“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.’”
Jesus tells a parable of two men who were polar opposites in how they related to God. The Pharisee prided himself on his good deeds and behavior, and even gave thanks for being “better” than the tax collector.
The tax collector being ashamed of himself, wouldn’t even raise his eyes toward heaven while he pleaded for God’s mercy. The Pharisee never mentions a single sin he may have committed, while the tax collector identifies himself as a sinner.
Jesus said the tax collector who went home justified before God. How could that be? The Pharisee was a member of a religious group, who, separated themselves from the cultural influence around them, and even set themselves apart from the other religious group called the Sadducees.
The name Pharisee literally means “to separate,” which explains the attitude in the temple. Jesus was driving home the point of humility before God, which the tax collector had, and the Pharisee did not.
How do you spell G-o-o-d?
Who would you say was good? What constitutes good in God’s sight? What if you got up in a bad mood this morning, and your day has been going down hill since. What if by the end of the day, you told a few people off, cursed at someone else, and couldn’t help but, chime in with the latest gossip? How would you rate yourself with God?
Let’s say, you awoke earlier than usual, had a great time alone with God, and left your house with a song in your heart. You did half a dozen acts of kindness, and went out of your way to bless someone you know hates you. How would you rate yourself then?
Would you be surprised to find out that your standing with God would be the same in both scenarios? God’s grace would be equally extended to you in both cases. He doesn’t accept you more when you’re having a “great” day, and less when you aren’t. Your not on a merit system, your behavior has nothing to do with it. You can’t earn God’s favor!
By Grace Through Faith Alone
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” This is something the Pharisee within us needs to know!
Paul encourages the Colossian believers; “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).
He tells Titus; “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” (Titus 2:11-12). What you need is confidence (apart from feelings) that God’s grace is constant and sufficient to help and empower you!
You have already been accepted by God in Christ, you cannot become anymore accepted than you already are! Grace operates by believing God is at work within you, while you’re learning how cooperate with Him, walking in the light of His Word.
Think more highly of God’s working within you than of your working to please Him. Do your best to obey, don’t condemn yourself when you don’t, bless Him for forgiveness. Give Him the credit for the victories, allow Him to love you through your failures, and Be Encouraged! -JSP