Jesus, Actually: It all starts in the Heart

March 5th

Writer: Kelly Hesterberg

Key passage: Luke 19:1-9

Big Idea: While Jesus appreciated culture, his aim was to transform culture, not through legislation, but through the transformation of the heart. Throughout his life, Jesus exercised a grassroots, bottom up transformation of culture by examining individuals hearts. This week we explore the story of Zacchaeus who was considered a traitor to his people and leveraged the power of Rome to his own advantage. When he met Jesus, it changed everything. Practical: If we want to change a culture, we need to be willing to allow Jesus to change our heart.

Invest and Invite Challenge: Who are you investing in and inviting into the story of Jesus?

One looks at the Christian faith and marvels: how is Jesus able to transcend time and culture? How is He able to change people’s lives from all over society? How is this carpenter from Galilee able to change the world?  It all starts in the heart.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in October, and I was driving back from San Francisco on

280 FWY. There was hardly any traffic, and the down grade of the hills meant I was making great time. That is, until I saw the flashing lights of a CHP officer behind me. After telling me to pull over at the next exit, the fateful question came, “Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?” There is never a good answer in that moment. No matter what you say, the officer knows you’re guilty. He got me at 83 MPH, and all I could think in my head was, “Come on! You’re going to give me a ticket for going 83? There are people going over 90 out here!!!” After paying the ticket came traffic school to get it cleared off my record. Needless to say, that was one expensive trip to San Francisco.

Whenever I think back on that story, I am reminded of the, “Yeah, but….” mentality we all carry with us. You know the one that says, “Yeah, I did this, but at least I didn’t do THAT.” Or, “Yeah, I may be this, but at least I’m not THAT.” It’s so easy to point fingers at other people who seem to be “guilty of worse” than us because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But Jesus points to a different reality: NO ONE is able to stand before God in their own righteousness. It is not a matter of what we have or have not done; we are ALL in need of spiritual heart surgery that only He can provide.

This week, we look at a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’ job was centered on the enforcement of the Roman tax law; one in which it was expected that the tax collector would take money for himself in the process. In doing so, Jewish society saw him as a sellout and a traitor. But in Luke 19:3-4, we see Zacchaeus being drawn to the person of Jesus as He is passing by Jericho, even going as far as climbing to the top of a tree to see Him, “[Zacchaeus] 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.”

To everyone’s amazement, Jesus calls upon this tax collector who is just trying to catch a glimpse amidst the crowd, saying He will go to his house and be his guest. People in the crowd muttered saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) Even back then, the “Yeah, but…” mentality was alive and well, “Yeah, I am a sinner, but at least I’m not a tax collector.” How is a righteous, holy Man of God even considering going to a filthy tax collector’s house? They are the lowest of the low.

But it is here, in the house of Zacchaeus, we see what drastic change of heart Jesus can provide. A man whose identity was found in financial gain through the detriment of others, now exclaims, “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.” (Luke 19:8)

Conviction. Action. Change of heart.  A sinner has come to repentance, much to the astonishment of the society and culture around him. Yes, Jesus can even change the heart of a tax collector!

No one describes the human heart more accurately than Jesus Christ. When we are confronted with the reflection of our hearts, conviction happens, and that’s where Jesus begins to change us from the inside out. Imagine what Jesus can do in your life if you allow Him to change you in such a profound way. Imagine what could be done in a culture that is willing to yield to Him, one heart at a time. “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 19:9-10)

Jesus uses the lives of changed individuals, like Zacchaeus, to further His kingdom.

When it comes to your righteousness, are you clinging to a, “Yeah, but…” mentality? Always thinking you’re better than someone else in society? Or are you coming to Jesus as a sinner, willing for Him to change your heart?

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Discussion Questions:

  • What “labels” has society has placed on people or occupations that we tend to look down on?
  • If we want to change a culture, we need to be willing to allow Jesus to change our heart. Is there a person or specific occupation that you need a change of heart towards? Explain.
  • What are practical ways we can invest in others and invite them into the story of Jesus?

Has a specific person come to mind?

  • Share a time when you caught yourself operating out of a “Yeah, but…” attitude?

In hindsight, how did this attitude impact your treatment of others?

Weekly Prayer Focus: Pray that we would be open to let Jesus transform our hearts and see people who might be different than us the way Jesus sees each of us.