Tree Climbers

Luke 19: 7

When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

This is an interesting story about a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Not only was he a tax collector but he was a chief tax collector. Tax collectors were the most despised and reprehensible reprobates of the time. Jesus couldn’t have found a more despicable person. However, when Jesus looked up in a tree and saw Zacchaeus there, he immediately called to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Clearly the crowd was incensed that Jesus would soil himself with the company of a sinner.

We, however, have the advantage of several thousand years of perspective. We know that Jesus was more likely to be found with sinners than with the righteous church people of the day. In fact, the people Jesus showed great disdain for were the Pharisees. That is all fine and well and we can look at this objectively now. The one thing we do not seem to do, though, is to overlay this story, and others, onto modern times. So, I ask you, who are the Pharisees today? Who fills the role in modern society that the tax collectors Zacchaeus and Matthew did in Jesus’ time? When we go through this exercise more light shines on Jesus and this story. We begin to see the fullness of Jesus’ testimony through Samaritans and sinners. It also has a tendency to make us a little uncomfortable for fear that we can all too easily slip into the reviled role of the Pharisees.

This is the one case where you almost want to identify with the sinner. I think I would rather you call me a sinner than Jesus call me a Pharisee. The Pharisees were hypocrites and knew nothing about the love of God. You cannot know God if you don’t know love. The Pharisees were righteous in their own eyes but saw sin in others but in truth their garments were stained with sin. Zacchaeus hosted Jesus for dinner. The Pharisees didn’t. What does that teach us? If you want Jesus to sup with you, take off your Pharisaical robes and get real. Better to be a tree climber than a self-righteous Pharisee. Deal with your own sin and righteousness and don’t worry yourself about Zacchaeus and his problems. Leave that to Jesus. He is able.

Glass half ______

Romans 8: 29

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

So, is your glass half empty or half full? I find there are two very distinct classes of Christians. There are those who are fully cognizant of their faults and short comings and those whose eyes behold who they are in Christ.

Half empty glass Christians are very focused on their failures and even their sins. Half full glass Christians, while aware of their imperfection, choose to focus on the one who is perfect. Can we one day be all too aware of our faults and the next be fully persuaded about Christ’s victory in our life? Sure but I find that people tend to reside in one philosophy or the other.

I want to encourage you to see who you are in Christ and abandon the glass half empty approach to Christianity. The glass half empty people constantly look at their mistakes, their faults and their weaknesses. “Let the weak say, “I am strong!” (Joel 3: 10 Amplified). There are two problems with the theology of constantly looking at our weakness. First, it is not Biblical. Though we know we are weak, though we know we are flawed we are supposed to declare “I am strong” because our strength is in our Lord.

The other flaw in this approach is that it is self-centered instead of being Christ centered. We are supposed to have our eyes on him, not on ourselves. We have to get us off of our minds and put our thoughts on Jesus and the glory of what he has done for us. The scripture says that we are the righteousness of God in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5: 21). Why are we calling ourselves wretched and sinful when God calls us His righteousness?

Sometimes this theology even goes so far as to harp on our sins and sinful natures. Well, isn’t that why God sent a savior? We were lost with no power to save ourselves but when Jesus went to the cross he took our sins with him and nailed them to that tree. Jesus took the sin of the world and crucified it. Of course that doesn’t mean that we never fail but it does mean that we have been redeemed from the curse of sin, we have been restored to our right place with God and our sins have been washed by the blood. If we are saved, and we surely confess that we are, then our sin debt has been paid. We have been redeemed. We are no longer sinners but rather saints. To call ourselves sinners when Christ paid the price of our sin with his life is to throw his sacrifice in his face. It is like saying, “Hey Jesus, your sacrifice wasn’t good enough to clean me. I am a special kind of sinner.”

I know some adopt this posture as a form of humility but in truth, it is a false humility because it is obsession with our image of ourselves. True humility is to take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on our Lord and savior. Our thoughts and words should echo scripture and his great victory which we won for us.

You are the precious, redeemed, restored, sanctified, righteous child of the most high. Let your mouth talk about what Jesus has done instead of what you have done and you will find that your glass isn’t half full. It’s overflowing.