Devotional 144: Who Then Can be Saved?

Matthew 19:23-28

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the previous section, Jesus had just told the rich young ruler that only one thing stood between him and heaven, and told him to give what he had to the poor. The ruler, thinking Jesus meant his possessions, now had a choice to make, and chose wrongly.

Jesus was talking about his heart toward G-d by committing to what he said he wanted to do: follow Him. It says he went away sad, but Jesus neither persuade him any further, nor pursued him.

Turning the encounter into a lesson, He let the disciples in on the reason why one can’t serve G-d and money. As common men, they likely thought that wealth brought some degree of assurance with it, for surely a rich man is blessed by G-d, or in the case of tax collectors, prospered through usury and crooked means.

Upon Jesus’ revelation, it says they were astonished at this.

Let’s look at another encounter:

Luke 19:1-11

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were ‘especially heinous’ in the eyes of the people, but because there sins were great, when Jesus spoke, their spirits were convicted and their hearts turned.

Jesus said to the Pharisees that the people they viewed as the most irredeemable were in fact getting into the kingdom ahead of them. (Matt 21:28-32)

Zacchaeus repented openly, in Jesus’ presence, and restored more than he’d taken to those he’d victimized through his position. In that moment he received Jesus’ words of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Wouldn’t we all breathe a sigh of relieved joy to hear those words spoken to us?

But even before he got to this moment, it says that he received Jesus joyfullyHe so wanted to see the Lord that even though he was short, he put in the effort to climb a tree in order to make that happen.

People likely laughed at him as he made his way up, but once he was ‘out of the world,’ Jesus noticed him, and salvation was given to him and his house. The Lord tells us every good thing comes from above, including financial wealth, but it’s never to be hoarded, because it gets in the way of serving G-d.

Let’s ask ourselves today if we’re hoarding any earthly thing that stands between us and the kingdom of G-d. It doesn’t have to be money, but maybe a talent we have, or a service we’d like to perform for others, but for whatever reason we don’t move forward to do it.

Why are we holding back? Likely, someone will laugh, make snide comments, tell you why it won’t work, say you’re not the one to do it, and so on…

But what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?

We have a choice to make now, too: do we turn sadly back to our earthly possessions, passing on the chance to store up treasure in Heaven, or release them with a joyful spirit of repentance, being reconciled to G-d in the presence of our Savior?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As Zacchaeus restored over and above that which he’d taken, so too, do You restore to us over and above that which the enemy has stolen. Indeed, he can’t stay in Your the presence of Your holiness, which is why we call to mind Your words to be holy as You are holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

The Father has imparted gifts and talents to be shared with the world, but the persecutions that come with taking up our crosses have driven us back, and some have been driven away.

We would not stand in that assembly, and so we ask that when the moment comes, You strengthen us, reminding us of the joy that awaits us, the salvation we gain, when we receive You with right hearts and clean spirits, covered by Your blood for the remission of sins.

Forgive us for splitting our service between earth and heaven, for being lukewarm in our commitment, for having hard hearts and deaf ears, lured by the idols of the world from the narrow way to Life everlasting, for being seduced by our possessions.

Today, we renew our efforts to climb back out of the world, so that as the Father’s eyes roam to and fro seeking a righteous person, we can, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves, and like the prophet Isaiah, say boldly, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Today, we release our imparted gifts anew, doing the work of the kingdom, preaching the Gospel to all nations, that they too, might receive Your words of salvation, mercy, and grace.

We go out in boldness, proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, and the irrevocable fate of life everlasting, one in the kingdom of light, the other of darkness.

In our humanity, help us with our own unbelief; we would not be poor ambassadors.

We give thanks to the Father for grafting us into the Vine, releasing our gifts to the poor in spirit with joy, speaking the Gospel Truth in love.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 125: “Look, Lord…”

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were appointed by the Roman government, and they were to collect the taxes that funded it. Calculations were made for the right amounts owed, but once those limits were met, the tax collectors were unsupervised and unregulated as to collecting more than was necessary, hence, they were especially despised, and frequently lumped in with harlots as especially heinous types of sinners.

But yet, we have the story of Matthew, who when Jesus called to him, left everything.

Luke 5:27-28

Matthew the Tax Collector

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Indeed, He admonished His own disciples that distractions would not help their cause:

Luke 14:33

33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

It was no less with Zacchaeus, who, like Matthew, we are told, also received Jesus joyfully, and again, the questions of the Pharisees regarding this practice come around again.

But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus again answers with the same thing, said a different way:

10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

But what is often overlooked here is the joy Zacchaeus felt, so convicted of his wrong in Jesus’ presence, that he actually wanted the Lord to witness his repentance.

“Look, Lord…”

Are we that confident in our repentance, in our faith in mercy and grace, in the New Covenant itself, that when we turn again to the Father through our faith in the Son, we can say, “Look, Lord…” ?

Are we brave enough to call Heaven’s attention to the changing of our ways, the words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts, and our communion with the Holy Spirit?

Dare we?

Will we make restitution to our King, restoring ourselves to His mercy and grace, seeking His forgiveness of our sins in His authority as the Son of G-d, and through faith in His finished work on the cross as the Son of Man?

Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, how far will we go to see a glimpse of our Savior’s face, how much effort are we going to put in to our salvation to get into His presence, and seek His blessing and favor over ourselves and our houses?

