My Christmas break has been pretty easygoing. I’ve been home for three days: spending time with family, baking like crazy, wrapping presents, going to my siblings’ basketball games, and reading. Almost 100% stress-free!
The thing is, the simplicity of home and the easy rhythms of a break quiet everything in me, even the spiritual. My need for God feels less obvious when I’m not busy. It’s easy to feel indifferent.
That’s why I’m so glad that I read Colossians 1 yesterday. It startled me back to reality. Here’s an amazing section of it. Read it slowly, considering the meaning of each phrase:
This reality is crazy! Before Jesus, we were God’s enemies: alienated from him because of our sin-sickness. That’s terrifying. But He answered this spiritual problem with a physical rescue: God in the flesh! This is the perplexing, joyful reality we celebrate this time of the year. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus’ work will be saved and changed. God now sees us as totally, entirely clean.
Free from accusation.
That’s a hard thing to wrap my mind around, because I often feel guilty: after consciously sinning, being selfish, comparing myself to ‘better’ Christians, or saying something harsh. . . The list could go on and on. Sin distances us from God.
But Christ came to bring peace.
And now, everything is radically changed. The children of God are fully redeemed! There is no such thing as ‘halfway-forgiven’ or ‘kind of okay with God.’ Jesus’ work in saving us is complete the second we trust him.
I’m trying to keep my eyes open to this amazing truth and battle indifference. Jesus came to earth as an externally ordinary baby but later brought breathtaking transformation. Every bit of glory, beauty, and wonder in this season should remind us: We are completely changed.
How much can you learn from a kid’s song? Take for example, Zacchaeus: the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Let's walk through the story together, then talk about a few life-applications.
Zacchaeus seeks Jesus
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. Luke 19:1-4
Putting the kid’s song aside, Zacchaeus has a lot to teach us. Even though he lived a life of cheating and stolen wealth as a tax collector, he sought Jesus well. Probably, he climbed the tree out of curiosity. But maybe there was a yearning in his soul too, a sense that this Teacher was better than any of his own wealth and power.
Jesus pursues Zacchaeus
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. Luke 19:5-6
Jesus saw this sinner, awkwardly perched in a tree, and knew at once everything about him. Yes, he saw his background, his reputation, and all the wrong he had done. But what mattered more was that even through all the yuck, he saw a lost man seeking him.
So he called to Zacchaeus, inviting him down. If I was Zacchaeus, I’d have been shocked. It would be like pushing your way to the front of a concert to get a glimpse of a celebrity, only to have him call you by name in front of everyone and invite himself to your house. It would be exciting, but also outrageous.
A joyful change
I love Zacchaeus’s reaction, though. He responded to the invitation with gladness, jumping down from the tree and welcoming Jesus.
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.” Luke 19:6-10
This encounter with Jesus caused Zacchaeus to turn his lifestyle around promptly. Jesus recognized this as a true change of heart and declared that salvation had come to him. It’s Jesus’ mission, after all, to save those who are lost: not those who are self-righteous.
Remember to rejoice
In the busyness and sometimes drudgery of a week, I forget to be glad. Zacchaeus’s attitude opened my eyes to that. I want to seek Jesus excitedly. I want to find evidences of God’s heart and will for me. I want to promptly follow his lead and his character. There is much joy in life, especially a life lived in surrender to him. We can more easily find beauty when we’re not living to please and promote ourselves. So, I want to be glad!
Real life change
I also want to follow Zacchaeus’s example of sacrifice. Before he met Jesus, his lifestyle of padded pockets, a fancy house, and buying anything he wanted to was probably quite fun. But the minute he encountered Jesus, the color faded from these illusions. He saw that knowing Jesus was more valuable than any sin or comfort he had on earth.
His response directly contrasts with the ‘rich young ruler’s’ in the preceding chapter of Luke, who saw Jesus and yet with a sad heart chose his possessions over him. (Here’s a link to that story). In the end, Zacchaeus found joy and freedom from his sin and possessions, while the rich young ruler remained chained to his earthly loves.
How about you?
So I want to ask, what could Jesus be inviting you to give up? Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from knowing or experiencing him fully? It could be sin, a skewed mindset, something you fixate on too much, an unhealthy relationship, or any number of things.
Personally, one thing Jesus has been asking me to give up is control. I like to have my days and my future and even my meals planned out. I want to know what’s coming up next. But my love of control can become quite ugly when it causes me to prioritize myself over others, obsess over the future, or ignore God’s plan. And like I said, control is just one thing he’s been showing me lately. It’s not a one-time thing. We’ve gotta get good at recognizing chains and gladly casting them off, because they are persistent and many.
Please understand, though, that Jesus is not shaking his finger at you with furrowed brows. Rather, he is reaching out to you, calling you by name: inviting you into the intense joy that is found in throwing aside chains (both the pretty ones and the ugly ones) and running to your Father.
Self-reflection exhausts me. I’m always noticing things I need to change to become more Christ-like. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help the problem, either.
