This week was the first of two weeks where we heard a narrative and/or a story that shows a picture of the gospel. Most weeks we have been learning principles of the gospel. This week and next we will heard stories/narratives that illustrate the gospel.
This week at the high school and middle school clubs I got to share the first of two of my favorite passages showing the gospel. Not only did they see the gospel, but in doing so our students got to see the harmony between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Paul on how one is made right with God.
Here are the passages… note the highlights.
Luke 18:9-14 9 “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’13 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!’14 I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The BIG ideas from Jesus’ story.
- Jesus was killed for saying stuff like this. Note in verse 9 who Jesus told the story to, “those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” This entire story or parable was a rebuke to religious leaders who thought they were right with God because of their religiosity.
- The two men were in church seemingly praying to God. But one man was really informing God of how awesome he was. The other was confessing to God how awful he was.
- The pharisee’s confidence build on comparison. He compared himself to the tax-collector (who was considered a traitor a thief in the community). I told the students that he was telling God that he had an A+ morality and the other guy had an F morality.
- The tax collector knew that he had an F morality, but he believed that God is a merciful God and repented of his sin and approached God for mercy.
- But in the end Jesus said that one man left church “justified” or “right with God” and it was the ungodly tax-collector. The man who trusted in his own righteousness was still in danger, the man who humbly trusted in God was forgiven.
Then we read Romans 4, asking if Paul taught the same thing as Jesus did.
Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
We learn two things from this passage.
- Those who “WORK” (or perform) stand before God saying essential, “give me the ‘wages’ I’ve earned”. I asked one of the students, Marisol, what Romans 6:23 says about that. She said, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” So, we don’t really want the “wages” we have earned, we want grace.
- Note in verse 5 who is who is right with God. It’s not the one who “works” but the one who humbly “believes” that God is a God who “justifies the ungodly”.
- Just as in the story of the pharisee and the tax-collector. Those who are ungodly by repentance and faith are justified or treated as though they were innocent and righteous before God.
I closed by challenging students to not based their confidence in God by comparing themselves to others. Students have a good idea in their head who the “bad kids” are and they tend to thing they are pretty awesome by comparison.
But if you think you are awesome, you won’t think God or His grace is awesome. You will not be humble. But God, according to Jesus, will humble those who exalt themselves.
Christian students should be the most humble students in the school because they are the most aware of their sin and that it only by the mercy and grace of God that they are forgiven and in a right standing with God.
They know that they deserved an F, but in Jesus they are treated as though they got an A. And our F was nailed to the shoulders of Christ and he suffered and died in our place.
Jesus was treated mercilessly, so we could be treated mercifully.
And that truth alone should make us more merciful.
Below is a moving, retelling of the parable.