Sermon Follow Up - Week 20, 2021
The Pharisee and the tax collector parable is a well-known one. However, we must not be quick to presume that the meaning of it is clear without first having examined our own life. Do we have a heart that resembles a mercy-pleading tax collector or one that resembles a self-righteous Pharisee?
The Sermon Text
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
The Main Point of the Sermon
The only thing standing between you and God's mercy is your self-righteousness.
Sermon Points, Quotes, and Application
- What does it mean to trust in yourself?
The first step into thinking we’re right when we’re wrong is when we as professing Christians believe that we are superior to the real sinners.
The solution is to embrace the fact that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God, myself included and thus open up what has closed us off from God’s mercy. In what ways might you be clean in your own eyes? Does your knowledge of the truth of God’s Word create disdain for uninformed or less-mature Christians? Paul says knowledge that puffs up is not true knowledge because it misses love. Do you feel like your lifestyle, the way you vote, the way you parent or discipline your kids or the way you pray or serve this church seem to you only possible and biblical way to do so and everyone else needs to get it together? Paul says let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest you fall. In other words, let anyone who thinks they are spiritually immune to failure or being wrong take heed lest they be wrong in a far worse way.
- What does it mean to truly trust in God’s mercy?
The tax collector has a deep sense of his unworthiness. He’s standing far off perhaps feeling like he shouldn’t get too close to the holiness of God in his temple. And he looks up…. Not around like the Pharisee. He lifts his eyes to heaven. The only comparison he’s making is that between his wrongness and God’s holiness. And when he sees the contrast he’s led to beating his chest because something has become clear to him…. He needs mercy. There’s no mention of his own goodness, no attempts to try to find a worse tax collector somewhere to measure himself by. All he knows is that he needs to be spared from holy wrath and God is the one who can spare him. Where the Pharisee can’t stand to think of himself as similar to the unjust and adulterers who are the real sinners, the tax collector in many ways counts himself among them because he’s not tricking himself. He is not deceived and blinded by this sense that he’s worthy of mercy.
To trust in God’s mercy includes something so simple as looking at a person who you’d be tempted to despise, who has made a wreck of their life, or who lives by their own self-destructive rules and say to yourself… "There is nothing I’ve done to be different from that person. It is only a matter of God’s abundant grace that I am not in their position right now."
"Without merits to stand on, he must stand humbly before God; without merits to speak for him, he must plead to God; without merits to be rewarded, his only option is to plead for God’s mercy. The Pharisee stands before God in self-congratulation, the tax collector stands before God in prayer."
If your track record is stained with deception you don’t have to simply make up for all the lies and retrace every step to get to a place where you have a net gain of good in the end. God is merciful to those who see their need of him. If your life has been marked by lots of lost battles with lust or hatred towards others or constant fights and arguments you don’t have to fast twice a week in order to pay it back. God has mercy on sinners who trust him.
- What’s the motivation for laying down our righteousness and trusting in God’s mercy?
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v14)
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.’” (Rev. 3:15-21 ESV).
“As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” (Psalm 40:11 ESV).
If you are humbled now to live a “have mercy on me God” sort of life which IS the life of faith. He will plop you down on his throne just like the Father did with him! Exalted beyond the place we deserve! We will go through this life beating our chest saying, "Have mercy! Have mercy!" only to rise from the dead and appear with Christ on his throne. Undoubtedly we’ll be singing the praises of that wonderful mercy towards sinners that we ourselves have asked for. I think in those moments we may wonder why we didn’t give up trusting in ourselves sooner but no matter… because we’ll be grateful beyond measure that Christ gave us parables like the Pharisee and the tax collector to show us that we are ever in need of his mercy that he is ever ready to give.
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