Tuesday, August 9, 2011
"...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
This is the final verse from a parable found in Luke 18:9-14. It's the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who both went to the temple to pray, one with great pride in his heart and the other with humble confession.
The Pharisee prayed, thanking God for his consistent law-keeping and that he was set apart from the other sinners. The tax collector, however, beat his chest and was unwilling to even lift his eyes to the Lord, begging God for mercy.
What caught my eye today was the reason that Jesus told this parable - because there were "...some people who trusted themselves to be righteous AND viewed others with contempt." (v.9)
These two things are the crux of man-made religion.
Man-made religion says you can earn salvation - you can save yourself. You can choose God, you can be good enough, you can deserve salvation, you can trust in your own righteousness. Look at false religion - from Buddhism to Islam to even Judaism, and I'll even throw in Catholicism - works-oriented salvation abounds. This is the very message Satan convinced Eve to believe in the garden of Eden and ever since then man has been trying to save themselves.
Man-made religion also views others with contempt, because if you are trying to earn salvation, you are not overly happy with others who aren't trying as hard as you. I hate to say it but the best example of this is within Christianity - denominations don't play nicely together. Why not? Aren't we all sinners saved by grace? But we competitively believe that our way - our beliefs - are right and best, this in turn earns God's favor and so you'd better jump denominations or you may not be safe.
But Jesus taught this parable for those of us who cling to man-made religion. When you embrace God-made religion, or what we call the gospel, you know that you cannot be personally trusted to be righteous - only Jesus is righteous. That's why you rely on the identity exchange He promises us at salvation.
And we cannot look at others with contempt because we understand that without this identity exchange, we'd be just as lost as everyone else. So the end result is looking at others with mercy, with love, and with compassion. It's the same concept found in Luke 7:47 - he who is forgiven much, loves much.
The verse above warns us that if we are exalting ourselves with man-made religion and contempt for others, we will be humbled. But if we humble ourselves with an accurate view of God and man through the practicalities of the gospel, we will be exalted.
Conclusion: You cannot think highly of yourself if you live in the shadow of the cross, yet it is there that you find strength, love, acceptance and ultimately exaltation.