1. There was a very lost, wicked, rebellious man who decided it would be good for business if he went down to the church and joined it.† He was an adulterer, an alcoholic, and had never been a member of a church in his life.
2. But when he went down to place membership, he gave public testimony to the church that there was no sin in his life, and that he had grown up in the church, and they readily accepted him as a member.
3. When he went home he told his wife what he had done, and his wife, a very godly lady, exploded.† She excoriated him for being such a hypocrite, and demanded that he go back to the church the next week and confess what he really was.† Well, God used his wife to really break him, and he took it to heart.
4. The next Sunday he went back to the church, walked down to the front again, and this time confessed to the church all of his sins.† He told them he was dishonest, an alcoholic, an adulterer, and he was sorry.† They revoked his membership on the spot.† He walked out of the church that day scratching his head and muttered to himself: "These church folks are really strange.† I told a lie and they took me in; and when I told the truth they kicked me out!"
5. The Lord Jesus told a story of two men in a similar situation who had totally different results.† One man tried to talk himself into God's kingdom, but he didn't make it.† One man tried to talk himself out of God's kingdom and he did make it.
6. Please turn with me in your Bibles to (Luke 18:9).
7. Now Luke makes it plain who Jesus told this parable to.† For he says in v.9, "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others."† Now if you want to know whether or not you are being addressed in this parable, let me ask you some questions:
a. Do you ever look at people who don't go to church, and think you are better than they are because you do go to church?† If so, Jesus is talking to you.
b. Do you ever look at people in prison, and think you are better than they are because you are not?† If so, Jesus is talking to you.
c. Do you ever look at people who are divorced, and think that you are better than they are because you are not?† If so, then Jesus is talking to you.
d. Do you ever look down your nose at anyone for any reason, and think you might be better than them?† If so, Jesus is talking to you.
8. I promise you, every one of you will find yourself somewhere in this story.† Because at one time or another all of us are guilty of trying to impress God.
IN TODAYíS LESSON, WE ARE GOING TO FIND OUT WHAT IMPRESSES GOD AND WHAT DOESNíT.
I.† FIRST, WHAT IMPRESSES GOD IS WHEN YOU DONíT TRY TO IMPRESS GOD.
1. "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortionists, un-just, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'" (vv.10-12)
2. I know immediately you are ready to jump all over the Pharisee because he was, to say the least, a little bit arrogant.† Quite frankly, he really was an Eagle Scout.† He dotted every religious "i" and he crossed every theological "t."† He went strictly by the book.† He had a heart for religion; the problem was his religion had no heart.
3. He was standing in the center of the inner court right in the heart of the temple.† The reason he stood there was because it was there where he could be heard the clearest and seen the best.† He let everybody know just how wonderful he was.† First of all, we read that he fasted twice a week.† Now the Old Testament only required a Jew to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement.† But this man fasted a 103 times a year more than he was required.
4. Then we read that he tithed everything that he possessed.† Now the Old Testament only required that you tithe your income.† But this man tithed everything that he earned and everything that he bought.† In other words, he was a double tither.† Now there is nothing wrong with fasting more than once a week, and there certainly is nothing wrong with giving more than a tithe.
5. But the problem was, this man thought then what a lot of people think today--he thought his goodness gained him brownie points with God.† He thought God accepts a person based on what they do for Him.† He was religious and proud of it.
6. Let me just stop right here and make an application.† If you are trusting anything--church membership, church attendance, baptism, religion, good works--other than Jesus Christ to make you right with God, and to get God to accept you, you are fooling yourself.† The Pharisee thought that God would be impressed with all that he was doing.† So now we learn the first clue on what impresses God.†
7. What impresses God is when you don't try to impress God.
I heard about a fifth grader that came home from school one day excited.† She had been voted "prettiest girl in the class."† The next day she was even more excited when she came home, for the class had voted her "the most likely to succeed."† The next day she came home and told her mother she had won a third contest, being voted "the most popular."†
But the next day she came home extremely upset.† The mother said, "What happened, did you lose this time?"† She said, "Oh no, I won the vote again."† The mother said, "What were you voted this time?"† She said, "most stuck up."†††
8. Well this Pharisee would have won that contest hands down.† He had an "I" problem.† Five times you will read the little pronoun "I" in these two verses.† He was stoned on the drug of self.† He suffered from two problems:† inflation and deflation.† He had an inflated view of who he was, and a deflated view of who God was.
9. His pride had made him too big for his spiritual britches.† C. S. Lewis once said, "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that's above you."
10. This Pharisee had fooled himself about himself.† He says, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men."† But he was like other men.† Because "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
There was a man on trial one time charged with burglary.† As he was standing before the judge, the judge said, "Sir, you can let me try your case, or you can choose to have a jury of your peers."† The man thought for a moment, and said, "Your honor, what are peers?"† The judge said, "Well, they are people just like you."† The defendant said, "Forget it, I don't want to be tried by a bunch of thieves."†
11. Whether it is a big sinner or a little sinner, all of our peers are sinners and we are a peer to all sinners, because all have sinned.
