John Bradshaw - The Pharisee and the Publican
I'm glad we have this opportunity to open the Bible together on In the Word. I'm glad you're here. We will pray together. We'll ask God to bless us, and we'll expect that as we open up the Bible, He will do just that. Shall we pray? Let's do that now.
Our Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus we come to You. We stand at the edge of something very exciting, very dynamic. Every opportunity we have to crack the pages of a Bible is an exciting opportunity, because we anticipate that You'll speak to us. So bless us now by Your Holy Spirit, through Your Holy Spirit's ministry. And touch my heart, touch our hearts that they'll be open to being impressed by You, open to being led in Your way. We thank You and we pray in Jesus' name, amen.
A young man I know bought a car. This is not someone related to me, lest you think, "Oh, that happened to John's son". No, it wasn't my son. But a young man I know bought an automobile. It looked great. He paid the money, and he brought it home, and I'm not quite sure of all of the details, but it wasn't long and he realized that he had purchased what is affectionately known as "a lemon". Everything about the vehicle was bad. It caused him problem after problem. It cost him a lot of money. Did he take the vehicle back? Oh, he tried to jump through all of those hoops, but the short story was it looked good on the outside, but it wasn't good. Before I bought my first ever car, my sister said, "There's someone in my town", this was an hour from where I lived, who had a nice red Ford Laser. Ford Laser. You can't buy a Ford Laser now. Where I grew up you could buy a Ford Laser then. And it was for sale at a pretty decent price, too. And I, I'm pretty certain this would have been my first ever car, it would have.
So somehow I got myself to my sister's home an hour away. I think I hitchhiked. She said, "This is a great car. You are going to love the car". And I said, "I'm gonna buy the car". I came and I saw the car. It was nice. It was just what a young man wanted. It was more than I wanted to spend, but being as it was such a nice car, I would stretch, and it would last. It would be just a great deal. She took me to where the car was. I spoke to the owner and I said, "I'd like to take this vehicle to a mechanic". My sister and her husband had many mechanic friends, you know. She said, "Go see this guy". I said to the owner, "I'm gonna take the car to the mechanic and have it inspected". "Sure, go ahead. You'll be happy you did". I was happy I did. He drove the vehicle over the, the pit, you know, the hole in the ground a mechanic will get down in and, and look up under a vehicle.
And I heard him say something that I wouldn't be repeat in polite company. The passage of years means I don't remember the exact words, but I know that they are words you don't say in church. I said, "What's going on"? He said, "You wouldn't believe this"! "What wouldn't I believe"? Well, while the car looked good on the outside, the fact of the matter is it was two cars that had been chopped down and put together. That was, it was the front of one car and the back of another and then wrapped up in new paneling. They were, once upon a time, vehicles that had been in an accident and then the new frame of the vehicle with two bits put together had been welded together good enough to drive down the road. He said, "Not good enough to buy. You don't want to bother with this".
I would never have known. I would never have known. I could have bought that car and would never have known unless it, A, gave me some kind of problem and fell into pieces, or, B, I took it to a mechanic one day who might have thought, and might not have thought, to say to me, "You do know that this is a salvage job, and the frame of the vehicle has been welded back together"? I'd never have known. Would it have been a big deal? I don't know. Maybe. A big enough deal that the mechanic said, "Don't buy this car whatever you do". I returned it to the owner. The owner said, "Okay. Thanks so much for your time. Sorry it didn't work out". And then I said, "How am I going to get home"?
To this day I can't quite remember how I got home, but I know I did. I just about made a mistake. Well, I just about spent what would have been for me a lot of money on something that wasn't quite what I was looking for, because I didn't possess the ability to look beneath the surface. When I took to the vehicle, when I took the vehicle to somebody who could look beneath the surface, we saw that this was a car that had a lot of problems. Now, you don't think I'm here to talk with you about buying cars, do you? No, you know that we're here to talk about the Bible, talk about faith in God. So, what happens if you look beneath the surface of your religious experience? What do you find when you look beneath the surface of your Christianity? We are introduced in the Bible to a couple of individuals, one of whom you would have looked at from the outside and said, "This is the real deal. This is a good guy. This is someone who is walking in the favor of God".
You would have looked at the other person, if you had been living in Jesus' day, and you'd have said, "This other person, no good". But Jesus teaches that it is a matter of the heart, not a matter of appearance. Jesus makes very clear that it's possible that we can be successfully or otherwise hiding, obscuring a grim spiritual reality. A grim spiritual reality. And so let's look at this passage. It's in the Gospel of Luke. We are in Luke chapter 18, and we're going to start in verse 10, Luke 18, verse 10. In fact, if we jump up to verse 9, this would give us some better context. Verse 9 of Luke 18 says, "And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others". We could talk for a while about that, couldn't we?
People who believe that they're righteous, and they trust in themselves, and then they have the temerity to look down their noses at people that they believe don't measure up, and despise them in some spiritual sense, rank them less, believe that they are not worthy of everlasting life, believe that they're second-rate church members or second-rate Christians. That's just damaging. One thing that comes through in this passage is that we shouldn't ever judge others. We just shouldn't. Nor should we ever think that we, because of ourselves, are in a, a, a righteous state in and of ourselves. We find a fellow here who felt that way, thought that way, and Jesus put us all in our place when He addresses this phenomenon. So what's the parable for? Because there were "some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and [they] despised others".
What does the prophet Isaiah write? Isaiah chapter 64 in verse 6, he says that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags". All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. We don't possess anything that we can recommend to God. Not anybody. And I don't mean the guy in the pew or that lady over there. I mean there's not a single soul on earth who can go to God and say, "Look at me. I am fine". How is it that we are able to be fine? Well, we will resolve that; we'll get to that. But what a damaging place to be when a person says, "I'm all right. I am trusting in myself. And then other people who don't measure up to my standard, I believe that they're not good at all".
Hmm. Let's see what the Bible goes on and says in verse 10: "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican," which is another way of saying a tax collector. One was a Pharisee; one was a tax collector. You couldn't find a greater contrast, I don't think, between two people. The Pharisees were a religious sect in the time of Christ, and before and after. They were noted for their strict adherence to the law. They were zealously and rigidly obedient to every last requirement that they could find or even invent in the books of the law. They wanted to show how righteous they were. If there was a way to earn your way to heaven, a Pharisee would definitely earn his way to heaven. Over in Philippians chapter 3, where the Apostle Paul recounts his pedigree, his history, if you like, he says that he was a Pharisee. So he was so blind he would defend the church by persecuting believers in Jesus. That is, he would defend the Hebrew faith.
So here you have somebody who brings a measure of spiritual blindness, the Pharisee. Nothing wrong with wanting to obey God, nothing wrong with zeal, nothing wrong with really wanting to do what's right in the sight of God. But nothing right with trying to obey your way to heaven. Nothing right with thinking that because you do this and this and this and this and this, then that's what makes you righteous and fine in the sight of God. Nothing right with looking at others with hatred or contempt and despising them as this fellow did. The publican, on the other hand, poor guy, he was a tax collector. Think about this. He went up to the temple, so he was Jewish, but he was collecting taxes for who? He was collecting taxes for the Roman government. The Romans were occupying Jerusalem, occupying Israel.
Imagine, as a Jew, "This is God's country. We are God's people. And here are these rascals, these invaders, these occupiers, these heathens, these gentiles, and they are preventing us from carrying out our society the way we would like. They are preventing us from ordering our temple services and our worship and in, and connecting that with society the way we want to do. We have no self-determination. We are not the masters of our own destiny. We are God's people. And these dogs are getting in our way". And so here the publican is collecting revenue, collecting taxes from Jews and delivering it to the Roman government to fund their occupation. So he was an out-and-out enemy of his own people. What a terrible situation to be in. So here the righteous, the righteous Pharisee, and over there the publican who was despised and scorned and treated roughly. The Bible says they went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, the other a publican.
"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself". And listen to his prayer. This is a wonder: "God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican". What does he go on to say? He says, "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess". Now, let, let's pause here. Anything wrong with fasting? Oh, no. It may even be a very good thing. But imagine fasting for the purpose of self-righteousness. "I give tithes of all that I possess". Anything wrong with that? No, no, that's right. That's appropriate. But the problem was, this man felt like these were the things that made him righteous, and he was missing the true source of true righteousness. If I just do enough deeds, if I just obey enough rules, if I just pass myself off as living in such a way, then somehow I have standing in society and standing in the sight of God.
Christianity is a balancing act, I've said this many, many times, and, I'll say it again. You'll hear me say it again, I'm sure. If you look at a piano, what is it that causes the piano to make beautiful music? You might say, "The piano player". Sure. But a piano player cannot make beautiful music on an instrument that's out of tune. What is it that keeps the piano in tune? You know what it is? It's tension. You press the key; it, it, it activates a hammer. That little hammer, I think, what are they? Wrapped up in felt, I think, some of them, hits strings, and they are stretched out across the piano board, and the strings vibrate, and that's what makes beautiful music.
