Suppose that I went to the doctor with a suspicious lump and got the bad news from the doctor. Cancer.

“Do I have a chance?” would be my first question.

The doctor might answer,   “Yes, I think so.  Of course you will need surgery.  I will remove the cancerous tumor, and you will be cancer-free.”

But what if I said,  “Oh good! Just one thing – you can operate if necessary, but I’d like to keep my tumor.  I’ve had it a long time, and I’m kind of attached to it.  I want to be cured, but I’ll just keep the cancer.”

How crazy that would be – to want to keep the disease that was killing me?  The cancer was the very thing I wanted to be cured from.

Yet, here are many people today who behave just that foolishly.

They say, “I want to be right with God, and I want to go to Heaven when I die.  I just don’t want to give up my sin.”

Sin is our problem.  Jesus came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).  Salvation is giving up the control of our lives to God, and trusting in His death on the cross as the payment our sin deserved.  Does it make sense to say, “Lord, I want to give my life to you, just as long as You let me keep control of my life.  I want you to pay for my sins for me, as long as I can keep on doing those sinful things.”

That sounds pretty goofy to me!  When a person is saved, he isn’t perfect, but he wants to obey God.  He feels sorry when he does wrong – and God won’t let him keep on doing those wrong things without correcting him.  We aren’t saved by being good, but when we are saved we want to be good.

Let’s look at a Bible story about a man who had a real change in his life after he met Jesus.

No one liked Zacchaeus very much – and no wonder!  He was a wealthy man who became rich in a way that made everyone hate him.  He was a tax collector.

The Jews at that time were ruled by the Romans.  They had to pay the Romans lots of their money in taxed or they would be thrown in prison.  The Romans were cruel to the Jews in many ways, and the Jews despised them.

Even more than they hated the Romans, the Jews hated their fellow Jews who worked for the Romans.  Zacchaeus was one of the Jews who collected the taxes for the Roman government.

That would be bad enough, but Zacchaeus wasn’t even an honest tax collector.  He charged the people too much money in taxes and then kept the extra.  He cheated his own people just to make money.  Do you wonder that he had no friends?

Jesus was coming to Jericho, the city where Zacchaeus lived.  Perhaps Zacchaeus felt bad about the life he led.  Perhaps he was just lonely.  We don’t know why, but he decided he wanted to see Jesus.

What a disappointment he had when Jesus arrived in Jericho!  Everyone had heard about Jesus and the wonderful miracles he had performed.  Everyone wanted to see Him.  It was so crowded that Zacchaeus couldn’t even get close.  Because Zacchaeus was so short, he couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd and he was afraid Jesus would be gone before he could even see what He looked like.

He ran ahead of the crowd to a big sycamore tree by the road.  He quickly climbed the tree and waited for Jesus to come past.

How funny he must have looked to the people of Jericho!  There he was, the dignified tax collector sitting up in a tree.  Jesus didn’t think he was funny and Jesus didn’t make fun of him.  When He passed under the sycamore tree, Jesus stopped.

“Zacchaeus,” Jesus called up to him.  “Hurry and come down, because today I’m going to stay at your house.”

The people of Jericho weren’t so happy!  They were surprised and displeased.

“What is Jesus doing, going to that wicked man’s house?” they murmured to one another.

Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was repentant of his sin.  He trusted Jesus and was saved that day.  What if Zacchaeus had gone out the day after he told everyone he was following Jesus and continued cheating the people out of their tax money?  Would they believe that Jesus had made a difference in his life?  No, they wouldn’t have been impressed at all.

I’m glad to say that didn’t happen.  Instead he said, “If I cheated anyone, I’ll give back four times the amount I stole, and I will give half of my money to the poor.”

Zacchaeus had lived for money and had sacrificed everything to be rich.  He gave it up, because he wanted Jesus more. There was no doubt that there was a change in this man’s life.

When you become a Christian, you enter into a new relationship with God.  He forgives you and gives you a fresh start.  The life he calls you to is one of peace and joy.  But, don’t think you can just pray a prayer or “make a decision!”

As we’ve seen already in these studies, you must come to God in faith and in surrender. He is ready to receive you and forgive you and lift you up.  He has a life of abundance  for you, in the things that matter.

He can heal you, and wants to heal you, but you have to be ready to surrender the things that are killing you.

When that happens, your life changes. People see that you are different and that the change goes deeper than words.  Like Zaccheaus, you will be a new person and everyone will know it.

Check It Out

You can read this story in Luke 19:1-10

Why did Jesus come? (verse 10)

What does Jesus offer those who come to Him? (Matthew 11:28-30)

According to John 10:10, why did Jesus come?

Do you want that kind of life?  Are you ready to surrender and follow Him?

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