Am I A Member Of The Body?
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Membership in a local church is not about having your name on the membership rolls, but about being an active participant as a part of the body of believers. Each member of the body must function effectively within the body for God to use us as He would. Our behavior in Christ is to match our profession of Christ. To “walk worthy” means that we are to live in a way that honors and pleases God. We were created in Christ to do good works.
I want us to look at five essentials of being an effective member in the body of Christ.
I. There must be a commitment to honor the Head of the Church:
We must recognize that Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
As we look at the church in the New Testament, we note that it had no earthly or mortal head, some person allegedly governing by the authority of Christ. Instead there was a total submission to Christ.
22 And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Jesus Christ is the head of the church and yet many people attending church don't seem either to know that or are not willing to accept that. We tend to put ourselves or other people on platforms and worship them as if we or they are God seeking to have our own ways. However, we need to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of all.
Also, we must recognize and submitted to Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is necessarily a Christian. Many who profess to be Christians show little or no evidence of a true conversion. Their lives exhibit little or no fruit causing one to question whether they were ever genuinely saved.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
True believers will struggle with sin in one way or another until the day they die or Christ returns. But one cannot come to Christ for salvation without their becoming a new creation.
John MacArthur in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, makes the point that biblically salvation is defined by what it produces… good works. True salvation wrought by God will not fail to produce fruit.
Christians are not saved by works, but as a believer you are to produce good works which demonstrate the authenticity of your faith. As we submit ourselves to Christ’s lordship in our individual lives, He is exalted in the church.
II. There must be a commitment to follow the Leadership of the church:
The church is on mission for God, and God has appointed leaders in the church to oversee the execution of that mission. Our leaders has been appointed by Christ to lead the church.
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
What does God mean when He says we are to obey and submit? To “obey” is to: listen to and comply with directions, instructions, and/or commands. To “submit” literally means to stop resisting and give up or yield, to cease from being combatants – it speaks of having a sweet spirit of cooperation, confidence by which you are willing to join together with them trusting that the leaders have your best interests at heart, and so you go along with them. Knowing that what they are teaching or giving council, is from the Lord.
III. There must be a commitment to serve the other members of the Church.
There is very common statement being made among believers, and that is… “I have a personal relationship with Christ”. I am sure we have all said that at one point in our life. But does He/Jesus, have a personal relationship with you?
16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
You see…there is one thing to have a relationship with Christ. But what about His church. You claim to have a relationship with Christ, but not with His church. So which body do you belong to? That’s like saying, you have a good relationship with, but you badmouth my wife! How do you think that will end? What is the church to Christ?
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Well…there you go. Your relationship with Christ has a lot to do with your relationship to His church. We are the church, the redeemed, the called. The body formed by Christ Himself.
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.
Every Christian possesses a gift and is called to use it in service within the body to build up the body of Christ, to strengthen the body and to carry out its purpose within the world. Every member is also called to serve the church not only through spiritual gifts but also through his or her natural talents and abilities.
Each of us has a function to perform or a job to do within the church. And when one of us does not fulfill his or her responsibility the church fails to hit on all its cylinders. Like a motor that is misfiring on one of its cylinders will backfire, stop suddenly and move forward only with difficulty, so the church fails to be operating as powerfully and effectively as possible when not firing on all its cylinders.
Some feel inadequate or useless. These individuals feel as if they do not have anything significant to offer in ministry. They may believe that they personally are not qualified to serve.
Some have been hurt by others through criticism or slight and are hesitant to get involved in service again. They don't realize everyone who has served in church for any period of time has been hurt by someone or something.
Some people are just simply lazy. Laziness is a lifestyle for some but is a temptation for all. But we need to realize that the Word of God says laziness is sin. Laziness violates God’s purpose for us. We were redeemed to produce good works.
IV. There must be a commitment to support the ministry of the Church.
The New Testament pattern of church life was that families of believers were to come together on the first day of the week to worship as the family of God and serve the Lord and others throughout the rest of the week.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The habit of attending upon the house of God should be so firmly established by every Christian that he would be sorely uncomfortable if compelled to be absent. I just love listening to older pastors when they give their testimony of their life growing up in a church. Church was everything to them on Sundays. That was all they did. They wake up, go to church, have fellowship meals, rest for a few hours and back to the church for the next service.
