Jesus takes that common mindset and turns it completely upside down, as we will see. And to set that in motion, he contrasts a Pharisee with a tax collector in order to change the thinking of those who trust it in their own righteousness.
Is there a right way and a wrong way to celebrate and observe communion? Hello and welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm Bill Wright, and today as he continues teaching God's people God's word, Don will show you what it means to approach the Lord's table in a biblically accurate way. And Don, as you begin this new series titled Declared Righteous, you're going to kick things off with a look at having our hearts in the right place during communion. How about some more about that?
Well, thanks, Bill. You know, my friend, the most important question in all of life is, are you right with God? Have your sins been pardoned? Does God accept you as righteous in his sight?
That's the most important question of all of life, because the Bible says it is destined for men to die once and after this comes judgment. And you want to be safe, my friend, on Judgment Day. Today in this broadcast, we're turning to Luke 18 to see the contrast between a proud man of religion and a guilty sinner who asks for mercy. Stay with us today on the Truth Pulpit.
Very, very good. Thanks, Don. And friend, let's join our teacher now for part one of a message called Jesus and Justification here on the Truth Pulpit. What we're going to do is we're going to turn to a particular passage to set us with the right mindset, the right disposition for a time of sharing with Christ at his table, because this truly is the table of the Lord that we are about to share in. It belongs to him.
He appointed it. It's a remembrance of him. It's not the table of Truth Community Church.
It's certainly not my table, God forbid. But this is a table of the Lord to which he invites his disciples, his followers, to share in in a grateful remembrance of him. And one of the ways, one of the marks of a right and proper heart disposition in taking the elements of communion is that they would be taken with a sense of humility, a sense of bowing low in worship before the Christ who saved us, remembering that we come not in our own merit, but actually we are remembering and confessing as we take communion that we do not deserve to be here. We are confessing that we do not deserve Christ because we are remembering a sacrifice that turned away the wrath of God from our own sins and that there was a loving Savior sent from heaven, the eternal Son of God, who voluntarily interposed and intervened on our behalf to rescue us from the wrath of God, which we also richly deserved.
You and me. And so we want to remember those things. And you can turn to the book of Luke chapter 18. That's going to be where we find our communion meditation here. We come and we remember that this is a time where we consciously and deliberately push aside our pride.
We set it aside. We even repent of our pride and our self-righteousness, our boastful spirits before God and before each other. And we see and we remember that we are nothing more, none of us are anything more than lumps of sinful clay redeemed by a precious Redeemer who set His eternal, sovereign, great, inexhaustible, sacrificial love on us. And that's what we remember as we come to the communion table. And our message will prepare us in that direction. Luke chapter 18, beginning in verse 9.
And let me just say a word so that I don't have to cover this when we move into the elements in a little while. We practice what we call what's known as in theology, open communion here at Truth Community Church. You do not need to be a member of our church in order to share in this table with us. It's not the Truth Community Church table. It's the table of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so every true disciple of Christ, if you have repented of your sin and put your faith in Christ for your salvation, you are welcome to join us at this table. And this table is for you as well as for our members and our regular attenders. But it's a table that is for those who are repentant, for those who are not consciously clinging to sin in their lives.
This is not the place to come with a stubborn, unrepentant heart. But if you are a Christian with a soft heart and repentant as you are here with us, we're delighted to welcome you and invite you to join us in this celebration of our Lord and yours. Luke chapter 18, beginning in verse 9, says this. It says that he also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself, God, I thank you that I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week. I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner. I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." This parable answers the question, how can a man be right with God? What kind of man is it that is right with God?
To state it in a different way. And what Jesus does in this story that he tells is he contrasts self-righteousness with a humble repentance. And that's just so vital to your understanding of what real Christianity is. It's a contrast between self-righteousness and a humble repentant faith in the saving mercy of God. And so Jesus tells this parable, he describes two men that were reflective of real men at the time, but it's a parable. He's describing not a real historical situation, but illustrating it through a very plausible situation, and two different men in contrast with one another in order to make this point about what kind of man it is that God accepts into his presence.
Look at verse 9 with me again. He says, speaking of Jesus, that he told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt. And so this is a parable addressing and convicting and even condemning those who view themselves as righteous in their own merit. Those who trust in their own works, their own religious observances in this particular context as being that which obligates God to them and which would give them favor with God.
God, look at what I do, here I am, and approaching him on that basis. These hearers were trusting in their own righteousness, their own merit, their own goodness, Jesus says. And what the parable teaches us is this, that someone like that is outside the kingdom of God. And it's a shocking parable in that way because as in that day, so also in ours, we tend to think about sinners as being those who are of the most profligate kind.
