It’s Hard To Be Humble: Part 2 – Luke 18:9-14

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV).

Jesus told a story that contrasted the prayer offered by a Pharisee with the prayer of a tax collector. In this story the Pharisee portrays a good and moral person–a religious person–and the tax collector portrays an immoral and sinful person.

While their behavior is similar–praying at the temple–their words and the attitudes expressed by their prayers are quite different. The Pharisee is absolutely certain of his righteousness while the tax collector is obviously doubtful of his.

Like many of Jesus’ parables the meaning is revealed as an unexpected truth, a contradiction of commonly-held beliefs; the interpretation is in the inverse! In God’s Kingdom (in contrast to the way things are in this present world) those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The admonition of Jesus in this parable is an indictment of all us “religious” folks. In fact, this parable addresses what is possibly one of the most serious character flaws Christians must confront–self-righteousness. The self-righteousness of Christians may be more reprehensible to God than the unrighteousness of sinners because it’s probably more detrimental to the cause of Christ than the most abhorrent sin of a sinner.

God can have mercy on a sinner but His mercy is futile to the person who thinks he doesn’t need it.

When we Christians represent ourselves as “righteous” people, just what (or whose) righteousness are we talking about? Because if we mean our own righteousness then we are the same as the Pharisee in this parable–deluded and self-righteous!

As a Christian, the only “righteousness” I should exalt is God’s righteousness. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV). God’s righteousness invades my life by the presence of the Holy Spirit and hopefully, changes me so that I behave righteously.

Still, that doesn’t make me righteous. It means that God’s righteousness is at work in me by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

As children of God we can grow accustomed to walking in God’s righteousness. But, if we start taking it for granted, then we can start depending on our personal righteousness instead of exalting God’s righteousness that He has bestowed on us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. When we exalt our own righteousness by comparing our goodness to others sinfulness, we become self-righteous.

Even though we are the sons and daughters of righteousness our prayer should always be that of the tax collector in this parable: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4, NIV)

Because It’s the Religious Thing To Do – Matthew 3:7-10

baptism“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for out father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10, NASB).

This declaration was made by John the Baptist when the religious leaders came to be baptized by him. John warned them that they weren’t repenting and looking for a Savior as he was preaching. They didn’t think they needed saving and so they were just being baptized because it was the religious thing to do!

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The Normal Christian Life – Romans 5:1-5

lemonade“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, HCSB).

Commentators differ as to whether Romans 5 belongs thematically with Chapters 3 and 4 where the Apostle Paul argues for the imputation of righteousness through Christ or with Chapters 6-8 where Paul describes the new life in Christ.

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Doing Right Things Wrong – Luke 11:42

hypocriteBut woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves; the people who walk over them don’t know it.” (Luke 11:42, HCSB).

Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee to dine with him. Presumably several scribes and Pharisees were also present at the dinner.

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Examine the Fruit – Matthew 12:33,35

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad…A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”  (Matthew 12:33,35, NLT).

Goodness is a quality that is only attributable to God.

And God’s redemptive purpose is not to create good people, but to establish His goodness in the human heart.

So God’s plan for you is not just to clean you up, but to shape and form the character of your being for eternity.

God wants to do an inside job on you!

He knows that it is what is on the inside—your character, your heart, your soul—that determines what you will do with what is on the outside—your words and behavior.

According to Jesus, it is relatively simple to determine what is on the inside of a person.

You examine their fruit!

When you purchase fruit at the store, you pick it up and look it over before you place it in your shopping cart. It’s the same way with people.

You hear what they say and see how they behave: “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (vs. 7:20).

What you say and do are indicative of what’s in your heart.

What do people hear and see coming from your heart? Do you  pass the fruit exam? Are you a tree that bears good fruit?

Let the words you speak and the way you live demonstrate that Jesus lives in your heart!

“So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (James 2:24,NLT),

Adapted from The Kingdom Order: Living for the Future in the Present, by Steven C. Mills

We Shall Be Like Him – 1 John 3:2

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” The Apostle John indicates that Christ is the prototype for our own resurrection. In other words, our resurrected bodies will take the same form as the resurrected Christ. Although Christ has been raised from the dead, we have not yet been raised. So we have hope for being resurrected from the dead and having resurrection bodies like Jesus, but, as John points out, “we are God’s children now.” So the redeemed of God have one foot in eternity and one foot in this present world. But the power of Christ’s resurrection is already at work to purify us so that we start becoming like Christ now: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (vs. 3). John goes on to say that God’s chidren do not make a practice of sinning (vs 4), but instead practice righteousness (vs. 7). You are enabled to practice righteousness because you are born of God and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and working through the Word of God to empower you to refrain from sinning and to practice righteousness (vs. 9-10).

Truth Professionals – 1 John 1:6-7

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” The Apostle John says in the preceding verse (vs. 5) that God is light. Therefore, those who walk in darkness are not walking with God, no matter what they say. John says that if you are walking in darkness then you are not practicing the truth. By contrast, those who walk in the light reflect God’s glory; they walk in the same way Jesus walked (vs. 2:6). The light in which they walk includes both correct doctrine (truth) and God’s moral law (holiness). If you “walk in the light” then you practice the truth and your behavior is consistent with your doctrine. When you live your life each day according to God’s redemptive love and moral law, then you are living the truth. You are like a practitioner of the truth, a truth professional. Just as doctors practice medicine and attorneys practice the law, Christians practice truth. As a practitioner of truth, when you “walk in the light” then your life is known to others: “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Be a truth professional and let the way you live your life and the way you say you live your life be one in the same and to the glory of God, and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse you from all sin.