* This is part three of three in a series based on a Thanksgiving sermon I preached this past Sunday based on Luke 18:9-14. In this section, I argue that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the source of all acceptable thanksgiving. Or, in other words, we should thank God for justification by faith! For prior posts, see Part 1 and Part 2 (and this practical thought).
So what kind of thanksgiving is justified? This is what I want to drive home to your hearts and minds this morning, so let’s take one final look into the text for the answer to this question.
The setting for this parable (Luke 18:9-14) was that two men went to the Temple to pray. One went home justified, and the person who did was NOT the person you would expect. Jesus turns things upside down, showing that the least qualified when it comes to self-righteousness is the most qualified to receive salvation because he knew there was nothing he could hope in except the mercy and grace of God.
The two men in this parable are placed side-by-side to show the stark contrast between religion based on performance and salvation based on grace. You see, not only do sinners need to repent of their sin, this parable shows that moral people also need to repent of their own righteousness. This contrast is highlighted in three places: (1) locating the problem, (2) locating the source of righteousness, and (3) locating the primary concern.
(a) What did these two men see as the problem? Where was it located? For the Pharisee, the problem existed outside himself. He saw the sinful lives of others as the problem—extortioners, unjust, and adulterers. But for the tax collector, the problem existed inside himself. He could not stop beating his breast, knowing that the location of the problem was inside his sinful heart.
The problem with most people today is that they are far more prone to look at the sins and shortcomings of others than they do of their own. Pharisees are always harder on others than they are on themselves. But when it comes to their own sin, rebellion, and wickedness, they can’t stand to look honestly, closely, and thoroughly. They can’t stand to have themselves exposed. This is why the Bible refers to sinners apart from salvation in Jesus being in “the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13). The “god of this world,” Paul says is actively working in the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). And as long as you think the problem is outside of yourself, the devil has you enchanted by his lies when you should be haunted by your present darkness.