Back then, the world didn’t have as much distractions as we do today. There are just so many reasons now to miss church. Not only that, back then there was not that many churches for every city. So they all gathered and enjoyed their Sunday at church. Now…we have a buffet of churches. Anyone can choose…which church should I go to? “That’s church has hard seats, that church has long messages. That church is too condemning. I don’t like the people in that church. That church is full of hypocrite. And so on…what ever makes you feel good about yourself go there. Now listen…there is no perfect church. If you find one, don’t go there, because you be the one to ruin it.
The church is a hospital for the sick. It is not a social gathering, or a club. It is a family of true, covenanted believers who come together to worship the Almighty God because of who He is, and that He has saved them in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The goal of the Christian life is to reflect back to God the image of Christ in us.
And church is the place where the body of Christ reflects back to Christ His glory. Their heart’s desire is to glorify Christ, to learn more about Christ, and then glorify Christ all the more. It is an endless cycle because worship is an end in and of itself. It is why we go. It should be because we desire to glorify Christ.
Lastly: V. There must be a commitment to share the message of the Church.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
If we look at the early church, they gathered together to become equipped to go out and proclaim the good news of the Gospel making disciples of others and teaching those disciples to replicate that activity of making disciples. As you can see, the command is to make disciples not make converts. I think…throughout the years, these verses had been watered down to just pray this prayer and your saved. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
I know that each and every one you is equipped to give your testimony about how you were saved. God will give each and everyone of us an opportunity to share. Just be watchful, wait and see where God is at work. Our job is to deliver the message. Christ job is to save. Only He can make one a new creation/new birth. And when that new birth comes…what’s the command? , “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
We have been blessed to have a baptistry in this church, its just waiting for the redeemed to follow Gods commands in baptism. There is the message church. “Am I A Member Of The Body?”
• Committed to honor the Head of the Church.
• Committed to follow the leadership of the Church.
• Committed to serve the other members of the Church.
• Committed to support the ministry of the Church.
• Committed to share the message of the Church.
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
My name is Richard, it is three o’clock in the morning and I cannot sleep. I went to bed early but as soon as my head hit the pillow the raging swells of anxiety replaced the peace that surpasses all understanding with a fear that drowns my mind with unending insecurities and “what ifs” that are terrorizing my soul. With images of my loved ones’ sick from this illness and the constant threat of our country once again being shut down. I fear for both my physical and financial well-being! And even if this great tribulation for the most part passes me by, I still can’t help but wonder what if anything, have I truly accomplished in my life? I must admit when I compare my “stuff” to the expensive homes, cars and vacations of others, my covetousness rarely leads to repentance but instead to insatiable cravings and self-degradation due to my meagre accomplishments!
I know the Bible says I am to “seek ye first the kingdom of God” and “consider others better than myself” and care for them. With tears running down my eyes and a cold sweat starting to pour down my head, I realize what is crushing my soul the most is the fear that the best of my “filthy rags” that I offer to my Lord, Savior and King amounts to nothing more than mere carnality and indifference to His grace! When “anxiety buzzes in the ear, who can ever hear the music of grace anyways?” And with such filthy rags how can I effectively spread the Gospel message or raise my children in the ways of the Lord?
I cannot carry these burdens myself and I fear if I don’t soon find relief my “lamp will die out in darkness!” My name is Richard and lest you think this is all about me, please look in the mirror for I know on more than one occasion you too have figuratively shared my bed of anxiety!
The biggest business in America is not steel, automotive, or television. It is the manufacture, refinement, and distribution of anxiety! Anxiety and depression, are the biggest industry in all the world. Self-help books, medication, Dr. visits, all costs a great amount. But the battlefield is truly in the mind…
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
For this is where both real and imagined calamities grow in the fertile grounds of fear that we too will share in the greatest tragedies known to humanity. While the roots of this fear can be the product of one’s imagination it can also be based on facts, for we know beyond a doubt that each of us has and will once again experience a soul crushing calamity such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, divorce, financial devastation or injustices!
The devil is so successful in placing fear in our minds that to mitigate the risks of the unknown future. But no matter how rich or well insured people become the burden of worry remains so heavy on their shoulders that maintaining the pillars of pleasure and avoiding pain destroys their peace of mind and causes them to sin by prostituting themselves before the many gods of this world. And if this were not burden enough, our self-seeking gratification has left our minds filled with guilt for having ignored God’s command to seek ye first the kingdom of God!
