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Justified - Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Sinner

In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the sinner which is found in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 18, verses 9 through 14, we are presented with two spiritual conditions. The root of one is pride, the other is humility.

The religious Pharisee presents to the Lord in his prayer, examples of his righteous deeds, completely unaware of the prideful condition of his heart. He looks with disdain at the sinner beside him, forgetting that “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

Meanwhile we are told that the sinner beside him could not even raise his eyes to heaven. He smote his chest and begged God to be merciful to him, a sinner. Unlike the Pharisee, this lowly publican was aware of his need for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.

Today the church is filled with people who qualify for these two categories illustrated in Jesus’ parable. Some of them pride themselves in their presumed spirituality and are quick to slam the doors of their churches in the faces of anyone who violates God’s word, not realizing that the church was meant to be a place where people could come to find Christ and let Him change them into the people He wants them to be. Instead of rejecting people we should be standing at the doors welcoming those who enter with washbasins and towels, ready to wash their feet to prepare them for the journey of a disciple.

And yet, there are those who enter through the gates of the Lord’s house, steeped in sin and at the same time are unwilling to recognize and acknowledge that they are in need of a genuine repentance. Repentance as it is taught in scripture means a willingness to turn from iniquity. Instead of assuming the role of the repentant sinner, and while they are disdaining the judgmental smirks of the Pharisee, these ones are just as guilty of the sin of pride as those they judge as self-righteous and judgmental.

For all those who have embraced lifestyles that God’s word declares are sinful, and enter the Lord’s house demanding to be accepted without being willing to pick up their cross and die to their sin, they need to heed that warning that is contained in Jesus’ parable.

We can picture those two individuals, the Pharisee and the sinner, and transport them to the judgment seat of Christ at the end of this age. Then we need to ask ourselves; what should our response be when confronted by the Judge of our lives, where not only our deeds will be weighed, but our heart conditions and motives will be assessed as well?

The great lesson we can learn from Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the sinner is this: – it does not matter who you are or what you have done, when you are standing before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, never attempt to justify yourself before Him, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Don’t try to change or ignore His word thinking that somehow He has given you permission to sin. Instead, accept the fact that the mirror of His word is designed to reveal your sins so you can confess them and repent. Follow the example of the hero of Jesus’ story. Bow your head, smite your chest and say, “Be merciful to me a sinner.” Then you will be among the humble and honest ones who Jesus says will be justified by His grace. For “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, I Peter 5:5).

For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. - Isaiah 57:15

Copyright 2023 by H.D. Shively

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