Luke: Prayer:Intimacy with God (Part 2) 03/24/19

Message: ‘Prayer: Intimacy with God’ pt.2

Text: Luke 18:1-14

Introduction: Pastor Dana Chou, gives us the following glimpse into our text this morning.

  • A lady sarcastically remarked to her friend, “I knew I was marrying Mr. Right. I just didn’t know his first name was ‘Always’.”
  • He has all the right answers, and he believes he is doing everything right, all the time.
  • Even when he is wrong, he at least has right reasons for being wrong.

Self-righteousness is found in all of us, to some degree. And to the degree we are self-righteous, we create problems for ourselves and for others.

The self-righteous person may act humble, but they feel superior to others and often live as though they have no need for God. (End Quote)

 And it’s that last part… The self-righteous often live as though they have no need for God.

  • That’s the problem we’ll find in our text this morning.

You see the problem is, self-righteousness tells us

  • that we are OK with God,
  • that we’ll get a Gold Ticket to heaven, to God’s Kingdom,

because of how we live.

  • And friends, this is not just the thought of the Pharisees and other religious leaders in Jesus’ day… it’s a common thought today, even among many churched people.

Background: A researcher surveyed 7,000 Protestant students from many denominations, asking whether they agreed with the following statements:

  • “The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life.” More than 60 % agreed.
  • “God is satisfied if a person lives the best life they can.” Almost 70 % agreed. (Steve Cole)

That’s the result of self-righteousness. And it’s being fed to us today by the aggressiveness of the worlds push for developing a high ‘self-esteem.’

  • When we look at our text, we’ll see that the Pharisee had a high view of himself, a high self-esteem.
  • While the tax collector had a low view of himself, a low self-esteem.

PP: The world entices us, no, downright pushes us to believe that high self-esteem is better for us than low self-esteem.

  • Yet, in our text this morning we’ll find that Jesus says otherwise.

Again, let me go back to what Jesus told those who would follow Him:  PP: And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

Writing to warn Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote: For people will be lovers of self, …proud, arrogant…ungrateful… (2 Timothy 3:2)

Yes, even Christians… Why? Because the world has so enticed and convinced us to forget who we are: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20a)

So we search for things in the world that will bump up our self-esteem,

 PP: Be honest, how do you feel when you see that one of your posts on Facebook has over 100 likes?

  • It strokes your self-esteem. It makes you feel you deserve their likes (praise.)

But therein lies the rub:

  • All the while, it drives us further away from intimacy with God.

Our text this morning will also show that

  • Our fixation one our self-esteem,
  • is what changes the focus of our prayers
  • and as a result, moves us further from God.

PP: (2 slides) B. Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • That’s the big picture, let’s break it down.

PP: 1. Luke 18:9  The point behind the parable                  

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

 So, right out of the gate, Jesus tells us who He’s  talking about: People who trust in themselves to obtain righteousness with God.

This is Jesus’ description of self-righteousness.

  • It’s people who have a high self-esteem, who believe they deserve whatever they want because of how they live their lives, including entrance into God’s Kingdom.
  • It’s people who trust in their ability to keep God’s Law, though imperfectly, rather than in Jesus who kept it perfectly.

Jesus is talking about prideful, self-absorbed people who are more concerned about their good works, then they are about the condition of their heart.

Adding to all of that, Jesus tells us He’s talking about the same self-righteous people who at the same time treat other people with contempt.

  • The Greek for contempt literally means to treat with scorn as if nothing.
  • In other words, they’re obnoxious and treated everyone else who isn’t like them, as nobodies.

The challenge to us today is to see if Jesus is, in any way, describing us.

  • Do you look at other people who aren’t like you and think you’re better than them?
  • Do you think you’re better than others because of your educational, economic, cultural or position at work?
  • Do you look down on someone because of where they live, what they drive or how they dress?

PP: CS Lewis once said A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you can’t see…above you.

  • Spiritual things, God moments

 Jesus addresses three traits of the Pharisees, or any self-righteous person:

  • They trust in themselves and not in God.
  • They trust in their own righteousness (good works) and not in God’s mercy or grace.
  • They look down on everyone who wasn’t like them.

Make no mistake, Jesus gave this introduction to the parable to everyone who was listening (including us) to see we’re the people He’s talking about.

 PP: 2. Luke 18:10  Two men

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The temple was the most holy place for the Jews to pray. And people went there twice a day to pray.

In verse 10, two people came to the temple to pray, two men who were vastly different…

  • One a Pharisee who was considered to be at the top of Jewish religious and cultural society.
  • And a tax collector who forced taxes from the Jews and gave them to the Romans. They were hated and not even considered part of Jewish society.

Two men, both very different, yet both welcomed in the temple to pray. I think this is one of Jesus’ points here but if we read that too quickly, we miss it.

  • That’s also true here at CBC.
  • No matter your background, this is the place to pray, to seek God’s face, to either begin or to nurture an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

And it’s an absolute blessing that we get to do that… together!

PP: 3. Luke 18:11-13  Two postures

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I’ll be looking at this text twice.

PP: First I want us to see the posture of these two men…how they carried themselves physically when they were in the temple to pray.

