Summary: A look at Jesus' story comparing the hearts of the tax collector and the pharisee.
Humility - October 23, 2016 - Luke 18:9-14
Worship. Worship. There is nothing like worshipping God. There’s nothing like being in the presence of Jesus and adoring Him.
And that’s because there is nothing and no one more beautiful than our God. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, God who is three in one.
He fills our praises with his presence. He ministers healing to us, and we have the incredible privilege of entering His presence and focussing on His worth, His goodness, His glory and majesty.
That’s what we’ve been doing this afternoon. That’s why we gather on Sundays, to worship God.
We also learn about God, enjoy the community of God’s people gathered here, but mainly we come to worship the living, true God, revealed in Jesus, in Whom all the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwells.
Where do we get that word, worship? The word ‘worship’ comes from the Greek word ‘proskyneō (pros-kü-ne'-ō)’, and it means to bow in humble reverence, to lay prostrate before the living God. It’s a profound act of submission and adoration.
It’s also symbolic because when we’re laying prostate (demonstrate) we can’t go any lower. We can’t be more reverential toward God.
Whether we are actually laying prostrate or bowing, or standing, it’s all about the attitude of our heart.
Worship is an act of profound personal freedom too. Because we personally and willingly bow ourselves down low.
We affirm that God is God and we are not God. I want to suggest that worshipping the living God in humility and honesty and truth is why we were made, ultimately.
It will be our greatest joy, in eternity. With all the angels who cry ‘Holy, holy, holy’, we will join our voices to that great chorus.
When we worship here and now, we are touching eternity, because we are, yes, joining our voices to heaven, joining our voices to the believers who have gone before us and to the whole heavenly host.
So the word worship means to, in our attitudes if not in our bodies, lie prostrate, flat on our faces, before God.
There are other ways to go low. Sin can take us low. Sin humiliates us. Sin strips us of dignity, removes from us our sense of worth.
It creates shame and embarrassment. And it distorts something very basic and beautiful about you and me.
That is simply that we are made in the image of our Creator, and we’re intended to live as a reflection of our God.
So the believer, who perhaps once was brought low by sin (that’s me. Perhaps that’s you too), comes to worship the living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Redeemer and Saviour of our soul.
And in our hearts if not physically, we bow deep before our majestic and beautiful king.
And here’s the thing. As we willingly bow before God, we are brought low. But that ‘lower state’ is in truth much higher that the state that sin brings us to.
Today’s passage is a powerful one that makes us take a hard look at ourselves, if we are willing. It’s very clearly directed to a specific audiences.
It says: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable”.
Jesus places a very high value on humility. He says in Matthew 5, the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.
There, as elsewhere in the beatitudes as in the gospels, he flips conventional thinking on its head.
What do I mean by that? Don’t we value strong people? Don’t we look up to strong, authoritative leadership?
Aren’t we pulled toward confident people who know their minds?
Human history is filled with people following apparently ‘strong’ leaders to very dark places regardless of their character or the evil they do.
But Jesus has a different view. And so he tells a story.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
So it looks like it’s possible to be humble in God’s presence, or arrogant in His presence. We can pray with very different attitudes of the heart.