Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people- cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give You a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 18:9-14
Friends, just like the disciples, we spend far too much time worried about which of us is better than the other. Yep, that’s a hard word…but it’s true.
Sin is sin. It’s all the same to God. We are the ones who rate sin, not God.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. Romans 3:23-24a
Everyone…not some, not a few, not even most…but all.
No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2
This, by no means, is me saying that we go along with everyone’s sins. But we are to love people. Jesus loved people. The ones we see Him fussing at are the religious people…let that sink into your heart just a little bit. The ones who considered themselves the righteousness standard were the ones He held most accountable. I think it’s partly because they were the ones who should have been displaying God’s attributes the most. The pharisees and teachers should have had the most grace, but instead they were corrupt and robbed people, etc. while acting in public ways of righteousness. On the other hand, He had immense mercy for the lost ones…but He still told them, “Go and sin no more.” (I think our culture has forgotten that little tidbit.) God was kind to the lost, and in that kindness, He gave real and honest direction. Go and sin no more, He said multiple times. And while ministering to tax collectors and prostitutes, He still lived a life set apart.
He constantly went away to spend time with God. Jesus was wise beyond our comprehension and lived a life that none of us can attain, in His perfection, but He did display behaviors that I believe He wants us to remember and practice. It’s wisdom to separate yourself from others for a time, to refresh. It’s important to be so connected with the Father that His will is your first response…your knee jerk reaction. The last one I notice most about Jesus was that He wasn’t worried about His reputation, He was only concerned with reaching the lost in whatever way the Father directed.
None of us is any better than the other really…as clearly stated in all the above scripture. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to live life in a healthier way. We can learn to lean into the Father more. We can work to cut blatant sin out of our lives. If we gird ourselves up in the armor of the Lord, then when we go minister to the tax collectors and prostitutes of our day, we can stay pure in heart, mind and deed. It all stems from a heart of true humility.
This devotional is the result of many hours spent pondering the state of the “church”. Wondering how we can have churches and staff, etc. but return to the purity and holiness God desires. So many church leaders have fallen recently…it’s indicative of a true problem. So many churches no longer host the Holy Spirit, that is a grievous error. So many churches simply fight with other churches about who is right and who is best…another point of grief.
Today ends with an unresolved question: If we do church the way God intended, what would it really look like?
I hope this question lands on your heart and causes you to have a real and honest talk with God. Let’s lean in today and ask for His heart…everything else is just empty noise and failed understanding.
God, what is Your true heart for the church body? If church looked more like You, then what would need to change? Speak to my heart about where You are and how You desire to move in me during this season. I am open to hearing from You, even if it’s very different from what I expect. Show me Your heart. Create in me a pure heart…because I am desperate to see You. Forgive me of my sins and lead me down righteous paths. In Jesus’ name, Amen.