This is Stu Epperson from the Truth Talk Podcast connecting current events, pop culture, and theology, and we're so grateful for you that you've chosen the Truth Podcast Network. It's about to start in just a few seconds.
Enjoy it, and please share it around with all your friends. Thanks for listening, and thanks for choosing the Truth Podcast Network. This is the Truth Network. Do you feel like Christianity is just a system of rules and regulations?
I can do this, but I can't do that. Do you feel like your efforts to reach God, find God, and please God are futile? Do you feel like your faith is dead or alive? Today, Pastor Russ Andrews will walk us through Scripture to answer these questions. Join us on Finding Purpose, Glorifying God by Helping Men Find Their Purpose for Living. For more information and to connect with Russ Andrews and Finding Purpose, you can visit us on our website at findingpurpose.net or connect with us on Facebook. Now let's listen to Russ Andrews as he teaches us how to be a Christian without being religious. And this week, I want to share with you in your outline two ways to live your life going forward.
And here's the first way. Continue to pray always. Man, we need to be persistent in our prayer life, do we not? Look at verses 1-8 in Luke 18.
Read along with me. I will care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming. And the Lord said, listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night?
Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Now Jesus knew that His disciples would soon become more difficult to them as they faced injustice, great persecution, and even martyrdom. Great times when they would be beat down, discouraged, and low on faith. So He's continuing to prepare them for how to live facing these difficult days as He continued to teach them His Word. And what does He tell them to do?
Look at verse 1. He tells them to pray and not give up. In other words, no matter how difficult life becomes, they were to keep on praying. It would be their lifeline. Prayer would become one of the most important disciplines in their lives. Why did Jesus ask them to pray so diligently? But for one thing, He's headed for His departure. He's going to be ascended into heaven and He won't be with them in person anymore.
This lifeline of prayer would bring them back to Jesus where He could fill them with His supernatural strength and His God-given energy so that they could press on. Here in this story, we learn about a wicked judge. The judge admitted that he did not fear God, nor did he care about men. And because of this, he did not care about justice. He just did whatever he pleased because he had no fear of ever standing before God's bar of justice.
Moreover, he had no sympathy for the plight of the oppressed, particularly widows. Jesus then goes on to tell about a widow who'd been unjustly treated. Someone may have taken something from her of value or they may have kept something that she was entitled to. Either way, she'd been unfairly treated. Therefore, she kept on coming back to the judge and asking for his help.
And what was the judge's response? Well, evidently, he knew that the woman's claim was justified. He probably also knew that she was unable to pay him a bribe and had no position of influence in the city. Therefore, he just paid no attention to her. However, what finally pushed him to respond was that she kept on coming back.
It was her persistence. So he said to himself, even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won't eventually wear me out with a coming. And then Jesus said, look at that again. Jesus says, listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice in quickly.
Amen. What I want you to see, I want you to see two contrasts between God and the judge and this widow and a believer. Until the judge, unlike the judge who's unloving, unmerciful, and unjust, God is loving, merciful, and just. And He particularly cares about the plight of the oppressed who cannot defend themselves like widows. For example, Psalm 72 verse 4 says, He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy.
He will crush the oppressor. Now unlike the widow who is a total stranger to this judge, believers are God's children. We are His elect. We are His chosen ones. Thus we can come to Him 24-7 with any request. Can we not? Jesus says in Matthew 11-28, Come to Me, all you who are weary in burden, and I will give you what? Rest. So let me ask you men, are you coming to Jesus daily?
Hourly? Or maybe not at all? One of my favorite verses in the Bible, particularly if you're going through trouble and you're anxious, He says in 2 Peter 5-7, Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. So what's the main lesson here in this parable? That if a wicked judge finally gives a persistent widow her due, how much more will a merciful and loving Father not only hear our prayers, but He will answer them and give us what is best for us. Do you all believe that? Do you believe it?
