“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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 fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
My friend and her family went on a tour in Rome and the tour guide told them of a surprising tradition. Excuse these vague and convoluted details, but apparently there is a day once every 25 or so years where you can visit “four primary patriarchal churches” in one day in a certain manner and receive forgiveness of sins, a “plenary indulgence”. Incredulous, my friend’s husband asked the guide, “So have you done it?” She replied, “No.” He said, “Why not?, and she replied, “Because I haven’t sinned.”
He was taken aback as she had previously revealed that she had a child out of wedlock. Not wanting to mention that, he asked “Have you ever lied?” to which she answered , “Yes.” So he said “Well, that’s a sin.” And she said, “Well, I haven’t done any major sin like divorce or killing someone.” Wow, what a perspective!
Both on the absolution method and of what “sin”means.
The same day I heard this story,another friend and I ran out of juice in our electric golf cart on the beach and needed rescuing. Our rescuer was named “Steve”. He wouldn’t take any money so I told him I wanted to give him a compliment, “I see God’s nature in you. You have with you a dog you rescued from the shelter, and you rescued us…God is a Rescuer. He quickly replied “Jesus and I are tight!” to which we chimed in “We are tight with Him, too!” And he immediately inserted, “But, I’m a sinner.” My friend joyfully added “…saved by grace!” And he said, “Well…” and ho-hummed, apparently feeling guilty about something.
This interchange got me to thinking about sin and our relationship to God. He wants to be in a personal relationship with us. Jesus died so that we could have forgiveness and come into God’s presence. Sin keeps us from being close…until we are sorry for it and confess it. Then God forgives us and we get a new beginning. Now as we approach the throne of our Lord, we feel His presence and His huge love humbles us. We can’t stand nonchalantly before Him; as we get Who He is, we bow ourselves. Close to Him, we realize our sin and our utter unworthiness …and at the same time we feel His love …how gracious He is to forgive us…and we rise up, cleansed and joyful!
I think if we feel we have not sinned, that perhaps we are too far away from Him. And when we sense our sin and are truly sorry for our disobedience, perhaps that tells us we are close. And if we walk away heavy with guilt, perhaps we have something left to obey…which keeps Him at bay or we don’t get His grace. What do you think of this Sin-o-meter theory?
Where are you today? In the above story Jesus told about two men: one was so very glad he was so upright and not a loser sinner…like “that guy over there”. And he began listing his good deeds. And “that guy over there”, also coming to worship, felt even unworthy to come near and beat his chest in remorse for his sin.
In Luke 18:14 Jesus concludes that “ the tax collector “ went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How does this story find you?Thinking more of others’ sin than your own? Sorry for your sin…and its effects? Do your confessions need to be different? Does your relationship include joy, the fruit of His grace? Do you walk around feeling guilty or that you aren’t good enough to be close to Him? Do you think you’re “all good”? Are you? Let’s pray together to be more humble like the tax collector and draw near to our Redeemer.
Prayer:from Luke 9, and 2 Corinthians 7
Oh dear Lord, Almighty God, we come before You and as we just turn our hearts here, we are overcome by how great You are! Oh how great it is to be loved by You, to be near You…in this nearness, we can’t stand our sin. We see the wedge it makes between us.. Forgive me, Lord, for my sin! Forgive me for ________, and _______, ……”. Forgive me for focusing on ____’s sins, I forgive them and leave then to You. And now in the blood of Jesus, I rejoice in being cleansed. Thank You so much for forgiving me!May I steadfastly cleanse myself from every defilement of body and spirit so I can be dedicated to You and fear You…and fear what happens to my soul when not in close relationship with You. And as Paul wrote, may I grieve in Your way over my sin; may what grieves you grieve me. This kind of sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret; whereas the world’s grief produces guilt and death.
Oh Holy Spirit, prick my heart and lead me to be truly sorry for my sin!Oh, that my repentance is fruitful! May I be like the Corinthians whose grief over their sin producedan earnestness and an eagerness to be clean. And may I rise up from being bowed and walk in joy with a radiant face, sharing this lightness with those who so desperately need it. Thank You for taking my sin away and cleansing my heart! In Your presence is joy! Amen.