Summary: There is no amount of works that can get you a pass into heaven. It is only by the blood of Christ, applied to a contrite heart,that we may be saved.
There is a great deal of differemce between the appearance of righteousness and the actual condition. Do you understand that pride is a major obsticle to salvation? The parable of the Pharisee and the publican is a good illustration of the difference between pride and true righteousness. The Word of God tells us that all mankind has sinned (see Ro. 3:10); and that our works or good deeds do not justify us in the sight of God. If any of us is to be made righteous, we must confess our sin to God and ask Jesus into our lives and become born again (see John 3:3-8).
I. We come into Jesus’ presence of as He is speaking to a band of Pharisees who were trying to find error in His doctrine. (v. 10)
A. Jesus addressed the issue of self-righteousness by turning their attention to one who was like them. He laid the foundation for making His point by comparing two men who went to the temple to pray. Jesus said that the Pharisee was self-righteous. How many people do you know today who have that same kind of egocentric view?
B. He compared the worship and prayer of a rank sinner to that of the Pharisee. To be a Pharisee is to be a hypocritic observer of things religious; To be a religious bigot. Jesus spoke to them in words his hearers couldn’t mistake.
C. The cheating tax collector knew he was a sinner and humbly sought God’s forgiveness. Each of us must realize for ourselves that we are sinners in need of salvation (see Ro. 3:23).
D. The practice of your religion must be internal rather than external. Jesus said that if our righteousness would not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, we would not enter into the kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 5:20).
II. The Phrisee prayed in public where he was sure he’d be seen. (vv. 11-12)
A. The Pharisee felt it was necessary to remind God of all he had done for God. Don’t you know that no one has to remind God about anything? Don’t judge anyone elses worship by your own (see Matt. 7:1-5).
B. Don’t try to justify yourself by any comparison to another. Every evil trait you can point to in another, you can also point to in yourself. Our worship and our prayer is between ourselves and our God alone (see Matt. 6:1-8).
III. The publican humbly separated himself from the hypocrites, preferring to be alone with God. (v. 13)
A. This tax collector for the Romans was so convicted in his heart, that he realized his only hope of salvation was in a loving and forgiving God (see Ps. 34:18).
B. Frequently we trust in ourselves until we’ve run out of hope. Only when men become broken enough to seek God’s intervention, can there be any hope of restoration. Those seeking restoration need to pray as the psalmist did in Psalm 51:10 which says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
IV. God pardons those who confess their sins to Him and ask (see 1John 1:9). (v.14)
A. It was only possible for the publican to be forgiven because he brought his sins to the throne of grace. God is waiting for us to get honest with Him. The moment we humble ourselves before Him and ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, and ask His forgiveness; He will fogive us.
B. God will allow you and me to continue in unrighteousness for as long as it takes. James 4:6 says, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." Some people fight God to the end and are condemned to eternal damnation. Others call on a righteous God and are redeemed.
Get over your self-righteous complacency. Don’t you understand that that smug self-righteousness you have is sinful. No one can do enough good works to earn salvation (see Gal. 2:16). We are forgiven and saved from sin by God’s grace alone; and we know we are saved, when upon our confession of faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit enters into us. The Pharisee was so presumptuous that he closed God out. Don’t close God out. The publican laid himself on the alter for God to use. He was brought to the place where he could be emptied, and because he was, was able to be redeemed by God and know His forgiveness was sure. Will you empty yourself of anything you’ve been holding back right now? Will you seek entrance into God’s rest today? Will you come to God and ask Jesus into your life right now?