Two Main Cases of Anxiety:
The first major cause of anxiety is due to our fixation on those things that are seen. Ever since we heard the words “for dust you are and to dust you will return,” one of our greatest concerns has been to secure our “daily bread.” Tapping into our drive for self- preservation Satan instills fears in our hearts by constantly bombarding us with images of stock market crashes, people losing their jobs or those who become too sick to work and within just a few weeks struggle to keep their homes and feed their families.
Even though Jesus promises to provide our necessities of life (from our opening text. Matthew 6:25-34), time and time again, we catch ourselves worrying that tribulations will come and leave us with nothing to live on! And even when we find ourselves blessed beyond all measure our anxiety remains for what we have deemed a “necessity” has gone beyond flesh and blood needs to the carnal desires of our heart!
This causes not only anxieties within, but coveting is also the source of many quarrels and fights, even amongst God’s children (James 4:1-3)! O what poor witness of sin we weave because we seek first the things of this world instead of standing on God’s promises of good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28)!
The other major cause of anxiety is pride. When Peter commanded the Christians of his letter to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia to be humble their anxiety greatly increased (1 Peter 5:6).
1 Peter 5:6
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
While one can easily see anxiety being linked to a lack of faith due to persecution, financial loss or injustice, why does Peter suggest seeking humility is the source of our greatest levels of anxiety? Casting one’s cares upon Jesus is a very humbling act… for unless one truly believes in His promises to care and do good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28) then one simply will not trust an unknown future even to a sovereign God.
Often Christians refuse to love one another with acts of kindness out of fear that in taking care of others there will be no time or resources left to take care of oneself! Anxiety is a sin because it comes from pride in our wisdom and abilities to change the present and plan for a future for ourselves that is far better than what God can provide!
And even if we don’t feel we are wiser than God often we resist placing our trust in Him because of our love for this world…
1 John 2:15
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Anxiety is the product of an unrepentant heart that lacks the courage or desire to dethrone self and all other gods and faithfully place oneself in the hands of a sovereign God who has promised to eternally take care of His own!
Two Solutions for Anxiety:
How is a believer to eliminate anxiety so that he/she might live a carefree, servanthood life for Christ? The first solution to anxiety is to cast one’s cares upon Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)! Let me share with you a story from Charles Spurgeon: (From a devotional)
“What would you say of your workman who should come to you in the morning with a heavy piece of family furniture upon his back. He calls himself your porter, he is about to carry your goods, and you see him going out of the door with your load, which is properly proportioned to his strength, but beside that he is carrying a heavy piece of his own upon his shoulders. You say to him, “My good man, what are you doing there?” “Oh sir, I am only loaded with household stuff.” I think you would say, “Well, but you are not fit to do my work which you are engaged to do. I do not employ you to carry your own load, I had you here to carry mine.” “But sir,” says he, “I am so weak, I cannot carry both.” “Then leave yours alone,” say you, “and carry mine.”
Our sympathetic high priest Christ is not apathetic to our anxiety for in Matthew 11 he says…
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We need not fear that one day we might not have enough food, water or shelter to stay alive for if God takes care of the birds that don’t gather and the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34), how much more will He take care of those whom His Son died to set free? When we cast our concerns upon Christ in faith in His sovereignty over of all things seen and unseen (Colossians 1:16), in our minds and hearts we are humbly surrendering control of our lives to our Creator! To boldly approach His throne of grace and lay one’s burdens in His mighty hand is the first key to eliminating anxiety and fear in our lives.
The second way to eliminate anxiety in our lives is to “seek ye first the kingdom of God!” We need not fear that in spending our time and resources to help others nothing with be left for us.
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
One day Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret and the people were so close to Him that it was making it extremely hard for Him to be seen or heard. Jesus noticed at the water’s edge there were two boats and fishermen washing their nets in preparation for another evening fishing trip (Mark 1:19). Boldly Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon Peter and asked him to put out a little from shore so that He could teach the crowds the truth concerning His kingdom.