Can you identify with that? We’re always working to be better at our jobs, more loving to our friends, more productive, more God-honoring. And even after a day of striving, we sit down in the quiet of the evening and realize that we’ve fallen short so many times. This striving has brought me to tears recently.
We are so critical of ourselves.
So, I want to bring some much-needed life and grace to this scene. God has spoken to my heart in this area recently. He definitely knew I needed it. Here’s a verse he showed me:
The prospect of the righteous is joy. Proverbs 10:28a
We, the righteous
God calls us righteous. That’s the opposite of the view I’ve seen so often expressed in Christian books, talks, and even casual conversations. We call ourselves totally depraved, and fixate endlessly on the graveness of our sin, but seldom venture beyond that point. Do we remember that we have a Savior who has transformed literally everything?!
He not only gave us future entry into heaven but copied his righteousness onto our souls: right here on the earth, right now. We have his perfection pressed onto our images. What a gift!
Remember to look ahead
This verse also reminds me to look ahead. While self-criticism is an unhappy re-living of the past, our hope as Christians is found in our future. Our prospect is a joyful entry into heaven, the completion of every good work our Lord has begun in us, and the very presence of God!
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6
These are two realities. Rock-solid. True no matter how we feel. So even when we mess up, our loving Father doesn’t look down on us with anger or impatience. He instead sees us as his children: bought with a price, and generously given grace. He knows the work still to be done on us, yet he also sees what we will be when we are with him in heaven.
C.S. Lewis has an interesting perspective on this:
Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn’t, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next. -C.S. Lewis
Just focus on the next step. What wisdom! God will ask us to change certain things, and we will always be working to become more like him. Yet in the meantime, while we’re trying to follow his lead and live with his heart, he has endless grace for our mistakes, struggles, and imperfections. Don’t become disheartened, friend. The prospect of the righteous is joy.
I am easily distracted from the things that matter. During busy days, it’s natural to get wrapped up in the ‘here and now.’ Rushing from work to classes to meetings and Bible studies, with homework filling in the gaps, I can go a full day focused on those things alone. Recently, though, I read these verses:
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:26-29
There will be a day when our jobs, homes, schoolwork, meals, cars, and towns will be wiped out. The moment God decides to usher in eternity, all these ‘shakable’ things will crumble. Interestingly enough, these are the very things we invest most of ourselves into. At the basic level of time, they compose our lives.
However, only what cannot be shaken will stick around for the rest of the show: for eternity. And this is to be our focus. Be careful here, though. This does not mean that our daily lives in this world do not matter, and it certainly does not mean that they are bad or evil.
It actually points to a beautiful truth: that we can transform the shakable with the unshakable. By God’s grace, our jobs, appointments, meals, and drives to work—things that don’t seem to matter—can hold eternal weight.
“You may feel that the only time God is pleased with you is when you’re doing “spiritual” activities. . . Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating. He doesn’t miss a single move you make.” -The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren
Time and time again, God shows up in the unspiritual. He goes before us and behind us and promises to never leave us: which, yes, stays true even during monotonous, regular-life days! He is not bored the way we are with our schedules and routines.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
This both shocks and humbles me: that God himself delights in following along with what I do every day.
He enjoys the beauty of human life itself, but he also sees potential in it that we often miss. Because we have souls that are unshakable and eternal, everything we do has the potential to affect someone else’s unshakable soul. Only from God’s vantage point in heaven can the full effect of this be seen.
So how do we bring this all together? How do we take hold of the fact that God delights in our lives, and maximize the unshakable? This quote from Rick Warren is helpful: “How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men -Colossians 3:23, ESV
Unshakable fruit is produced all throughout your day when you focus on glorifying God. It happens when you prepare a meal with love and share it with your family. It happens when you’re kind to a difficult coworker. It happens when you write an essay or do a math assignment to the best of your ability. It happens when you sing along to worship songs on the way to work. And it certainly happens when you pray and spend time with our Lord. Through all these everyday things, he is crafting and perfecting something unshakable in you and the people your life reaches.
Next week’s post will look at how continual prayer plays into this process! It’s a focus that can’t be replaced, but there is too much to say about it to be included in this single post. Have a great week!
Your sacrifice for me is beyond my comprehension. I do not fully grasp the magnitude of the gift, and it’s hard to picture the scene of your death: the extreme agony of it. Blood. Impossible pain. Separation. Mockery.
My mind travels even further back, to animal sacrifice. Slaying life, perfect life, by my own hands. Driven by guilt. Burning, the stench. Gore. Death. And this, day after day. Never ending: the drive to compensate steadily overwhelming. No animal’s death could be once-for-all.
I can’t imagine any of it. And yet, here I am: free and forgiven. By no work or understanding or right of my own. I’ve done nothing but sin and receive! I’ve forgotten the magnitude of the cross: growing up with it as a simple truth, just the way things are- never realizing the way things could have been. If you hadn’t come. If I didn’t know. If I had to justify myself. Father, help me see. This gift is so far beyond me.
Here are a few verses from Hebrews that inspired this blog post! I hope they bring you to extreme gratitude and joy, as they did for me:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! -Hebrews 9:13-14
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!