Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Pastor's Blog

The Fruit of Humility 10.23.2016
Dear friend,

How was your week last week? Today is a new day of God's grace and mercy and we have the privilege of enjoying the first day of the new week by spending some time in His Word. It is the same Word by which all things were created, a Word that lived among us (Jesus Christ), a Word that has come to reconcile/reconnect us to God, and it is a Word that when enlightened by His Spirit enables us to live in the power of that same Word.

We continue from where we left off last week with another parable by Jesus, by which He wished to teach them in their day as well as us in our day. It speaks to various truths, such as righteousness, prayer, pride and humility.

Let us start off our mediation by asking these questions: "How is one made right with God? Or how is one received by God? How does one receive the forgiveness that we need? How does one know that they will inherit eternal life? Let us listen in on the discussion that Jesus had with those to whom He was ministering to and then we will think on some of the truths that are presented in this parable.

Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

They both went up into the temple to pray, the Pharisee, one who outwardly keeps the law and were essentially the impeccable spotless religious people and the publican who is one of the lowest sinners there could be. The publicans were tax collectors who were given the job of collecting taxes for the government and as long as they brought the prescribed amount to the government, they were doing their job. They would do that alright, but they were scoundrels and crooks because they collected more than the government expected and they put what they had stolen into their own pockets. They were hated by the people as one can well imagine.

Thanksgiving is one of the first expressions that come out of the heart and mouth of one who has come to know the saving grace of God. We note that the Pharisee stood alone and indeed he expressed thanksgiving to God, but he did not thank God for anything that he had received from God, but he thanked God that he was not like other men....His words were betraying that which was in his heart. His despising of others came forth loud and clear.

The Pharisee has his own standard of what is means to please God, which he does by comparing himself to other worshippers, such as the tax collector. He not only said that he was not an extortioner, he was not unjust, he was not an adulterer and he was not like this publican, but he also pointed out to God of how he was fasting twice a week and was giving tithes of all he had. In his estimation he not only was superior in his moral life, but as far as giving to the Lord, he was top notch. He is in pretty good shape with God. But then the scene changes...

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,

He was standing afar off in the Temple, the Pharisee was far away as he was not wanting to be near him as he might be defiled by the tax collector. The tax collector is not standing afar of to be away from the Pharisee, but he is afar off because he feels he is unworthy to approach to God. The next part of our verse communicates this..

but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

He beats on his chest which indicates of his dire need for help, and he seems to recognize that his help was not coming from within himself and his needy heart. What is he saying when he says, God, be merciful to me a sinner?

There would be a lot of background to fill in here which would help us to understand better the rituals that were ordained for worshippers to partake of and which the presiding priests performed. There practices had been ordained by God in the Old Testament, were given only for a time until the time of Christ would come and so the Temple worship was very elaborate but deep with meaning of prophecy and fulfilment, fulfilment which would be in Jesus Christ. May it suffice to say that the man was not offering a generalized prayer for God's mercy as we might do in the light of distressing circumstances and experiences in our lives. What he was doing was to ask God to apply His atoning sacrifice to him, realizing that he had nothing to offer but his broken and contrite heart. He had compared himself with the righteousness of God and found himself entirely wanting.

Here is the meat of this parable. The Pharisee gauged his righteousness with outward things and compared his ability to live rightly with the sins of fallen people. When we do that we will always think that we are doing okay, for when we do that it is like we look at our sins through a telescope and the sins of others through a microscope.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Now Jesus applies the parable...He points to the despised tax collector as the one who was righteous before God, for that which God had accomplished in Jesus Christ was received by the tax collector by faith.


Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a monk who was tortured by this question: How does one please God? He had tried to live a good life, had confessed his sins as much as he could, but was left in a condition that was without peace. Then one day he was reading in the book of Romans and he came to these two verses that were written by Apostle Paul under the direction of the Holy Spirit, or to say it another way, were written by God.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Luther's struggle with God came to a head as he was wrestling with this Romans 1:17. He tells us that he was extremely zealous to understand Romans but that this phrase about God's righteousness stood in the way. This phrase, which to us is so clearly good news, was for Luther bad news.

Whenever he came across the phrase "the righteousness of God" in Scripture, it terrified him ("struck my conscience like lightning," "was like a thunderbolt in my heart") because he knew that he was an unrighteous sinner who fell far short of God's righteous (perfect) demands. It was Bad News.....

Even worse, Rom. 1:17, filled Luther with anger and hatred toward God. "I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners." Is it not enough, Luther tells us he murmured, that God crushes us miserable sinners with His law, that He has to threaten us with punishment through the Gospel, too?

After meditating day and night, finally the breakthrough came when Luther gave heed to the words at the end of 1:17, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Then he realized that the verse was not talking about the active righteousness that God demands, but the passive righteousness that He freely gives to those who believe the Gospel. The sinner is justified (declared righteous) by God through faith in the work and death of Jesus, not by our work or keeping of the Law. Put another way, the sinner is justified by receiving (faith) rather than achieving (works). Later Luther would say that we are saved by the alien righteousness of Christ, not by a righteousness of our own doing.

Faith now connected him to the Gospel, faith united him with the forgiveness of his sins through Christ. And from there the Reformation burst forth and the world has never been the same since.

How is it for you and I? Do we understand what Jesus was getting at in the parable and can we relate to the experience of Martin Luther? Do we understand that difference between our effort to please God and that which Jesus did to please God through His death on the cross? He took our sin and replaced it with His righteousness.

The ten year old girl understands how this works. When asked what a Christian was, she explained it through a pumpkin.
"A pumpkin is picked out of the pumpkin patch, the top is cut off and the seeds and yucky stuff is pulled out and replaced with a candle which gives light. Then the light shines through the happy face of the pumpkin."

May we understand that when we compare ourselves to Christ's perfection we will see our lack of righteousness and will fall before the Lord, asking Him to apply the power of His atonement through the cross of Christ unto us.............

How I pray that all reading this today have had this experience, and if we haven't, may the Spirit open our eyes and our hearts to the great forgiveness that God has given us through His Son

May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, Our Strength and Our Redeemer.


Posted on 23 Oct 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala


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