I do. As He has so often done, Jesus is simply using a worldly situation to teach a spiritual principle. This widow persisted in her request. So we as followers of Christ are to persist in our prayers. Now this does not mean that we repeat our prayer over and over again like God didn't hear us the first time. What it does mean is that we're just to keep on praying. Paul confirms this in 1 Thessalonians 5-17 when he says, Pray continuously. I want to ask you, are you praying continuously?
Every day? You can usually tell about a man's faith if you can get him to tell you about his prayer life. Most of the men I talk to don't have a very good prayer life.
I hope you guys do. Samuel Chadwick, an early 20th century minister said, The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil and he mocks at our wisdom. But he trembles when we pray.
Think about that. He said, Do you want to be a man of prayer? Do you?
I know I do. But I think to be a man of prayer we need to have a game plan. Any winning team must be disciplined to practice and learn the place to succeed. So I want to give you a game plan tonight. Are you ready? Here's your game plan. If you do these three things I'm going to share with you, it will change your prayer life.
Number one, men you need to set aside a regular time and a regular place to pray. I don't know, did you all see the movie The War Room? Any of you guys see that?
A few of you. You may remember that Miss Clara, who was played by Karen Abercrombie, she had a special closet where she prayed. And there were no clothes in that closet. When she went in that closet she had scripture verses all over the doors and all over the walls and she had Bible and she had prayer requests and she had answers to her prayer. You see, she believed in prayer and she prayed persistently every day in that closet which for her became her war room. So do you have a war room? Men, you need to have a place in your house or your office where it can become your war room and where you can get along with the Lord and pray to Him daily.
I hope you have that. Secondly, and this is so important men, particularly you fathers, resolve to pray with your family. If you want your children to pray, they must see and hear you pray. Alistair Begg, who is one of my favorite preachers, once said, his dad didn't sit him down and teach him how to pray. He learned how to pray during daily family prayer time by listening to his father pray.
So are you doing that men? And I'm talking about praying out loud, not just a blessing. But you gather your family together and you pray for your family and let your children see you praying. I'll never forget one morning, and I don't want to paint myself as this man who's got a great prayer life. I do pray every day. I pray all throughout the day. But I remember one morning I was up early, I was in my study and I was praying and all of a sudden my oldest son Rushman comes in and he's kneeled down beside me.
I don't know where Smith was. So if you don't pray with your kids, it's probably given that they will not pray. Cora Ten Boom asked, is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?
Think about that one. My wife Crecy, I don't want to use her every week as an example, but she told me that when she was growing up and she was rushing off to school, passing through her at the end of the morning, she would see her mother and father there holding hands and praying together. And that had an indelible impact on her life. To this day, she's still a great woman of prayer. In fact, some mornings, early in the morning, if she's not sleeping well, she'll get up two or three in the morning, go pray and then come back and go to sleep. I'm dead to the world, but she's up praying.
Here's the third discipline you need. Try keeping a prayer journal or at least a prayer list. Last year I kept a prayer journal, and I've actually been keeping journals for years. I don't write in them every day, but this prayer journal is divided up into months, and you can write out your prayer requests for your family, for your friends, for people that you're praying for to be saved, for the nation, for your church. And then it's got a place where you can write answers to prayer. And there's nothing more encouraging than to go back and look at that prayer journal from 2022 and see all the time that God answers prayers, because He will.
He's faithful. And by the way, Satan loves to interrupt us, doesn't he? You sit down to pray and your mind just goes in a thousand different directions, which is why prayer must be a discipline.
It must become a regular part of your life. One man in the Bible who had a great prayer life was Daniel. I don't know if you've read the book of Daniel, but Daniel resolved in his mind ahead of time that he was going to pray three times a day, even though it cost him a night in the lion's den.
You see, he would rather spend a night with the lions than miss a day in prayer. So are you willing to do whatever it costs to pray? By the way, this word resolve means to decide firmly on a course of action. And what it means, it means to be set free from doubt and uncertainty and confusing desires.
So let me ask you this. When is the last time you resolved to do something? You probably may do your resolutions. Was prayer one of those New Year's resolutions? So I want to challenge you tonight to resolve in your mind that you're going to do these three things, to have a time and a place to pray, to pray with your family, and to keep a prayer journal. And if you do those three things, that will revolutionize your prayer life. This woman persisted in coming to this judge, and God wants us to persist in prayer, because he's waiting for us almost like the other end of a telephone.
