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It happens every once and a while. A big-name “sinner” claims he or she has been wrong.
On hearing such a claim, some scoff: “Ha! Impossible!” Conversely, others start preparing the victory parade and inviting all to come celebrate—the sinner has repented!
Side - Point - Everything - God - Change
Each side makes a valid point. Yes, we should be cautious before simply believing everything we hear. And only God can bring change that bears lasting fruit. We should be ready to celebrate the return of a prodigal heart, believe the best about others, and guard our hearts from needless cynicism.
But how do we know the difference between mere remorse and full-blown repentance?
Question - Bible - End
To this question, the Bible speaks—loudly. And in the end, it causes us to ask one more.
There once lived a man who was a horrific sinner. He was an expert swindler. Money was his god. His religion was gain.
Man - Man - Sort - Role - Treasurer
There was another man, a different man. He was the religious sort, playing the role of treasurer for a non-profit, if you will. He looked trustworthy, though he loved money too—for spiritual reasons, of course. He followed Jesus. He had witnessed mighty works and compassionate deeds. And one day this man, Judas, saw true repentance firsthand.
As he followed Jesus through Jericho, they suddenly stopped because Jesus saw a man sitting up in a sycamore tree. Jesus called the man to come down and host him for a meal.
Man - Tree - Crowd - Sinner - Swindler
The man descended the tree and, as he drew closer, the crowd gasped. It was the horrific sinner himself! Here was the swindler, the scammer, the greed monger. Zacchaeus. Just his name made the blood boil. If only Jesus had known how many old ladies had lost their last dollar to this man’s tricks (Luke 19:5–7).
The crowd pressed in, peering through the doorway and the windows in hopes of seeing Jesus put Zacchaeus...
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