What Will Tomorrow Bring?

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
November 17, 2013, Pentecost XXVI

Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 98:1-6, II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

From the Prophet Isaiah:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us;

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Have you ever tried to make a prediction? Here are some from the past. All from people who were trusted individuals:

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, in 1943 said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Popular Mechanics magazine in 1949 made this prediction: “Where a calculator on the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.”

The Decca Recording Co. made a big mistake when they made this prediction: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” That was their prediction in 1962 concerning a few lads from Liverpool, England. Their band was called the Beatles.

In our Gospel reading this morning, we have Jesus and His disciples in the Temple. Now it was the disciples’ turn to ask Jesus some questions!

It all started with the arrival in the temple of a poor widow with an offering for the Lord (Luke 21:1-4). We should all be familiar with this passage and it would be an excellent stewardship message, but that’s next week. Compared to the gifts of the rich men, her two copper coins seemed insignificant, but Jesus said that she gave more than all the others combined. “The widow’s mite” does not represent the least we can give, but the most, our very all. When we sing, “Take my silver and my gold/Not a mite will I withhold,” we are telling God that everything we have belongs to Him.

When it comes to our giving, God sees more than the portion; He also sees the proportion. Men see what is given, but God sees what is left, and by that He measures the gift and the condition of our hearts. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” It’s something to think about for next Sunday.

The temple in Jerusalem was a beautiful structure, embellished with many costly decorations that a poor widow could never give, and the disciples mentioned this to Jesus. But our Lord was not impressed. He told them that the day would come when the beautiful Jewish temple would be demolished (Luke 21:5-6). He had already announced that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19:41-44), but now He specifically mentioned the destruction of the temple.

Jesus’ prediction that a structure so immense would be leveled to the ground seemed implausible. But they pressed Jesus for more information. In their voice was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that their lives were about to change forever. Jesus had not made any predictions like this one. This was different. This, they could understand.

Forty years later Jesus’ prediction came true. In 70 AD the Temple was destroyed by Rome. If this prediction came true, would not the other predictions of Jesus come true as well?

Jesus left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives, and there Peter, James, and John asked Him three questions: (1) When would the temple be destroyed? (2) What would be the sign of His coming? (3) What would be the sign of the end of the age?

The disciples thought that these three events would occur at the same time, but Jesus explained things differently. Actually, the temple would be destroyed first, and then there would be a long period of time before He would return and establish His kingdom on earth. Our Lord’s reply comprises what we call “The Olivet Discourse,” the greatest prophetic sermon He ever preached.
Keep in mind that this was a message given to Jews by a Jew about the future of the Jewish nation. Though there are definite applications to God’s people today, the emphasis is on Jerusalem, the Jews, and the temple.
Our Lord was not discussing His coming for the church, for that can occur at any time and no signs need precede it (1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thes. 4:13-18). “For the Jews require a sign” (1 Cor. 1:22); the church looks for a Saviour (Phil. 3:20-21).

The sermon focuses on a period in God’s program called “the Tribulation” when God will pour out His wrath on the nations of the world. Some scholars believe that the Tribulation will begin after the Lord comes in the air and takes His church to heaven (1 Thes. 4:13-5:11). It will climax with the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, at which time He will defeat His foes and establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:1-20:6).

Our Lord’s admonition to His people is, “Don’t be terrified!” These things must come to pass; there is nothing anyone can do to prevent them. This does not mean that God’s people are submitting to blind fate; rather, it means they are yielding to the plan of a loving Father who works all things “after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).

Finally, there will be religious persecution, both official (Luke 21:12-15) and personal (Luke 21:16-19). Of course, there has been religious persecution ever since Cain killed Abel (Matt. 23:34-36). Jesus promised that His people would suffer (John 15:18-16:4), and that promise holds true today (2 Tim. 3:12). But the persecution in the end times will be much more severe and many will give their lives for Christ.

Look at the Middle East: Christians and Jews are being persecuted, murdered and forced to flee their homeland, due to Muslims. A Christian minister, who converted from Islam to Christianity, is being held in an Iranian jail simply because he is a Christian.

Christianity is under attack in this country; God is being removed from our schools, our government, and our way of life by a few unbelievers. I pray that some day we as Christians will have the courage to restore the Judeo Christian values and beliefs that founded this great country.

Jesus gives encouragement to all who suffer persecution. We must remember that when we are persecuted, we suffer for His name’s sake (Luke 21:12), and this is a high honor (Acts 5:41). It is not important what people say about our names, but it is important that the name of Christ be glorified.

