The most important message in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This message, this good news was Jesus Christ's main message to the people; and it was about how they could be forgiven and freed from their sin, how they could have eternal life, how they could escape hell and be with Him in heaven forever and ever. Now Jesus explains this message in the four gospels; and His goal was always to help people to know and believe this life giving message; but as you read them, you realize that at different times Jesus would proclaim or illustrate different aspects of it.
Luke 5:20 - Here Jesus physically heals this paralytic, but more importantly than that, He forgives him of his sin. Jesus said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you."
- Luke 5:31-32 - Jesus had just saved this tax collector named Levi.
- Luke 7:50 - Jesus tells this sinful woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
- Luke 13:1-5 - Here are two stories, one re: people who were murdered, and one re: people
who died in an accident; and Jesus says, "Unless you repent, you all likewise will perish."
- Luke 15 - Here's the story of the prodigal son, and this compassionate father who welcomed him home, illustrating the mercy and grace of God in saving lost sinners.
- Luke 16 - This gives us the story of Lazarus and the rich man, illustrating the futility of riches on earth, and the reality of heaven and hell.
And here in Luke 18, we have another story illustrating truths about the gospel. Now most of you I believe know this gospel message, and are already saved, but it's important to be reminded of its truth, for it'll encourage and strengthen your soul; and it will help you to be able to live faithfully and full out for the Lord.
- As believers we can fall into sin or legalism or be swayed by error; and so it's important to be reminded of, and refreshed by the truths of the gospel. But not only that, if we are to tell lost sinners this important gospel message, then we need to have it in our hearts and live it out in our lives. Colossians 4:2-6
And for those of you aren't saved, and who are investigating the claims of Christ, we often go over this message on Sunday mornings to help you understand your lost condition, so your eyes may be opened, so you might understand who Christ is, and what He did, that He died to pay for sins, and then rose again, and you upon repenting of your sins and believing in Him, can then be saved, and be given eternal life. Acts 26:18
Luke 18:9 Jesus directs this parable towards unbelievers. Now the main characters of this parable were a Pharisee and a tax collector. This illustrates two kinds of sinners: there's the Pharisee who acted like he was righteous; but he was a hypocrite, for he tried to hide his sin, but he was still very much of a sinner. Then there's this tax collector who acted unrighteously, and didn't try to hide his sin; but he was outwardly and obviously a sinner.
Now Jesus tells us that unbelievers trust in themselves with regard to being righteousness.
But most unbelievers think of being righteous with regards to man's standards and not God's. And in their minds they set up and construct this way of living and thinking so as to make themselves feel and look righteous before God and others.
- They may think they are righteous if they go to church, if they give money to the church, or if they're serving in the church in someway.
- They may think they're righteous if they're not involved in certain types of sinful behavior, like drinking, doing drugs, being immoral or cheating on their taxes.
- They may think they're righteous because they have an honest job, and they're providing for their family, and they do fun and enjoyable things with their family.
They may think they are righteous because they are tolerant and because they accept different opinions and beliefs and lifestyles.
- They may think they are righteous because they don't eat meat, or they drive an eco friendly car, or they use all fluorescent light bulbs in their house.
- They may think they're righteous because they live in a nice neighborhood; they're friendly with their neighbors, or they help out their neighbors on occasion.
- They may think they are righteous because they are Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim or are Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, or because they belong to a Bible teaching church.
Now these are all man's standards, not God's. But the truth is, most people think their human and worldly standards of righteousness make them acceptable, in the eyes of other people, and in God's eyes. But they are so deceived, and are dead wrong. Sadly though, man can think that he's righteous when in fact, he's totally unrighteous.
- Titus 3:5 Man does these "good deeds" to make himself look righteous. But these "good deeds" come from a sinful heart, and are done out of selfish motives, and are not pleasing to God; and so in effect these "good deeds" are "evil deeds" in God's eyes. And so it is not by a person's "good deeds" that he's made righteous. He may look righteous before men, but he is surely not righteous before God.
Now God's standard is found in the Bible, in His Word. In the Ten Commandments we read about God's standard. In the Beatitudes we read re: God's standard. In the life of Christ which we read about in the gospels, we see God's standard. And there are many other passages that speak of and illustrate God's holy standard; and the truth is that no one even comes close to God's standard, to being perfectly righteous.
- 1 Kings 8:46 Romans 3:10-18, 3:23
Every person then who's ever lived has come short of God's perfect standard of holiness and righteousness. It's God's law, and not man's system or standards, that needs to be perfectly kept if man is to be righteous.
And oftentimes man in trying to establish his own righteousness will compare himself with others, and judge others; and in his own mind he'll foolishly think he's better than that other person he sits next to at work, or at church, or sees on the street. Romans 2:1-3
- And on a human and worldly scale he may outwardly be better or look better than that other person. But we are to never judge our lives or other people's lives on our own fleshly and flawed way of thinking. Our way of thinking is relative and sinful, and wrong, but God's standard is absolute and absolutely holy, and is right. Philippians 3:2-9
People who compare themselves with others usually conclude that they're better than the other person, that they're more righteous. And people who do this usually will then look down on that other person whom they think isn't as righteous. And as this passage says, they'll despise that other person, treat him with contempt, and regard him as worthless. It is a very sinful and proud and wicked thing when we try to make ourselves look good, and try to make others look bad.
