Jesus sat a child on his knee and began to instruct the people, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17). Luke then shares similar stories of two rich men. The comparisons between them are profound. One is unnamed, the rich young ruler; the other is named, Zaccheus. One is righteous; the other is a publican. One seeks an audience with the Master; the other starts as merely a spectator. One went away sorrowful; the other saved.
What was the difference? Notice their approach to the Savior. The rich young ruler came with pomp and circumstance, kneeling before the Master and sought the Savior’s approval. Truly, he expected the Master Teacher to say, “You have lived perfectly. There is nothing more you can do to inherit eternal life.” He came with expectations.
Everything about Zaccheus was childlike. The writer even points out he was of little stature. Zaccheus runs and climbs a tree. When’s the last time you climbed a tree for the fun of it? These were childish things to do, but they are written on purpose to draw you back to the instruction from Jesus.
Jesus is not searching for immaturity. He is searching for simplicity and surrender. When one does not presume to be equal with God, they will come in the simplicity of humility. There is no pomp or circumstance. They know they have nothing of value to offer. Zaccheus was wealthy and could have tried to impress the Lord, but he came in simplicity. Can you imagine how he must have felt? First, Jesus noticed him. Then Jesus knew him, “Zaccheus!” Finally, Jesus loved him, “Make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). This led to Zaccheus redeeming response—surrender. He didn’t quibble with the details of the law like the Pharisees. Whatever wrong he may have done, he would repay it abundantly for his sin debt was graciously forgiven.
One of the rich men experienced salvation. The other did not. Have you come to the Savior in simplicity? Or have you been trying to impress Him? Have you realized “all have come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Have you surrendered to Him?
If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?
This is a very interesting question, but the next question is even more important.
If a person lives within the familiar goodness of God, does he have faith?
“If” is a pivotal word, and it is in usual form in John 11. Martha and Mary both comment to Jesus, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, 32). Knowing the rest of the story, you are tempted to criticize them, however, insert yourself into their experience. At best, they have heard of times where Christ raised the recently dead. They have seen way more healings than resurrections. Their hope hung upon the fact, Christ could heal their brother. Maybe even after Lazarus sighed his final breath and slipped into the afterlife, they gazed out the window desperate to see Jesus. But when the sun set three times before they heard anything from Christ, their faith had withered.
Jesus makes his own “if” statement to Martha. Encased in a question he says, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40). Press pause right there, and compare the two “if” statements. Martha’s and Mary’s statement to Christ used the formula: If-thou-brother. Christ’s statement to Martha used the formula: If-thou-God.
What Martha and Mary had was familiar faith. It was informed faith. Because they had seen Christ heal, they knew He could heal. It is faith, but informed faith is not sourced in God. Informed faith is sourced in your experience. Hebrews 11 describes faith for us: “Faith is the…evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Informed faith is faith within the confines and comfort of experience. Informed faith afflicts us with short-sightedness, seeing only His goodness.
Informed faith is a sight problem. Yes, you appreciate the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, but faith causes you to look past His goodness to see His glory. It is only when we desire to see His glory we actually “please Him” and will be rewarded as ones who “diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The faith which pleases God is not a familiar faith, but a frontier faith. This is the faith which embarks on a journey to “see the glory of God.” With the knapsack of God’s promises flung over your shoulder, you step off the trail of the familiar into the frontier and explore the glory of God.
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
It is the training ground for future salesmen. As a child in elementary school, you would slam your lunch box on the table, open it up, and immediately begin assessing the value of what was packed in your lunch. Some items in your lunch were the holy grail of food. You could have your pick of the lunch boxes. Other things were good but hardly tradable. Maybe if you combined it with something else you could get one better item, but more than likely you would simply settle for it. Then there were the abhorrent items in lunches. You couldn’t trade them for your worst enemy’s sister!
Some kids weren’t interested in trading, so they would simply toss everything they didn’t want into the middle of the table. There was an unwritten rule in lunchroom policy: Anything tossed in the middle was up for grabs. The youngster had forsaken their lunch, and the rest of the table could fight over it.
When you read Luke 14:33, do you immediately take inventory of what you have? Jesus said, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). After reading words like “forsaketh” and “all,” most people look into the lunchbox of their lives and assess the value of what they are being called to forsake. Their stuff is pretty important. Oh, and their future is priceless. Their time is non-negotiable. All mankind looks longingly over at Jesus’ “stash” in order to make a fair trade, but Jesus is not in the trading business. Jesus, in essence, says, “Toss everything you have in the “up-for-grabs” area of the table”! He says, “Forsake all.” Can you do that?
