READ LUKE 18:9-14MEDITATION: We have been given a great privilege of coming down to the house of God to worship. However, that privilege of going to church is a privilege many people take for granted. For instance, how much preparation do we put into going to church? How much time do we spend getting our hearts ready for worship? Do we pray for the services? Do we seek the Lord's face and ask Him to move in power when we come together? Most of us just come to church without giving what we are doing a second thought.
The Bible has something to say about how we are to go to church. In this parable, we will see that one man came to church that day to worship himself. The other man came to church that day to worship the Lord. Let us try to contrast these two men because they teach us some much needed lessons about how we should come to church.
The Pharisee was a spiritual leader among the people. He was known and respected as a true man of God. He knew the Scriptures, having committed many passages to memory, and he even wore leather boxes on his right wrist and forehead that contained certain special portions of the Law. He would have prayed at least three times every day.
He fasted twice every week. The Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursday. The practice of the Pharisees was to make their fasting very public. They would not comb their hair or wash their faces, and they wore the most wrinkled and rumpled clothes they could find. They even put ashes on their faces to make themselves look as though they were pale from fasting. He tithed on everything he possessed, even the herbs that grew in his garden, Matthew 23:23, often giving between 20 and 30 percent to the needs of the Temple.
What we have here is a very religious man, considered to be holy by everyone who saw him. This man is a picture of many in the church. Everyone who sees them thinks they are pure, holy and righteous. They have convinced everyone that they are the epitome of righteousness, holiness and virtue. They have even convinced themselves that they are right end everyone around them who is not exactly like them is wrong.
Then there was the Tax collector. He was a spiritual outcast. While he was welcome to come to the Temple to pray in the Court of the Jews, he would not have been allowed to attend the meetings at the synagogue. The other Jews hated him and looked down on him. He worked for Rome, the nation that dominated and ruled Israel at the time.
As a tax collector, this man would have been known for his greed and his dishonesty. He would have been viewed as a traitor to Israel and not even worthy of any compassion or concern from the Jews around him. This man is a picture of the other element we find in the church. These are the people who do not act like we think they should. They might not dress like we think they should. They might not do things and say things just like we think they should. These folks are often looked down on by the other folks who think they are more spiritual.
Both of these men, the self-righteous Pharisee and the Tax collector, went to the Temple to pray. When they open their mouths and begin to speak, the true character of their heart is put on display. As it turns out, you really can't judge a book by its cover. The man everyone thought was righteous was really a hypocrite, while the Lord accepted the man everyone looked down on.
How do you compare and contrast with both men? When you speak in public or when you pray, what kind of character is on display? Does your righteousness go deeper than that of this Pharisee? Does your humility go deeper than that of this tax collector? How has the Lent of 2012 humbled you before the Lord?
ACTION: BE SURE YOU MAKE A THOROUGH EASTER CONFESSION THIS WEEK SO THAT YOU CAN CELEBRATE THE LORD'S RESURRECTION IN THE JOY OF HIS FELLOWSHIP.
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, we lower our heads before you and we confess that we have too often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there was no God and we fall short of being a credible witness to You. For these things we ask your forgiveness and we also ask for your strength. Give us clear minds and open hearts so we may witness to You in our world. Remind us to be who You would have us to be regardless of what we are doing or who we are with. Hold us to You and build our relationship with You and with those You have given us on earth.
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