And those who share in a common external morality are somehow better. The church-going people are the ones who are saved, and the ones outside that are deep in sin are those who have no access to God. And Jesus takes that common mindset and turns it completely upside down as we will see. And to set that in motion, he contrasts a Pharisee with a tax collector in order to change the thinking of those who trusted in their own righteousness. And so look at it there with me in verse 10, he said, Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Now we need just a little bit of background information here for this to make sense in our 21st century culture, because we don't have Pharisees in the same way that they were present in the first century, and we have tax collectors but not like this in the first century.
And so let me just say a few words of background to set the stage, because the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector is central to the point that Jesus is making here. The Pharisees were a religious party of the Jews, and they prided themselves in their separation from sinners, in their observance of meticulous religious observances, as you see reflected in the words that are put on his lips. And the Pharisees were greatly respected by the general population as being the holy and pious men of their day. When you said a Pharisee to somebody, they would have been viewed as those with respect and those with spiritual authority. One source says from the contemporary times that when a Pharisee says something, they are automatically believed. So great was their authority and their position in society and in the religious realm in particular, that they were viewed as the ones who were the most holy men in their midst.
Those hearing Jesus tell this parable would automatically have thought of the Pharisee as a righteous and holy man simply because he was a Pharisee. And Jesus uses a tax collector to make a contrast with that Pharisee. Tax collectors, unlike the Pharisees, were men who were greatly detested by the Jews of their day. Tax collectors sold their services to Rome, who was the ruling government over that area at the time. They sold their services to Rome in order to collect taxes from their fellow Jews so they could make money off of their fellow kinsmen, their fellow Jews. And tax collectors were known as men who cheated people, who overcharged on the taxes, and kept the surplus for themselves. And so you can imagine if you were in an environment like that where one of your own kinsmen has betrayed you, sold himself to a foreign service, and with the authority of that foreign service comes to you, takes more than he should, enriches himself at your expense, and you are left with the crumbs of the leftovers. Well, that's the way that it was at the time.
And these tax collectors were men who were hated. And you can see that reflected a chapter later in Luke chapter 19 in the story about Zacchaeus. Why don't we turn there for just a moment? You remember the story of Zacchaeus? It's always difficult for me not to say that he was a wee little man. Whenever I mention his name, a wee little man was he.
But I'm going to resist the temptation to do that here this morning. In chapter 19, verse 2, it says, and this is a historical account, not a parable, but an actual encounter with a man that Jesus had with a man named Zacchaeus. And he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. It says there in verse 2. And you know the story of Zacchaeus, and this isn't our text. It could be another time.
We've taught on it in the past here. But just to remember, just to remind you that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, climbs up in the sycamore tree so that he could get a good view. Jesus says, Zacchaeus, come down. I want to talk with you. I want to spend the evening with you.
I have an appointed time with you, the language means. And Zacchaeus in verse 6 hurried and came down and received him gladly. And then my point in going here in verse 7. When they saw it, when the crowd saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, he has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. Jesus is associating with someone that they hated, who was a member of the despised class of tax collectors. And it wasn't just that he was any tax collector. He had a position of supervisory authority.
He was a chief tax collector. And what I want you to see for today's purpose is they immediately resented it, and they said Zacchaeus is a sinner. Jesus has no business being with him.
That's critical to the story. And so what we have here, as you turn back a page in your Bible to Luke 18 again, is that putting ourselves in the shoes of the audience, in the sandals of the audience, as I like to say, those hearing the story, hearing Jesus' introduction to his parable, would have heard about a Pharisee. Oh, a righteous man, a holy man, and a tax collector.
And the boos and hisses would have come out as they heard the mention of that class of people. So they're thinking, the Pharisee's a righteous man, the tax collector's a sinner. Okay, Jesus, we're ready to get on with the story. I get it.
I get it. You're going to tell us about a righteous man and an unrighteous man. And Jesus uses this setting to teach us something about the doctrine of justification. Justification, in theological terms, is this. It is an act of God.
And before I go any further, let me just point this out to you so that you see where I'm coming from and where I'm going. At the end of verse 14, he says, I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other. Justified, considered righteous by God.
And that's what we're going to focus on. That's where we're going, and now we need to follow the path that Jesus takes to lead us to that point. Justification is an act of God in which he pardons every sin that a man has ever committed and accepts him as righteous. This act of justification is given to those who humbly repent and believe in Christ.
