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The Scoundrel and the Saint

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2024 12:00 am

The Scoundrel and the Saint

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 22, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version or read the manuscript of this message here: https://wfth.me/pap.  Things--and people--are rarely what they seem to be. Social media has trained us to be more "image conscious." People even arrive to church more concerned with displaying a righteous exterior than experiencing the convicting of the Holy Spirit. And this is nothing new. In Jesus' day, He often rebuked the Pharisees as self-righteous, image-conscious hypocrites. Let's learn to avoid their tragic example.

 

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So the Pharisee has found a few sins he's not guilty of committing. He's added his regular practice of tithing and fasting.

And once again, it's another round of A-plus for me. You see, this Pharisee would have been the poster child for piety. You want to talk tithing? Talk to him. You want to talk fasting? Talk to him. You want to lay out a few rules?

Talk to him. But he's covering up the greater sins of unrepentant, proud self-worship. Have you ever noticed that things and people are rarely what they seem to be? If you spend any time on social media, you know that it has trained us to be more image conscious. People even arrive at church more concerned with displaying a righteous exterior than experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

And this is nothing new. In Jesus' day, he often rebuked the Pharisees as self-righteous, image-conscious hypocrites. We need to learn how to avoid their tragic example.

Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey has a message for you today called The Scoundrel and the Saint. While visiting his grandparents, a little five-year-old Andrew pulled out his elementary school yearbook to show them his kindergarten class picture. He was proud of this. He began to describe many of the children. He seemed to know something bad about most of his classmates and he didn't hold back.

He said, this is Robbie here as he pointed, he hits everybody on the playground. This is Sammy, he never listens to the teacher. This is Amy, she's always noisy during quiet time. This is Mark, he doesn't get along with anybody. This is Cindy, she tries to boss everybody around. And this is Billy, he gets mad when he doesn't win. But then pointing to himself, he said, and this is me and I'm just sitting here minding my own business. Well, you learn very young, frankly, how to compare yourself with others and you're always going to come out better than anybody else in class.

We don't outgrow that tendency. In fact, it could become a dangerous blind spot for the believer, but it could also create for an unbeliever a false sense of spirituality and safety. Now when the Lord delivers a parable, you typically have to work through it to figure out his main point. But now here in Luke chapter 18, he gives us the point before delivering the parable. We've arrived here in Luke's gospel, chapter 18, now verse 9, and here's the point. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt. You know, it's possible to criticize what everybody else in class is doing wrong and make it look like you're minding your own business. But what you're actually doing is greeting everybody and they're getting Fs and maybe a D, maybe a C-, and you give yourself an A+.

It's actually really more dangerous than that as we're going to see. It's possible to be self-righteous and unsaved. Now to illustrate the point, the Lord begins the parable. Notice verse 10, two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

Now Jesus has just described a setting that everybody in his audience would understand immediately. There were two periods for the Jewish public when they were invited to come to the temple to pray, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. During those two times of prayer, a lamb would be offered, sacrificed, a burnt offering for sin offered by the priests there at the altar. Incense would be burning then as well in the holy place by the priests representing the prayers of the nation and the prayers of individuals who've come to pray in the courtyard.

After this season of prayer, the priest would emerge from the holy place, pronounce a benediction or a blessing on all those who've come to pray, and that would end this prayer meeting, so to speak, and then the people would leave. So the setting indicates that it's during one of those times when these two men have chosen to show up and pray. Now you might guess ahead of time, especially if you're older in the faith, that the Pharisee's going to get into trouble and the tax collector's going to provide a surprise sort of twist at the end.

That's true, but keep in mind, don't run too far ahead, the audience to whom Jesus is speaking would expect the opposite. As far as they're concerned, Jesus has just introduced two men that have shown up here in the courtyard, one of them is the cream of the crop. Pharisees, if we go back to that first century, they were the people respected for godly living. They were respected by their peers in the community.

Now Davis writes in his commentary, for them the Old Testament was not some artifact, it was to be squeezed into every pore of life. They were the people you wanted for next-door neighbors, for Little League coaches, for your kids. They were the pro-life contingent. They were the ones who never missed a worship service or small group Bible study. They were the ones who guarded the conservative values of their nation.

They were the cream of the crop. Now the other man, the tax collector, well he's at the bottom of the gutter, a traitor to the Jewish people, this tax collector. Now before we read the Pharisees' prayer, you need to know that the Jewish people had fixed prayers they had memorized from childhood.

They just would rattle them off. But they also had what they called free prayers. These flowed spontaneously from the heart. And that's both of the prayers in fact that we'll read.

So we're really about to listen to the hearts of both men. And I got to tell you the Pharisee starts out wonderfully. Now let's go to verse 11.

Just the first opening phrase. God, I thank you. Stop. Now anytime you start a prayer with the words God, I want to thank you, you're heading in the right direction. That's a great way to start. Sounds like a wonderful prayer, but not this prayer.

Notice. God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. Well that changes everything, doesn't it? He's not thanking God, he's bragging to God. As one author put it, he has couched praise to himself in the form of thanks to God. He's effectively just prayed, God, I thank you that I am so wonderful. Remember learning that little prayer when you were younger?

Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way. Remember that? Remember learning that? I can't wait to look in the mirror.

I get better looking, you know, each day. Did you learn that one? Neither did I. This Pharisee is not thanking God for anything because he thinks he's done everything by himself. In fact, you could circle five times in his little prayer the word I. I, I, I, I, I.

Am I something or what? He's arrived at this hour of prayer, not to show God repentance, but to read God his resume. And he begins by telling God what he does not do. Verse 11 again, 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 don't do any of that bad stuff. He's taken the exam. He's graded himself and given himself an A plus in all of those categories. He is Mr. Clean, but he's Mr. Clean only because he's comparing himself to people he already knows he's better than.

And you could always find somebody that you consider yourself better than. He says here, I'm not like those extortioners, those fraudulent individuals who steal from people who, by the way, are probably behind bars. I'm not unjust. He doesn't say he's generous, but he's never moved his property line or cheated anybody out of a fair deal.

I'm not an adulterer. That doesn't mean he loves his wife, but at least he's not cheated on her. And to top it off, he's better than that tax collector over there. Well, any decent Jewish man would consider himself better than the traitor who sold himself out to the Roman government to turn around and tax his fellow people. He's comparing himself to other people to whom he can feel superior. God, I thank you that I'm not like those really bad people, and especially that tax collector. He is an arrogant man.

Now be careful. You might find yourself with his attitude only in reverse, like the Sunday school teacher who taught her class this parable, and then at the end said to the children, now class, let's bow our heads and thank God that we're not like this Pharisee. Why, I'm glad I'm not like him. Now having told God what he does not do, he turns the page on his spiritual report card and tells God what he does do. Verse 12, I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get. That means he doesn't sit around and wonder if he's going to tithe off his net or his gross.

He tithes everything. Fasting twice a week. Jewish law required only once a year on the day of atonement. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had begun fasting twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. They would rub ashes into their cheeks to look gaunt. They would wear disheveled clothing to make it look like they were so engrossed in praying that they didn't even have time to change their clothing. Jesus, and we've already looked at this together, challenges them back earlier in his gospel account with doing it all to be seen by men. That verb is theomai, which gives us our word theater. You're looking at a guy who's putting on a show. And the show times, by the way, were the two busy market days where the countryside would empty into the city of Jerusalem to sell their wares. And those market days were Monday and Thursday.

How about a little show? So the Pharisee has found a few sins he's not guilty of committing. He's added his regular practice of tithing and fasting.

And once again, it's another round of A-plus for me. It's possible to do something good and mask something evil like a heart of pride. It's possible to do something right while hiding something wrong. Reminds me of something I read about a few years ago, a man in Long Beach, California, went into a fried chicken franchise to get some chicken for himself. The woman who was with him, she waited in the car while he went in to pick up their box of chicken. Accidentally, the manager handed him a bag that had inside the box of cash earned that day instead of a box of chicken. He had planned to make a deposit and he camouflaged the cash by putting it in a fried chicken box last time he made that mistake. Well, this man took the bag, went back to his car and the two of them drove away. And when they got to the park for their little picnic, they opened the box and discovered not chicken, but thousands of dollars.

Now, that would be a vulnerable moment for the average guy, but not this guy. He realized the mistake. He didn't hesitate for a moment. Got back in his car.

They returned to the fast food store, gave the money back to the manager. He's shocked. He is thrilled. He's elated.

He's so pleased. He said to this man, listen, stick around. I want to call the newspaper. Have them take your picture, run this story. This is incredible honesty and integrity. And the man turned pale and said, I can't do that.

Why not? The manager asked. The man said, I'm married, but this woman I'm with is not my wife. Honest in what area? Look at me, dishonest in a greater area.

You see, this disparity would have been the poster child for piety. You want to talk tithing? Talk to him. You want to talk fasting? Talk to him.

You want to lay out a few rules? Talk to him. But he's covering up the greater sins of unrepentant, proud, arrogant self-worship. He might be tithing and fasting, but it's all simply to polish his reflection. By the way, you might notice that Jesus never interacts or interjects into this parable that this Pharisee is lying. But he does tell us that this Pharisee is lost. Now verse 13. Now you get the image in your mind that the Pharisee is standing close to the balustrade there in the courtyard, the closest in line.

When that priest will emerge, he's the closest to the priest as the priest delivers that blessing to the crowd. But this tax collector is standing far off, the text says. He's probably at the outer perimeter of the court of Israel. Now he's been spotted by the Pharisee, but the Pharisee is no doubt glad to be as far from him as possible. You see, in these days, if a tax collector walked into your house, your house is now tainted. Defiled. They're probably not really thrilled he's here at the prayer meeting.

I picture the tax collector standing here far off, meaning alone. His prayer is simple. It's direct. God be merciful to me, a sinner. He's actually praying the opening line of Psalm 51.

That's where King David has been discovered to have committed adultery with Bathsheba, his role in killing her husband Uriah. Jesus says here he's beating his breast. That's a symbol of mourning and the death of a loved one. He's signaling he's a sinner. He's worthy of death. In fact, you could translate it, be merciful to me, the, the, definite, I'm the sinner.

I'm the sinner. His only hope is that God will forgive him like he forgave King David, and that would be mercy. The word mercy here is not the usual word.

It's, it's unusual. It's a word that shows up in the book of Hebrews to describe the mercy seat. That's the lid. That's where the blood of the sacrificed animal would be sprinkled. The mercy seat was the lid of that little box, the Ark of the Covenant.

Inside that box were the tablets of law given to Moses by God. The priest would sprinkle blood on that lid, that mercy seat, the place of mercy. God would look down then, as it were, as he rested beneath, between the cherubim. He, he would look down, and he would see that law that had been broken. All those broken commandments, but he would see it through the blood, and he would be satisfied.

His justice would be satisfied, and mercy would be given. So that's the depth of this tax collector's prayer request. I have sinned. I have broken your law.

I deserve your judgment. But look at me through the blood of the sacrifice. See, his prayer is anticipating the final sacrifice of Christ, where the justice of God will be forever satisfied. Not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done. He's entirely dependent on that mercy seat, that substitute.

Let me tell you, he gets it. Nobody struts into heaven. Nobody wears a badge of honor. All the honor belongs to our Redeemer. Now that Jesus delivers the verdict in this parable, verse 14, I tell you, this man went down to his house, justified, declared righteous, it's a legal term, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. You would think that Jesus would say, I tell you, this man went down to his house, justified just like the other, rather than.

See, two men left the temple here after the prayer meeting. One of them felt really good about himself. He probably felt great. He'd worshiped in the temple. He'd received the blessing of the priest. He'd publicly shown his dedication to prayer. He'd go home and he could write a few more A pluses in his little religious report card. The other man walked away, and we're not told what I would imagine.

He's wiping tears from his eyes. We're not sure how he felt. We're not told what he thought, but we're told what God thought. God justified him. God declared him forgiven. He's made right with God now.

So are you justified? Have you been made right with God by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ alone? Have you asked him for mercy? Have you said, oh yeah, I've heard about you ever since I was a child. You died for the sins of the world. Have you ever said, I am the, I am that sinner.

Is it personal? Let me tell you, you're not justified because you look good or you sound good or you feel good or that you've even done good things. But because you've admitted to God that you are not good. I talked to a lot of people and I can't get them to that point.

We're doing fine until we get there. See, that recognition depends upon whom you compare yourself with. You might find some people around you that you can easily say, you know, I'm better than them. The question is not, am I better than my fellow man? The question is, am I as good as God?

His standard of holiness. The great commentator William Barclay wrote many years ago, almost a hundred years ago, of a train ride he took from Scotland to England. He writes, as we passed through the Yorkshire Moors, I saw a little whitewashed cottage and it seemed to me to shine with an almost radiant whiteness. Sometime later, I made the journey back to Scotland. The snow had recently fallen and it was lying deep all around.

We came again to that little white cottage, but this time its whiteness seemed soiled and drab and gray in comparison to the whiteness of the driven snow. That's the point of the parable. Once you've compared yourself to the freshly fallen snow of God's purity and holiness, you really only have one thing to pray as you repent and turn in faith to Christ alone. And that prayer will not be complicated. It doesn't have to be long.

It can be very simple. It will sound something like, God, be merciful to me, the sinner. And when you've prayed that, God answers and He will indeed show you mercy forever. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for this parable revealing to us again the simplicity of the gospel. Religion has made it complicated. The church has added rule upon rule.

Our own hearts deflect the truth of it. I imagine, Father, in an audience this size, someone is wrestling with this personal testimonial. All of us in here who know Christ would be praying that that miraculous work of regeneration would begin. Maybe for you, my friend, right where you sit, have reached the point where His Spirit is opening your eyes and you're recognizing you need to ask Him for mercy. You can tell us all about the good things you do and you are and the things you don't do, the things you accomplish. God's Spirit is speaking to you and you realize that little report card is insignificant compared to the holiness of God.

Let me invite you right where you sit to pray, God, have mercy on me, the sinner. That was Stephen Davey and a message that he called The Scoundrel and the Saint. Stephen is working his way through this section of Luke in a series called Parables and Prophecies.

We're going to continue through that series in the days ahead. Stephen is the president of Wisdom International. Our ministry produces biblically faithful resources in nine languages, which we make available for global distribution.

We currently have resources in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Swahili, Karundi, Telugu, Hindi and Arabic. We're incredibly grateful for our financial partners who make it possible and we want to do more. And if you want to be part of it, we'd be grateful for your support. Learn more at wisdomonline.org.

That's wisdomonline.org. Visit there today, then join us back here next time for more Wisdom for the Heart. Then join us back here next time for more wisdom for the heart.

We'll see you next time. I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-22 00:44:18 / 2024-03-22 00:53:24 / 9

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