Text: Luke 18:9-14

1.0 What Does God Want From Me?

1.1 Everyone is asking that question. The answer is: God wants an authentic relationship with you.

1.2 A sizable crowd had gathered to hear Jesus offer insights and truths about life.

  1. His messages conveyed an authentic love.
  2. Everyone wanted to be loved.
  3. Everyone wanted to know where they stood with God.
  4. Based on what Jesus taught and said.

They knew what the regular rank and file religious leaders thought and it didn’t sit well with them.

iii. The unspoken question on each face in the crowd was: What does God want from me?

Meet the Crowd

(1) Some of those gathered were overly confident in their own righteousness. They were self-righteous.

(2) Self-righteousness means confident of one’s own righteousness; especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.

(3) These self-righteous people looked down on everybody while placing themselves on pedestals.

(4) But God has a plan to get into the mind and heart of these self-righteous people and the others who faced other spiritual struggles.

2.0 We’re Still Asking: What Does God Want From Me?

Answer: God wants an Authentic Relationship with you! There are three building blocks to such a relationship: Awareness; Access; and Assurance.

2.1 AWARENESS (18:9)!

  1. A) Why did Jesus share this parable?
  2. Many in His audience lacked awareness as to where they stood with God.

Note: Self-awareness is being ”aware [or conscious] of your feelings and your thoughts about those feelings.”

Meet the Pharisee

(1) The word Pharisee means, ”The separated ones; the holy ones.” Pharisees saw themselves as the true community of Israel-the holy community.

(2) They lived within a cloistered community so they would not be defiled by ”sinners”-unholy people.

(3) Pharisees are legalists; concerned about rules and performance such as fasting, kosher diet, circumcision, and strict Sabbath observance.

(4) The Pharisee could not see his self-righteous, judgmental ways and how that hindered others from relating to him or seeing the heart of God. He lacked awareness as to where he stood with God or how he was viewed by others.

Pharisees were confident of their own righteousness.

They held an inward certainty that convinced them (by argument) that they could trust in their own righteousness.

Charles Spurgeon said: ”The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

  1. Jesus wanted to dismantle their false sense of confidence because He knew they lacked awareness of their true spiritual state.
  2. They were not in right standing with God. And God wanted an authentic relationship with them.

Awareness is deeply rooted in our emotions. These self-righteous people felt in their hearts that they were right. They felt certain they pleased God.

Charles A. Allen, the American Methodist minister said: ”The hardest people to reach with the love of God are not the bad people. They know they are bad. They have no defense. The hardest ones to win for God are the self-righteous people.”

Awareness. A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a missionary to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the missionary replied with scorn, ”You’re nothing but a thug-I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!”

Feeling disrespected, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled, ”I could kill you for your disrespect.”

”That,” the missionary calmly replied, ”is hell.”

Startled at seeing the truth in what the missionary pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the missionary for the insight.

”And that,” said the missionary, ”is heaven.”

The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrates the crucial difference between caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. (Pg. 46 Emotional Intelligence.)

iii. The Pharisee, and many in the audience, was caught up in the feeling of being righteous. They lacked the awareness that their souls were imprisoned by it.

Note: The overly confident Pharisee compared himself with people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and even swindlers like this tax collector. In his mind, this proved he was sure he was one of the righteous ones.

There was another group in the audience who also lacked awareness. They had the awareness that they were sinners; but they lacked awareness of God’s ability to forgive them.

They too were not in right standing with God. And God wanted an authentic relationship with them.

Meet the Tax Collector (aka Bernie Madoff)

(1) A tax collector is a person contracted by the Roman government to collect taxes. The contract was awarded to the highest bidder.

(2) Tax collectors made private profits by heartless extortion and defrauding the people. Tax collectors were often chosen from the dregs of the people and the general community placed them in the same category as prostitutes and sinners.

Religious people need to be born again! Being devout is not good enough.

Romans 3:23-”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

iii. Bad people, broken people, flawed people, and irreligious people, etc. need salvation too!