Now, if the strings aren't at the right tension, if the piano is out of tune, all you've got is a noise, and it's not very nice. So, beautiful music depends on the right tension. I used to play the guitar quite a lot. And you've got to have the strings at the right tension. That's what puts them in tune. And if a string is out of tune, then you tighten it up or loosen it off, you get the tension right, and then the instrument starts to sound good. There's a certain tension in Christianity. If we don't get the Christian, if we don't get the tension right, then we don't get the Christianity right. If we don't get the, the strings of our Christian experience at the right tension, then we're going to be out of whack. Let's see if we can understand this. Is it right for Christians to do good? Would that be a yes or a no? Is it right for Christians to do good, yes or no? I think I heard you. The answer is yes. It's right for Christians to do good. That was really an easy one. Should you feel good about good things being done in your life?
Well, you might say "yes," you might say "no"; maybe it all depends on how you answer my, understand my question. Maybe you should merely feel neutral, but you shouldn't go around with a long face because you are faithful to God. You should be happy on some level that your relationship with God is such that He is clearly working in your life. Sure. Is it right to tithe? Yes. Is it right to eat according to the biblical menu? Sure. You could dress right, and you could worship right. Is it right to worship right? Yes. Is it right to worship God on the right day? Of course it is. The Bible says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God". Sure, that's all right. So we understand this, don't we? It is right to do right.
I read where somebody says that "righteousness is right doing". I've no problem with that. So it's right to do right. And it's right to want to do right. Okay. So now that you're doing right, now that you've changed your diet, now that you've poured your liquor down the sink, now that you've burned up all the nasty videos that you had on that shelf in your living room, now that you've figured out which day is the day to go to church, according to the Bible, now that you've figured out that you can trust God and, and be faithful with your finances and give God that first 10 percent, and the list could and probably should go on, now that you found that out, how does that make you feel about yourself? Well, you know how the Pharisee felt. He said, Lord, I thank You that I am this and that, and I'm not like that guy. I'm not like these folks who are extortioners, and they're unjust, and they're adulterers, and I'm not like this publican, the offscouring of our society.
You know, it's interesting, too, when people start to make a noise, a loud noise about the faults of others, very often you will discover it's because they see those, those same faults in themselves. So we may not know what this Pharisee's vices were, but we can know that he had them. And we can know for sure perhaps his favorite vice was self-righteousness. "Oh, I'm glad I'm not like the others. Look at me. Let me recount my good deeds. I fast and I tithe". "I give tithes of all that I possess". He was feeling good about himself. He was deceived, of course, because self-righteousness is deception. It's worth thinking about that, you know. It's worth stopping to realize that your good deeds don't mean that you're now able to recommend yourself to God. Our deeds do not earn salvation. Now, you will read in the book of Revelation that people are judged according to their works.
Now, your works don't earn salvation. But your works certainly do reveal whether or not you have received salvation. You see that? When they flow out of a heart filled with love for God, this gives evidence that you have a changed life. But there are some people who will themselves to behave in a certain way, who will themselves to, at least on the surface, look like they're following God's plan. I had a young lady come to me recently, and she asked, I don't know if it was a cryptic question, but it was obvious that she wasn't coming out and saying what she meant to say. She said, "What about someone who gives evidence that he's a good Christian, but when he's at home, it's clear that he's not, given the way he treats his family"? She was asking me about her father. How about that? You know what she was saying? She was saying, "My dad is all talk. Out in public he carries himself well. Out in public he acts like a Christian. But at home behind closed doors, he doesn't treat my mother well. He raises his voice. He says the most horrible things. He's judgmental and condemnatory. He's not a loving father".
You know, the beauty of the gospel is that when Jesus comes into your life, He changes you from the inside out. And I don't want you to get too far down on yourself if you're not yet the completed product. Uh, we all have some growing to do, that's true. But where Christianity differs from every other religion I've ever heard of is that Jesus will save you from your sin, and it's God's plan to give you a new heart. It's God's plan that His grace works in you in such a way that you're not merely reformed, you're not renovated like an old house, but you're made new. Let's talk about those old houses for a minute. You buy an old house, they call them fixer-uppers. You buy the old house and you fixer-upper the old house. What do you do? Well, you paint the old house. You tore up some floor boards that had gotten bad, and you replaced them. You fixed the front step. You cut down all those ugly bushes and those overgrown things, got rid of them. You pruned back the trees. You maybe even tore them down. You put a new fence around. You might have replaced some windows.
