Please Don’t Trip Me Up

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:7-9 ESV)

oo_stumblesIf newborn Christians could articulate it, I think this is what they would say:

I’m a newbie, green behind the ears, just a few days old. I still have flashbacks from my old way of life. Sometimes I’m up–other times I’m down. When I come to a worship service, I feel so close to God. By Tuesday I feel vulnerable, even afraid.

Please don’t trip me up.

My old friends are gone. I can’t hang out with them anymore–and they think I’m weird anyway. They don’t understand why what I once did is so wrong to me, and what I want to do seems so weird to them. I use phrases like “brother” for someone not even related to me. And sometimes I talk about loving someone I’ve barely known.

Please don’t trip me up.

I have questions and I feel dumb asking them. When the preacher says to turn somewhere in the Bible, I’m thankful for my smart phone. I have no idea where a book is, let alone chapter and verse. Everybody around me seems so smart–I have so much to learn.

Please don’t trip me up.

I don’t understand the Trinity–and I actually think other people do! I thought it would be interesting to read the book of Revelation…and then someone told me that wasn’t the best idea. So I started in Genesis. I actually made it to Leviticus. What was I thinking?

Please don’t trip me up.

I have this nagging fear. What if I mess up? Blow it? Fall into the same sin that plagued me before I trusted Christ. What if I fail.

Please don’t trip me up.

Jesus, the Great Equalizer

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

A sycamore tree in Palestine

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus was short…so short he feared he wouldn’t see Jesus in the crowd. He did what any dignified, wealthy Jewish man would never do. He ran. The elite in Jesus’s day didn’t run–they walked confidently wherever they went. Zacchaeus was rich but when he heard Jesus was coming to town all of a sudden his money didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Football quarterbacks give him credit. Army Generals pray to him. Presidents humble themselves before Him. Billionaires call him Lord. Paupers call him King. All who follow Jesus die to themselves and live for Him.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree. It wasn’t just any tree, it was a sycamore tree. When we think sycamore tree, we think flaky bark and maple looking leaves. The sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed was a fig-bearing tree. As a matter of fact, poor people often climbed this tree to pick its fruit. Zacchaeus, the rich (chief) tax collector climbed the tree of the peasant so he could see Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Scandalous Grace

Do you know the most compelling evidence to me of who we are in Christ? He is unnamed. We’re not exactly sure the crime he committed. We just know that it wasn’t by accident that he was scheduled to be executed the same day Jesus was crucified. Most executions were not attended by such crowds. Most crucifixions didn’t cause such a stir. But for this unnamed criminal, his most embarrassing moment became his most exhilarating. His most confining moment became his most liberating. He was crucified…and rightly so. He was guilty of crimes.

Jesus was crucified right beside him…and for no good reason. He was falsely criminal beside Jesus: Photo by Chandler Frisbee)

This unnamed criminal, hanging naked, bleeding, writhing in pain on the cross, saw something in Jesus that the Romans soldiers couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the Jewish leaders couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the other thief couldn’t see. He also saw his sinful self.

Do you know what happened? That day, the naked, destitute, friendless, guilty criminal became a saint. What grace from the cross when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He had no time to join the church, to time to mend the wrongs he had done, no time to make restitution. He didn’t have to. He was crucified with Jesus…literally…and he was crucified with Jesus spiritually. He had a new relationship.

From criminal to citizen. From outcast to in. From a thief to a saint. In just one moment.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, that’s what happened to you.

I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is.

Are you living like it?

That’s what happened to you. I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is. Are you living like it?