Being OK with God (Luke 18)

Over recent summers at Tri-State Fellowship we have had long sermon series of something like 12-14 weeks. And this is the 14th week upcoming in our Parables series “Long Story Short.” But even so, it always surprises me how quickly it goes by, though, so do the summer weeks and months as well, don’t they?

Just a couple of days ago I heard one of my favorite political/cultural commentators talk about the general state of humanity. He was referencing the strikingly larger number of atrocities that are occurring throughout society, as there also seems to be a growing number of people who are soulless and without any beliefs or values system. He said, “In spite of the increasing number of these horrific situations, I continue to believe that the vast majority of humans are inherently good, as we are all God’s children.”

I cringed, at least theologically.

We are all God’s children in the sense that our creation is sourced in Him, whatever view you take of exactly how that happened or how long it took. But we are not all God’s children in terms of relationship with him as our God and heavenly father — not until such time as we have a saving moment of faith and trust ONLY in the substitutionary death of Christ.

And we are not inherently good — quite the opposite is actually true. The heart is deceitfully wicked, says the Scripture. In Psalm 14 we read, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Now there may be good and honorable and worthy things that some people do, even those with not faith component at all. This is the residue of the image of God in mankind. But these deeds do not compensate for or atone for the debt of sin into which we are born and are doomed through our inheritance of original sin.

So how can we be OK with God? How can we know that we have a relationship with him as a heavenly father?  How do we have confidence that we do not stand in jeopardy of God’s wrath and judgment for sin? We need to be perfect to avoid that; and apart from the introspective minds of a couple of candidates running for President right now, none of are perfect.

But isn’t pretty good, good enough? Doesn’t being in the top several percentage points of goodness amongst human beings surely give enough merit with God for him to say, “You done good son, c’mon into this here heaven!”?

That is a countrified way of saying what essentially was the view of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the time of Christ. And honestly, a great many people today have much the same conception.

So let’s talk about this as we wrap up the summer. David Hadigian will take to the front on Sunday to share some thoughts about these final two parables in Luke 18.  Since the latter one talks about children, we thought it would be good for Dave to take the subject and along the way become even a bit better known to the whole congregation.

Here are the parables from Luke 18 …

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “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, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Little Children and Jesus

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

3 thoughts on “Being OK with God (Luke 18)

  1. You are correct about all the theological confusion.

    Paul had a great concern for people to properly understand God and his prayers reflected that.

    My level of prayerful concern on this subject is far, far less than the Apostle Paul’s was. Here is some of what Paul wrote that gave a glimpse into his prayer life.

    ————————————

    We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
    10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
    11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
    12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
    13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
    14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:9-14 NIV) 29

    Paul replied, “Short time or long– I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29 NIV)

    Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong– not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
    8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
    9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.
    (2 Cor. 13:7-9 NIV)

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
    19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the … (Eph. 1:18-19 NIV)

    I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
    17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
    18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
    19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
    (Eph. 3:16-19 NIV)

    I thank my God every time I remember you.
    4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy …
    9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
    10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
    11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ– to the glory and praise of God.
    (Phil. 1:3-11 NIV)

    We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
    10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
    11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
    12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
    13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Col. 1:9-13 NIV)

    How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
    10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
    (1 Thess. 3:9-10 NIV)

    With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
    12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    (2 Thess. 1:11-12 NIV)

    I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. (Phlm. 1:6 NIV)

    ————————————

    Then Paul also requests prayers for himself, so that he can properly spread the message in the right way without fear. He also wanted the church to pray for others. I suppose all that Paul says about prayer is far, far above the level of prayer life of most people today. I’ve recognized recently that I ought to become competent in prayer.Think of all the skills and habits that I (or a typical person) might want to develop and we almost certainly give short-change to a prayerful relationship with the ONE who is most important. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And I’m not just writing that as a quote but as a personal expression.

  2. Many years ago at a church — maybe TSF or maybe not 🙂 — there was a big meeting of ALL the church leaders, teachers, etc. on the discussion topic of moving the church forward. A list of best things to do to make it happen was generated, and prayer was the #1 item on the list. So a time to pray was set up, and, you guessed it, nobody showed up.

  3. Wow, what you just said really puts the spotlight on how hard this is for all of us. Sometime this past week on one of the local Christian Radio Stations (WCRH) there was some little radio announcement, maybe for one of the broadcasts that are aired on that station that resonated with me. I forget the details of the announcement but whoever was talking or being quoted, said that in todays society we can get whatever we want with money… so we dispense with prayer and put it to the backburner. I’m not looking up the scripture now, but there is a passage that says something like “the widow who is truly in need and puts her hope in God, praying day and night” (I probably botched the quote) and she was contrasted with “the widow who lives for pleasure, is dead, even while she lives.” (I hope I didn’t botch this too much.) It’s sad that I am not even bothering to look this up.

    Now, I’ve got this little decision to make. Am I going to get all distracted and start looking at news and/or other science discoveries? If I don’t pray for others and yet try to straighten people out, under my own power, am I going to be doing this without love? Will I be a “clanging gong or a cymbal”. Paul said (if I’m getting this right) without love — all the knowledge and speach (or I’ll substitute communication abilities) profits nothing.

    I don’t believe they ever did a TV show program on spiritual makeover. But Billions of people in the world need one. Even us Christians probably need God’s help much, much more than we realize.

    Maybe, I’ll be able to shut off this computer, or get away from it and do the right thing here. That is of course, I am now persuaded, to pray as I should. For God’s will to be done, and even the rest of the gems in what is called “The Lord’s Prayer.” For him to be honored, his will to be done, for our daily needs, to avoid temptation and the evil (one?), for his Kingdom to come and that my (or our) sins will be forgiven as (we) and I forgive others.

    OK, now, for me less writing and reading and more praying.

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