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Guilt-Ridden Sermon

So many times we think that hearing a good message is good enough. For example, if we hear a good, meaty, deep, convicting sermon or devotion or letter or book, then somehow we equate that with being saved, justified, faith, a relationship. If it challenges us then we did well. Why do we feel like that? Because most of us believe in future righteousness. This is going to sound philosophical, but bear with me. We believe that if we think about doing good, then that means we did good. If we plan on doing good then we are good. If we plan on doing good works then it makes us feel as if we already did and we thereby remove our conviction to do something. Once our conviction has been removed we no longer feel like doing anything and then nothing ever gets accomplished. In truth, the man who goes to church and does nothing is worse than the man who lives with prostitutes because the man that knows the truth and does nothing does evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it sins James 4:17.

There are two men in the bible that exemplify this teaching. One is the rich young ruler:

Mark 10:17-27

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Rich Young Ruler

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

His first response to Jesus was that he knelt. I know that is not talked about a lot or even noted, but think about that. This man comes before God and kneels, humbles himself and asks what can I do to please you. So far, so good. Jesus tells him to keep the basic commandments. The man says, and it appears this is humbling (he is on his knees) said that he has done that. Then Jesus gives him a powerful message. Sell all of your stuff and be my 13th disciple! Wow, Jesus is not messing with this guy. It says that He looked at him with love. Jesus really wanted this guy! But to be a disciple means that he had to give everything. Jesus foreknew what would happen to His disciples. He knew what they would have to go through and was not taking someone on His team that could not bear the weight of the cross. So he pushed this man to his limits and the man failed. Now it says that he walked away grieving, sadden in other words feeling bad. He heard a tough sermon and he got up walked out to his car saying man I got a problem I should probably change. THEN DID NOTHING!

Now let us look at another response:

Luke 19

New International Version (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.”

Interesting, isn’t how comparable these stories are? Both begin with Jesus going somewhere and a man seeking Him. Zacchaeus though does not think that he is even worthy, or maybe that he is not even strong enough to get to Jesus so he climbs a tree. Then Jesus says that He would like to spend some time with Zacchaeus. What is his response? The creator of the universe wants to eat at my place. He is showering me with grace. Now you are saying that there is no mention of grace in this store. Aww but you are not reading close enough. What was the people’s response? They questioned why Jesus would eat with a sinner. Why would Jesus go to a sinner’s house to spend time with him. Now think about what Zacchaeus is thinking. He knows he is a sinner. He knows that he has cheated, lied, stole from people and that it is public knowledge that he lives like this. Now do you see the grace? The more important part of this story is Zacchaeus’ response to the grace. He responds by showering grace on others (the poor), throwing a party, and repenting (not just paying back, but four times the amount he owed). Luke ends this passage with a quote from Jesus: “Today salvation has come…” So this is what salvation looks like? It is not saying a prayer and then bam you are saved. It is messy. It is joyful. It is filled with repentance. He then says that he “…to seek and save the lost”.

Let us take a second and think about your response to Jesus. Do you feel bad? Feel shame? Feel guilty? What is your response? Is their action in your faith? Do you do something with the grace that has been given to you? If you had to insert yourself into one of the stories would you be the rich young ruler or Zacchaeus? Now if someone else was looking at your life which one would they put you in and why? 

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