have continued, “and it was there that I realised the full extent of my sin. I stumbled across this thing called grace. I went from self-righteous accuser to recipient of grace.”
Bill Hybels’ story has parallels with Paul’s. When people ask him why he is so fired up about God, he tells them: “There was a time in my life when I was absolutely certain that that the only way to earn God’s favour was to perform, achieve and strive. But then I met the Son of God in a powerful way and learned that the only way to gain his favour is to accept His gift of grace. Almost immediately, it brought an overwhelming peace to my soul, and end to my useless striving, and revolutionary change to my entire world.”
Three very short accounts, each with a crystal-clear focus. Now think about your own transition into new life. What is the one key thing reflected in your changed life that will speak to someone living far away from God?