How to be right with God

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18 Feb 2024

How to be right with God

Passage Luke 18:9-14

Speaker Jeremy Taylor

Service Morning

Series Training for Mission

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Passage: Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Thank you. Please keep your bibles open at that passage on page 1057. I think that's a bit loud. In fact, it's very much too loud. That's better.

Well, I nearly didn't make it this morning. I came out, I had been here for the 08:00. They work you hard here. And then I drove home, all fine. Came out in good time to be here.

Absolutely. Flat tire on the front of my car. I thought, this is exciting. I wonder whether Steve's got something good to say. Fortunately, I lived near the station and there was a taxi and here I am.

And before you all rush to offer, I have a lift. Arraigned home already? I knew you would want to take part in that ministry.

Well, here we are in our series on the Romans in Luke, chapter 918. I'll explain why a little later on. We're looking at this series training for mission, and so far we've covered the first three chapters of Romans. In chapter one we saw God's wrath is on the ungodly gentiles. Chapter two, God's judgement on the apparently godly jews.

Then last week, Hugh, in a tremendous sermon, talked about how one judgement for all was matched by one rescue for all in chapter three of Romans. And there, there were those three great words. Justification, borrowed from the law courts, redemption, borrowed from the slave trade, and propitiation, which came from the sacrificial system within Judaism. And he explained that so clearly. We have a God we found in chapter three, verse 26, who is both just.

He can't just magic away our sins, but also justifies. He deals with the problem of sin through Jesus death on the cross. And therefore there's no place for either pride because we're so good, nor equally for shame, because we're so bad. Well, this week's passage from Luke, there's a local reason for that. Before this service, the previous service was an all age worship, and Romans, chapter three was thought to be a bit heavy duty for that.

But there's another reason which I don't think they thought of. Luke, as you know, was part of Paul's mission team travelling with him. He knew his methods, he understood his message, he was familiar with his language. And there are huge links between what we're learning in romans and this passage here. And we'll try and unpack those as we go along.

So have Luke open page 1057. Most of it's on. And here we have a parable, one of Jesus' parables, about two men who went to the temple to pray. That tells us that they were in Jerusalem because that's the only place the temple was. And that they went up to pray, probably in the open air around the actual central temple building.

But we look first in verse nine at who this parable was for. Who was Jesus audience? Luke tells us there it was for people who thought they were righteous. They thought they were okay. This is the greek word decaios, which means being right with God.

But the result of that, Jesus says before he even starts the parable is they trusted in themselves and they treated others with contempt. Well, this we'll see as we get into the story. Let's have a look at each of these two men in the temple in turn. Well, the first one, you'll find him in verses eleven and twelve. It says he was a pharisee.

Who were these Pharisees? Well, as a movement, it had only been around for the last hundred years or so. We don't find them in the main bulk of the Old Testament. And they were quite a small, a minority group of less than 6000. But they were one of the two main groups in jewish religious life.

In the Sanhedrin, there were two parties in the temple. There were sadducees, the other group, and pharisees. They'd started out by wanting to be right with God. A good aim. They wanted to live holy lives.

You wouldn't criticise them for that. They wanted to be orthodox in their beliefs. You might even think they were the evangelicals of their day.

But the way they went about it began to go wrong. They thought that the thing to do was to obey every one of God's laws found in the Old Testament scriptures. And they counted them up. How many do you think they found? Many of you would say ten, wouldn't you?

The ten commandments, you'd be wrong. That's where it started. But altogether they found 613 laws to be obeyed and they set out to do that. But they went further than that. They added on to that all the oral, the spoken interpretations of the law that their rabbis had provided.

For instance, one of the laws, you will know it. Keep holy the Sabbath. Don't work on the Sabbath. Excellent. The rabbis had added 39 specific regulations to say, what is work?

Well, now, if you do that for each of 613 laws, you're building up quite a lot of things you need to do. The man in our story, you'll see this in verse twelve in his prayer reminds God that he'd been good at fasting. The law said you should fast one day a year. What does he do? It's there in front of you.

