Archives for posts with tag: Pharisee

I was honored to preach at Celebrate Christ Church today. If you would like to watch some (or all of it), please click on the link below:

Prayer series

Jesus once told a story about two men who went up to the temple to pray. We will look at that story this Sunday at Grace Church (Luke 18:9-14). Some may think it’s just another Pharisee-bashing tale Jesus was so famous for. “White-washed tombs,” “brood of vipers,” “foolish people,” “money lovers,” are just some of the choice words Jesus reserved for those characters. Do you ever feel sorry for them?

Well, you wouldn’t feel sorry for this particular one. This man epitomized everything that is wrong with the human race – prideful, prejudiced, self-absorbed, arrogant, pedantic, and worst of all, a fatally flawed predictor of God’s opinion of himself (small “h”). The man thought he had climbed the ladder of righteousness by his own merits. By doing a bunch of things, he was convinced he had made the cut and was not shy to break the news to God. Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Away from the proud corner stood a tax collector who ended up stealing the show for his uncanny ability to see himself for who he really was – an incorrigible sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. He didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward heaven. Too embarrassed to look around, he may not have noticed the Pharisee congratulating himself. With a heavy heart, he looked down while beating his chest and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner with capital ‘S’!”

When the judges were asked to raise their grades for the two prayers, Jesus’ little placard read “10” for the tax collector and “0” for the Pharisee. In theological terms the tax-collector, not the “other one” went home “justified.” Some translations say “made right with God.” And there you have it – Jesus’ point in telling this story. No, it was not to slam the Pharisee. Rather, it was to remind us that one of the principal purposes of prayer is to have our hearts, mind, and body become synced with God.

Luke said as much in the heading of that story: Jesus told it to warn against the dangers of thinking that you are good enough to be accepted by God merely because of your good works and the dangers of pride that causes you to despise others who don’t fit the prescribed bill for a divinely drafted bill of spiritual health.

The lesson is that prayer will do you no good until you understand your place in the cosmos – that you are dust, irreversibly attracted to messes, and perpetually wanting to color outside the lines outlined by your Creator. Prayer will get you nowhere until you know that you are nothing and that without God’s righteousness you will remain there even if you don’t believe so, like the delusional Pharisee.

While we love to think that our prayers can move God’s heart, there will be no divine movement until our hearts are moved to repentance and forgiveness. God must move in us first before He will allow Himself to be moved by us. And that’s one of the main things that prayer should accomplish – a recurring struggle to set the record straight with God, and then a glorious rising in the newness of His freeing forgiveness, which He offers to us lavishly because of what His Son did on the cross for us.

“God, please make us right with you when we pray.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade