Changed By Christ :: By Nathele Graham

As I look around at various Christian congregations, I’m astonished at how far from God’s truth many of them are. In trying to relate more to the unsaved, most pastors led their flock down a worldly path in order not to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

People should feel welcome in a congregation, but if they are uncomfortable, then it may be that they are feeling the pinch of their sin nature. Feeling that “pinch” could lead to salvation.

Jesus met many people as He walked the streets of Jerusalem and the shores of Galilee. They were people who weren’t much different than you and me. They had troubles, made poor decisions, and struggled with temptations. He chose 12 men to follow Him and learn His truth, but these men weren’t the cream of the crop by human standards. He chose fishermen who were crude and had tempers that flared.

Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were dishonest members of the community, and most people didn’t respect them. Then there was Judas. Jesus taught him the same lessons he taught John, James, Peter, Andrew, and all the others, but Judas wouldn’t allow himself to be changed by Christ. That’s the problem with many who claim to be Christian today. They won’t allow Jesus to change them, but they want to change Jesus into a god who accepts their sins and lets them remain in that sin. I don’t know what Bible they study, but Jesus didn’t leave sinners in their sins. He loved the sinner and forgave them but then told them to turn from their sins.

Zacchaeus was one whom Jesus changed. One day, Jesus was walking through Jericho, and everybody there wanted to see Him.

“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich” (Luke 19:1-2).

It isn’t a sin to be rich, but the way in which you became rich can be sinful. Publicans were known for being dishonest. The tax collectors, also called publicans, worked for Rome, which was a strike against them in the Jewish people’s estimation. Aside from that, if Rome said to collect $25 in taxes from each person, the publicans could collect any amount they wanted and keep everything above $25. Zacchaeus got his riches from this dishonest practice.

“And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way” (Luke 19:3-4).

Zacchaeus didn’t really care about the person, but he cared about the celebrity. Jesus was well known, and the people liked Him. It was the religious leaders who had a problem with Him because their hearts were hardened. Zacchaeus only wanted to see the one who was so popular. There was a crowd, but Zacchaeus was short in stature, so he climbed a tree in order to get a look at Jesus. There were many people there that day, but it seems that there was only one who really needed to meet Jesus, and he (Zaccheus) didn’t know his life was about to change.

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5).

Wow! Can you imagine the Creator of the universe saying that to you? Actually, He does. We all have a call from God, but too many of us don’t listen and ignore His voice. Zacchaeus listened.

“And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:6-7).

There is so much we can learn from this account. The “good” people were praising Jesus, but were they sincere? Were they just trying to be noticed? Zacchaeus just wanted to see Jesus, not necessarily to be seen. Do you make sure you go to church on Sunday and that your car is foremost in the parking lot so everybody knows you’re there, or do you go to get closer to Jesus? Unfortunately, many churches are just there for the show. The pastor tickles ears with “purpose-driven” or “new age” teaching that might draw a crowd, but nobody is changed by Jesus.

Zacchaeus was changed. This sinner sought Jesus and found grace.

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any things from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8).

Was Jesus pleased? Yes, He was.

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

Jesus is still seeking the lost sinners. We cannot truly be saved unless we allow Jesus to change us.

Zacchaeus realized his sin and didn’t hold onto it but let it go. Are you a sinner saved by grace but think you can still live in your sin while proclaiming, “My Jesus would accept my sin.” If you can think that way, you need to study Scripture.

One day, a member of the Pharisees met with Jesus. Unlike the members of this elite group of hypocrites, Nicodemus was truly seeking Jesus. He recognized that Jesus wasn’t a charlatan but a man of God.

“The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him” (John 3:2).

Nicodemus almost had it right. He didn’t have a saving knowledge of Christ yet, but he was seeking truth. Do you know someone who almost has it right? Maybe you have a friend who is Mormon or a member of another “near miss” organization. You need to explain God’s truth to them. Tell them we are all sinners with no hope of saving ourselves. The shed blood of an animal or of a mere human could never take sin away. Only God’s pure blood is the once for all sacrifice. Jesus was God and willingly gave His life for our salvation. We cannot work to earn salvation, and no priest can impart it to anyone. Only true faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection can bring salvation. That faith should change the way we live. It changed Zacchaeus, and it was about to change Nicodemus.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Nicodemus was not sure what He meant but asked for a deeper explanation.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6).

When we are born into this mortal existence, we are born of water and flesh; we have a sin nature. We naturally are selfish and may do all manner of sin in order to make our own life easier and seemingly more pleasurable. We will lie, cheat, steal, live sexually immoral, and not care at all what God thinks of our sins. Being born again is the second birth. The one that is of the Spirit. When we are born the second time, the Holy Spirit leads us along His path. We no longer follow the worldly path of sin, pleasing ourselves, but desire to live pleasing to God.

Many Bible teachers don’t address sin as something Christians must avoid. Many try to make living a Christian lifestyle something unimportant. Drag queens are invited to preach from the pulpit, and sin isn’t preached against. This is a sign of the last days. You must realize that sitting in a pew doesn’t bring salvation. Allowing Christ to change you is an important part of “being a Christian.”

Zacchaeus and Nicodemus are just two examples of people whom Christ changed. He doesn’t leave us in our sin, but the Holy Spirit encourages us to change to be like Christ. There were 12 men who followed Jesus closely, and each one of them had to make a choice of whether to give up their sinful lives or to hold to the way of the world.

Matthew was a tax collector who allowed himself to be changed by Jesus. Peter was changed from a rash man who seemed to get a kick out of being a rebel and following this new religious leader, but after getting to know Jesus, Peter was changed. So were John, Thomas, and all the others.

Well, not all of the others. There was Judas, who chose to die in his sin. Judas had all the same opportunities as the others. An outsider looking at the group might have thought he was one who truly followed Jesus. After all, Peter was the rash one who spoke his mind and who jumped out of the boat. Peter was changed by Christ, and as he let the Holy Spirit work in him, he became a leader among the Christians and fed them well on the word of God. John and his brother James were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus, and those fishermen must have been rowdy for Jesus to call them that. John’s Gospel is an account of Jesus as God and shows just how much love flowed from the Lord. John was changed and is a great example of God’s grace.

What about those of us who didn’t have the opportunity to walk with Jesus 2,000 years ago? Look at Paul. He held the coats of the Pharisees when Stephen was martyred because of his faith. What about Timothy, who was a young man given the responsibility of being a pastor? Paul’s letters to him should be followed by every pastor who fills a pulpit. Timothy was a timid young man who learned to speak God’s truth rather than tickle ears to make pew-sitters feel welcome.

The Holy Spirit is working today to change people from sinners who are happy in their sin to people on fire for Christ. We must get back to the basics of God’s word in order to live a full Christian life. Then there was Judas who walked with Jesus but betrayed Him. Do you betray Jesus by denying Him or by not allowing the Holy Spirit to change you?

Jesus never accepted a sinful lifestyle but called sinners to turn away from sin. For instance, He healed a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethesda. Later, He found the man in the temple “…and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14b).

Another time, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Him who had been caught in the act of adultery. They wanted Jesus to condemn her to death, which would have been the penalty under Jewish Law. Jesus didn’t condemn her but did tell her, “…go, and sin no more” (John 8:11b).

Sin isn’t acceptable to Jesus. We need to understand God’s grace, but we also need to understand what that grace cost our Lord. Never forget His brutal death, which shows us just how ugly sin is. He was beaten and whipped unmercifully. His bones showed through, His beard was plucked out, but He still willingly carried His cross to the place of crucifixion. There, he was crucified between two sinners. One cursed Him and mocked Him, but the other asked for His mercy. One found eternal death because he rejected Christ, but the other found eternal life because he understood he was a sinner and deserved the punishment for his sin. Jesus forgave his sin, and although he had to pay the punishment for his sin, that sinner gained eternal life because he asked Jesus to forgive him.

Salvation through Christ is to recognize you are a sinner, turn to Jesus for salvation, turn away from sin, and allow yourself to be changed.

Jesus will soon call all Christians Home, and we need to be sure we are truly saved before that happens. Let Christ change your desires and your pleasures.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

Recommended prophecy sites:

All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.

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