He fasted twice a week. I make that 104 times a year. There was a law on tithing, giving 10% of the grain harvests to God's work. A good principle, I hope. We give 10% of our income to God's work.

But they got into the detail of it. 10% of what? Well, 10%, for instance, of every herb you grew in your garden. Now, if we all did that and gave it to the church, Steve would have a very herby diet.

Do you see how they were taking the law? And by doing it to the nth degree, they thought they would be right with God.

But look what this had done to this man's personality and his life. Look at where he was worshipping. Verse eleven, standing by himself. Why do you think he went to the temple? So he could be seen.

He wanted to stand up so everyone could see how good he was. What was his prayer like? There were three types of prayer in Judaism. Praise of God, confession of sins, and praying for other people. Do you see any of that there?

No. What you see is words. Words. 33 of them. Well, at least in the english translation.

And what were five of them? Five of those words were, I God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get. We can see where his focus was.

It was all about him and how good he was. And that leads on. It's in the second half of verse eleven. To his attitudes to other people. I'm not like other men, he said, and a long list of things that he didn't approve of.

Extortioners, unjust adulterers. I'm not like that, he said. He must have felt God needed this pointing out. And look at the last one. Or even worse than that, like this tax collector.

Oh, dear, dearie, dear. He was so confident in all his good works that had made him right with God. It had distorted his judgement and twisted his personality. Shame he didn't hear last week's sermon from Hugh, which finished with those two great points, one of which was no place for boasting. He'd missed out on that.

Well, that's the first person. Now look at the second one. You'll find him in verse 13. He was a tax collector. And what a contrast.

Who were these tax collectors? Well, they were known at the time as Publicani. That's Latin for public servants, not publicans in the sense of owning a pub, but subcontracted private enterprise tax raisers. Mrs. Thatcher would have been proud of them.

Not like HMRC, as we've all just had to deal with them at the end of January, or if you're more efficient at other times in the year. What happened was that the Romans would sell off the right to raise taxes to one man for a whole area. He would then subcontract the doing of it to a whole team of tax collectors. Now, this was a system that was open to corruption. With no set taxes, they would take what they could get.

It makes our tax system positively just, doesn't it? And they were also seen as collaborators. They were working for the occupying roman power and they were also seen as unclean because it made them work on the Sabbath. They were looked down upon from every direction, not surprisingly. Where do we find this man in the temple?

Look at verse 13. He's standing far off. He didn't want to be seen up front. He was hiding away, perhaps around the back somewhere. His head was bowed.

He was full of guilt. He was even beating his chest. It was so heavy upon him. And his prayer, do you look at it? How many words are there in that?

Remember how many were there in the Pharisees prayer? I've forgotten. 33. How many are there in his prayer? Seven in English, five in Greek.

I don't know how many in Hebrew.

And it's so straightforward. God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Literally, he says, the sinner. He thought he was the worst of them all. And when he says, be merciful, the word that Luke uses in Greek.

Do you remember last week Hugh taught you a greek word for propitiation? Put your hand up if you can remember it.

Gotcha, Steve. Very good. That's a relief. Well, this is a similar linked word. What he's saying is, o God, propitiate, atone for me.

Make the atonement work for me. You see, as he was in this open air courtyard, he would look and see outside the temple central building, an altar. And this is the altar where regularly a lamb would be slaughtered. A lamb would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. The guilt of the people's sins was placed upon the lamb.

And then as the lamb was killed, it dealt with, symbolically, the sins of the people. The tax collector was saying, I need that sort of forgiveness. Do it for me, God. He must have known that he didn't deserve it. He hadn't earned it.

I think he hardly even expected it. And yet he was throwing himself on what Paul would have called God's grace. His free gift of forgiveness achieved by the death of Jesus, the ultimate lamb of God on the cross. Do you see now why this passage links with Romans? Because that's at the heart of Paul's message in Romans.