  1. Awareness requires an objective standard in which a true comparison can be made.
  2. The Pharisee lacked the awareness of his need for forgiveness and the tax collector lacked the awareness of God’s willingness to forgive him. Forgiveness would allow both to have an authentic relationship with him.

 2.2 ACCESS

  1. A) Jesus showed that there’s a way to ACCESS
  2. Awareness gives you access to God.
  3. The tax collector saw himself the way he truly was-a sinner.

Though he evidenced a sorrow for his sins; he knew it wasn’t enough.

iii. He stood ”at a distance”. He pressed himself into the farthest corner of the temple because he felt sinful and unworthy.

From shame for his sins he did not dare raise his eyes heavenward.

He beats his breast-the place where the heart-the seat of sin is.

The Listeners

(1) Jesus’ listeners probably felt the tax collector was put in his place.

(2) The self-righteous wanted Jesus to adopt the same feelings and perspective they held towards people, especially the ones they deemed ”sinners”.

(3) The Pharisee on-the-other-hand probably took a front seat in the temple.

(4) The crowd, in their misguidedness, silently voted: ”Here is a man after God’s own heart.”

(5) In reality the Pharisee did not gain access to God.

  1. You can be in the house but that doesn’t grant you access into in the family!
  2. Your deeds may even mirror some family members; but there’s a notable difference. You lack the authority and rights of a family member!
  3. The Pharisee came and went from temple but he was not transformed. The tax collector knew enough to conclude: there must be more.
  4. The tax collector received access into God’s family. Prayer gives you access to the new life-the saved life.
  5. He prayed the only prayer available to him: ”God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  6. The prayer acknowledged his sinful state before a holy God.

iii. The prayer acknowledged that He had sinned against God and he owed God a debt.

  1. The prayer acknowledged that God is the only One who could pardon him fully. And, this pardon triggers a total change from the inside out.

2 Cor. 5:17-”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

2.3 ASSURANCE

  1. A) Jesus’ verdict of the two men praying in the temple created a stir.
  2. The verdict showed that the tax collector was the one who God accepted.
  3. The tax collector’s sins were pardoned. He received access into God’s family through salvation and returned home with the assurance of this.

He returned home justified. God justified him!

Justified (v. 14) means gracious acceptance. This simple word justified brings out the huge difference between the world of merit versus the world of grace.

  1. The verdict was met with outrage.
  2. The crowd thought: Is the godless to be counted as the righteous man and the righteous man as the godless? They were angry!

Aristotle said: ”Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy.”

The self-righteous people were angry at Jesus rather than being angry with themselves.

iii. The Pharisee was rejected. His good works were driven by self-righteousness and pride. He lacked the assurance of God’s forgiveness because he never asked for it.

  1. The listeners knew Jesus’ conclusion to His story meant only one thing: The tax collector went home pardoned.
  2. Pardoned meant for them the judicial verdict in which God attests to the integrity of the righteous man.
  3. The hearers now had a real problem-an internal conflict that couldn’t be ignored or easily dismissed.
  4. Jesus’ verdict could not be set aside as the incredible assertion of an average Joe or a religious quack.
  5. It had the authority and ring of the truth behind it.

A truth which each of the hearers deep down inside knew to be true.

Culture: They didn’t hold to our cultural loophole by saying to Jesus: ”That is Your truth; I have my truth.”

iii. The parable worked. Jesus exposed the lie about self-righteousness.

They now stood before Him with an awareness of God’s view of them. They now lacked the assurance of their eternal fate before God.

Do you have the assurance that you’re going to heaven? Are you 100 percent sure?

You can have such an assurance.

Right here, right now.

It requires that you put your trust in Jesus.

John 8:12-Jesus said, ”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

But they can allow Jesus to be right if they go through a radical conversion.

They must let God’s grace be extended to them too.

Why Be Dead Wrong? Let Your Newfound Awareness give you ACCESS into God’s Family!

  1. Assurance is available to ALL.
  2. Good works or being religious does not bring assurance.

Jonathan Edwards said, ”Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination, as by action.” P. 238.