Remember those things? And we just need to pick up this end and talk to him, because he's just waiting for us. Now look at verse 8. Jesus closes this parable with these words. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Now men, this is a question of not speculation, but self-examination. The question is, if the Lord will return tonight, will he see you as a man of faith? One of the evidences that you're a man of faith is that you're a man of prayer. So that's why he ends this by asking, will he find faith on the earth when he returns? He's going to find believers, but is he going to find believers who are still committed to prayer? Remember James 5.16, it says the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. So when you sit down, there's nothing more powerful than a man on his knees who is praying.
All right, so how should we live going forward? First, we need to be men who are praying continuously. And second, we need to be men who live in a constant state of humble repentance. Look at verses 9 through 14.
I love this story. It's one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Luke writes, to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.
Two men went up to the temple to pray. One a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed by himself, God, I thank you that I'm not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, the sinner. I want you to notice there's a lot of translations that say a sinner, but the accurate translation is the sinner. In other words, he saw himself as the chief of what? Chief of sinners. And then Jesus said, I tell you, this man rather than the other went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Now in this story, we see two men with two entirely different prayers.
And I want you to look at them separately. First, let's consider the Pharisee. The Pharisees were typically very wealthy and very prideful. And I want you to take your Bible with me and I want you to see a description that Jesus gives of the Pharisees. Take your Bible and turn with me to Matthew 23. Matthew 23. Looking at verses 5-7.
Are you with me? Matthew 23, 5-7. Jesus says, everything they do is done for men to see. They make their phylacteries wide. Now phylactery was just a leather box that they either wore on their forehead or on their arm. And it contained Hebrew Scriptures and the purpose was to remind them to be keeping God's law. And of course, this Pharisee is wearing a real wide phylactery because he wants everybody to notice it because he thinks he's a perfect law abider. So Jesus says, they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels on their garments long. They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogue.
They love to be greeted in the market places and have men called them rabbi. So in this parable, the Pharisee has come to the temple for the time of prayer and it's crowded with people. He strolls up front, you can see him with his chest out, so that everyone would see him. He begins to pray so that everyone would hear him. He says, God, I thank you that I'm not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get. So he was obviously a very proud man who made a show of his so-called righteousness.
C.S. Lewis says, a proud man is always looking down on things and people. And of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you or someone that's above you. Now I want you to notice in this prayer that not once does the Pharisee confess his sins. Not once does he even thank God for his forgiveness. You see, he's consumed with self and he paints a picture of himself as being morally righteous and good.
We know the Bible paints an entirely different story, do we not, about men, about all people? In Romans 3, 10-11, Paul writes, As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They have together become worthless.
There is no one who does good, not even one. Is that pretty clear? The Bible goes on to say in Isaiah 64, 6, As soon as you think you are a righteous person, just focus on this verse, All of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.
Not a pretty picture, is it? So it's obvious in this parable that both of these men are sinners. But in the world that we live in, sometimes it's hard to see the religious man as a bad guy or even as a sinner. We are easily fooled by outward appearance.
But we have no problem seeing that the common criminal in prison is a sinner. But again, God doesn't look at the outward appearance. He looks past the facade and looks at what?
The heart. So, I want us now to look at this other man in the parable, the tax collector. First of all, I want you to understand who and what a tax collector was in Jewish culture. And as I'm sure you know, the Jewish people were under Roman rule and had to pay taxes to Rome. According to Kent Hughes, I want you to listen to this carefully, Rome imposed taxes on its conquered peoples, but the collection of those taxes was delegated to private Roman contractors, who then employed Jewish underlings to do the dirty work. So these Jews would go out and collect taxes from their fellow Jews, and they would often raise the price two and three times. In fact, in two weeks we're going to be looking at a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus.