We also need to realize that suffering is an opportunity for witness (Luke 21:13-15). I am sure most of us will not have to endure suffering for Christ, but there are many down through the centuries that have. The Apostles made good use of the witness stand when they were arrested and taken before the council (Acts 4-5), and Christ’s servants and martyrs have followed their example.

Because of official persecution, God’s witnesses will stand before important people; and when that happens, they must not panic, for God will give them the words to speak. This promise is not an excuse for lazy preachers or Sunday school teachers who do not want to study! Rather, it is an assurance to faithful witnesses that God will always give them the words they need when they need them.

But they must not despair, for God is in control. Not a hair on their head can perish apart from His sovereign will (Matt. 10:28-31). Knowing this they can have endurance and be able to face the challenges with faith and courage.

While many Christians today enjoy freedom from official persecution, or even family opposition, there are others who suffer greatly for their faith, and what our Lord said here is an encouragement to them. We here in America have it easy. No one is being arrested simply because we are a Christian; at least not yet. Yes, our Christian faith is being persecuted by nonbelievers – God is being removed from our society, but it’s not personally affecting us; at least not yet.

Remember, the things Jesus described here are not signs of His soon return, because they have been going on for centuries. However, as the coming of the Lord draws near, these things will multiply and intensify. No matter what our views may be of the coming of the Lord, we all need to heed His three admonitions: “Don’t be deceived! Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry!”

We also have the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”

God saves the best for last: His description of “the new heavens and a new earth.” People will not get old or die (Isa. 65:20), nor will there be any danger or losing anything to invaders (vv. 21-23).

Jerusalem will be a source of joy, not only to the Lord but to the whole earth. It will be a city of holiness, harmony, and happiness. During the millennial kingdom, people will work, and God will bless their labors. People will pray, and God will answer (v. 24). Nature will be at peace (v. 25) because the curse will be lifted.

As holy saints through faith in the blood of Christ, we need not fear this end of the world. God’s Word encourages us to look forward to what will be. God declares that after He destroys the world as we know it – He will create a NEW heaven and earth. Imagine living in a world where there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more living with unbelievers; no more living with sinful desires, no more bad backs, and no more death.

We may worry about what will happen here at Trinity Church. Will we continue as a Christian community? What will happen to the building if we close? Where will we worship? Who will bury me? What will happen to the friendships we have made over the years? Does any of this matter?

The kingdom of God and the spreading of His Word is all important. It is worth investing in and losing everything over. In the end, whether we die with nothing – as Lazarus did, or many things – as Abraham did – makes no difference. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6). So why not make the most with what we’ve got – for HIS kingdom? Why not invest your efforts in doing ETERNAL things?

St. Paul stated: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).

Friends, the end is always near – maybe just around the corner or many years to come. But God promises us that because Jesus died and rose from the dead, we will rise again – in a new and eternal world. So stick to the basics. That means first and foremost continuing in the Word and Sacrament – keeping connected to Christ – to keep you focused on the prize. Use your body. Use your gifts. That’s what life in Christ is all about. Have no fear. The end is near.

Let us pray:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

God of the Living

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
November 10, 2013, Pentecost XXV – Veterans Sunday

Job 19:23-27a, Psalm 17:1-9, II Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38

From the Prophet Job:
“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were given in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God…”

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. We want to honor and esteem all veterans and especially those veterans who are with us in the worship service today. In doing so, we want to take a look at what is required to become a true veteran of the cross of Christ.

If you were to look up and in back of you, there are two flags hanging from the balcony. The American Flag, and the Christian Flag. One represents our country, and the other represents our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. To serve either of these flags (and the kingdoms they represent) faithfully and effectively, one must meet certain requirements.
Before one can become a veteran, they must first be a good soldier. What are the characteristics of a good soldier? First he needs to volunteer; to give of himself willingly for the cause. Second he needs to have complete faith; Faith in the one who called him to serve. And the third characteristic is that one needs to have complete commitment; Commitment to the one who called him and to serve faithfully without hesitation. And fourth, is complete obedience; to “follow orders” no matter the cost. And last: complete devotion; to be devoted and dedicated to the one who called you. Are you that soldier?

Jesus had already told His twelve disciples to expect conflict and suffering when they arrived in the Holy City. “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22). Jesus knew fully what was coming, and He was not afraid.