Well, there's just one more verse, verse 14. And here, thirdly, we have Jesus devastating analysis of what was going on. Jesus was really answering who had been made right with God, who had been justified in Paul's word. Was it the Pharisee, with all his good works, with all his correct beliefs, his orthodoxy, all his boasting?

Or was it the tax collector, aware that he was rejected, aware of his sin and aware of his need for God's mercy? Well, see what Jesus says in verse 14. I tell you, this man, that's the tax collector, went down to his house, justified right with God. Isn't that marvellous? And then it's almost a throwaway rather than that other fellow is the literal translation who barely gets mentioned.

I think that's just wonderful, the way that ends not that man, but this one was justified very long time ago when I was at school. Perhaps you were there too, at about the same time. Many of you. Sometimes if there was going to be a PE lesson, we'd all be out on the playing ground, shivering in our white shorts and white t shirts. And there'll be two captains chosen.

You'd have to go and stand behind one or the other to show which team we were on. Which man would you stand behind in this story? Would you stand behind the good man, the righteous man, the Pharisee? Would your beliefs cheque out as orthodox?

Or would you be standing behind the tax collector, aware that nothing you can do can make you right with God? The only justification for you being in that team is that God by his grace has freely given you the forgiveness that you need.

Now Paul says that in rather more theological terms and we'll be going back to that next week. But these two men, who would you stand behind, which is the one that you're part of the team?

We're going to sing our last hymn, it's a local special. If you look at the very bottom, you've got good eyesight, you'll see. Was written by a man called Edward Moat. For 26 years in the eight 19th century he was the minister of the strick Baptist church in Horsham and he was visiting two of his congregation who lived in a poor part of the town one day and he knew that they had nothing, no books, no hymn book, nothing. And so during the day he wrote this hymn for them and when he got there, he sang it for them.

And gradually they joined in. And that church forever since has been based on what this hymn says. My hope is built are nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness on Christ. The solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and therefore may not be 100% accurate

Thank you. Please keep your bibles open at that passage on page 1057. I think that’s a bit loud. In fact, it’s very much too loud. That’s better.

Well, I nearly didn’t make it this morning. I came out, I had been here for the 08:00. They work you hard here. And then I drove home, all fine. Came out in good time to be here.

Absolutely. Flat tire on the front of my car. I thought, this is exciting. I wonder whether Steve’s got something good to say. Fortunately, I lived near the station and there was a taxi and here I am.

And before you all rush to offer, I have a lift. Arraigned home already? I knew you would want to take part in that ministry.

Well, here we are in our series on the Romans in Luke, chapter 918. I’ll explain why a little later on. We’re looking at this series training for mission, and so far we’ve covered the first three chapters of Romans. In chapter one we saw God’s wrath is on the ungodly gentiles. Chapter two, God’s judgement on the apparently godly jews.

Then last week, Hugh, in a tremendous sermon, talked about how one judgement for all was matched by one rescue for all in chapter three of Romans. And there, there were those three great words. Justification, borrowed from the law courts, redemption, borrowed from the slave trade, and propitiation, which came from the sacrificial system within Judaism. And he explained that so clearly. We have a God we found in chapter three, verse 26, who is both just.

He can’t just magic away our sins, but also justifies. He deals with the problem of sin through Jesus death on the cross. And therefore there’s no place for either pride because we’re so good, nor equally for shame, because we’re so bad. Well, this week’s passage from Luke, there’s a local reason for that. Before this service, the previous service was an all age worship, and Romans, chapter three was thought to be a bit heavy duty for that.

But there’s another reason which I don’t think they thought of. Luke, as you know, was part of Paul’s mission team travelling with him. He knew his methods, he understood his message, he was familiar with his language. And there are huge links between what we’re learning in romans and this passage here. And we’ll try and unpack those as we go along.