Thing needed a new roof. You carpeted. You put in a new kitchen. You know what I'm talking about. And when you're all done, what do you have? No, you don't have a new house. What do you have? You have an old house. That's what you've got. The old house is still there. It's simply been improved. That's all. It's the old house with some cosmetic surgery. It's like an old person whose heart is maybe failing, and, I don't know where else we go from there. But cosmetic surgery makes him look younger. He wears a toupee so you can't see that he's balding. He wears fancy clothes to try to make himself look younger than he really is. But on the inside, his heart, his circulatory system, maybe his lungs, you see?
You renovate an old house, you've still got an old house. It's just been renovated. It's an old house that has been improved. You come to faith in Jesus; here's what happens. Jesus fills the house with dynamite and blows it up, and then He scrapes the lot clean, and there's nothing left of the old house. And then He rebuilds the house, and it's a new house. That's what grace does in your life. That's what Jesus will do in your life. It's not about renovation. It's not about modification. It's not about cosmetics. It's about Jesus remaking you. As the Bible says, if anyone is in Christ, that person "is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". This is what God wants to do in a person's life. We can be hypocritical and we can say, "Oh, look, I've tried so hard. I have improved. I am doing better. Look at me, everybody". But what about your heart? Has your heart been made new?
This man had a heart problem. He was a hypocrite. He was judgmental. He was self-righteous. He was deceived. You would have voted him in on your church board to be the chairperson. You would want him to be one of the leading lay people in your church. You would ask him to preach. Because he talked a good talk, he talked a big game, he looked like someone who was holy and good and righteous, but in actual fact, he was a "whited sepulchre," looked good on the outside, but beneath, he was "full of dead men's bones". We don't want to be like that. The good news is... we don't have to be like that. That's the good news. Did you know that, according to the Bible, we are living on the edge of eternity? Jesus is soon to return. And when Jesus comes back, He's not coming back for hypocrites.
Now, I know what you mean. I know what you mean. There's a little hypocrite inside of all of us. I understand that. But Jesus is not coming back for the self-righteous, for those who cling to their self-righteousness. He is coming back for people who have received from Jesus Himself His righteousness. Our righteousness can never help us; His righteousness can. If you have your Bible, and I think you do, then you will turn with me to Philippians and chapter 3. I alluded to this before, and now I want to look at it with you. Philippians chapter 3, where Paul says that if anyone, has occasion to have confidence in the flesh, he has even a greater occasion. He says, I was "circumcised [on] the eighth day", the right day, "of the stock of Israel", the right nation, "of the tribe of Benjamin", right tribe, inasmuch as Paul was Saul, you know, and as Saul, he was probably named after the first king of Israel, King Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin.
"[I was a] Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, [I was] blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ". And then he says this in verse 8, and these are beautiful words: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and [I]...count them but dung", or refuse, "that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith". That's what God wants us to have, the righteousness of Christ, where Jesus gives to us the gift of His righteousness, dwells in us, lives in us, changes our character so that we become more and more like Him, and we grow, so that we less and less make those mistakes, fall into those same sins that we used to make or fall into once upon a time.
The one thing that we need to enter into heaven is righteousness. Heaven isn't for good people; it's for holy people. It's for righteous people. Where do you get that righteousness? There's only one place. You receive it from Jesus. How do I get it from Jesus? You receive it by faith. You believe that Jesus died for you, forgives you of your sins freely, and gives you the gift of eternal life. You say, "Yes! I believe that". What does God give you? He gives you, and we're not talking figuratively here, He gives you the righteousness of Christ. You receive that, and when God looks at you, He doesn't see a fig-leaf garment. He doesn't see your own works. He sees Jesus in your life. And, friend, you can have it.
You know, one of the mistakes we make is we judge ourselves, and we judge ourselves harshly sometimes. I hear somebody right now saying, "Oh, okay, so God gives me the righteousness of Christ. Ah, but not me, because I'm a sinner. Not me, because I've been too bad. Not me, because I have failed, and I will fail again". Ah, you're wrong. God will give you the righteousness of Christ. You believe it, and now you say, "Look at this. I have it. And when God looks at me, He looks not at my sin. He looks at the righteousness of Jesus". Now, what is that? Is it a cloak? Is it a cover? Is it a wall, so that God looks at you and sees the wall of the righteousness of Christ, but behind that wall you're living a, a, a reckless life of sin? No! That's not what it does. You receive the righteousness of Christ, that covers you, and it works in you to change you. And don't factor this out; factor it in: We begin to grow. An oak tree might take 70 years to grow to maturity. A pinus radiata, Monterey pine, 20 to 25 years to grow to maturity before they start harvesting it in a forest, you see.
