If you are anything like me, you find it really easy to be a Christian at church. You are in your Sunday best. You have come to this specific place to reflect on your Savior and how good He has been to you. The music you are hearing is uplifting Jesus.
The words you are hearing are encouraging you to be the best Christian you can be. Even the collective spirit of your fellow Christians is igniting you with new energy to serve the Lord, be better, do better.
Then church ends, you shake hands with your friends, still feeling empowered. You are ready to take on anything the devil has in store for you. With all of your brothers and sisters in Christ surrounding you, and telling you how much they love you and will be praying for you this week you feel like a Super Christian.
Then you get in your car. There are emails on your phone from work reminding you of a task you forgot to accomplish before the weekend. There is a text from your sister complaining about an errand you didn’t help her with. There are two missed calls from your mother and a voicemail asking when you plan on visiting.
Then the kids get started in the back seat pushing and shoving over who gets to sit by the window. Your spouse starts asking about what’s for lunch, and reminding you it’s your turn to cook because there is no more money in the budget for eating out.
Wham! Before you even get out of the church parking lot life smacks you in the face and dares you to be a good Christian now. “Do you feel uplifted now?” you can almost hear the devil ask.
A lot of people have the Christian life backwards. They feel like they are a good Christian because they go to church. This hardly makes sense, because at church nothing is challenging us to be a good Christian. Being good can just come naturally in that environment. The challenge to be a good Christian is at home. When life is jerking us around by the collar, demanding our attention here, no here, no here.
To say you are a good Christian because you attend church is like saying you are healthy just because you eat. Eating just keeps you alive. You can eat and not be healthy at all. Attending church keeps you spiritually alive. It says nothing about the quality of your Christian life, just like the act of eating does not say anything about the quality of your health. What are you eating? How much are you eating? Are you also exercising?
The quality of our Christian lives is told outside the church, most notably at home. How do we treat our family? How do we live before our spouse and children? We may feel very close to the Lord while we are inside the church, but are we taking Him home with us or are we leaving the Lord at church?
In thinking on this topic my mind takes me to the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was not satisfied to leave Jesus where he found Him, nor was Jesus willing to be left behind.
Who Was Zacchaeus?
In Luke 19 we are introduced to this interesting “little” character.
1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.Luke 19
First off we see a few things about Zacchaeus. He was definitely a sinner. In the New Testament, Publican was synonymous with sinner, and we are told that he was chief among the publicans. To understand his situation, we need to understand exactly what a publican was.
When the Roman Empire invaded Israel, they allowed them to keep much of their social and religious life intact. The Romans were not so much interested in destroying their culture, as they were adding them to their empire for tax purposes. Each country that was invaded and conquered was a new potential income source. As long as all of the conquered people faithfully paid their taxes, all would be well, and they could continue their life much as they had before Rome invaded.
How could the Romans make sure these taxes were collected properly, though? The Romans did not want to transplant thousands of Romans to these new locations to oversee this massive job. The answer was to recruit locals. The Romans would hire Jewish people to be their tax collectors. These individuals were dubbed “Publicans” because they were working for the Republic of Rome.
Now, imagine how you might feel if you had been invaded by a foreign enemy, who is now making you pay taxes which only benefit them in their country far away. Paying taxes is hard enough when you know that it is benefiting you and your community. How much harder would it be if you were paying taxes to benefits others in another country?
Now imagine how you would feel if your neighbor, a natural-born citizen of your country, had agreed with this enemy to be the tax collector? Your neighbor is actually being paid a salary to take away your money and give it to your enemy? Now add to this, the fact Publicans did not care how the money got collected. They had the Roman Empire on their back demanding that they get those taxes collected, so they would go to any lengths to get your money. Publicans were often thought to be dishonest, sneaky, traitors.
That is exactly what life was like for a Publican. The Jews hated Publicans and for good reason. So, we see where Zacchaeus stood with his fellow Jews.
Add to this his physical disability. It is safe to say that Zacchaeus was abnormally short or the Bible wouldn’t have even made mention. He was shorter than everyone in the crowd that day, and that would have included women and children.
Zacchaeus Finds Jesus
Regardless of his occupation, Zacchaeus was not above curiosity concerning Jesus. Just like everyone else in Israel, news of a man who can heal and change water into wine was big news. He wanted to see what the fuss was all about just like everyone else.
He was so curious in fact that he went to great lengths to catch a glimpse of Jesus. He climbs up in the tree where Jesus finds him.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.Luke 19:5
Zacchaeus assembled with a group of people in hopes of being in the presence of Jesus. Sounds a lot like church, doesn’t it? Just like Zacchaeus, we assemble with a group of people hoping to be in the presence of God.
Jesus, however, was not satisfied to simply see Zacchaeus in this environment. He knew that Zacchaeus was excited, just like everyone else. He was high so to speak on the novelty of Jesus’ presence. He was also feeding off of the energy of all of the people around him. This is also similar to our own experiences in church. Everyone is excited. Everyone is focused on God at that moment in church. It is easy to tap into this collective excitement and “feel” spiritual for that time, to feel like a good Christian. Just like Zacchaeus, though, God wants to see beyond this environment. God wants to take us to the next level.
Jesus wanted to take Zacchaeus to the next level too. Which is why he said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”
Zacchaeus Takes Jesus Home
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 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 thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.Luke 18: 6-8
Could Jesus have saved Zacchaeus in the tree? Of course. Then why was it so important to go to his house? I think we find the answer in last part of verse 8.
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.
It was only at home that Zacchaeus had to face what he really was, what he had really done to his neighbors. Zacchaeus immediately addresses his possessions, I think because it was very obvious that he was living a much different lifestyle than his neighbors. He could live this lifestyle because he was a crooked Publican.
All it took was for Jesus to step into Zacchaeus’ house, and suddenly Zacchaeus knew exactly what was amiss in his life.
Zacchaeus was not satisfied with his “church” experience. He went the next step further and brought Jesus home, where it really counted. Once in his home with Jesus, Zacchaeus had to confront what he really was. His reaction to this was to repent. He sincerely repented of his ways and committed to a Christian life. What happened then?
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.Luke 19:9
When Zacchaeus believed and repented salvation came to his soul and his home.
Bringing It Home
The same thing happens to us as happened to Zacchaeus when he was in the tree. He was caught up in the excitement and spirituality of the moment. All of those people had gathered around to see Jesus. They had heard about the miracles. They knew they were about to behold something supernatural. They wanted to behold something supernatural. Our human hearts have a Divine hole in them and nothing but Jesus’ supernatural power will fill it.
This is why people will seek after some form of religion or spirituality even if they are misguided. Even the most remote tribes in the most isolated jungles in the world practice some form of spirituality. That is because humans crave communion with God. Even if they are ignorant and do not fully understand this craving or where to find satisfaction.
Zacchaeus for all his wickedness still had that yearning in his heart, and so do we. This is why we go to church. This was why we accepted Jesus as our Savior.
The problems arise when we only think of our spiritual lives in terms of church, and that spiritual “feeling” experience. Jesus wants our Christian life to be more than that.
Yes, it is good to join together with your brothers and sisters in Christ to enjoy the emotions that come along with our spirituality, but then what? There is a whole life outside the church. That life is challenging, and scary and stressful. Is Jesus enough for all of that too?
Let’s look at some of those things back home, that seem to stress us out the most. What does the Word of God have to say about taking our Christianity back home?
Probably no other relationship on earth has more potential for joy and heartache as the husband wife relationship. Why of all of our relationships is this the one that can play with our emotions so much? Well, the reason this relationship can be so volatile, is because there are so many emotions involved.
You have put your trust in your partner so there is great occasion to feel vulnerable. Whoever we feel the most vulnerable with is also usually the person we will be the most defensive with. This can be very frustrating.
If we learn how to balance this vulnerability, and view it as a blessing, then we can strengthen our marriages at home rather than damage them. In Ephesians 5 we see some very specific instructions for husbands and wives.
5 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.Ephesians 5
We know that husbands and wives should love each other, but here God gives husbands a specific instruction to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. That may sound like a tall order, and it is. It cannot even be done humanely speaking. This is why you must bring Jesus home with you, just as Zacchaeus did. You will need supernatural help in order to love your wife the way Christ loved the church. So what kind of love does Christ have for the church? He has:
- Unconditional love – He puts no disclaimers on His love, and there is nothing we can do that will make this love go away.
- Redeeming love – Christ loves us in such as way that makes us want to be better, to do better.
- Eternal love – Christ love is not limited for a specific time. It will go on for eternity.