So have Luke open page 1057. Most of it’s on. And here we have a parable, one of Jesus’ parables, about two men who went to the temple to pray. That tells us that they were in Jerusalem because that’s the only place the temple was. And that they went up to pray, probably in the open air around the actual central temple building.

But we look first in verse nine at who this parable was for. Who was Jesus audience? Luke tells us there it was for people who thought they were righteous. They thought they were okay. This is the greek word decaios, which means being right with God.

But the result of that, Jesus says before he even starts the parable is they trusted in themselves and they treated others with contempt. Well, this we’ll see as we get into the story. Let’s have a look at each of these two men in the temple in turn. Well, the first one, you’ll find him in verses eleven and twelve. It says he was a pharisee.

Who were these Pharisees? Well, as a movement, it had only been around for the last hundred years or so. We don’t find them in the main bulk of the Old Testament. And they were quite a small, a minority group of less than 6000. But they were one of the two main groups in jewish religious life.

In the Sanhedrin, there were two parties in the temple. There were sadducees, the other group, and pharisees. They’d started out by wanting to be right with God. A good aim. They wanted to live holy lives.

You wouldn’t criticise them for that. They wanted to be orthodox in their beliefs. You might even think they were the evangelicals of their day.

But the way they went about it began to go wrong. They thought that the thing to do was to obey every one of God’s laws found in the Old Testament scriptures. And they counted them up. How many do you think they found? Many of you would say ten, wouldn’t you?

The ten commandments, you’d be wrong. That’s where it started. But altogether they found 613 laws to be obeyed and they set out to do that. But they went further than that. They added on to that all the oral, the spoken interpretations of the law that their rabbis had provided.

For instance, one of the laws, you will know it. Keep holy the Sabbath. Don’t work on the Sabbath. Excellent. The rabbis had added 39 specific regulations to say, what is work?

Well, now, if you do that for each of 613 laws, you’re building up quite a lot of things you need to do. The man in our story, you’ll see this in verse twelve in his prayer reminds God that he’d been good at fasting. The law said you should fast one day a year. What does he do? It’s there in front of you.

He fasted twice a week. I make that 104 times a year. There was a law on tithing, giving 10% of the grain harvests to God’s work. A good principle, I hope. We give 10% of our income to God’s work.

But they got into the detail of it. 10% of what? Well, 10%, for instance, of every herb you grew in your garden. Now, if we all did that and gave it to the church, Steve would have a very herby diet.

Do you see how they were taking the law? And by doing it to the nth degree, they thought they would be right with God.

But look what this had done to this man’s personality and his life. Look at where he was worshipping. Verse eleven, standing by himself. Why do you think he went to the temple? So he could be seen.

He wanted to stand up so everyone could see how good he was. What was his prayer like? There were three types of prayer in Judaism. Praise of God, confession of sins, and praying for other people. Do you see any of that there?

No. What you see is words. Words. 33 of them. Well, at least in the english translation.

And what were five of them? Five of those words were, I God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get. We can see where his focus was.

It was all about him and how good he was. And that leads on. It’s in the second half of verse eleven. To his attitudes to other people. I’m not like other men, he said, and a long list of things that he didn’t approve of.

Extortioners, unjust adulterers. I’m not like that, he said. He must have felt God needed this pointing out. And look at the last one. Or even worse than that, like this tax collector.

Oh, dear, dearie, dear. He was so confident in all his good works that had made him right with God. It had distorted his judgement and twisted his personality. Shame he didn’t hear last week’s sermon from Hugh, which finished with those two great points, one of which was no place for boasting. He’d missed out on that.

Well, that’s the first person. Now look at the second one. You’ll find him in verse 13. He was a tax collector. And what a contrast.

Who were these tax collectors? Well, they were known at the time as Publicani. That’s Latin for public servants, not publicans in the sense of owning a pub, but subcontracted private enterprise tax raisers. Mrs. Thatcher would have been proud of them.