And when Zacchaeus comes to faith and repents, he says to Jesus, I'll pay back fourfold anybody that I've cheated. So it shows you how much they were exhorting people. And that's why they were considered the scum of the earth. It's obvious that the tax collector in this parable comes under great conviction, which is why he stood at a distance and why he beat his chest. He would not even look up to heaven. And I imagine people looked down at him.
They were keeping their distance from him. Yet the tax collector, because of his great conviction, prayed a very short prayer. It kind of reminds me of the prayer that the thief prayed on the cross. What did he say? He said he really cried out, getting his beat in his chest, God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
Just seven words. His prayer was short and to the point. You see, all he wanted was mercy from the God that he obviously believed in. If you ever prayed a prayer like that, would you not have mercy on me, the sinner?
I know I have. What was the verdict? Look at what Jesus says in verse 14. He says, I tell you that this man rather than the other went home justified before God.
This word, justified, or justification, is a very important biblical word that we all need to understand. It's a legal term, so you need to think of yourself as being in God's courtroom. God the Father is the judge behind the bench. And you sit out there at the defendant's table, and you're guilty of some capital crime, and you deserve what? Death.
But you have a very good defense attorney who is your advocate. What is his name? Jesus. He just so happens to be the son of the judge. And he looks at the judge and he says, Father, I'm willing to take His place.
I'm willing to dine in His place. And the Father looks at you and says, will you receive this? Will you accept this? And as soon as you utter the words, yes, with faith, God takes His gavel and bangs it down on His desk, and He says, I declare you righteous in the courtroom of heaven. And that verdict stands forever.
This is a picture of what it means to be justified. When God declares a man righteous, it's a legal declaration that now stands in the courtroom of heaven forever. And this declaration is pronounced over you by God the moment He sees faith born in your heart. That's why you have to be born again.
And once you're born again, you're able to repent, and God then declares you righteous. A great passage in the Bible that really nails this, in fact, I'd call it the high point of the Bible, is Romans 3. I want you to take your Bible and turn to Romans 3 with me.
We're going to close with this tonight. Romans 3. I want you to look beginning with verse 20. We're going to look at verses 20 through 24.
Are you all with me? Paul writes, Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by observing the law. And that was the problem with the Pharisee. He thought he could be declared righteous by observing the law. Rather, through the law, we become conscious of our sin.
How does this work? You begin to read the Ten Commandments and the other laws of God. It's like looking in a mirror, and you realize you need what?
You need who? You need a Savior. And so you see how the law comes along beside you, and it ushers you to Jesus. Then verse 21, Paul writes, But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God, notice it comes from God, it comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There's no difference. He's talking about no difference between Jew or Gentile. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are His the Word and are justified freely by His grace through redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
So that's a mouthful. But this word, justified, is such an important concept for you to understand. Remember, it's when God declares you righteous in heaven.
And it stands permanent. So let me ask you, men, do you know that you've been justified? Have you been justified? I was coming here tonight, I was listening to Billy Graham, and it was from 1951, so he was full of fire back then. And he was describing, not in extraordinary, inflammatory words, but he was just sticking to Scripture, and he was talking about how Jesus described hell. And guys, when he described hell, I got a little fear in me. I mean, if you understand what hell is about, then you'll realize the need to be justified.
You need to have faith in Jesus Christ, know that you believe, know where you're headed, so that you don't have to have a fear of ever being turned aside from God when you stand before Him. Now, only one man in this parable walked away justified by God. And it was the tax collector who admitted that he was the sinner and he asked God to forgive him. So let me ask you tonight, which man are you?
Are you the tax collector or are you the Pharisee? I want you guys to look into the mirror and I want you to examine yourself. Be sure you have humbly repented of all known sin, and then remember to pray continuously and remain in a conscious state of humble repentance.
Let's pray. Being a Christian is not about being religious, but about having a dynamic, alive relationship with Jesus Christ. You've been listening to Finding Purpose with Pastor Russ Andrews, glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living. You can discover more about finding your purpose in life by checking out the resources at findingpurpose.net or connect to Finding Purpose on Facebook. Pastor Russ would also like to extend a special invitation for you to join him and over 300 other local men to study God's Word together every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. Find out more at findingpurpose.net.
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