Now we've all done what I'm talking about here. All of us are guilty of setting up a standard of righteousness and then comparing ourselves w/ others, trying to make ourselves look good in our own minds, and before others. All of us are guilty of this sin, which is often called self righteousness. And this sin of self righteousness is one of the most common sins in all the world. Rom 12:3, Proverbs 20:6
Luke 18:10 Jesus shares this story about two sinners. One was a Pharisee, and he didn't look like a sinner, but he was a sinner; and the other, a tax collector, was clearly and visibly a sinner. And both these sinners were going to the temple to pray, but their purposes and motives were very, very different.
Luke 18:11-12 Now this Pharisee was standing and praying to himself. He sure wasn't praying to God; he had no desire to pray to God. He was proud and was talking about himself. And he wanted to hear himself speak about how good he was; but he also wanted others to hear this prayer about how righteous he was. Matthew 6:1, 5-8
Now this Pharisee proclaimed his righteousness by 1st talking re: how he wasn't unrighteous, how he wasn't a sinner, and especially like that tax collector standing behind him. Then this Pharisee proclaimed his righteousness by talking about what he did do. He fasted twice a week when the Law stated that you only really needed to fast once a year. And he paid tithes of all that he got when you needed to pay tithes only on certain things. And so this Pharisee thot of himself as being very righteous, as not being a sinner, and the tax collector as being unrighteous, and being a sinner. Luke 5:32
Now this Pharisee typifies so many people in this world today, so many church goers, so many religious people, so many outwardly moral people, so many hypocrites. For this Pharisee was a hypocrite, a pretender, and one who was very sinful. Matthew 23:23-28
- This Pharisee was spiritually blind, and wasn't even sensitive to, and aware of his own sin and guilt. He wasn't humble and broken. And he sure wasn't confessing his sin. Instead, he was instead proclaiming his own righteousness. Therefore he was in a very desperate and dangerous situation. He was hanging by a thread over the fires of hell.
Luke 18:13 Now we read about this tax collector, and he was the complete opposite of this Pharisee. Yes, he was a sinner, and probably did all those things the Pharisee accused him of, but at least he admitted he was a sinner. And he calls himself "the sinner," and by calling himself "the sinner", he was making himself out to be the worst of sinners.
This tax collector knew he wasn't righteous, and so he had no righteousness to proclaim. And He couldn't even lift up His eyes to heaven. He knew he was guilty, and that he was condemned before God. He knew that he was lost, ruined and in a hopeless condition. Now unlike the Pharisee who was proud, this tax collector was humble and broken and repentant. And whereas the Pharisee was trusting in his own works, in his own "righteousness", the tax collector wasn't trusting in himself or his works at all. He knew he had nothing to offer God. He was beating his breast, and asking God for mercy.
Now this word mercy literally means to appease, satisfy, propitiate, or cause the gods to be reconciled. It was used among the Greeks when speaking of satisfying the gods. But this word is never used in the Bible with respect to any action of man whereby he can satisfy God - for man can to nothing to satisfy God. Man, an unrighteous sinner, can do nothing to appease God, to propitiate God, to atone for his sins. And the truth is, that God never said, we can atone for our sins by our good deeds.
Indeed, man deserves to be punished by God. And so this tax collector is crying out for mercy. He is asking God to be appeased with respect to his own sin. But God can't just let sin go; He can't just ignore it. It has to be dealt with; it has to be punished. And therein comes the great love and grace of God, in that God sent His own Son to be the propitiation, the satisfaction, the atonement for our sin. J Christ, by dying for us, paid for our sin, and thereby appeased God His Father on our behalf, so that the barrier of sin between God and us could be removed.
And so how can God remove our sin and be merciful to us? It's the atoning work of Christ on the cross that is the means whereby the barrier of sin between us and God is dealt with and removed. God can deal with our sin thru Christ, for by Christ's death, the guilt and punishment due us because of our sins can be removed - and then God can show mercy to us when we repent and believe in Him. Romans 3:21-26
- This word mercy than that we read about here in Luke 18 refers to what Christ did to satisfy and atone the righteous wrath of His Father against man's sin. Vines - "Thru the propitiatory or atoning sacrifice of Christ, he who believes upon Him is by God's own act delivered from justly deserved wrath"
This tax collector was a sinner, but he humbled himself, and asked God for mercy, to somehow be appeased. And by Christ's death on the cross, this man's sin was dealt with, and thereby God could forgive him. This sinful man, this tax collector then was justified, was made fully righteous. But the Pharisee was proud & remained in his sinful and unrighteous state and the wrath of God was still remained upon him. What a great illustration we have in these verses, and what a great truth, a great reality, in what God did for us thru Christ our Lord. Ephesians 2:1-10
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