Not like HMRC, as we’ve all just had to deal with them at the end of January, or if you’re more efficient at other times in the year. What happened was that the Romans would sell off the right to raise taxes to one man for a whole area. He would then subcontract the doing of it to a whole team of tax collectors. Now, this was a system that was open to corruption. With no set taxes, they would take what they could get.

It makes our tax system positively just, doesn’t it? And they were also seen as collaborators. They were working for the occupying roman power and they were also seen as unclean because it made them work on the Sabbath. They were looked down upon from every direction, not surprisingly. Where do we find this man in the temple?

Look at verse 13. He’s standing far off. He didn’t want to be seen up front. He was hiding away, perhaps around the back somewhere. His head was bowed.

He was full of guilt. He was even beating his chest. It was so heavy upon him. And his prayer, do you look at it? How many words are there in that?

Remember how many were there in the Pharisees prayer? I’ve forgotten. 33. How many are there in his prayer? Seven in English, five in Greek.

I don’t know how many in Hebrew.

And it’s so straightforward. God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Literally, he says, the sinner. He thought he was the worst of them all. And when he says, be merciful, the word that Luke uses in Greek.

Do you remember last week Hugh taught you a greek word for propitiation? Put your hand up if you can remember it.

Gotcha, Steve. Very good. That’s a relief. Well, this is a similar linked word. What he’s saying is, o God, propitiate, atone for me.

Make the atonement work for me. You see, as he was in this open air courtyard, he would look and see outside the temple central building, an altar. And this is the altar where regularly a lamb would be slaughtered. A lamb would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. The guilt of the people’s sins was placed upon the lamb.

And then as the lamb was killed, it dealt with, symbolically, the sins of the people. The tax collector was saying, I need that sort of forgiveness. Do it for me, God. He must have known that he didn’t deserve it. He hadn’t earned it.

I think he hardly even expected it. And yet he was throwing himself on what Paul would have called God’s grace. His free gift of forgiveness achieved by the death of Jesus, the ultimate lamb of God on the cross. Do you see now why this passage links with Romans? Because that’s at the heart of Paul’s message in Romans.

Well, there’s just one more verse, verse 14. And here, thirdly, we have Jesus devastating analysis of what was going on. Jesus was really answering who had been made right with God, who had been justified in Paul’s word. Was it the Pharisee, with all his good works, with all his correct beliefs, his orthodoxy, all his boasting?

Or was it the tax collector, aware that he was rejected, aware of his sin and aware of his need for God’s mercy? Well, see what Jesus says in verse 14. I tell you, this man, that’s the tax collector, went down to his house, justified right with God. Isn’t that marvellous? And then it’s almost a throwaway rather than that other fellow is the literal translation who barely gets mentioned.

I think that’s just wonderful, the way that ends not that man, but this one was justified very long time ago when I was at school. Perhaps you were there too, at about the same time. Many of you. Sometimes if there was going to be a PE lesson, we’d all be out on the playing ground, shivering in our white shorts and white t shirts. And there’ll be two captains chosen.

You’d have to go and stand behind one or the other to show which team we were on. Which man would you stand behind in this story? Would you stand behind the good man, the righteous man, the Pharisee? Would your beliefs cheque out as orthodox?

Or would you be standing behind the tax collector, aware that nothing you can do can make you right with God? The only justification for you being in that team is that God by his grace has freely given you the forgiveness that you need.

Now Paul says that in rather more theological terms and we’ll be going back to that next week. But these two men, who would you stand behind, which is the one that you’re part of the team?

We’re going to sing our last hymn, it’s a local special. If you look at the very bottom, you’ve got good eyesight, you’ll see. Was written by a man called Edward Moat. For 26 years in the eight 19th century he was the minister of the strick Baptist church in Horsham and he was visiting two of his congregation who lived in a poor part of the town one day and he knew that they had nothing, no books, no hymn book, nothing. And so during the day he wrote this hymn for them and when he got there, he sang it for them.

And gradually they joined in. And that church forever since has been based on what this hymn says. My hope is built are nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness on Christ. The solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

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