You can’t buy or earn salvation! It’s free. But it will cost you-you must humble yourself.

Angel Martinez, a 20th century preacher said: ”God cannot save peacocks. You cannot strut to Calvary; you must come on your hands and knees.”

Being good is not good enough!

Your righteousness is inadequate. If you trust in yourself rather than in God, that kind of self-imposed righteousness will only make you like the Pharisee. What makes you righteous in the eyes of God?

Is it your behavior? Your goodness?

Fact: No! The Pharisee was a good guy. He was not a robber. He was not an evildoer. He was not an adulterer. He was not a swindler. Though he was a good guy his goodness was not good enough!

What makes you righteous?

 Is it being or becoming religious?

Fact: No! The Pharisee was religious. But Jesus ignored all of that because He knew that wasn’t what God wanted. He was not seeking for people to become religious. Rather, God wants an authentic relationship with each of us.

iii. Is it philanthropy and good works?

Fact: No! The Pharisee fasted twice a week and was a tither, supporting the work of God.

Good works or being religious does not bring assurance. This is because our goodness does not address our sinfulness.

Isaiah 64:6-”all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

Violation of God’s laws leads to sin, which leads to judgment and punishment-eternal death.

Rom. 6:23-”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The tax collector receives assurance that his soul was saved.

Having prayed: ”God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” he went home with the assurance of being justified.

He experiencing a full and total forgiveness because he asked for it.

Have you ever asked God to forgive you?

To change you? To give you His salvation?

b) He receiving a new identity, having been justified by God.

c) He now received the assurance that he belongs to the family of God. He now has an authentic relationship with God.

Justin Wren is an MMA fighter whose life hit rock bottom after making it to the top of his profession.

– Appeared on the Ultimate Fighter (Reality TV Series)

– Landed a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Contract. He was the youngest heavyweight at the highest level.

– Tested Positive For Drug Use

– Lost Everything because of drug and alcohol use.

Justin Wren prayed: ”God, I’m a drunk and drug addict. I’m a liar and a cheater. I’m many things I’ve wanted to be, and I’m everything I never wanted to be. God, I’ve hurt everybody. I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore. I don’t want to hurt. I desperately need you in my life.”

After taking a break from the sport of MMA, in desperation Justin Wren prayed.

The prayer: ”God, I’m yours. Is there anything you want me to do? I desire to do your will, not mine.”

God gave Justin Wren a vision of him being in a jungle in Africa among poor people. His heart broke as he saw their poverty and he began to cry uncontrollably. To make a long story short when he shared his vision with his mentor, a guy named Caleb. Caleb knew that Justin was describing a Pygmy Tribe in the Congo. In a month Justin was on a missions trip among the pygmies.

He fell in love with the Pygmy people when he saw their poverty, learned that many were being sold as slaves, some were being trapped as animals, cooked and eaten. To help them Justin started a foundation, Fighting for Others. He returned to MMA with a purpose for earning money.

So far he has installed numerous wells to combat the problem of lack of clean water which kills 50 kids per day; freed over 1,000 slaves, established houses, schools, etc. They gave him the Congolese name ”Eféosa”: ”The Man Who Loves US.” This all begin when he prayed: ”God, Is there anything you want me to do?”

Our question has been answered.

What does God want from me?

He wants My AWARENESS.

He wants to grant Me ACCESS.

He wants Me to receive the ASSURANCE.


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About The Author

David Ireland is the lead pastor of Christ Church, a multi-site multiracial congregation in New Jersey. Ireland serves as a diversity consultant to the NBA and also leads chapel services for the New York Giants, New York Jets, and the U.S. Pentagon. He has written over twenty books and appeared on The Dr. Phil Show, CBS Evening News, and The 700 Club. He began his career in civil engineering with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering (Farleigh Dickinson University) and a graduate degree in civil engineering (Stevens Institute of Technology). Later he attended seminary, earning a master’s degree in theology (Alliance Theological Seminary) and a doctorate in organizational leadership (Regent University). He and his wife Marlinda married in 1984 and have two daughters.

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