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.
Isn’t it amazing that this simple parable Jesus spoke some 2000 years ago so uniquely fits our day as well? Perhaps some may think that since they are saved by the grace of God that such a story has not real contemporary personal application to their situation. I can understand that. But if you tend to think that way, I would simply ask you this question. "Are you familiar enough with the parable and what it really teaches that you could repeat the story and weave the lesson taught into a soul winning conversation? Could you personally lead someone to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their own Saviour by sharing the truths taught in this parable?”
But let me ask another question of us all. Just why did we come to church today? Did we come as sinners saved by grace, confessing our sins and failures of the week that is past and seeking God’s help and healing in our hearts and lives? Did we come as those who have been redeemed by His blood in order to focus upon the cross of Christ and praise and worship Him for the salvation He has given to us as a free gift? Did we come with a prayerful attitude that would welcome those who are yet lost in their sins among us to hear the message of the love of God? Are we praying that God’s Word and His Spirit might bring someone to the foot of the cross that they might be saved even today? Were we concerned enough this past week to try to reach out with the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ to some lost person God may have placed in path?