Now ask yourself, if you are a husband, do you love your wife like this? If you feel yourself saying or feeling that you can’t love your wife like this, you are right. Like I said earlier, this is supernatural love and it will take help from your Savior. This is why you must bring Jesus home with you.
The wives were not left out of Ephesians 5 either.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Now the husbands were given a tall order, but the wives are given no less daunting of a task. Talk about being vulnerable! Submit yourselves to your husbands as you would to the Lord. The husband is the head? Just like Christ is the head of the church?
In our modern society most women wouldn’t even be able to read those words much less obey them. This flies in the face of everything that modern feminism teaches. So, women, what do you do with this instruction? Are you feeling like you can’t do that? Do you cringe just reading the word submit?
That’s perfectly natural. This goes against our human will. This goes against our modern ideas. This is a tough instruction that you will need supernatural assistance with. If you leave Jesus at church, and do not bring Him home with you, you will not be able to fulfill this order.
If you leave Jesus at church, then the moment you step out of the doors of the church, you will be relying on your own human strength and reasoning. I can almost promise that your human strength and reasoning has no desire to submit to your husband in all things and obey him. This is why we must take Jesus home with us.
The next most frustrating relationship that we deal with at home is the parent/child relationship. Again, this relationship is tough because there are so many emotions involved. You gave birth to your beautiful children. You have been the reason that they have survived and thrive. You provide all of their needs. You spend so much of your hard earned money on them. You’d think that they would just shower you will love, affection and respect.
Is that what happens usually? No! What happens usually is that we feel more disrespected by our own children than we do anyone else on earth. How is this possible when we are doing so much for them? How can they treat us this way? How can I love them the way I am supposed to?
Our children are still developing. Their brains are literally still growing and learning. They do not know what we know. They do not understand the work and sacrifice that we put into their care. There is no way for them to understand yet. One day they will understand. But until then we must rely on these verses.
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.1 Peter 2:20
It is our job to discipline and teach our children. These are not the years of mastery right now. If you keep thinking, “When are they going to get it?” just stop. They are not going to get it right now. Right now is the time to just keep teaching, keep disciplining, keep reminding. Over and over.
It’s not easy. Some days it feels impossible, and it is impossible in our own strength. You know what I’m about to say. You need supernatural power to do this job. That supernatural power comes from Jesus and that is why you must bring Him home with you.
All The Rest
Our home life is not just made up of our relationships with our spouse and children, though. There are a million little details that go into our home life. Really, our work life and our extended family is also part of our home life as well. What about all of these things? Does God care about all of this?
You know He does. Even Zacchaeus felt the need to address some of these issues when he said he would give half of his possessions to the poor. He was thinking about what he had at home, how he was managing his affairs and what needed to be changed.
Think about how you are managing your affairs at home. Your house maintenance and keeping, your finances, your interaction with the community. Is there anything you need to change? Once Zacchaeus brought Jesus home with him he could no longer ignore the way he was managing his affairs. He knew that there needed to be changes.
Let’s look at finances. Are you honoring God with the way you are managing your money. Did you bring Jesus home with you and ask Him to help you manage your money? Or are you just struggling along trying to do the best you can? It can be better than that. Bring Jesus home and let Him help you.
What about your home? Are you managing the upkeep of your home in a way that honors God and contributes to peace in your family? A home that is in disarray can contribute to chaos and a lack of peace. Do you think Jesus doesn’t care what your home looks like? He does. He cares about every aspect of your life. What could you change that would make your home more peaceful and easy to live in?
Let’s don’t forget our extended relationships at work and with other family members and friends. How is this area of your home life? Have you left Jesus completely out of this area? You need the supernatural power of Christ to govern these relationships as well. These relationships can be volatile sources of stress or they can be blessed sources of joy. The difference is made when Jesus is on the scene.
Now our good God is omnipresent, meaning He can be anywhere and everywhere, but bringing Jesus home with you is a matter of your spirit. It is not a matter of God being limited to only staying in the church. We invite Jesus into our home when we have a spirit of sincere obedience. When we, like Zacchaeus, invite Jesus into our home, allow Him to take inventory and then joyfully make the changes that need to be made.
This is when our life outside the church will begin to transform. This is when our Christian life really takes flight. Going to church is essential to your spiritual life and growth, but it’s when you take Jesus back home with you that you really begin to see your Christian life in action.