"The Prayer that Justifies"-Luke 18:9-14
This Week’s Core Practice: Giving Away My Faith- I give away my faith
to fulfill God's purposes.
Ephesians 6:19- 20 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Scripture: Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
Introductory Thoughts: One of the terrible possibilities suggested by the Pharisee’s attitude in prayer is this: A person can be religious and not be right. This man’s religion became the cause of his ruin. He did everything right from a religious perspective—in fact, more than right! His problem was that he had totally excluded God from the picture of his life. His religion was all about him.
There is a danger in all religions, and Christianity is not exempt from it. The danger is the possibility of being cursed by the very instrument that God established for our salvation. Every Sunday, people attend houses of worship with other worshippers. They sing hymns, recite liturgies, pray prayers, listen to sermons. And they will leave feeling better about themselves than when they went in. Unfortunately, they will still be deeply rooted in their sins. If our religion does nothing more than make us feel better about our sin, then that religion has doomed us, not saved us.
I hear people say they like to go to church at a certain place because they feel so good when they leave. That would be like having cancer and not going to the place where you can get the cure but going to a positive-mental-attitude class where they would tell you how to feel good about the cancer you have while you are dying with it. If I have a disease that needs treatment, I need to go where the disease can be treated, not where I’ll be made to feel better about dying!
The Pharisee was a religious man who was lost in his religion. Along with everything else we learn in this story, we learn about the dangers of religious pride. And that doesn’t mean we are to go to a church where we leave feeling bad. It means we are to leave feeling good about the Savior whose mercy has saved us from our sins. We leave feeling good about God’s justification, not our own.
Dr. David Jeremiah
The Message of this Passage: In several of the parables, we discover that believers and unbelievers are not easily distinguished one from the other. They interact not only in the business world and the social world, but they interact at church! They come together to the same place to worship, the Pharisee and the publican, in the same place before the same God.
It’s really hard, Jesus seems to say, to distinguish between the two in this life. Even the day the Pharisee and the publican go to the temple, they find themselves sitting side by side in the same pew singing the same hymns and opening the same Bible. But, in reality, there is an eternity that stands between them. This parable of the Pharisee and the publican shows us the danger of trusting in our righteousness before God. It shows the importance of knowing that it is only the mercy of God that justifies you before Him.
Answering Interpretive Questions:
· What is the truth contained in the main point of this parable?
· What does that tell us about God?
· If I believed it what would I do?
· What motivated the parable?
· How can I live the parable as part of my life?
· Based on Jesus’ discussion with these Pharisees, how would you describe the difference in the tax collector’s and the Pharisee’s view of uncleanness as presented in the parable?
· What is the Christian’s true (only) source of righteousness?
· Who did Paul think was the world’s greatest sinner (1 Timothy 1:15)?
· Paul had not committed many gross sins that man is capable of. Why, then, did he consider himself the chief of sinners?
· If Paul’s sins were not chiefly external, but internal (pride), how does his experience match up with Jesus’ words to the Pharisees about the true source of uncleanness?
· What do people need to do to keep an attitude of humility, not pride, before God?