The Pharisee would’ve gone as close to the Holy of Holies (the perceived area of God’s presence) as he was allowed to show his elevated position in Israel. (The Court of Israel)

  • This was in keeping with the Jewish thought that the position closest to the host was the place of honor. (as in at the dinner table)
  • The same was true in the Temple for prayer.

The Tax Collector, however, only got as close to God’s presence in the Temple as his sin laden heart would let him. (perhaps the Court of the Gentiles)

And notice the Tax Collector would not even lift his eyes to the place of God’s presence… an expression of the guilt of his sin before a holy God. Seems he had Ezra’s heart:

PP: O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. (Ezra 9:6)

The tax Collector did what the Pharisee should  have done, especially since he was the expert in God’s Word. The tax Collector acknowledged his sin by his posture in the temple.

  • Take note that where they stood, and what they did, reveled their heart:
  • one full of self and the other empty of self.

 PP: 4. Luke 18:11-13  Two prayers

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

OK, back to the same text only this time lets look at the two prayers.

First the Prayer of the Pharisee: It’s all about him.

And the way he gives thanks to God would have been an abomination to Him.

  • ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

What he thanks God for was exactly the sinful thing Jesus started off saying was the problem…

  • treated others with contempt

Next, he tells all his good works… I fast twice a week, I tithe everything I get.

  • PP: If this were today, it would sound something like this.

PP: Next Slide

The Pharisee talks about all his good works…but never once acknowledges his sin, nor repents of it.

In fact, he never asks God… anything…Why?

  • Because he’s secure in his self-righteousness
  • And because, he really wasn’t praying… it was a show to everyone within hearing distance of how good, how religious this guy was.

Folks, true prayer is always a conversation with God. It’s never for anyone else’s benefit.

Next we’re given the prayer of the Tax Collector. And it’s altogether different than the pharisee’s.

  • We’ve already seen that he knew he was unworthy to come into God’s presence.
  • And that rather than taking a position of prominence, he seems to have avoided public notice by keeping his distance.
  • He directs his prayer to God.
  • He acknowledges his need for God’s mercy.
  • He declares his sin to God.
  • He even beats his breast, showing that the source of his sin was in his own heart.
  • And he doesn’t compare himself with anyone else. He knew it was just him, his sin and a holy God. Nothing else mattered.

 What we read is the repentant prayer of a man who knows he has sinned against God. Friends

  • That’s a prayer God will always hear.
  • That’s a prayer God will always answer.
  • That’s a prayer that will always develop and nurture intimacy with God.

 PP: 5. Luke 18:14  Two outcomes

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

This would have not only shocked the people listening, but enraged the Pharisees and other religious leaders…

  • Jesus was calling them out on their sin, their self-righteousness and their lack of repentance.

He was telling them, and us today, that self-righteousness will only lead us away from intimacy with God.

He was telling them, and us,

  • It’s not your position in society, nor your religious works that save you.
  • It’s faith alone in God to provide mercy and grace to those who in humility and through repentance cry out to Him.

Here’s an amazing truth that we must remember, Jesus doesn’t warn people w/o also offering grace.

The Pharisees, and all those today who are separated from God by an inflated sense of self, can choose to humble themselves before God.

  • By trusting not in themselves but in Him alone for forgiveness of sin and entrance into His Kingdom.
  • And like the Tax Collector, by repenting of their sin and seeking God’s mercy.

If they would do that, if you would do that, God would exalt you, allow you access into His presence and you would become a citizen of His Kingdom…

The Apostle James, building on what Jesus taught here, writes: PP: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:8–10)

Conclusion: You’ve all hear the saying

  • ‘God helps those who help themselves.’

While that sounds nice and encourages us to work, to fend for ourselves, it’s actually very bad theology.

  • Self-esteem, self-righteousness tells you ‘God helps those who help themselves’ as if merit or good works will earn you God’s good favor.
  • That makes grace, mercy, forgiveness, all something you deserve, because you’ve done the work.

 Our text this morning has shown us that

  • God helps those, who cannot help themselves,
  • who know it and who rely only on Him.

That’s intimacy with God.

 The Apostle Paul writing to the Christian in Rome  put it this way:

  • For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

You can’t help yourself, you can’t muster up enough self-esteem by how you live, to be good enough, to earn your way to heaven.

  • But you can rid your life of self…
  • By denying it, and letting Jesus live in and through you.
  • By realizing your need for Him, your dependence upon Him.
  • By acknowledging that w/o Jesus in your life, you have no life, at least not one that leads to God’s presence.

Pastor Brian Bill sums it up this way:

There are only two options.

  • Either you can make yourself right before God or you can’t.
  • Either you help yourself or you admit that you are helpless.
  • Either you satisfy God’s righteous standards or you cling to a substitute who has done it for you.

Let’s go back to the two men who represent two paths that are followed today.

  • You can trust in your goodness but that will lead you to a bad place.
  • You can trust in God’s goodness and end up in a good place.

Are you on the merit path or the mercy path?

Don’t let your

  • passion for self-esteem,
  • change the focus of your prayers
  • and as a result, move you further from God.