Now, when that tree, when the oak tree is 10 years old, is it any good? Sure it is, it's a great 10-year-old oak tree. But it isn't fully mature, and so it grows. At 20 it's still good, but it's not fully mature. Your child at a year old, 2 years old, 5 years old, 10 years old, good, really good, not fully mature. But it's where you expect the child to be at a year. You don't expect your kid to be driving the car when she's one year old. You don't expect your kid to be running a major international corporation when he's 10 years old. You don't expect your daughter to be performing heart surgery at 14. She might do it at 34 or 44, but not 14. She shouldn't be doing heart surgery at 14 years of age. That comes later. She's growing. We are growing, you understand. So grow. Our hope is in the righteousness of Christ, not in the righteousness of me. That is no righteousness at all.
Paul said, I want to be found in Christ, "not having [my] own righteousness, which is [according to] the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness... of God by faith". God's righteousness! Stop and think about that! That is some real righteousness! And where do we get it? Through Jesus by faith. How do you know that you have it? You believe it. "Ah, but I don't feel worthy". Forget about that! Of course you're not worthy. "Ah, but I stumbled today". The likelihood is you will stumble tomorrow. No, I'm not condemning you to a life of sin, but if you are growing and learning, there's a learning curve. There's a growth trajectory, you understand. No Christian ever came to faith in Jesus Christ and then walked off fully mature. It doesn't work that way. This is why when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He described the baby Christian as having been what? Born again. And if you're born, ya grow!
Nicodemus, get born again, and grow. I would say the same to you. Christ would say the same to you. No, the fact that you figured out which day to go to church doesn't prove nothing. The fact that you're willing to write a check doesn't prove anything. The fact that you will sing in the choir or act as a deacon or stand in the foyer, say, "It's nice to see you. Would you like a bulletin? We're so glad..." that doesn't prove anything. It's good. But the minute we say, "That's evidence that I'm righteous," that's the minute that we give evidence that we absolutely are not. Instead, when you receive the righteousness of Christ, and Jesus directs you, then your works become an outflowing. They become a representation of the fact now that God is working in your life. And the hope is that He's working powerfully and wonderfully. In fact, that's the reality, and we surrender to Him. Not my will, but Your will, be done.
Paul wrote to the Romans, Don't you know, "that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey, whether of sin unto death, or...obedience unto righteousness"? We yield; we surrender. We say, "God, do in me what I cannot do in myself". The Pharisee down there in the temple, he was praying and saying, "Look at me. Look how righteous I am". We may all fall into that trap. We may all. I don't want to ask you, do you know somebody like that? I want to ask you, are you somebody like that? And aren't you glad that God doesn't just leave you? Aren't you glad? Aren't you glad God does not say, "Too self-righteous, I'll have nothing to do with him or her"? Aren't you glad that God saved the wicked King Manasseh? Aren't you glad? Aren't you glad that Jesus reached out to Nicodemus? Aren't you thankful that that wicked heathen King Nebuchadnezzar was brought to faith in Christ?
Naaman, the captain in the Syrian army, saved through the grace of God. If God can save them, He can save you. There's no question about that at all. And so we go on and we finish out this passage of Scripture that Jesus introduces to us in Luke chapter 18. Remember what the parable was for; it was because there were certain people who "trusted [to] themselves that they were righteous," you understand, and they "despised others". And so the Pharisee, he said, Lord, isn't it a good thing that I'm not like this scoundrel? And the scoundrel, "the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but [he] smote upon his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'"
Lord, I'm a sinner. What can I do? Be merciful to me. Uh, I want you to notice. I don't want you to stretch this too far, but I want you to notice that Jesus did not say that the man gave up all of his sin right away. Now, now, be careful how you hear me say that. But Jesus made clear that right away he was forgiven. You see, forgiveness was not contingent upon the man having a clean track record. Forgiveness was not contingent upon the man, mmm, going two months without falling back into sin. God just forgave him. Forgiven. The power of that forgiveness in his life, that's going to bring about changes, big changes. "I tell you," Jesus said, "this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted".
