“Finally Finding Justification”
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted
in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a
tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying
thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues,
adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week;
I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing
far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and
saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man
went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt
themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
ne mountaineer said, "Every person is unique." The second mountaineer said, "Yes, but some are more unique than others."
No two of us are alike. We are truly unique. Even brothers and sisters reared in the same home can be so different. Evidently God has engineered us to be one-of-a-kind. We must work out our salvation with God in Christ in our own way. If you could get one hundred Methodists together in a seminar setting and ask them to tell the story of their salvation experience there would not be two exactly alike. There would be aspects flowing through each testimonial, that they came to love Jesus and accept his grace, but from then on there would be stories about how grand-paw told them the stories of Jesus and that they just always believed in Jesus because they loved Gramps, Papaw, or Grandmother, and believed. Another would tell about their loving parents. Another would relive visions from Sunday School Classes, or V.B.S. As a child I recall hearing the stories from the returning soldiers from WWII. They shared praying while in foxholes and conversions with Jesus under great duress in battle. But the one same thread running through each story was how they prayed to Jesus for forgiveness and the sweet assurance of justification and all sins forgiven were granted.
Today we have heard a parable of Jesus where he illustrated how two very different men approached the experience of salvation.
“A rich Pharisee stood tall and proud because he was not like lesser people.”
Jesus pointed out that the rich Pharisee was “standing alone by himself.” He probably had very few friends and was possibly alienated from family members. “God I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”
Then there was a repentant tax collector who prayed, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." He's the one who had salvation and possibly did not know the extent of the relationship with God. He was still living under the Old Testament Laws and was therefore not under the Cross of Christ and Jesus’ story of human redemption was not yet known.
Our advantage is that we were captured by the wonderful stories of Jesus at a young age. We heard it told that Jesus loves us and that by loving him in return we would become his children. We believed, prayed a prayer and somehow Jesus has lived within our hearts from then on.
However, not all boys and girls, did not have the privilege of the means of grace provided. Later, some made up for that by attending Youth Fellowship every Sunday night. Our parents thought we went back each week because of the Bible lessons and friendships, and the snacks, but it was in a big way the members of the “opposite sex.” It was somehow easier to actually talk with girls at Youth Group. And along the way, perhaps at Camp “Outbeyonda,” we heard about Jesus with a new, more adult, understanding and it broke into our hearts. Later, in our spiritual journey most of us went through a series of Membership Training Classes or Confirmation Classes that reached us on a deeper lever. We began to consider church vocations, and how choosing a Christian College might be a better choice. We began to add a religious quotient in our youthful considerations about what characteristics a possible wife or husband should have. Whenever we heard the story about the proud self-righteous Pharisee, we wanted to be like the praying tax collector who was repentant and was justified with God.
You see it is not where or how we met Jesus, but that we have.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor