Saturday, March 30, 2013

How Much Do I Matter to God?

Continuing his series, "When Jesus Comes to Dinner", Rick Warren opens by talking about how "dinner with sinners" is what got Jesus into trouble.  Examples of how Jesus did this was Jesus' having had dinner with prostitutes and with corrupt officials.  He invites a bunch of rednecks.  These people were illiterate and rough.  Jesus was not someone who recruited the well educated.
"In my life I've received a lot of criticism because of some of the friends I have chosen." Rick ponders.  He goes on to explain that he has had an evangelical outreach to liberals, gays, atheists etc. and he has gotten lash backs because of this.
Jesus was the one who said the physically well do not need doctors.  Jesus came for the broken and lost.  He came for the insecure.  The truth, though, is that everyone is insecure.  One of the deepest needs we have is to feel secure and to feel significant.  We evaluate ourselves consciously or unconsciously according to the world's values, but we should find out value in what God thinks.  The world, in general looks at four things when evaluating us.

1) Appearance - Hollywood says if our appearance is not great, we are not and vice versa.
2) Affluence - What do we own?  If we have a lot of things, we feel we are worth a lot. 
3) Achievement - If I get a lot of things done, I feel good about myself. 
4) Approval - How well am I liked?  If many like me, then I am valuable. But when criticized, we will be devastated. 

We tend to base what we think about ourselves upon what the most important people to us think about us.  That is why we need to make the most important person in our lives Jesus.  Our beauty fades.  Our possessions come and go. No matter what success we have, there are many more successful than us.  People will betray us.  But when we finally look at our lives through the eyes of Jesus, it evens the playing field.

In Luke 19:1-10, we read the story of Zacchaeus;
"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. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

One thing to note here is that, of the four criteria we talk about regarding how the world values us, Zacchaeus was lacking in three!.  The bible tells us that he was short.  In fact, he was one of the shortest in the city.  Secondly, he wasn't liked by anybody because he was working for the Romans as a tax collector and tax collectors were seen as betrayers.  They were lackeys.  They got rich by being dishonest.  Their value was the equivalent of being murderers.  Thirdly, not only was Zacchaeus short and not liked, but he didn't like himself or his life.  Yet, it was on this day that Jesus selected him. 

In this story, we can see four ways that Jesus demonstrates how He feels about us. 

1)  No matter how small I feel, Jesus notices me.  No self respecting businessman would run or climb a Sycamore tree and this is exactly what Zacchaeus does.  When Jesus gets to the tree, He stops and looks up.  We might feel that we are out on a limb in our lives or we might feel like we are isolated in a hole, but Jesus knows where we are.  God has known where we are all of our lives.  He knows about all of our good, our bad, our hurts, our successes and He has not forgotten us. 

Luke 12:6-7 says, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  God's greatest expression of love to us is His attention to us because it says, "You matter to me."

2) No matter who ignores me, Jesus notices me.  He doesn't just know us as 1 in 6 billion.  Jesus knows us intimately.  Jesus not only knew Zacchaeus, but He called him by name.   God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows why we are going through what we are going through.  Do you know what the word "Zacchaeus" means?  It meant "Pure one".  Jesus looks at him and calls him by his potential as He does us!  He affirms us.  He calls us by what He knows we can be.  He is like the excellent parent who doesn't treat us the way we deserve, but the way we could be.  God made each of us uniquely.  He has our picture in his wallet.

3) No matter what I've done, Jesus wants me.  Jesus invited himself to the home of the most disliked man in the city.  We all have done things we are ashamed of.  We're human.  We're selfish.  But Jesus is more interested in changing us than condemning us.   If you want to be like Jesus Christ, then don't condemn others. Remember the story of the prodigal son?  He took his inheritance, spent it all and then came home.  But his father took him back immediately because he loved the son.

Jesus likes us the way we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are.  Rick talks about the time that he went to a maximum security prison to speak to the inmates.  To get everyone's attention, he took out a $50 bill and asked who wanted it.  6,000 hands went up.  He then crumpled the $50 bill, threw it on the ground, stepped on it, spit on it, tore it and crushed.  After each action, he kept asking who still wanted the bill and each time, 6,000 hands went up.  Rick then explains that this ruined $50 bill is what each of them had had happened to them.  "You've been spit on and crushed."  But Jesus sees us and recognizes the true value that is still in us. 

Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

4) No matter what anyone says about me, Jesus affirms me.  In the face of criticism from the religious people, He says "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

So, if we believe that Jesus feels this way about us, how are we to respond?  Well, look how Zacchaeus responded in verse 6, "So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly."  Our only logical reaction is to receive Him.  He wants what's best for us!

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