Summary: This sermon is the second in a series of sermons about justification before God. It is centered around the the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
3 August 2003
Pentecost/Season After Pentecost
Justified before God- In God’s Sight, Part II
I. Place & Position
The Pharisee came with a full hand, with a hand that couldn’t miss, a hand that was a sure winner. The Pharisee didn’t have a poker face. At least to other folks he didn’t have one. To himself he had one. Every gambler, who is not a good one, or a good one who develops his game to a certain level, has a “tell” – a sign that betrays him or his strategy. The Pharisee comes before God confident that he’s going to have a breakthrough, a deliverance, a rhema word, a tongue, a prophecy, a w revelation from the Lord. The Pharisee is coming before God with a great curriculum vitae (resume) that will win him the position undoubtedly – all others need not apply ! There is nothing wrong with self-confidence but when it exalts us above everyone and everything else then a problem is created. The problem is that we have exalted ourselves not God. Therefore we are bound to be taken down a few notches by God. The Pharisee’s place & position said one thing about him. It said – “I’m okay but, you’re not okay !”.
The publican came with his hand full but with junk. He had a loser’s hand. But he didn’t how to fold or have the courage to do so. He just held his cards because he didn’t want to be branded a quitter, someone who gives up, someone who throws in the towel. Folding means that we won’t this time but next time we’ll have another chance if we have sufficient funds. Well, the Pharisee came with some pretty higih stakes in mind and the Publican made up his mind that come hell or high water he wouldn’t let go. But it was getting dangerously close to the end of his bankroll. When the Pharisee prayed or what he called praying, he raised the stakes and the Publican had to see it or fold. Either he would win the entire pot or he would lose it all which included what he had put in. This is after they’ve received or taken their last cards. The Pharisee held on to his hand but the Publican took three. He didn’t even look at them. He just took them. Then came the moment of truth. The Pharisee with his proud-overconfident-self-righteous self threw his cards down revealing what was a winning hand. But the Publican just kept his head down and picked up his cards revealing them to himself. Seeing his cards he began to beat his breast. What they thought was a sign of utter hopelessness was more than that. By those around and the Pharisee he had won and was reaching for the pot but he was stopped by the words of the Publican – “ ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’”. And the Publican who was the worst of the lot, the lowest and basest and rankest of sinners who had no hope whatsoever had things turn around for him. No longer was the sky grey and rain clouds following him around. No longer was the night’s sky starless. No longer was the air thick with pollution. No longer was that 800 pound gorilla sitting on his chest. He was justified before God ! All the time he thought no one had given him a chance at all, God was there all the time with his mercy ready to be given to him and even to the Pharisee. The Pharisee didn’t see the need or recognize that he needed it more than the Publican. The Publican now shout, now praise God, now give God the glory, now celebrate ! He didn’t want to boast or brag or be one who gloats about it. The travesty is this- many of us don’t have the power to turn over the cards. I don’t know what the Publican did after he prayed but I would hope that he understood God had forgiven him. That God had justified him, made him right in the sight of God.