Hello everybody and welcome in to episode 201 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Luke 18 today and our focus is on The Danger of Believing in Yourself We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible re ading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Luke 18 has one of the most important teachings on prayer in the Bible – the parable of the persistent widow. It is such an important parable, that Luke tells us its exact meaning in the introduction, so that we are not so dull that we miss it: Always pray, and never give up. I’ve talked about this chapter a few times over months of doing daily podcasting, so I don’t want to fully revisit it today, but do pay careful attention to what Jesus is saying in this parable: the proper attitude and action when approaching God the Father is PERSISTENCE – SHAMELESS persistence.
One more note, that we’ve mentioned before, so this is mainly for our new listeners: When Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven, He means a needle much like what you and I think about when we hear the word “needle” in a sewing context. In other words, a needle that no camel that has ever lived could possibly fit through. This is why, when Jesus is asked about this saying, He doesn’t tell His disciples He’s making an illustration about the so-called needle gate (which did not exist in Jerusalem, and was made up around 800-1000 years after Jesus taught this) There was no needle gate – Jesus means here exactly what He seems to mean – it is impossible for a rich person to be saved in a human sense, but it is possible for a rich person to be saved by God, because all things are possible with God!
Over the last couple of decades, it seems like a significant amount of movies and tv shows aimed at kids and teenagers have all had the same basic theme and moral: Believe in yourself and be yourself, and everything will turn out great. There’s two problems with this mantra:
#1 – Believing in yourself and being yourself only is a good if you are a genuinely good and unselfish person. Not many of those out there. Think of your least favorite politician. Do you wish they would be themselves more and believe in themselves more? I didn’t think so. Unfortunately, many of us are often too much alike our least favorite politician in that we are innately selfish and self-serving, and believing in ourselves and being ourselves only seems to reinforce that innate selfishness.
#2 Far more importantly, the danger in believing in yourself, when taken too far, is that you cannot save yourself, and Jesus teaches us to NOT believe in ourselves, but to have faith in God. Consider our main passage today:
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: (Luke 18:9)
Let’s read our passage and then discuss it a little more.
A Pharisee stands in public, in the temple, praying to God out loud. He is thankful that He is so good and righteous, he is thankful that he is better than a tax collector nearby, who is also praying, and he mentions to God, in case God wasn’t paying attention, that he gives money to the temple and fasts a lot. I think this is the worst prayer in the Bible, and one of the worst ever. This guy just exudes self-righteousness, even though he is supposed to be a shepherd and leader of the people in God’s ways. This Pharisee is the avatar and example for those who believe in themselves in an ultimate way. Was this man’s prayer helpful, effective or fruitful? Not at all, notes Jesus – God does not move in response to this self-righteous-believe in yourself prayer. On the other hand, our tax collector friend can’t even look to Heaven because he is so aware of his sin, and he is literally beating himself in the chest with shame. Very likely, the tax collector is demonstrably a worse sinner than the Pharisee, who usually excelled at external obedience and following God’s rules, at least on the outside. So – what happens? How does God respond to the prayer of this significant sinner?
13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus tells us something remarkable here: the tax collector is JUSTIFIED, and the pastor/priest is NOT. Here is George Whitefield to bring home this truth to us:
he smites upon his breast, his treacherous, ungrateful, desperately wicked breast; a breast now ready to burst: and at length, out of the abundance of his heart, I doubt not, with many tears, he at last cries out, “GOD be merciful to me a sinner.” …Not, GOD be merciful to me a saint; for he knew “all his righteousnesses were but filthy rags.” Not, GOD be merciful to such or such a one; but, GOD be merciful to me, even to me a sinner, a sinner by birth, a sinner in thought, word, and deed; a sinner as to my person, a sinner as to all my performances; a sinner in whom is no health, in whom dwelleth no good thing; a sinner, poor, miserable, blind and naked, from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; a self-accused, self-condemned sinner. What think you? would this Publican have been offended if any minister had told him that he deserved to be damned? would he have been angry, if any one had told him, that by nature he was half a devil and half a beast? No: he would have confessed a thousand hells to have been his due, and that he was an earthly, devilish sinner. He felt now what a dreadful thing it was to depart from the living GOD: he felt that he was inexcusable every way; that he could in nowise, upon account of any thing in himself, be justified in the sight of GOD; and therefore lays himself at the feet of sovereign mercy, “GOD be merciful to me a sinner.” Here is no confidence in the flesh, no plea fetched from fasting, paying tithes, or the performance of any other duty; here is no boasting that he was not an extortioner, unjust, or an adulterer. Perhaps he had been guilty of all these crimes, at least he knew he would have been guilty of all these, had he been left to follow the devices and desires of his own heart; and therefore, with a broken and contrite spirit, he cries out, “GOD be merciful to me a sinner.”
This man came up to the temple to pray, and he prayed indeed. And a broken and contrite heart GOD will not despise. “I tell you,” says our LORD, I who lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity; I who am GOD, and therefore know all things; I who can neither deceive, nor be deceived, whose judgment is according to right; I tell you, whatever you may think of it, or think of me for telling you so, “this man,” this Publican, this despised, sinful, but broken-hearted man, “went down to his house justified (acquitted, and looked upon as righteous in the sight of GOD) rather than the other.”
George Whitefield, The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, vol. 6 (London: Edward and Charles Dilly, 1772), 43–44.
Bible Memory verses for the month of July: 47 “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.” Luke 6:47-48
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