In the 20th chapter of Luke, we meet three groups of religious leaders (Luke 20:1) and witness their conflict with Jesus. They challenged Him because He had cleansed the temple and called them “thieves.” They tried to catch Him in His words so they could trump up some charges against Him and have Him arrested as an enemy of the state.

These religious leaders of the Jewish people – the establishment – were sure of their ability to rule. They enjoyed the power they had and saw Jesus as the brash young challenger to their authority and power; so they were always trying to trap Him and make Him say something that would make Him lose His credibility with the crowds. Jesus, however, was like a rubber band that always snapped back in their faces.

It was required that the Jews carefully examine the Passover lambs from the tenth day to the fourteenth day to make sure they had no blemishes (Ex. 12:1-6). Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was watched and tested by His enemies during that final week; and yet in spite of what they saw and listened, they rejected Him.

However, Jesus was also examining them! For as they questioned Him, He questioned them, and their responses revealed the ignorance, hatred, and unbelief of their hearts.

The Sadducees asked Jesus a hypothetical question based on the Jewish law of “levirate marriage” (Gen. 38; Deut. 25:5-10). The word levirate comes from the Latin levir, which means “a husband’s brother.” The Sadducees only accepted what was written in the Torah – also known as the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. If something was not specifically referred to or mentioned in the Torah, then, in their estimation, it was not to be believed.

For example, the first five books of the Bible say nothing about angels, spirits, eternal life, resurrection or immortality – so the Sadducees did not believe in these things, and thought that no one else should either. They also did not believe in Heaven or Hell. They claimed that Moses did not write about any of these doctrines. They did not believe such writings as the book of Job which contains this witness:

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him…” (Job 19:23-27).

The priestly party in Israel was composed of Sadducees, which explains why the priests opposed the Apostles’ preaching of the Resurrection (Acts 4:1-2) and why they wanted to kill Lazarus, who was raised from the dead (John 12:10-11).

According to the Sadducees, there was no such thing as life beyond the grave, so the question they posed to Jesus is really quite surprising.

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman dies too. Now then,” they asked, “at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

The Sadducees had no interest in the intricacies of life after death. They didn’t even believe in such a thing. They simply wanted to get Jesus in trouble with the people. But Jesus was accustomed to scholars attempting to trip Him up. Jesus knew the Scriptures better than they did, and believed in all the Old Testament scriptures – not just the first five books, Jesus replied to them:

“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Jesus pointed out that His opponents were wrong and that their question revealed assumptions that limited God’s power and denied God’s Word. Resurrection is not reconstruction; it is the miraculous granting of a new body that has continuity with the old body but not identity. Paul compared our present body to a planted seed and the future resurrection body to the glorious flower and fruit (1 Cor. 15:35-50). Our Lord’s resurrection body was the same as before His death and yet different!

His friends recognized Him and even felt Him; He could eat food and yet He could also walk through closed doors, change His appearance, and vanish suddenly.
The future life with God is not a mere continuation of the present life only on “a higher scale.” We will maintain our identities and know each other, but there will be no more death – hence, no need for marriage and procreation. Christians do not become angels.
In heaven we will share the image of Jesus Christ and be much higher than the angels (1 John 3:2). Angels appear in Scripture as men, but they are spirit beings without sexuality. It is in this regard that we will be like them; there will be no marriage or childbearing in heaven.

Is not God powerful enough to raise the dead and give them new bodies suited to their new environment? If today He can give different bodies to the various things in creation, why can He not give people new bodies at the resurrection? (1 Cor. 15:35-44) In their attempt to be “rational,” the Sadducees denied the very power of God!

Jesus met the Sadducees where they were. The Sadducees were people of the Law, the Torah. If something wasn’t in the Torah, it could not be part of their faith. So Jesus answered them from the Torah. He turns to the third chapter of Exodus, the story of Moses and the burning bush. There God identified Himself with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and thus affirmed that these three patriarchs were very much alive. But if they were alive, then they were “out of the body,” for they had died (James 2:26). There must be a real world of spirit beings or Moses would not have written these words.

Here God tells Moses:

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Notice that God did not say, “I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

“God is not the God of the dead,” Jesus insists, “but of the living.”

Jesus taught not only the truth of life after death but also the reality of the resurrection. In what way? Not by direct statement but by inference. God is the God of the whole person – spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:23) – because He created the whole person. He does not simply “save our souls” and ignore the rest of our being. Inherent in the very nature of God’s creative act is His concern for the total person. Hence, He will not keep us disembodied spirits forever but will give us glorious bodies to match our heavenly perfection.

Another factor is God’s covenantal relationship with the patriarchs. He made promises of earthly blessing to them and their descendants, but He cannot fulfill these promises if His people are going to live forever only as disembodied spirits. Can there be a glorious new heaven and earth but no corporeal glory for the people of God?

Jesus affirmed what the Sadducees denied: the existence of angels, the reality of life after death, and the hope of a future resurrection – and he did it with only one passage from Moses!

The resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian faith because on it hangs the three core issues of Christianity: accountability before God, judgment and eternal life. Without the resurrection, death would be the end and our accountability to God would be limited only to this life and judgment and eternal life would be meaningless.
The resurrection offers us a new existence where men and women would no longer be subject to suffering and death. Heaven is not a continuation of life, as we now know it since time, death and sin limit our relationships in this life. It will be different relationship to what we are used to but there will be one thing that will not change and that is worship. Worship will still be central in this new relationship and that should make us place a great value on worship here on earth.

God is love and he has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to spend eternity in His presence. It cost Him the life of His Son Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life on earth and died a painful death to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead for our justification so that we could spend eternity with Him. This is only possible when we believe in Him as our Lord and Saviour. We can only do this in this life before our death. Accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour determines where we spend eternity.

Our relationship with Christ is the most important thing in life. If we learn to love and trust Christ now, we will be preparing for the age to come as our relationship with Christ results in godly attitudes and godly actions. This relationship should draw us to His Word, prayer, fellowship and service. It should make us sensitive to the real needs of people as we see them the way Jesus does. We must be sure of our relationship with Christ for it is this relationship that prepares us for the age to come and ensures our future. This relationship ensures that we experience the peace of God both in this life and in the life to come.

God is the God of the living and not the dead. Our hope and confidence in the resurrection rests upon the Word of God and His infinite power. To believe the Word of god and to trust in the power of God should change both our beliefs and our behavior and the way we live. This is what will decide where we spend eternity. Those who place their faith in God and His Son are declared righteous in the sight of God and thus are considered worthy. They will spend eternity in fellowship with God the Father, His Son, and all the saints from every generation. Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

Let us pray:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom; where He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen!

Salvation Has Come

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 27, 2013, Pentecost XXIV – Memorial Sunday
Remembrance of the Faithful Departed
The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Habakkuk 1:1-4, Psalm 32:1-7, II Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10

From the Prophet Habakkuk:
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear?

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the peace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

When Christopher Columbus made his voyage west in 1492, he kept two log books, one of which contained falsified information. He wanted his men to believe that they were closer to land than they really were. Apparently Columbus felt that the morale of the crew was more important than the integrity of the captain.

As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, He told His disciples what would happen there, but they could not grasp what their Lord was saying (Luke 18:31-34). Some of the people in the crowd thought He was going to Jerusalem to deliver Israel from Roman bondage and usher in the kingdom of God. Still others followed Him just to see the next miracle He would perform.

In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus introduces us to another tax collector named Zaccheus, which means “righteous one.” Imagine us referring to the IRS as being righteous, and this supervisor of tax collectors was not living up to his name. Certainly the Jewish religious community in Jericho would not have considered him righteous, for he not only collected taxes from his own people but also worked for the unclean Gentiles! And publicans, which we learned last week, were notorious for collecting more taxes than required; the more money they collected, the more income they enjoyed (Luke 3:12-13). Though Zaccheus was a renegade in the eyes of the Jews, he was a precious lost sinner in the eyes of Jesus.

It is interesting to see the changes Zaccheus experienced that day, all because Jesus visited Jericho.

In the East, it is unusual for a man to run, especially a wealthy government official; yet Zaccheus ran down the street like a little boy following a parade. And he even climbed a tree! Curiosity is certainly characteristic of most children, and Zaccheus was motivated by curiosity that day. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).

John Calvin wrote, “Curiosity and simplicity are a sort of preparation for faith.” This is often the case, and it was certainly true of Zaccheus. Why the big crowd? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth they are following? What am I missing?

Jesus said, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall in no way enter therein” (Luke 18:17). Perhaps more than anything else, it is pride that keeps many “successful” people from trusting Jesus Christ.

Zaccheus thought he was seeking Jesus (Luke 19:3), but Jesus was actually seeking him! (Luke 19:10). By nature, the lost sinner does not seek the Saviour (Rom. 3:11). When our first parents (Adam and Eve) sinned, they hid from God, but God came and sought them (Gen. 3:1-10). When Jesus was ministering on earth, He sought out the lost; and today the Holy Spirit, through the church, is searching for lost sinners.

We do not know how God had worked in the heart of Zaccheus to prepare him for this meeting with Jesus. Was Levi, the former publican (Luke 5:27-39), one of his friends? Had he told Zaccheus about Jesus? Was he praying for Zaccheus? Had Zaccheus become weary of wealth and started yearning for something better? We cannot answer these questions, but we can rejoice that a seeking Saviour will always find a sinner who is looking for a new beginning.

St. Paul stated that he wanted the Thessalonians to be worthy of the kingdom when they entered glory in the future. But in our Epistle reading this morning, Paul emphasized their present situation. God’s calling was in grace and love, and Paul desired that they might live up to that calling.

The future prospect of glory motivated the apostle to pray for the saints. We must never neglect a present responsibility because of a future hope. On the contrary, the future hope must encourage us to be faithful today.

Trials do not make a person; they reveal what a person is made of. When our faith is tried, we are revealing our worth (1 Peter 1:6-9). God certainly knows our hearts even before we are tried, but we do not know what our own hearts. And others do not know what we are worth. We need to pray that God will build our worth and make us more valuable Christians because of the trials we have endured.

Character must lead to conduct. Paul prayed that the Thessalonians might have a resolute will, empowered by God, to do what He wanted them to do. Obedience and service do not spring from human talent and efforts, but from God’s power as we trust Him.

It was not Zaccheus’ fault that he was “little of stature” and could not see over the crowd. He did what he could to overcome his handicap by putting aside his dignity and climbing a tree. In spiritual sense, all of us are “little of stature,” for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No one measures up to God’s high standards; we are all “too little” to enter into heaven.

The tragedy is, many lost sinners think they are “big.” They measure themselves by man’s standards – money, position, authority, popularity – things that are an “abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). They think they have everything when really they have nothing (Rev. 3:17).

Zaccheus trusted Jesus Christ and became a true “son of Abraham,” meaning, of course, a child of faith (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:7). That is as big as you can get!

The people thought Zaccheus was a wealthy man, but actually he was only a bankrupt sinner who needed to receive God’s gift of eternal life, the most expensive gift in the world. This is the only instance in the four Gospels of Jesus inviting Himself to someone’s home, and it illustrates the words of Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Zaccheus was not saved because he promised to do good works. He was saved because he responded by faith to Christ’s gracious word to him. Having trusted the Saviour, he then gave evidence of his faith by promising to make restitution to those he had wronged. Saving faith is more than pious words and devout feelings. It creates a living union with Christ that results in a changed life (James 2:14-26).

Under the Mosaic Law, if a thief voluntarily confessed his crime, he had to restore what he took, add one fifth to it, and bring a trespass offering to the Lord (Lev. 6:1-7). If he stole something he could not restore, he had to repay fourfold (Ex. 22:1); and if he was caught with the goods, he had to repay double (Ex. 22:4). Zaccheus did not quibble over the terms of the Law; he offered to pay the highest price because his heart had truly been changed.

The child of God is born rich, for he shares “every spiritual blessing” in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). We have the riches of God’s mercy and grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:4) as well as the riches of His glory (Phil. 4:19) and wisdom (Rom. 11:33). These are “unsearchable riches” that can never be fully understood or completely exhausted (Eph. 3:8).

Jesus Christ will be glorified in His saints when they return with Him (2 Thes. 1:10); but He should also be glorified in our lives today. The amazing thing is that the believer who glorifies Christ is likewise glorified in Christ, “glorified in you, and you in Him.”

How can this be done? “According to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:12). Grace and glory go together, as do suffering and glory.

Jesus invited Himself to Zaccheus’ house, and Zaccheus received Him joyfully. Joy is one of the key themes in the Gospel of Luke, and the word is found over twenty times in one form or another. The experience of salvation certainly ought to produce joy in the believer’s heart.

Zaccheus became the guest in his own house, for Jesus was now his Master. He was ready to obey the Lord and do whatever was necessary to establish a genuine testimony before the people. To be sure, the people criticized Jesus for visiting in a publican’s house (Luke 5:27-32), but the Lord paid no attention to their words. The critics also needed to be saved, but there is no evidence that they trusted Jesus.

When a day begins, you never know how it will end. For Zaccheus, that day ended in joyful fellowship with the Son of God, for he was now a changed man with a new life. Jesus is still seeking the lost and yearning to save them. Has He found you? If yes, praise God! If not, come to Him today as a child and receive Him into your heart.

Let us pray:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.