Justification, just to give you the definition again, is an act of God in which he pardons every sin and accepts as righteous the one who believes in Christ. That is the most important thing that you could know that belongs to you, is that you have been justified by God. Because ultimately, whatever success we have, whatever prominence we have in life, whether we have poverty or riches, whether we have sickness or health, none of it ultimately matters, beloved, compared to that great day when you stand before God and the outcome of life is either resulting in you being welcomed into heaven for the experience of eternal blessedness with your Savior, or you are sent away and Christ says to you, Depart from me, I never knew you. That's what matters, beloved. And when I say that's what matters, that's not my opinion, that's just an objective fact that what happens to you in eternity is far more important than what happens to you on earth.
Better to be the beggar Lazarus eating crumbs off the table of a rich man during your earthly life and finding yourself in heaven at the end rather than being that esteemed rich man who finds himself condemned and in Hades and just simply asking for a simple drop of water to cool the heat that's on his tongue. Beloved, you have to agree that that is more important. What happens in eternity is more important than what happens on earth.
And when you start to understand that, then it starts to drive you to say, I need to understand these things. I need to know that I've been justified, declared righteous by God, and I need to know how to receive that gift because if I die without it, the consequences are unimaginable. And so Jesus is teaching on the most critical thing that he could teach about.
And what we find in this parable, beloved, is this. Sweet, sweet news to sinners, a judgment on the proud and boastful, is that God justifies not on the basis of anything in us. If you have been justified, it's not because of anything in you that God would accept you as righteous. That could never be the case because Scripture is clear in multiple places and in a summary verse that we all know that it says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all guilty, condemned before God in ourselves because we have all violated his law. And while we might have comparative degrees of moral, external righteousness compared to someone else on a purely horizontal level, that means nothing vertically before God because Scripture says that if you've broken one commandment, you've broken them all.
If you've broken the law, you're a law breaker and therefore condemned even if you have not sinned in the particular ways that others themselves have sinned in. As I like to say, the older I get and the longer I do this, the more I repeat myself. I'm getting an idea of what it's like when I'm older and my mind starts to go even more than it's already have.
I just repeat myself again and again. And that's all right. But we just have to realize that even if you have not committed the sins that someone else has committed, maybe you're not the outwardly flaming sinner that others are, what you need to remember and understand is is that they haven't done your sins either.
And so this isn't about comparing who's better man to man. This is about coming up against the perfect holiness of God, the perfect standard of his law, and realizing that we are all guilty when judged by that right and holy standard. And so what do we do with that? Well, we realize then that a holy God cannot accept a guilty sinner into his presence, that something has to be done with sin, and now we start to understand that God could not justify us on the basis of anything that is in us at all. Rather, here's the key pivot point, rather, God justifies a sinner solely because he imputes, he counts to the benefit of a sinner the righteousness of Christ in Christ's obedient life and sacrificial death. To say this another way, because this is just so really important for us to understand that it's worth taking our time on, God accepts you as a Christian, not because of anything that you have done, but God accepts you as a Christian because he accepts the perfect righteousness of Christ in your place. He accepts Christ's righteousness on your behalf. Christ represents you, as it were, before God, and the perfect righteousness of Christ that is representing you is acceptable to God, and God accepts us in Christ on that basis. Not because you're good and moral or have done anything to deserve that, that's all precluded, that's all preempted, none of us are like that, that we have anything of our own that merits God's acceptance.
What we have are filthy rags of uncleanness, filthy rags of no righteousness of our own, that's what Scripture says about our righteousness. And so if we are going to be accepted before a righteous God, we must have a righteousness that is not our own, a righteousness that is outside of us, as I've been saying repeatedly over the past several weeks. God accepts you in Christ, not because you are good enough, but because Christ was. And that must be clear in your mind that you are trusting in the righteousness and the person of Christ for your acceptance with God, not in anything that you have done.
That has an effect. First of all, it's humbling, it's humbling to realize that as Scripture says, we truly have nothing to boast about before God. Boasting is excluded, but it's also for those of us, you and me, that are guilty sinners, it's also wonderfully liberating and a joy to recognize, oh, praise God that my sin is no longer a barrier to my fellowship with Him. My sin is no longer going to be a grounds of condemnation for me because the righteousness of Christ is the ground of my acceptance with God. And now I am accepted, I am forgiven, and even though I still fall short, my imperfect practice of the Christian life was never the grounds of God accepting me in the first place.
It was always the perfect righteousness of Christ on which He received me and accepted me. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Be sure to join us on our next broadcast when Don will bring us the second half of today's powerful study titled Jesus and Justification here on The Truth Pulpit. If you'd like to find out more about our ministry, we invite you to visit thetruthpulpit.com. Once again, that's thetruthpulpit.com. Now, on behalf of Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you to join us again next time as Don continues teaching God's people God's Word on The Truth Pulpit.
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