Summary: In the story of the Pharisee and tax collector, Jesus contrasts true and false religion.
Lessons on Religion
A. Are some things what they don’t appear to be?
1. Have you ever thought you might not be who you think you are?
2. Is it possible to think you are a Christian when you’re not?
3. The world seems flat when you look at the horizon, Columbus disproved that theory.
4. Illusionary lines can be drawn where one looks longer than the other when they are actually the same length.
5. A magician can appear to plunge knives into someone or cut them in half.
6. Then there are the healing services where someone is supposedly healed.
7. Some churches appear to be alive but are dead. Jesus said to church at Sardis, “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive-but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1)
B. The parable is designed to teach that some are not what they think they are.
2. He thought he was right with God.
C. It also teaches humility in prayer and everything we do including our approach to God.
D. It contrasts religion of form with that of the heart.
E. It exposed the hypocrisy and self-deception of the Pharisees.
F. Some of Jesus’ followers may have had the same problem, for the Bible speaks of “certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9)
RELIGION CANNOT SAVE
A. Pharisee and tax collector go to the temple.
1. Separatists, most prominent and popular sect.
2. Sect developed during the 3rd century before Christ.
3. Patriotic and nationalistic, hated foreign influences.
4. Held to Mosaic law and Judaism.
5. Many were accommodating to Greek and Roman things.
6. Since they didn’t, they were the heroes and backbone of Jewish identity.
7. Models of piety and supposedly people after God’s own heart.
8. Loved to called attention to their good works.
9. Thought outward appearances could save.
C. The Pharisee enters the court of the Temple.
1. People were gathering to pray.
2. Pharisee moves to the front.
3. Separated himself from all others there.
4. Prayed, probably with hands lifted upward and his eyes.
D. Content of prayer
1. One has remarked, “You can tell a person’s character by the prayer he or she makes.”
2. Blessed God but turned attention to himself.
3. Two allusions to God but the pronoun I is used five times.
4. Thanks God he is not a sinner like other people.
5. Boasts that he never cheats, sins, or commits adultery.
6. Fasts twice a week (law required once a year on Day of Atonement).
7. Tithed of his income (law required a tithe on annual increase but exempted certain agricultural items).
8. Almost placed God in debt to him (“How could you not be pleased with me God?”).
E. Jesus’ judgment on the prayer.
1. Prayed with himself.
2. Prayer was an exercise in self-congratulations.
3. Did not go away justified.
4. One has remarked, “A proud prayer is a self-contradictory endeavor.”
5. Not praying to God; didn’t know God.
F. Religion saves no one.
1. Came with a haughty spirit.
2. In the book of Proverbs, we read, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18)
G. We can be alive religiously and dead spiritually.
1. The church in Sardis was.
2. Well-known reputation and was progressive.
3. People supported and attended.
4. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
H. There are many like the religious leaders today.
1. Many good works to boast of.
2. Attend church and may even work and lead in it.
3. Name that they are alive religiously.
4. Expecting an eternity they won’t experience.
5. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
6. One said, “Let us not merely call Him Lord, for that will not save us…let us acknowledge him by our actions.”
I. Not people who have lost their salvation.
1. Never possessed it.
2. Must depend on grace, not good works, religion, or moral living.
J. Jesus says we must be reborn.
1. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
2. “Enter by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13)