14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 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.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
I just love Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesians 3. “I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”
And I want to begin this morning by asking, is Jesus Christ, the living Lord, real to you? Does He dwell in your heart by faith, or is He just a vague concept - a mere historical figure who walks through the pages of ancient history?
It is the witness of the New Testament, and it was the experience of the apostles, that Jesus Christ conquered death and made Himself real to those who had faith.
And until such time as we truly believe the witness of the Bible and the testimony of the saints who have gone before us, Jesus Christ will be not much more than an interesting historical figure.
But for the Christian, we trust and believe that He is so much more than that. We are able to experience the living presence of Jesus in our hearts. By faith we open the door of our life to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord and friend. By faith He lives in our hearts day by day and year by year.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul speaks about Christians becoming more Christlike each day.
He says “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.” Ever-increasing. The implication here is that it is an ongoing process, and not an event.
One of the most common objections to the Christian faith is that it is impossible to categorically prove the existence of God. But the evidence is everywhere, and the most compelling evidence is in the changes we see in the hearts of those who believe. Are you walking, talking proof that God is real?
For virtually every argument for the existence of God, the doubters and scoffers have at least one counter-argument. If you are going to try and argue from logic and reason, trust me – they will tie you up in knots.
But they are completely defenceless against the living evidence they see in the way Jesus changes the hearts of sinners into saints.
When Jesus is permitted to dwell in the human heart, He produces some radical changes in our attitudes and actions. Zacchaeus is an excellent case in point.
He was not only a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. There were junior collectors under his authority, and the chief tax collectors were renowned for helping themselves to what we might politely call an ‘administration fee’ from their subordinates.
The Romans couldn’t care less about the Jewish people. As long as taxes were paid to Rome, the Jewish tax collectors could help themselves to whatever extra taxes they wanted. There was no accountability, so the chief tax collectors in particular simply lined their pockets and became extremely wealthy. This is the kind of man that Zacchaeus was. His own people despised him.
And then Jesus came into his life. By opening firstly his home and then his heart to God, everything changed. There were unrecognisable changes in the life of this man who had been so hated.
The moment Jesus became Lord of his life, his relationship to God, his attitude toward others, and his evaluation of things changed completely. Because he let Christ come into his heart, there was a change in his bank account, in his business affairs, and in his relationships with other people. He suddenly became very generous and was eager to make restitution for past wrongs.
This is the kind of irrefutable evidence of the existence of God which cannot be denied. The world will sit up and take notice when we let Jesus dwell in our hearts, because He will always produce changes when He is permitted to dwell there.
And the assurance that we can have for ourselves that He is real is that we will see some of those changes for ourselves.
There are many things which Christ does in the hearts of believers, and one of them is that He fills our hearts with a new joy.
There is the joy of forgiveness. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for us. He came to take our sins away on the cross, and it is through faith in Him that we not only receive forgiveness, but also that we believe it.
He also gives us the joy of knowing that we have been brought into the family of God.
John 1:12 says “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
John was amazed by this truth, and he wrote in his first letter, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:1–2)
We also have the joy of a continuing, eternal friendship in Christ. We all yearn to be loved. We need companionship and friends, but the greatest joy is the relationship we have with Jesus which will never end. The most wonderful friend anyone can have is Jesus. ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’.
In John 15 He said “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends.”
So Jesus fills the hearts of believers with a new joy.
Secondly, we are filled with a whole new basis for security or assurance of our significance.
Do you get your security from others? Are you dependent on the people you know for your worth? Or do you depend on yourself to find your own way and to find your significance in life?
Now don’t get me wrong: Self-confidence is a good thing. We need to have some degree of self-worth and significance, but there is a line which we so easily cross. There comes a time when material things cannot provide much security. The only real, lasting security that we can have is that which comes to us through faith in the love, mercy, grace, and power of God. It is through Jesus Christ that we find our true significance and true worth.
We are eternal beings, and the Spirit of God reminds us of that truth, and reassures us that our ultimate significance is not to be found in the here and now, but in eternity.
We live in a world in which human life is not considered very valuable in some parts.
There are times when each of us feels our own insignificance when we consider just how vast the universe is and how small we are.
In 1997 NASA launched the Cassini space probe to photograph and investigate the rings around Saturn. It took 6 years for Cassini to reach Saturn, and it has been photographing the planet since then.
Just last month it took a photo which NASA published on their website. In this picture you can see Earth, some 1400 million kilometres away.
And this is just the tiniest fraction of the vastness of the universe which God created. Yet on that tiny little dot suspended in space are you and I, and about 7 billion other people that God loves with an infinite love.
A love so vast, that He came Himself and offered Himself so that we might spend eternity with Him.
How do you measure your personal worth? By the money you have or the car that you drive?
We need to stop and try to understand this deep mystery: God considered us to be of infinite value to the extent that He was willing to give his Son Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross. While others may consider us to be of very little value, the Bible tells us that in God’s eyes we are of infinite value.
When you feel that no-one cares and that your life has no real purpose or meaning, stop for a moment and contemplate how love for you caused Jesus Christ to be willing to die on the cross for you.
By faith we are to let Him live in our hearts day by day. Someone once said that yesterday is in the tomb, and tomorrow is in the womb.
In other words, we can’t change the past, and while tomorrow might be important, it is still but a dream. Today is the only sure thing we have. An awareness of the presence of the living Christ in our hearts should stir us to fully seize the opportunities and respond to the responsibilities of the present. Too many of us live in either the past or the future.
What is God doing in your life right now – today? What opportunities do you have today to submit to Him and to bring glory to Him instead of yourself?
Each day we are given the opportunity to reflect Jesus’ love in one way or another. How are we expressing Christian love to others? To allow Jesus to truly dwell in our hearts is to let God bless others through us. When Christ dwells in our hearts, we see with the eyes of Christ, and we feel with the heart of Christ. Our feet carry us on missions of mercy in the name of Christ, and our hands perform the tasks that Christ would perform.
Jesus doesn’t come into our hearts merely to make us feel good and to give us a ticket to heaven. He comes into our hearts to use us for the glory of God and for the loving and lifting of a needy world to God.
Over the past few months we have looked in detail at some of the cornerstones of the Christian faith as we have studied the Apostles’ Creed. It is good to know what it is we believe, but the next question has to be quite simply, so what?
What affect does God’s love for me really have on my life? How am I applying and sharing the grace and forgiveness I have received with others?
In fact, am I applying it at all?
Am I sharing it, or am I stubbornly holding on to past hurts and refusing to love and forgive as I am loved and forgiven?
With all of His heart, Jesus believed that it was more blessed to give than to receive. He lived to be a giver of life, light, hope, and love. He lived to give courage, strength, and energy to others. And if you choose to allow Him to live in your heart by faith, Then He will be able to continue His mission of redemption and mercy in the world today through you.
He has given us, His Church, the task of being salt and light in this lost world.
Allow Him to completely transform you from the inside out. Allow the joy and peace of Christ to live and reign in your life.
If He can do it with Zacchaeus, then He can certainly do it in your life.
Let Him transform your thoughts and attitudes.
Let Him give you direction concerning your ambitions and goals.
Let the Lord of love be the Lord of your life.
“As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”