Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scraping By

This morning, I preached to the Chinese speaking portion of our congregation. David Fang, our regular minister, is in Arkansas for the Harding University lectureship and he asked me to fill in. I used a sermon I preached in Vietnam on July 20 so most of it was fresh in my mind. The only difference was air conditioning and the languages my thoughts were translated into. (Trivia- both my interpreters, Honghai Huynh in Vietnam and Tony Li here are grads of Four Seas Bible College in Singapore!) My lesson was taken from Luke 19:1-10 and we spoke for forty minutes about Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in the wealthy city of Jericho. (It probably would have only been twenty without the Mandarin translation.) I talked about the children's songs and the way tax collectors were viewed in Israel. I focused on how Jesus was accused, deservedly so, of being friends with tax collectors. I discussed the dramatic and public proclamations Zacchaeus made about his life and how Jesus rejoiced, calling this outcast a son of Abraham, which he was by his heritage if not according to the man on the street whom he might have cheated. It was an enjoyable lesson for me to deliver and I hope our group of thirty concurred in their reception!

As I wrapped up the message nine hours ago, I made the point that no one is too bad to be saved, a point many in Jericho undoubtedly would have taken issue with. I referenced the tragic case of a coach I knew who told me and another brother in Christ that he was not good enough to become a Christian and was murdered before he came to the knowledge of the love of the Savior. And I referenced something that happened in our chapel this week. On Tuesday, Kenneth Okwuonu (teacher/coach/campus minister) spoke on how blessed we are to serve a God of second chances. Kenneth brought up our WCS policy that if a student fails a test, he or she can come in for additional instruction and retake the exam. There is a catch- the highest allowable grade in a retest is only 70% or the bare minimum for not receiving an F. But when God forgives us, He doesn't set conditions and the limit of His grace is not calibrated at 70%. I admit, I struggle with this in the spiritual realm. I know I am forgiven but I hang on to the 30% guilt factor. I know I'm forgiven but part of me sometimes needs to kick myself at the 30% level. Now, there were some figures thrown around in the Zacchaeus account. There was 50%, as in the Z-man pledging publicly to give 1/2 of his possessions to the poor. And then there was 400%, when Jesus' newest disciple promised to make restitution in the amount of four times anything he had dishonestly taken from a taxpayer. But Jesus did declare that Zacchaeus was a legitimate son of Abraham and that salvation had come to this house. He didn't marginalize the sins of Zacchaeus or set up a checklist for staying in God's good graces. I'm 100% sure of that. I need to be 100% positive in my forgiveness as well.

Applicable quote of the day:
“The gospel declares that no matter how dutiful or prayerful we are, we can't save ourselves. What Jesus did was sufficient.”
Brennan Manning

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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