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Humbling Ourselves

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:11-14 (NKJV)

The scene recorded in the Scriptures above is a familiar scene throughout history.  We have a person who is feeling pretty good about the way they are living; one who justifies his standing before God based on the things he does.  In this case it was a religious Pharisee. The other man was an opposite type of a person — one who was anything but religious and who humbly identified he had fallen short of God’s righteousness by openly acknowledging he was a sinner.  This man knew there was nothing he had done to deserve God’s mercy and yet he still sought after it. 

The truth of the matter is every one of us is a sinner apart from the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.  Each of us is worthy of God’s righteous judgment, and living a so-called righteous lifestyle will never save us—no matter how religious we may be.  It’s only by the blood of Jesus.  We see this truth recorded in Romans 3.

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, Romans 3:23-25 (NKJV)

We are told in these verses how Jesus was set forth as a propitiation by His blood.  The Greek word translated Propitiation is Hilasterion, which means, “to appease the wrath of.”  And this is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  He did this because God is righteous and the sin of the world had to be accounted for.  God can’t just look at us and say, “Hey I’m in a good mood and I’m a gracious God, so I will forgive you.”  To be “righteous” and “just” He has to rule righteously, and the payment for sin is death.  Jesus paid our bill, He atoned for our sin, and He took all of the sin of the world upon Himself, as the Word says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When we break down verse 13, God, be merciful to me a sinner!” we can see the gospel at work.  The sentence starts with “God,” and ends with “sinner.”  But let’s take a look at the center of this plea, “Be merciful.”

The middle phrase, “be merciful” is the verb form of Hilasterion—the Greek word for propitiation.  So propitiation stands between God and sin, and Scripture tells us Jesus is this propitiation. The end result of our receiving God’s gift of grace and believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior is we are “justified.”   This means we are declared not guilty because Jesus stands between God and our sin.  What a great gift we have been given, amen?

Knowing this truth should cause us to look differently at others when we see them stumble; when we see their sin so clearly.  We should realize that we are no better than they are.  In fact, it would be appropriate to say, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God as His children.  What better way to be an imitator than showing grace to others, and esteeming them greater than you?   Let’s choose to walk in humbleness today.

STUDY QUESTION: According to Romans 3:23-25, how are we justified (declared not guilty) by God?

PERSONAL INVENTORY: Have you found yourself seeing the sin in others and being frustrated or even a little self-righteous about it, thinking that you were more righteous before God then they were?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Forgive others as you have been forgiven.  When you see someone stumble and make stupid mistakes, pray for them.  Let God be their guide and conviction.

LET’S MAKE THIS OUR PRAYER TODAY: Father, thank You for allowing Your Son to be the propitiation for my sin.  I put my faith in Him and what He has done upon the cross of Calvary.  Help me to be merciful to those in my life whose sin has affected me.  Help me to be a true imitator of You and love them unconditionally.  In Jesus’ precious name, amen…

Be blessed, Pastor Scott




Copyright ©2017 by Pastor Scott Wright.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000