Since evening was prime fishing time Peter could have interjected, they had worked hard all night and caught nothing and now Jesus wanted him to drop his nets so He could preach to the crowd? If he did not catch fish how was he supposed to provide the necessities and maybe even a few for his family? Peter remained silent and after Jesus finished speaking, He taught Peter and his comrades an amazing truth. Jesus told Peter to “put out in deep water and let down the nets for a catch” (verse 4). Despite their lack of success earlier so that they might learn a sovereign God can do all things they caught so much fish, that their nets began to break, and their boats began to sink (verses 6-7)
During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told the crowd they were not to worry about the future, what they would eat, drink or wear because those who “seek first the His kingdom” will receive all these things and so much more (Matthew 6:33-34)! Christ was not saying that one would receive what pleasures the selfish, carnal desires and ambitions of one’s heart but instead promised those who put His kingdom first would receive spiritual blessings of unspeakable joy.
Why would one ever want to serve one’s carnal desires in anxiety and fear when God is standing at the doors of one’s hearts asking you to plant seed in His kingdom that has no end? And when it comes to raising our children is not serving the Father in His kingdom the very best witness... we can give to them when it comes to how much we love and are cherished by our God?
Jesus does not promise us an easy, tribulation free life of no pain, anguish or sorrow but instead to give us eternal life and as we draw nearer to Him He will draw nearer to us (James 4:8) and in doing so we will know our true identity as masterpieces of His grace, truly loved and cherished in His sight! Who in God’s loving, sovereign arms could ever fear or be anxious for our future is known … an eternity of bliss, worshipping our Lord, Savior and King!
How to Become Anxiety Free:
The expression of one’s self-humbling position of entrusting of oneself and one’s troubles to God.” While this solution is easy to understand here is where the rubber meets the road, how do you practically cast your cares on Jesus? To the church at Philippi Apostle Paul writes what I believe is the key to care-free living as follows…
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Casting anxiety upon the Lord is not a human but a divine endeavor! No matter how hard we try we simply cannot turn over our fears and worries in trust to our Savior without prayer and petition that He might guard our hearts and minds from the ferocious attacks of Satan. Since anxiety free is “trust turned toward God and spoken,” the next time you cannot sleep because the raging swells of anxiety of both realized and imagined tribulations fill your soul, in faith ask your sympathetic high priest Jesus to take the burdens you cannot bear and in unmerited grace to grant you His peace that surpasses all understanding! And should He leave you in your trials look up and to the glorious, eternal future He has planned so that like Apostle Paul there might maintain peace in your heart knowing that your suffering now is nothing in comparison to the spiritual blessings you have and will receive, eternally in His presence!
The Parable Of Prayers
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 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!’ 14 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.”
In this section Jesus tells a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both were sincere and devout. As a matter of fact, one kept the law seriously, or thought he did. The other was in a profession in which extortion and dishonesty were expected. It seems unfair that the prayer of a man of such exemplary behavior is not acceptable, while the prayer of the one with a questionable job is. The Pharisee had everything, except the one essential thing. The tax collector had nothing but the one essential quality, which is a sense of his own unworthiness and his need for God's grace.
The parable is about the honest prayer of a sinner verses the self-justifying prayer of the self-righteous. The main focus is humility in prayer out of a realization that righteousness cannot be reached by means of our own efforts. Prayers are heard and answered because of God's mercy not because of our self-justifying merits (v. 14). Jesus therefore rebukes the self-righteous and demonstrates the kind of attitude necessary for God's acceptance (justification)
The purposes of the Parable Prayers is given in verse 9, that one cannot trust in himself for righteousness and should not view others with contempt. "And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt."
A great danger of pride is noted right at the start. First, we come to trust our own abilities rather that trusting God. Second, we come to regard other people with contempt and disrespect rather that seeing others as being created in the image of God. Pride of self and contempt for others go hand in hand.
Those who trust in themselves that they were righteous refers to those who view their righteousness or acceptance by God from their personal goodness or their adherence to the law or religious rituals. Jesus' will show that they are self-deceived and then give an example of a disrespected person who is justified in God's sight.
In verse 10 we find two personalities taking center stage. "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”
The parable takes place in the temple. We are introduced to two attenders of religious services who are on opposite ends of the religious and social spectrum. The first personality we are introduced to is a Pharisee or a religious man who knew all the rules. Pharisees were revered religious figures in Jesus' day. However, at several points throughout His ministry, Jesus criticizes some of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
The other personality is a tax collector (Mt 5:46). Despised as traitors who had sold themselves out to the Roman captors for the privilege of collecting taxes from their own people. Jesus has a propensity for using the marginalized and ostracized people groups (such as Samaritans) and professions (such as tax gathers and shepherds) for the sake of contrasting genuine faith with Jewish unbelief and self-righteousness. This serves as a not-so-subtle rebuke on certain Jews and Jewish concepts of His day.
