“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness
and forbearance and longsuffering;
that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
Salvation’s Story of Repentance
*“Traitor!” “You are worse than a dog!” “You are short in size but long in greed!”
The insults haunted his mind filling his heart with their poison. He was worth nothing to anyone. At times he longed to be deaf.
Zacchaeus sat alone with his riches as he counted out the coins due to Rome. He put them in one bag and his in another. Its bulk could not enlist the slightest smile. His heart ached for a kind word, a friendly voice.
A sudden commotion outside caught his attention. Bag in hand he hurried to the door. A massive wave of people rushed through Jericho’s streets. He caught bits and pieces of excited conversations.
“It’s Jesus of Nazareth!” “He’s coming to Jericho!” “Will he do a miracle?”
Zacchaeus’ eyes grew large. He had heard of Jesus, even seen him once. And he had a tax collector as one of his followers. Maybe … If only he could see him. His shoulders sagged. Not possible. He was too short to see above the others and too hated to be shown any kindness. He tossed his bag of coins on the table and followed the crowd. It was his only hope … so he thought. Until on his way he saw the sycamore tree.
Grabbing the lowest limb Zacchaeus hoisted himself up in the split trunk. Reaching the next limb he swung himself up to where he had a ring-side seat of the procession headed down the road. His mouth gaped and his skin crawled with the excitement. Jesus seemed to be looking his direction the closer he came. In minutes he stood with a smile on his face, looking up into the tree. Zacchaeus tried to make himself shrink as laughter filtered through the crowd all looking his way. His eyes brimmed to tears expecting to hear taunts. But surely, this Jesus would not –
Jesus extended his hand toward him. The crowd hushed. They waited. Then he spoke.
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. For today, I’m staying at your house.”
As Zacchaeus hustled from his perch, the crowd murmured their stinging words. But Zacchaeus heard only the echo of Jesus’ words ringing in his ears. Then he stood before the Lord and “received him joyfully.” The crowd hushed as Zacchaeus addressed Jesus.
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor;
and if I have taken any thing
from any man by false accusation,
I restore him fourfold.”
“And Jesus said unto him,
This day is salvation come to this house,
forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man is come
to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Salvation is more than agreeing to our sin. It’s more than being sorry for the hurt our sin causes us and others. Salvation is a decision of turning from a life characterized by sin and ruled by self to a life living out the righteousness of Christ and ruled by his love and grace.
“Being then made free from sin,
ye became the servants of righteousness.”
*The scriptural account of Zacchaeus, which my story of salvation is based on, is found in Luke 19:1-10. I chose it as an example of one who repents and bears truth to the change that has taken place within. He is an example of what John the Baptist and Paul speak about in 2 Corinthians 7:10 and Matthew 3:8
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation
not to be repented(regretted) of:
but the sorrow of the world worketh death …
Bring forth therefore fruits meet(suitable) for repentance.”
Repentance brings us to salvation. It involves a humbling of the heart and mind. Jesus said it best when he said,
“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God
as a little child
shall in no wise enter therein.”
The tears flowed freely as the seven-year-old prayed, “Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. Come live in my heart. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.” A smile replaced the tearful face as the boy wiped his face on his shirt sleeve.
The adult with him asked, “Do you believe Jesus died for your sins and you’re forgiven? Did Jesus answer your prayer?”
He frowned and leaned his head to one side. “Yes. Don’t you?” Then with his smile returned, he ran off to play with the other children.
Such is repentance leading to salvation – a mixture of godly sorrow, humility, and faith. Each the product of God working his goodness in us through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I believe. Don’t you?