From my reading in Luke 18:1-23 in the One Year New Testament.
Jesus tells a powerful story of people who had great confidence in their own righteousness. A Pharisee and a tax collector to the temple to pray…
The Pharisee thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner like everyone else,“I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week and I give you a tenth of my income.” Luke 18:11-12
The tax collector stood at a distance and didn’t even dare to lift his eyes to heaven because of his shame. Instead he beat his chest in sorrow and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Luke 18:13
Here’s is Jesus summary of the parable…
“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
This would have shocked his audience who hated tax collectors and looked up to the “righteous” Pharisees.
Only The Penitent Man May Pass
One of my favorite scenes in the Indiana Jones series is when he reads the phrase “only the penitent man may pass.” He reads it over and over then then suddenly realizes that he needs to kneel to keep his head from getting removed from his body! So he does and avoids the decapitation.
Only the “penitent man” will be forgiven and exalted by God.
Our works of righteousness can trick us into thinking that we don’t need forgiveness. One of the problems with the Pharisee was that he was “good” by the world’s standards, but he was not considering God’s standards. It is true that compared to most people the Pharisees were indeed better off. But their comparison led to pride, which actually separates from God.
Even the most “holy” among us need Christ’s forgiveness.
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6
To receive the forgiveness of Jesus we must realize that even our best efforts don’t earn us favor with God. They are useless in gaining God’s favor and will be thrown out like dirty rag.
Are you willing to admit your sin to God or are you relying on your good deeds to earn you His favor?
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