II. SELF-SATISFIED, 10-12.
The content of the Pharisees prayer is given in verses 11 & 12. Verse 11 begins the teaching on the wrong way to approach God. “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.”
Notice the content of heart that leads him to say, “I am not like other men." His estimation of his own righteousness is greatly exaggerated for he assumes that he is acceptable to God. Self-righteousness is really self-delusion (according to 11:39-54).
Our opinion of ourselves reflects much about who we think God is. The man who said, "I am not like other men; I fast; I give tithes" thought himself superior to others, especially this tax collector. The tax collector is grouped with robbers, swindlers, the unethical, and adulterers. The religious man felt God owed him. He gave all the credit for his good life to himself and gave none to God. He praised himself even in the place build for the praise of God. Notice the Pharisee was praying to himself, instead of to God.
In 1906 sea Captain E. J. Smith publicly boasted that no real danger existed any more in SEA TRAVEL. He could imagine no way that the great ships then steaming across the oceans could ever founder or even experience any life-threatening problems. Six years later he stood on the bridge of the Titanic, the greatest liner of her time, while its builder told him it couldn't stay afloat. Captain Smith fell prey to the most human of mistakes, boastfulness.
The Pharisee's prayer reeks of it. Others simply didn't measure up to him. He was proud of his life and of his accomplishments, especially his religious ones. He wasn't bad like other men, he had fulfilled the requirements of the law. He experienced no conviction of any wrong in his life. He was self-satisfied with his own righteousness and looked down on others. When he thanked God, it was only for his own goodness, not for God's grace and mercy toward him.
How easy it is to compare ourselves favorably with others, for we almost… always look at others from our viewpoint instead of from God’s point of view. God's ideal though in behavior and action remains His Son, not us nor our contemporaries, nor our works. We will not see others clearly until we have developed Christ-like eyes and character. When we do, we will understand how far short of the perfect glory of God we fall.
Since salvation is by grace, we should not feel superior to another. Grace doesn't express itself in/by despising others. Spiritual/religious arrogance is presumption, assuming one stands in God’s place acting as judge and jury over others.
His religious routines continue in verse 12. "I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." Not only would a religious Jew pray three times a day, but he would fast twice a week Fasting twice a week goes beyond that which was prescribed in the law (Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32; Num 29:7). Mondays and Thursdays were fast days. Not accidentally, they were also market days in Jerusalem, which meant that some had opportunity to demonstrate their piety. With long faces they made their way into the temple to pray so everyone could see their spirituality. Fasting should be done as an act of contrition, brokenness, humility or sorrow. Instead it became another point of pride.
Paying tithes on "all that I get", also goes beyond what the law required as only certain items were tithed (Deut 14:22–23).
The Pharisee’s prayer was concerned with telling God what a good man he was, for not only did he keep the Law by fasting and tithing (v. 12), but also… he considered himself better than other people (v. 11). He was using other people as his standard for measuring righteousness.
Jesus teaches next the correct way to approach God. In verse 13 the tax collector prays a completely different kind of prayer than the previous prayer. "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"
"Standing far away", probably in the court of the Gentiles or possibly the court of Israel if, because he was a Roman sympathizer (Mt 5:46), he was permitted that far… he bows first his life, then his eyes and head before God. The tax collector respected the holiness of God and therefore saw himself as sinful and in need of grace and forgiveness.
The tax collector even "beats his breast" as a sign of mourning and contrition. In such contrition the acknowledge sinner throws Himself upon the mercy of God. He then cries out "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" His location, posture, and speech reveal his humility and a proper understanding of his sinfulness, in sharp contrast to the self-righteous Pharisee.
The difference seems to be that the tax collector used God as his standard for measuring. The prayer of tax collector therefore expresses humility, dependence and desperation. The pharisee was proud and boastful, the tax collector grieved over his own sinful condition. The pharisee described his righteousness, the tax collector begged for mercy to escape the judgment his sin deserved. Which one of them truly prayed?