Let us be ready to feast with Him, that the wrath of the Father not abide on us. Let us restore our fellowship with Jesus, that we might be saved and raised on the last day.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, but neither let us tire of resting in Him, knowing that all our work will be tested, all our secrets brought to light, but all of our sins forgiven by the shedding of His blood.

May we be confident enough in our faith walk to seek His face, saying to Him as He fellowships with us: “Look, Lord…”

Therefore I pray:

I confess now, Lord Jesus, that I am sick, and lost, and as You are the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd,  I ask that You forgive me, heal me, and convict me of all unrighteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me make my restitution to those I’ve wronged, and restore myself once again to the Father, who hates dishonest scales. 

Let it be said of me that salvation has come to me and my house, for Jesus noticed my zeal in seeking Him. I thank You, Lord Jesus, for the covenant of grace and mercy that abides on me through You, in You, and of You. Let me not substitute Your spotless, blameless righteousness and favor for the sake of earthly things that will pass away.

May it be true of me that I want You to see the good works I’m doing, forgiving those who’ve wronged me, and restoring that which I’ve taken without gratitude, or the means to repay. 

It is a great debt You’ve forgiven me, so that I might forgive others who’ve wronged me.

May I joyously receive Your blessing over me and my house, standing in Your presence, unable to make restitution for redemption, and unable to attain it through anything I might do.

May my heart feast with You in heavenly places, even as it burns within me as we walk together in the day, far spent. Call me to celebrate with You after repenting of my sin, as You speak to seal the Word of the Father to my heart.

Let my works, in conjunction with the true repentance of my heart, bring You joy, so that I might be confident enough to say to my Savior, “Look, Lord…”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 104: Everyone’s Chains were Loosed

Acts 16:25-34

The Philippian Jailer Saved

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Beaten for driving out a divining spirit, and ruining the profits of a servant girl’s masters, not only Paul, but his companion Silas, suffered ‘many stripes’ for doing so. In Rome, facing great resistance, Paul continued his steadfast preaching, unwavering and uncompromising, setting the Jewish leaders on fire with jealousy as the people gathered to hear the words Christ gave Paul to speak.

Silas was a prophet of G-d, (Acts 15:32), so He would have been acquainted with the teachings of Christ as well, and was under the anointing by his proximity to Paul. They made a dynamic team, going to the churches of Syria and Cilicia after parting with Barnabas over Mark.

In the midst of their affliction and the loss of their freedom they began to praise G-d, and where praise is, His presence is in the midst of where two are gathered in His name. This pleased the Father to the extent that even though it was Paul and Silas who suffered, He freed everyone, though Paul didn’t intercede for them directly. It says, however, that the prisoners were listening, and are we not told that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word? (Romans 10:17)

Yet, so caught up were they that even though their chains were loosed, no one had the presence of mind to run, but stayed near where the Lord’s presence was strong. “We are all here,” Paul tells the anxious jailer, who is so fearfully reverent that he asks the question every Christian witness longs to hear: “What must I do to be saved?”

More often than not, in these times, we are told to keep silent; unfortunately, the powers that be in the places that can negatively affect us are in agreement. Bibles, prayer groups, praying over meals, and especially witnessing,  are severely discouraged, and going against it comes with dire consequences that may involve our livelihood if we are found out.

Yet when those around you are in crisis, have you not received a private, personal request to pray? I have, on more than one occasion. Maybe to themselves, they’re ‘hedging their bets,’ like those who go to church on Christmas and Easter, ‘just in case,’ but if you’ve professed yourself a believer, they know who to find when they’re really in need.

Understand that when you present yourself to the Lord, it is not just for You alone, and when you praise G-d in the midst of your afflictions, people are not only watching, they are listening. Are you steadfast, bold, unwavering, and uncompromising in your faith, believing you and your household saved through the atoning work of the Son?

Have you been freed from the chains of sin, and delivered out of bondage?

Have you driven out the spirits who come against you in the places you inhabit, and have you suffered for it?

Be assured, you are in the Father’s favor, the Son’s hands, and the Spirit’s power, and all the glory goes to Him who delivered not only you, but everyone around you, for it seemed good in His sight, and to his glory, to do so.

Therefore I pray:

In the midst of receiving my spiritual and earthly stripes, Father, I praise you in the midst of those who don’t understand what I do, and why I do it. Let it be as a seed, Lord, planted in fertile soil so that I may glorify You when they ask of me: “What shall I do to be saved?”

Let me always have an answer for seekers, a light for the blind, a rebuke and purging of diviners, and shield me from such, for I’m weak, and likely to entertain them, making them equal to prophets, when they are in fact demons that would see me persecuted.

Let the Spirit fill me with what I should say, and use my gifts and talents as Jesus used all of Paul’s scholarly gifts, and Barnabas’ ability to encourage and see beyond fault, and Timothy’s charisma and courage. I would be fruitful to the Vine into which I’ve been grafted through the covenant of grace.

As I pray, and intercede, and stand in the gap, let those who are watching see the movement of Your hand, and touch those souls that would be ignited through the work You would have me do, and let me not stumble or do anything that would turn them away. 

I would finish the race, and receive the crown, to Your honor and glory Lord, that I may rest and live forever in the Power’s light, in Your eternal Kingdom full of peace, praise, and love everlasting, now and forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.