12. This man was even fooled about his prayer.† For v.11 says, he "stood and prayed thus with himself."† The Greek language literally says, "to himself."† When you approach God with pride, you wind up talking to yourself.† Someone said, "The only person God sends away empty is the person full of himself."† Prideful prayer is nothing more than an echo in your own ears.
II.† SECOND, HUMILITY IMPRESSES GOD.
1. Now the contrast that Jesus gives would have been easily recognized to those hearing this parable.† A tax collector was as different from a Pharisee as the Pope is from a pimp.
2. Tax collectors were the scum of Jewish society.† They were the IRS of the Roman government.† They charged exorbitant rates, they skimmed extra money off the top, they would steal candy from a baby, and a welfare check from their own mother.† They were considered traitors to the nation of Israel.
3. They were so despised they could not hold public office or even give testimony in Jewish court because their word was considered worthless.† The tax collector was to the Pharisee what an outlaw is to the sheriff.† This man no doubt was a liar, a cheat, a traitor, a swindler, and a reprobate.
4. But now the story takes a strange twist.† The Pharisee tried to impress God, but he didn't.† The tax collector did impress God without even trying.† Because now we see what really impresses God.
5. Humility impresses God.† This tax collector was as humble as the Pharisee was proud.† You could see it in his feet.† V.13 says, "And the tax collector, standing afar off," Where the Pharisee went to the center of the court of the Jews and stood in the sunshine, the tax collector stood on the outer edges of the court of the Gentiles in the shadows.
6. You could see it in his eyes.† We go on to read that he "would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven."† The Pharisee was too proud to look up; the tax collector was too ashamed to look up.
7. You could see it in his hands.† For we read, "he beat his breast."† In effect he was saying, "I know I have a filthy heart."
8. You could hear it in his voice.† For he says, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"† Well, God heard his prayer, for Jesus said, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." (v.14)
9. A highway to heaven is paved with humility.† Now on the outside you would have thought the Pharisee was much closer to God, but on the inside it was the tax collector who was close to God.† Because the Bible says in (Ps. 34:18), "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit."†
10. What impressed God so much was this man was willing to humble himself without waiting on God to do it for him.† Did you know that God has a way of humbling you if you don't take the first step of humbling yourself?† God delights in exalting the humble, and in humbling the exalted.
11. But the other thing that impresses God is honesty.† In the Greek language this man literally said, "Be merciful to me the sinner."† The word "merciful" is a Greek word that goes back to the Hebrew word "kippur" which literally mean "atonement."† Yom Kippur literally means "the Day of Atonement."† The word atonement means, "to cover."† What this man really said was this:† "I am exposing my heart for what it is--sinful--God will you cover for me?"† That's all God needed or wanted to hear.
12. It hit me as I was thinking about this, that there is only one thing worse than being a sinner.† The only thing worse than being a sinner is not admitting that you are one!† Now the reason why Jesus told this story was to illustrate a principle.
III.† LASTLY, LET ME OFFER YOU SOME CLOSING REMARKS.
1. In verse (v.14), listen that what Jesus said about the man who impressed God.† "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."† (v.14)
2. The Lord Jesus draws a conclusion from this story that shocked his listeners.† Remember the Pharisees wore the white hats, the tax collectors wore the black hats.† If you had taken a vote in that crowd as to which man was accepted by God, and which man was safely in his kingdom, the Pharisee would have won by a unanimous landslide.† But there's only one vote that counts, and that is God's.
3. Now let me bring this parable down to where we live right now.† Because there are several applications:
a. First of all, we learn that it is not how you see you, but how God sees you that matters.
b. Secondly, when you see God the way you should see God, then you will see you the way you really are.
c. Finally, mercy is not what God pays you because you tell Him you have earned it.† It is what God gives you when you admit to Him that you need it.
Many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the Emperor of China, although he could not play a single note.†
Whenever the group practiced or performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play, but not making a sound.† For years he received a good salary and enjoyed a comfortable living.†
Then one day the Emperor requested a solo from each musician.† Well, the flutist got very nervous.† There wasn't enough time to learn the instrument.† He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn't fooled.† On the day of his solo performance, the imposter took poison and killed himself.† The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language:† "He refused to face the music."
4. The way to impress God is simply face the music.† You can face the music now and be a part of the heavenly band.† Or you can face the music later and be kicked out of the orchestra.† When you realize who you are without God, and on a daily moment by moment basis depend on Him to be what you need to be for God, that impresses Him.
Primary Resources Used:
Sermon by James Merrit