Isn't that something? You've read Psalm 51, I hope. David says, Be merciful to me, "O God, according to Your lovingkindness: according to the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgression". I have sinned, he says. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; ...renew a right spirit within me". I've done wickedly. Forgive me. Until you're willing to come to God and acknowledge the truth, God can't save you. He can't, He can't save you against your will. And if you don't acknowledge that you have need of a Savior, what can God do then? What can He do? There's nothing He can do. But the publican, mmm, maybe, you know, maybe it helped... that he was a bad Jew. Maybe it helped. Because he could easily look into his life and say, "Yeah, look at me. I'm a bad guy". Maybe the Pharisee was at a bit of a disadvantage because he was so religious all he could see in his life was good religion, if there's such a thing. I'm sure there is. All he could see was his own good deeds. He ran with a good crowd; he wanted to honor God.
Okay, he was a hypocrite. Maybe it's a little, maybe there's a challenge; maybe it's hard to get the tension right. Maybe there's a challenge when you're in the church because perhaps you might say to yourself, "Of course I'm a true believer. I'm in the church. Of course I'm right with God. I sing in the choir. I'm on the church board. I donate a bunch of money". Nothing wrong with those things, but if that's your evidence that you're right with God, you're not right with God. How about, "I've given my heart to Jesus"? Mmm. I've accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. Hmm. I've surrendered my life to Him, and I've said, "Lord, live Your life in me; would You do that"? There we go. Now we're talking. That's where we start. We start at the beginning, because as I said, close to the beginning, "our righteousnesses are as filthy rags". We're sinners. We've been touched by sin, affected by sin; we've practiced sin.
Some of us, we have a PhD in sin. This Pharisee, sorry, this publican, who really was a dirty dog, I mean, collecting revenue for his own people and turning that over to the nasty Roman invaders and occupiers. I mean, I know the man had to do what he had to do to live, but... that's a difficult place to be. And yet God forgave him. He went home justified. Justification and pardon are one and the same thing. He went home pardoned. He went home cleansed. He went home forgiven. He went home in possession of the righteousness of Christ. Lord, "be merciful to me a sinner"! What a prayer. What a prayer. And Jesus said, "Every one that exalts himself shall be abased;" the one who humbles himself or herself "shall be exalted".
You know, the Bible says that God's "strength is made perfect in weakness". Of course it is. It can't be made perfect in strength, because your strength and God's strength would then be striving for the mastery. And you open up your heart to God and say, "Lord, such as I am, without one plea, come into my life and make my life Your life. Make my heart Your dwelling place". Gotta be willing to say, "I'm faulty; I'm a sinner. I need Jesus in my life". Because what's the alternative? The alternative is coming to the judgment and discovering that that vehicle was... not everything you thought it would be. It's like looking underneath the vehicle and discovering, oh my, my word, the two frames have been welded together! This is a rip-off. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
What's under the hood? What's beneath the surface for you? If we're honest, we'll say, "Sin"; we'll say, "Unrighteousness". Once we say that, we can say, "I'm going to Jesus, and He's going to make it right. I'm going to Jesus. God, be merciful to me a sinner". What happens then? You're justified, pardoned, forgiven. And you possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ. There's nothing to be gained by going through life as a hypocrite. There's nothing to be gained by coming to church and putting on a show, nothing, nothing at all. It's unnecessary. And God is able to change our hearts. Why don't we let Him do that? Can we pray together now and ask that God would indeed change our lives? We can be a little more publican and a little less Pharisee and entirely right with heaven. Let me pray with you.
Father in heaven, we thank You today that You are willing to give to us the righteousness of Christ. In the book of Revelation in chapter 3, in a message to the church in the last day, Jesus said, the challenge with you is that you think you are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" and yet you do not realize that you are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked". Allow us to see ourselves as we really are, but from an encouraging point of view, that being that Jesus will save us; God will make us new. Salvation may be ours through faith in Jesus Christ. Lord, we believe it; we claim it.
Friend, will you claim it? Raise your hand if you claim it. Would you claim salvation and the righteousness of Jesus? Sure you will. Raise your hand. I'm not asking you, can you promise God absolute perfection from this moment on, that's silly. You're going to grow. But can you say, "God, I claim", can you say, "God, I claim the righteousness of Christ; God, I choose to receive from You a new heart"? That's our prayer.
We thank You for it. We love You for it. We ask You for it and believe You for it. And we pray in Jesus' name. Come on, let's say together, amen and amen.