The Heart of Heaven (Come Close)

Following Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:39
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Have you ever noticed how distance changes our perspective of something?
Think about it. You see someone waving in the distance and they seem to be waving right at you. But when you begin to look around you realize they are waving at the person behind you. And many times, as they are moving closer to you it starts to become obvious that they are definitely not waving at you.
Our relationship with Jesus is the same way. Many people have a distorted view or understanding of God because for one reason or another they only observe or see Jesus from a distance.
There is a story about a man in the bible that had heard about Jesus. And when Jesus was in the distance this man wanted to get a better look so he got up in a tree to see Jesus. Let’s look at the story of Zacchaeus. It is found in Luke chapter 19.
Luke 19:1–10 NIV
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “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.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
So, here is what we know.
The name Zaccheus means “righteous one.” But because of his occupation he was not living up to his name. We know that Zac was not just any tax collector, but he was the chief tax collector. That basically means that he was over the business. And he was apparently good at his job which meant that he took lots of extra money from people. So, he was a hated man. No one wanted to be around him.
We also know that Zac was short. Verse 3 says, “he was short he could not see over the crowd.” So like anyone that couldn’t see good, they get there early to get a good seat.
When me and the girls go to the movies, dad likes to get there early. I have a place in the movie theater that I feel is the best seat in the house. I feel like I can see the movie the best from that seat.
Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus. He had heard all the stories about him. There were probably some things about Jesus that just made him a little curious to want to know more. Questions were flowing through his head like, why the big crowd? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth they are following? What am I missing?
It stirred his curiosity so much that Zac became like a little child. In the East, it is unusual for a man to run, especially a wealthy government official; yet Zaccheus ran down the street like a little boy. And he even climbed a tree!
Jesus said in Luke 18:17
Luke 18:17 NIV
17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
That day Zac became like a little child. He wanted to see Jesus. And then the invitation comes.
Why would Jesus want to come to Zac’s house? He was a terrible sinner. He had cheated so many people out of there money. He had turned his back on his own people to work for the Roman government. But Jesus extends an invitation to go to Zac’s house.
Zacchaeus is shocked and he accepts the invitation. Zacchaeus thought he was seeking Jesus, but Jesus was seeking him. By nature, the lost sinner does not seek the Savior.
Romans 3:11 NIV
11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they his from God, but God came and sought them. When Jesus was ministering on earth, He sought out the lost; and today the Holy Spirit, through the church, is searching for lost sinners.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how God had worked in the heart of Zaccheus prior to this meeting with Jesus. But we can rejoice that a seeking Savior will always find a sinner who is looking for a new beginning.
There was a transformation that happened in Zac’s life and it all came about because Jesus sought out Zaccheus. And that is the same theme that is happening every day, God wants to be close to us, but we tend to keep him at a distance. That is the heart cry of God.

God Wants to Be Close to You.

Even in Jesus’ most darkest moment of his life. When he was hanging on the cross between two thieves. One thieve was mocking him and the other stopped him.
Luke 23:40–41 NIV
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then this thieve asks Jesus a question that he didn’t deserve to ask.
Luke 23:42 NIV
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Here Jesus was dying on a cross. He had already taken the sins of the world upon his life and in the midst of his agony and pain this man asks for Jesus to remember him and what did Jesus say...
Luke 23:43 NIV
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Even at Jesus’ darkest moments he told the thief that he would be with him in paradise.
God wants to be close to us. Then, just moments after this exchange, something else powerful happens right after Jesus dies.
Matthew 27:50–51 NIV
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split
God didn’t waste a moment. He didn’t wait a week later. It was instant. As soon as Jesus died, paying the price for all of mankind’s sin, God split the curtain for eternity. That curtain represented a wall that only the high priest could walk through to make atonement for the sins of the people. But at the moment that Jesus died God split that curtain open and gave all of us access to the throne room of God. Why? Because God wants to be close to us.
If you weren’t sure before now, I need you to know that God wants you close. That is not just something for me to say or to make you think this sermon is good, but that is a genuine statement. God wants to be close to you. That is his desire. That is how much he loves you.
Ephesians 2:13 NIV
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

It is in and through Jesus that we now come close to God.

The sad reality is that too many settle for distance when Jesus paid everything to bring us close.
I want to give you two reasons this morning that many of us try to stay at a distance from God.

