Luke 18:9-14

Have
you ever noticed someone who is constantly bringing attention to himself? No matter
what story he is telling it always ends with him being the hero. And if you’re
telling the story, he always seem to have one better or more important to tell.

Everyone
knows someone like this, if you don’t, you may want to take a closer look at yourself.
We have an example of someone like this in the Bible. Jesus tells us a story of
a Pharisee who even in his prayer is continually exalting himself.

In
the first few verses we see the example of the Pharisee and his selfrighteous
prayer. He seems to be giving more of a self-eulogy than a prayer. In his prayer
there are a few things that we need to make sure we pay attention to. Notice that
there is no thanks to God, but rather there is a long list of personal achievements.
We can see this in the text by noticing all of the “I’s.” The Pharisee
had no sense of being a servant.

It
seems as though he didn’t go to pray at all. The text says he prayed “to
himself.” A true prayer is offered to God and to God alone. He was really
giving himself a testimony before God. He wanted everyone within an earshot’s
distance to know how good he was.

The
Pharisee actually believed he had done more than God required. He had kept the
law perfectly and had also fasted twice a week, and he even tithed on all he purchased,
not just what he earned. His attitude was easy to see. It was one that was common
in Pharisaism. The Pharisee’s attitude was clear, and it represented the attitude
of the people. He knew nothing of God’s perfection and holiness, or of his sinfulness.

In
contrast to this we have a great example of a humble, selfless prayer. Everything
in this prayer demonstrates the tax collector’s attitude. His stance in verse
13 shows how he felt unworthy, so unworthy he could not even stand near the sanctuary.
He could not look up to heaven, illustrating again the shame he felt for his sins.
He beat his breast, as a sign of his grief for sin. His prayer sought God’s mercy
and forgiveness like David in Psalm 51:1: “Be gracious to me, O God, according
to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out
my transgressions.”

From
these two prayers we learn three things. The first one is that no man who is proud
can pray. One must first humble himself before coming to God in prayer. The second
is that in prayer we do not lift ourselves above our fellow man. The third is
that we are to set ourselves beside the life of God. We need to remember that
no matter how good we are, the question does not change. The question is not,
“Am I as good as my fellow man?” The question is, “Am I as good
as God?”

When
I was getting married I learned a few things about diamonds. I learned that when
your looking at diamonds you don’t just compare what your looking at to the one’s
around it, you also compare it to the test set. When I picked out the diamond
I wanted to buy I thought it was great. Then the salesman pulled out the test
set to show me the flaws in my diamond. The set helped me see the discoloration
in the diamond I picked out. It also helped me see that I wanted to get a different
diamond.

The
first one looked great beside the others, but dingy compared to the test set.
If we compare ourselves to those around us we may shine brighter than all the
others, but when compared to the test set, God, we are as dingy as all the rest.
We need to make sure we are asking the right questions.

Jesus
doesn’t say the tax collector is a good person. He’s a sinner. His realistic assessment
of his own wretchedness, his acknowledgement of his shortcomings and his need
for forgiveness is something we ought to learn from.

In
the final verse of this passage we see Jesus responding to the two prayers. He
responds saying that the tax collector will be justified. This means more than
just being forgiven of his sins; it involves the gift of a new standing before
God.

This
justification is due to God’s mercy alone. There is no room for boasting. Justification
comes only when the humble repent and believe. He also responds saying the self-righteous
will be humbled, but the humble will be exalted.

There’s
a story about a girl in college who was invited to the home of Beethoven. When
she entered she noticed a rope around Beethoven’s piano, so she slipped under
and began playing. She said to the one in charge, “I suppose every musician
who comes here wants to play this piano.” He explained to her that recently
the great Paderewski was visiting there and someone asked him to play that piano.
He replied, “No, I do not feel worthy to play the great master’s piano.”
We need to understand like Paderewski and like the tax collector that we are not
worthy, but God wants us anyway. He wants us to humble ourselves and come to Him.

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Sermon
brief provided by:  Cory Cain, Jackson, TN

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