Luke 18:9, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (NIV)
To live a Christian life is never easy, there are ups and downs in this walk. I mentioned recently how we often measure the success of our walk by what we accomplish rather than what He has accomplished for us on the cross. We say something like this, “dying on the cross for our sins was something we could never do, but living the life of a Christian is something we are most capable of doing”. I come across many sermons preached on “How to” rather than what “He has”. A while back I was in a Christian book store, it’s shelves were filled with self-help books, filled with “how to”, examples “how to write your ticket with God”, “7 steps to being blessed”, “how to get God’s attention and favor”. We say we are saved by grace but behave like our salvation is kept by the law.
If you are kept by “how to”, you will be discouraged the days you do not pray, read the word, or reach others like you should. If anything, you become an idolater because your joy comes and depends on your accomplishments. Jesus speaking, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, …” in Luke 18:9 told of a parable. While this was addressing those who looked down on others, I see another side of the coin in addressing those who measure their Christian walk by others as the standard. In other words saying something like this, “I do not pray like so and so, maybe I need to try harder etc.”. In giving this parable, Jesus said, vs. “10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ His accomplishments, I fast twice in the week – So did all the strict Pharisees: every Monday and Thursday. I give tithes of all that I possess – Many of them gave one full tenth of their income in tithes, and another tenth in alms. This was the strictest sect among the Jews; they were men that prayed, and fasted much, and were great sticklers for the ceremonies of the law, and the traditions of the elders, and did all they did to be seen of men. This Pharisee trusted to himself that he was righteous. Most of us may not do it to be seen of men, but we do it to be seen of God and use it as “how to” get blessings from the Lord.
The Pharisee felt justified, he was no hypocrite for they were the most righteous people by man’s standards. To give a list of his accomplishment was to prep him as a candidate for greater things. The bible says, he prayed about himself, he prayed about his accomplishments, he was the center of his prayer and using a tax collector as his measuring stick for his righteousness.
In this regards, there were people who tried their best to measure up to them, one could have been the tax collector who found that he fell short he therefore prayed directly to God. It must have been mind boggling when Jesus dropped a bombshell in addressing those who wanted to be righteous as these people, Jesus response, Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”. In other words, unless your righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the most righteous people, you will by no means enter the kingdom of God.
If we could never attain the righteousness on our own, how do we expect to maintain it unless we fall back on the One who called us in the first place. Paul begins by telling us how we attained the righteousness, 2Corinthians 5:21, “For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us (lost sinners), that we might become the righteousness of God (traded places) in Him (completed by Him and in Him). Emphasis mine in brackets. Paul then tells us what is required of us to do now that we are made righteous and qualifies it with this statement, it has to be by God for God in us, through us for His glory, Philippians 2:12-13, “12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure”. You bear out what He has produced within.
We cannot work for what He has already accomplished, we can only bear it. He is the true Vine, we are the branches (John 15). The branches do not produce, they only bear what He has produced. Our job is to bide. Jesus said, Luke 12:32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’”. Acts 17:28, “28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring”. We are saved by hope, purified by it, blessed by it, kept by it, favored by it. All in Christ for His name sake because He paid for it all with His own precious blood on the cross when He said, “it is finished”. Blessings, Ev