September 2016 Newsletter
How does God see me?
“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—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
In this parable, Jesus tells of two men who have much in common: they both believe in God and they both come to the temple to worship. In modern terms, we could say, they are both members of the same church. Yet God views them very differently: one is justified, the other remains guilty before God.
In the introductory verse 9, we are given the reason why Jesus told this story. He had been observing certain people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others and He wanted to make them aware of their error. These people are represented in the parable by the Pharisee. Even though, in his choice of words, this man addresses God, his focus is entirely on himself and his own righteousness. He presents a list of his apparently good deeds, comparing himself with the other man who, in his eyes, has done nothing good to speak of. In trying to impress God with his deeds, he assumes for himself the glory that belongs to God alone. (1 Cor.1:29)
The other man in the story likewise has come to worship God. Yet his attitude is quite different. He hardly dares to approach God and remains standing afar off. His focus is on the God whom he has come to worship and, in the light of God’s holiness, all he sees is his own guilt. He feels entirely unworthy, but nonetheless he finds the faith to appeal to the mercy of God. As a result, he receives forgiveness and goes away justified. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The reason Jesus Christ came to this world and died a cruel death is so that we can be forgiven and restored to a loving relationship with the Almighty. When we come to the cross of Jesus, when we trust in His infinite mercy, we receive forgiveness for our sin and are reconciled to God. We are justified and declared righteous, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us. The cross of Jesus removes our guilt and sets us free from the bondage of sin. As a result, we are free to serve God in the liberty of His grace.
Those who look to God and trust in His mercy do not compare themselves with others in order to justify themselves. They acknowledge their need for mercy and, consequently, their lives are transformed by God’s grace. They love God for what He has done for them; they rejoice in the freedom He has given them; and they see others through the loving eyes of God. Such people will not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [they will] serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)
On that day, when we all have to appear before the judgment seat of God, what will be His verdict over you? Will He welcome you into His presence because you have trusted in His mercy and His righteousness alone? Or will He say to you, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ For Jesus did not come to call the [seemingly] righteous, but sinners, to repentance. (Luke 5:32)