The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)
Any Pharisee blood in you, brother? sister?
I've got some. God calls it to my attention regularly. I am constantly in repentance for that, among my other sins. This life in Christ is very much about learning to be a repentant sinner.
Pharisee-ism is one of the great weaknesses of the professing church today. In the mind of many, the church is a place for the Perfect Ones. Those of us who have "arrived." The less-than-perfect are not welcome among us, lest they soil the pew cushions or track mud into the sanctuary.
May I remind those who think like that, Jesus said:
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
His Church is made up of sinners......saved sinners to be sure. Church rolls are crowded today by the names of folks who've never been born again. (That's another sermon....) I want to address this to those who are indeed His, those born again from above, washed in the Blood, made new creations in Jesus Christ by the miracle of the New Birth.
Do you now rest in the assurance of your salvation and look down upon those who struggle with sin, those whose sins are more public than yours, those whose sins carry more social consequences than yours? Have you forgotten where you were when Jesus found you?
My ministry is conducted behind razor wire and electrified fences. To get to my meeting place, I am searched, x-rayed, and run through a metal detector. The men I deal with are state prison inmates who have been convicted of every imaginable crime against the State of Tennessee and its citizens: drug crimes, sex crimes, murder.....
Some of these men have been saved out of their life of sin by the grace of an amazing God. Their testimonies break my heart. I'd love to take them home with me, to take them to church with me, to show off these "trophies of Grace" which God has on display for all eternity.
I am a member of a Biblically sound local church--great preaching, wonderful missions outreach, sweet fellowship--but the sweetest fellowship of all for me is during the time I am with my brothers in those tiny little chapels, just a handful of us, sometimes only 3 or 4, sometimes 20 or so (we're not in the numbers game, for sure).
There's something wonderful about being with folks who KNOW they are sinners. These guys are not going around thinking: "Well, I'm not so bad....I'm a pretty good citizen, I pay my bills, etc" like the regular "free-world" church member. These guys KNOW. So, if they're saved, they know they've been saved out of something: SIN.
Too many times, you start talking to "church folks" and soon realize that sinners are "those people"......not them!....it's someone else. "We're not like them!" I have wonderful brothers finish their sentences or get paroled, go back out into the world and can't find a church which will welcome them. "We don't want their kind...."
"God, I thank you that I am not like these men: convicted dope dealers, robbers, drunks, wife-beaters, rapists, killers......."
You are just exactly like them. The only reason you are not doing time with them? God's grace! That restraining Grace with which God hedged you up and kept you from going any further down the road to destruction than you did go....(Hosea 2: 6,7)
God has described you perfectly in Romans 3: 10-18....you, me, and every man who has ever drawn a breath. If you are now God's child, it's because of what He did......not because of anything you did! Do not sit back in your pew and spew like a pharisee that you are "not like those people"....whatever your pet target might be: poor, ignorant, another social class, another race, another neighborhood, another ethnic background. Convicted criminals? They broke man's law. They paid the penalty for it.
You broke God's Law. There's nothing you can do to atone for that! Only God can redeem you from the certain, eternal death which that Law-breaking calls for.
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6)
Let's repent of this pharisee-ism. We are, in and of ourselves, no better than the worst we can imagine. If you are a Christian, the good in you is there by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit of God. We need to repent of this sinful pride which causes us to look down on any other men You think you are Somebody? You think you have Something? Hear the Word of the Lord:
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
(1 Corinthians 4:7)