How the Church engages culture
By Pastor Frederick K. Price Jr.

One of the areas that the Lord has given me that I believe is a part of my specific assignment is Engaging Culture. The church must engage culture.

The church’s role is to influence culture, not be influenced by culture, and so I want to deal with a few things regarding cultural engagement, and the first thing I want to touch on is evangelism, the importance of the ministry that has been given to all of us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:1-2 says: Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.

Zacchaeus wasn't just a tax collector.  He was the chief tax collector. If you're a chief tax collector, you have tax collectors under you, so he was a boss. And, as you can see, the latter part of verse 2 says, And he was rich.

So, Zacchaeus was a rich man who obtained his wealth by way of his business, which happened to be tax collecting, which also means he was most likely hated and despised by his people.


Because he was taxing his people for the Roman Empire.  Now, being a Roman tax collector was bad enough, but to be a Jewish tax collector for Rome? That was even worse, so he was definitely a severely disliked man.

Zacchaeus was rich, so he probably did not care what people thought or said about him.  But this day was a little different for Zacchaeus.

Verse 3 says, And he sought to see who Jesus was. . . .

"Who's this Jesus guy? I keep hearing about him."

He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.

A short, rich, Jewish tax collector.

Verse 4: So he ran ahead, and he climbed up into a sycamore tree.

That was not accidental. When you study out the sycamore tree or the mulberry tree, there is so much to learn in the areas of bitterness and unforgiveness and forgiveness. But there is another reason this tree was there.

So he ran ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and He said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Jesus just said to a short Jewish tax collector who was rich and despised by his own people, "I must stay at your house."

Now, how does this sound to everyone? He wants to hang out in the house of a tax collector? He wants to be in the house of a rich man?

Verse 6-7:

So he made haste and came down, and he received Him joyfully.

But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who

is a sinner.”

And you have seen it numerous times in the gospel where sinners and tax collectors are listed together, so the people are complaining.


They are complaining because Jesus is entering into the home of a sinner, but also because He's entering into the home of a tax collector. He's entering into the home of one of their own who taxes them for Rome.  And he is rich.

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor. . . .”

And then, he said this: “. . . And if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation . . . .” Now, why would he word it that way if he's done it?

I want to tell you right now he did it. No, he did it a lot, because history tells us that— and I kid you not. I'm not making this up. Zacchaeus was part of a black-market, under-the-radar stealth, an illegal fig operation, so he was part of an operation that allowed figs into the land via the ports illegally.

That's part of why he was rich, and that's why he says, "If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation. I restore fourfold."

No, you have, Zacchaeus, because, actually, you're a criminal.

He said, "I restore fourfold."

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.”

And then, Jesus says this in the tenth verse, which negates every personal feeling that everyone had regarding Zacchaeus and how they felt regarding Jesus going into the house of Zacchaeus:

”For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost."

In other words, I have come for the lost. I have come to save the lost. That's why I came. Now, in the process of saving the lost I will do signs. I will do miracles. I will do wonders, and my main reason for doing them is to bring the lost into the kingdom.

There is another place in Scripture where Jesus says He has come to do something, and that, of course, is in John 10, when He says, The thief does not come except to, steal, kill, and destroy.

Now, when you read John 10 and you read about the thief, contextually Jesus is talking about the hireling. He's talking about the shepherd who's not really a shepherd. He's talking about the shepherd who really assumes the role for a paycheck only. But because he uses the definite article the, we can deduce that the hireling must get his behavior from one above him. That would have to be the devil, whose MO is to steal, kill, and destroy.

So, Jesus says the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

He says, "But I have come not to do signs, wonders, and miracles, but I have come that they may have life, and that life more abundantly." Today, He tells them, salvation has come to this rich man's house, who is a tax collector for Rome, who happens to be a son of Abraham. In other words, even he can be saved. Jesus explains: "I've come to seek and save the lost."

Now, look at Luke 5:27. That is another place where Jesus indicates what He came to do. And guess what? It has to do with tax collectors again – five this time. We are talking about engaging culture, or evangelism.

Luke 5:27: After these things He went out, and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow me.” Now, Levi, most likely, was well-off. We see Jesus comes to his office.

So, what did Levi do?  Verse 28 says, So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house.

Boy, I tell you, Jesus entered the house of a person of whom everyone would refer to as a sinner.

Now, I want, in a manner of speaking, to kill two birds with one stone. First off, I want to address this concept of Jesus hanging out with sinners, because some people like to say that to justify their behavior by saying, "you know Jesus hung out with sinners."

Is that what Jesus did, just hung out with them?

Verse 29: Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.

So Jesus was seated with a great number of tax collectors.

Verse 30, And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Now, let's be very clear, using these scriptures as our example.

It appears--if we really want to be meticulous – Jesus did not sit with tax collectors and sinners. They sat with him. That is our first observation. So those in darkness were drawn to the light. Now, when they sat with Jesus, Jesus did not get up and walk away.  Rather he had a purpose in mind, and that purpose was not to just hang out with sinners so that we can do what sinners do, because the Bible says in First Corinthians 15:33: Do not be deceived: “evil company corrupts good habits.”

So, let us be very careful when we say that "I'm hanging out with sinners because Jesus hung out with sinners." Jesus did not hang out with sinners to do sinful activity. Jesus was around sinners and sinners were drawn to Him for the reason that He's about to reveal:

Verse 31: Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick have a need of a physician.

He continues, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Now, notice this dig from Jesus: He says, "I didn't come to call the righteous."

Now, wait a minute!

There are no righteous, but there were groups that were self-righteous, such as the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the scribes, and there were other groups also.

He indicates, "You think you've already arrived. I did not come for you. I came to call sinners to repentance."

That is why He has come – to seek and save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance. He says, ‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’

Now, let's address what it means to be a believer and be in the presence of sinners, because when you get born again you are no longer a sinner.

Can you sin? Yes.

But are you a sinner? No, you have a new identity. You are identified with Christ. Is Christ a sinner? No. So then, you are not a sinner. If you belong to Christ, you have been identified with Him. You are whatever He is. Is He righteous? Then you are righteous.

Look at 2 Corinthians 6: 11. There is a manner in which we as the righteousness of God are to conduct ourselves in the presence of those who are not righteous, those whom we know are not righteous. We cannot simply hang out.

I'm not going to be rude. I'll say hi. We can even have a conversation, but we don't just hang out.

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