Evangelist D. L. Moody once visited a PRISON called "The Tombs" to preach to the inmates. After he had finished speaking, Moody talked with a number of men in their cells. He asked each prisoner this question, "What brought you here?" Again and again he received replies like these: "I don't deserve to be here." "I was framed." "I was falsely accused." "I was not given a fair trial." "The judge or a witness took a bribe." Not one inmate would admit he was guilty.
Moody finally found a man with his face buried in his hands, weeping. "What's wrong, my friend?" he inquired. The prisoner responded, "My sins are more than I can bear." Relieved to find at least one man who would recognize his guilt and need of forgiveness, the evangelist exclaimed, "Thank God for that!" Moody then joyfully led him to a saving knowledge of Christ-a knowledge that released him from the shackles of his sin.
As long as the sinner claims innocence and denies his sin before the Lord, he cannot receive the blessings of redemption. But when he/she pleads guilty and cries out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," he/she is forgiven. In order to be found, you must first recognize that you are lost. To find salvation you must admit you are lost.
When we confess to being a sinner and cast ourselves upon God's mercy, we are traveling the road to true righteousness. We deserve justice but need mercy. That need is met only in response to humble confession and earnest petition. Jesus said the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified.
In verse 14 Jesus states which one was justified before God. I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalt" s himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus' closing declaration uplifts the tax collector as an example to us. The application of the parable is that it is necessary for people to humble themselves before God to gain forgiveness (13:30). God only justifies the repentant.
The Pharisee left the temple confident he had fulfilled his religious duties but still bearing his sin and guilt before God. He had not sought forgiveness through confession and repentance and thus had not found forgiveness.
God justified the tax collector and not the Pharisee is a shocking role reversal. (Note Jesus’ familiar role reversal, Luke 14:11; Mt. 18:4; 23:12.) The Pharisee, who was perceived as righteous in the eyes of the people, was not accepted by God whereas the hated but truly penitent tax collector was. No doubt this enraged the pharisees in His audience (v. 9) and gave them further cause to seek Jesus’ death in Jerusalem a short time later.
With His closing advise in the last part of verse 14 Jesus once again (14:11) warns us not to exalt ourselves above others. "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled." Those who are proud are exalting themselves will one day be brought low (humbled) by God. Conceit and pride warp the thinking process. As we fill ourselves with the true knowledge of God we will humble ourselves before Him. Then if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He will lift us up when, where, and as He desires (which may well be when He examines us at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10)
Becoming the new person we are in Christ means reversing our natural tendencies toward pride and looking down on others. We instead are to be mindful of our sins so that we can confess them in repentance. We have a tendency to judge other people by their actions and our self by our intentions rather than our actions. If we would reverse that, it would change our life. If we judge others not by what they do, but by what they meant to do. Then judge our self not by what we meant, but by what we did, we would be much humbler people.
Jesus showed the way to God by contrasting the attitudes and actions of a publican with those of a Pharisee. The despised publican had sold himself out to the Roman captors for the privilege of collecting taxes from his own people. The zealous religious leader was known for his meticulous observance of the law, but his approach to God and to righteousness was wrong.
The Pharisee sought to establish right relationships with God by human achievement and self-trust. The outcast publican aware of his shortcomings, sought and received forgiveness. The publican realized he had nothing of which to boast before God. His only plea was, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus placed his approval on this kind of repentant humility. The tax collector thus improved his spiritual health having found acceptance before God through humble repentance and mercy.
It's much the same way with salvation. As long as a person makes excuses for his/her sinful behavior, he/she will never experience deliverance. It's only when he/she admits, "I am a sinner and cannot save myself," that the Lord will rescue from sin & its eternal consequences. The proud & boastful Pharisee was lost. The tax collector, however, acknowledged his sinfulness & "went down to his house justified"
I invite you at this time to admit your guilt & receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior. Come & ask God to save you from pretentiousness & self-deception lest you deprive yourself of His mercy. Remember, salvation is for sinners only. Does that mean you?
Once we understand that answered prayer is based solely upon mercy, prayer becomes a total pleasure. And when the answers come and the blessings are released and things begin to happen, guess who gets the glory. You can't take credit because of your spirituality or discipline. You simply glorify God with humility and great appreciation as you stand in awe of His answer to your prayer and His work in your life.
Neither prayer nor salvation is not based upon merit. They're based upon mercy. That's what this sinner discovered, and once we learn this lesson, prayer will become a joy to you as well.
Pastor Richard Santos
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