Summary: Two sinners attend church, but clearly for two different reasons and the leave church walking in diametrically opposed directions. What happened at church to make this difference?
Sinners At Church
Luke 18:9-14 "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
It seems in the day of Jesus many people were trusting in their own imagined righteousness and religiosity to gain entry to heaven. This was a problem Jesus dealt with constantly all through His brief ministry. Members of the Jewish religious sect of the Pharisees were the prime religious offenders. Their religious self-righteousness was so extreme that some of them would routinely even cross the street to keep from meeting a Gentile face to face. Jesus had some very scathing remarks and severe indictments of such hypocrisy. His extended condemnation of their religious hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13-33) is summed up in two simple assertions: "[Ye] blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel......" " Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt. 23:24 & 28)
A few years later, Paul, who as Saul of Tarsus had been a leader among them, would give this analysis of their spiritually deadly religiosity: "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Ro. 10:1-4)
Someone has commented upon the paradox of man’s consistent inconsistency with these words, "The more things change the more they stay the same." Just a few days ago I had a conversation with a lady at her door about what she might be trusting to make here right with God and get her into heaven when she died. The words of Jesus found here exactly sum up here response. She was, " . . . trusting in herself that she was righteous . ." Even after sharing clearly from the scriptures on the matter and giving my own testimony of salvation by grace through faith, she still seemed to feel that she had as good a chance as anyone to make to heaven through her own good works, righteousness and religions connections. Of course, she will not concede that no one has a chance to make it into heaven that way. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 10:43) But as I have shared recently, this remains a universal problem in our day. We receive the same sort of response from the overwhelming majority of those we try to share the gospel with as we go door to door in our community.