In the next chapter, Jesus tells a story which should help us forsake all. A young man had an intricate value system. He collected all of his treasures in his life’s “lunchbox” and indulged in everything he could. The times were great, but only for a season. And we all know seasons change. Soon he felt the shove of the swine around his ankles as he was throwing slop out in the “up-for-grabs” pen for his new friends. He was about to fight the pigs for the slop when a rational thought stopped him. The father’s worst was infinitely better than his present condition.
How hard do you think it was for the prodigal son to “forsake all”? While your thinking, he’s already up and running back home. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was trading pig slop for the fatted calf. He would have never known what he would get from his father until he forsook all. What makes Luke 14:33 so hard is we have price tags on pig slop. The trinkets of this world, your stuff…it’s pig slop. That compromising relationship; pig slop. The accolades and personal achievements you value so much are pig slop compared to what God has planned for you.
What will you do? Will you forsake your pig slop? Or do you enjoy eating out of the world’s trough?
“One, two, three…six, seven…” I soon lost count. In this fall season, I was driving on our country roads to make a quick visit when I noticed creeping travelers on their journey. They were on a mission before the first potential frost in the morning. Their trek led them, not to crawl parallel with the road, no, but their trajectory was completely perpendicular. I aimed the tires of my vehicle hoping to straddle the army of wooly bears crossing the road. Certainly, a wooly bear massacre would affect the ecosystem in some unfortunate way!
In comparison to a wooly bear, we are soaring through life at high altitude and would barely notice such an “insignificant” creature, yet they do not escape God’s notice. Jesus informed His audience, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6)? Later in the chapter, he mentions God feeds the ravens. “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls” (Luke 12:24)?
Then Luke 13, Jesus exhibits this divine and tender care for all to see. A woman, hunched over and crippled “by Satan” for eighteen years did not escape his notice. In society, she more than likely was a nuisance, a pesky beggar, scraping by from day to day. Jesus lays his hands upon the woman and says, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity” (Luke 13:12). She was “of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).
There are two sins which arise when we forget God is our provider. Let it be noted: I am not advocating a foolish or imprudent lack of planning. The principle of the ant in the Proverbs is just as valuable. However, there are two sins which arise when we forget God cares for us more than sparrows and ravens, and they are worry and warehousing. Both are inaccurate thoughts about God. Worry is when we think God has forgotten us; warehousing is when we have forgotten God. In Luke 12, Jesus speaks of a rich man who had a bountiful harvest, yet he was warehousing his surplus. There were poor crippled women he could have noticed as God noticed, but this is unnatural for selfish flesh. When we seek “the kingdom of God” we remember “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:31, 15).
Whether it is sparrows, ravens, or wooly bears, remember, God notices you and He cares enough to supply your need. Lean upon Him today.
The blue light special was flashing in my rearview mirror. This would not be good. I pulled off onto the shoulder, and the police officer informed me I was going too fast through the weigh station. At this time, I was delivering brand new trucks and busses around North America. This bus happened to be heading to Canada so the dashboard indicated kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour. I was doing fine on the open road, but when you go through a weigh station in Kentucky they throw oddball speed limits like 12 mph at you. When they say 12 mph, they mean 12 mph. My quick conversion estimates weren’t good enough. I was going 2 mph too fast!
What if your life’s dashboard has the wrong metric? Could it be possible you are driving through a miles-per-hour zone using kilometers-per-hour? You may be able to make the conversions, but eventually, you’ll be found out.
In Luke 10, three stories weave a fascinating portrait of service. The disciples were commissioned to preach and return celebrating their accomplishments. The lawyer challenges Christ and learns a lesson from a good Samaritan. Martha is cumbered about with much serving and learns about priorities. All three stories are meant to calibrate our metrics when we are engaged in the Lord’s work.
The disciples rejoiced, “Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17)! Jesus recalibrates their dashboard. “Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Serving God is not about the results, but about your relationship with God.
The lawyer tests Christ and Jesus shakes his metric system. While the lawyer and scribes and Levites were self-congratulating “servants of God,” they would hardly lift a finger to help someone in need. Jesus insulted their identity by forcing them to learn from a Samaritan. Serving God is not about the respect, but about your relationship with God.
The final story involves a flustered Martha and focused Mary. Charles Spurgeon said it so well, “Her fault was that she grew ‘cumbered with much serving,’ so that she forgot him, and only remembered the service.” Serving God is not about the rush, but about your relationship with God.
These reminders are for you and me. I have caught myself measuring my service to God by the results, the respect, and the rush, but God uses a different system. Do you want the heart of Christ to rejoice? “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father” (Luke 10:21)! Recalibrate your metrics when it comes to serving God. If you are rightly related to God, you will not stumble whether the results are great or small, whether man respects you or not, or whether you feel important or necessary. Your badge of honor is your relationship with your Heavenly Father and the wonderful privilege you have to serve Him.