1. How We See Ourselves Often Keeps Us at a Distance.

Zacchaeus saw himself as unworthy and didn’t attempt to come close to Jesus. He was okay with a distant relationship with Jesus. He just assumed that was all he deserved.
Most of us because of our guilt and shame we feel that we are unworthy. Think about Adam and Eve, they tried hiding in the garden because they were ashamed of their sin.
And it is at those times that the enemy wants to master his way in and tell us that we are unworthy of God’s love. But the Bible tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Listen to what I am going to tell you. Write it down.

Sin Separates Us But Doesn’t Change God’s Heart Towards Us.

No matter what you feel like you have done don’t run from God, but run to Him. That thief that was on the cross with Jesus had plenty of reasons to doubt his worth and value, but in a last ditch effort he reaches out towards Jesus. The thief acknowledged who Jesus is and he asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom.

2. Another Thing that Keeps Us at a Distance is How We See Jesus

Jesus tells a parable in the book of Luke about two sons and specifically highlights the broken journey of one of the sons who loses his way and then makes his way back to the father. Look at Luke 15 beginning at verse 11
Luke 15:11–24 NIV
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Here is a reality as you follow Jesus...

How You See Jesus will Affect What You Receive From Jesus.

In both the story of Zaccheus and the story of the lost son, they both didn’t think that the Father would want anything to do with them because they saw God as more of a harsh, judgmental, and angry father, rather than the all powerful creator and loving father.
I can only imagine what is going through the prodigal son’s mind as he is going back home after spending all of his inheritance. He is rehearsing his “speech” that he is going to say to his dad when he meets him. He plans on telling his dad that he doesn’t deserve to be his son anymore. He assumes he’ll be received harshly. But then as he’s getting closer to home, he sees someone running towards him. I imagine that at first he may not have known whether this person running after him was intending good or harm for him. At a distance, he saw his father as someone who would be mad or angry, but as he came closer and closer, he would have been able to see that the facial expressions from his father were of tears of joy and celebration at the return of his son.
Please understand me. Jesus isn’t mad at you. He doesn’t want you to stay away. Jesus’ desire is to bring you close and keep you close. Jesus wants to spend time with you.
And let me tell you this. If you have been away and are maybe in church for the first time in a long time or ever, and you’re not sure if God is mad at you or not, just remember this story, because this is a model of how your heavenly father sees you and wants you to see him. God the father wants you close, Jesus the son died to have you close and it is God the father that runs to meet you where you are.
You can see all throughout scripture God over and over again reinforcing the truth that He loves you and wants to be close to you.
Revelation 3:20 NIV
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
I believe that too many times we move quickly past this verse. We think of Jesus standing at the door and knocking on it, then we open the door and Jesus hands us a “salvation card that gets us out of hell” and then he waves a kind goodbye and heads off to the next home. But, you see the level of commitment by Jesus in this verse and you see the level of the heart of heaven towards us. He says that if you hear my voice, so note that Jesus is actively calling all of us to himself. And if you hear his voice and open the door, there is some personal responsibility on our part to say yes to the love and purpose of God for us.
But then instead of moving on, it says that if you open the door, I want to come in and eat with you. Just like he did with Zacchaeus. Now if you’re planning to hang out with someone but you’re not sure that you want to spend a lot of time with that person you don’t offer dinner, you might do a coffee or something short and sweet. But, when Jesus says I’ll come in and eat, that’s speaking to a long and drawn out process of eating and drinking.
That is the desire of the heart of God towards the people that He loved and created, to be with us and close to us. Don’t for a moment doubt the heart and good ness of God.
Look at what James tells us in James 4:8
James 4:8 NIV
8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
This verse is a very powerful verse. It tells us that Jesus loves us and wants to be close to us. He wants to be close to you. But here’s the kicker, you have to make a decision to reach out for God. It’s not saying we have to get all “fixed up” before we come to Jesus, but what it is saying, “if you want more of Jesus than you have to step into it. He’s not going to force you.”
And today is your opportunity to do just that. I want you to take a look at your life and examine where you’re in your relationship with Jesus. Are you following him? Or are you trying to follow your own way? I’m closing the service, but I want to give you an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus this morning. Maybe this is the first time you have ever done this or It’s been a long time. Jesus wants to be close to you. You just have to open up your heart and receive Him as your lord and Savior.
If this is you I want you to say this prayer with me...
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