Monday, September 26, 2011

Let my words be few

Thursday night, Michael Byrd did a great job speaking at C4's midweek service. It's been really great to see the guys stepping up and teaching!

Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "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!' I tell you, this man 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."
There are 3 things to take notice of in this parable:

1. Position...in this passage, you have a tax collector...someone who was despised and known for cheating people out of money...and you have a Pharisee...someone who is pretty well known and honored. 
Position affects our perception of how others see us and how we think God sees our righteousness.

2. Physical Presence...the Pharisee stands, boldly...but the tax collector stays at a distance, trembling, ashamed and broken.

3. Prayer (v11)...the Pharisee basically prayed to himself...kind of just said "I'm awesome!" while the tax collector beat his breast in remorse and said "God have mercy on me, a sinner!"
If you look up breast-beating in the dictionary, it is defined as "A loud, self-conscious demonstration of emotion, especially of remorse." The tax collector was remorseful and couldn't even hold his head up.
 
When you pray, you can't come to the feet of God all puffed up. In Ecclesiastes 5:2, it tells us how we should approach God:
"Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few."
If the Pharisee had stopped after, "God, I thank you." it would have been a far better prayer, but he came puffed up with pride...the tax collector's words were few and he came in humility.

In C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity he calls Pride the great sin and writes: " How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men."

We have a tendency to measure ourselves by the people around us, thinking we are better or worse than our peers. The true measure of our righteousness is found in God.
2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
We get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we forget why our lives are so busy and we forget why we are able to do the things that we do. God is our sustainer and provider and he is the one who keeps us going. When we come to God in prayer, we need to take a page from the tax collector's book...it doesn't matter our position, how our friends see us or how we think we measure up, it's about coming to God face down and being humble and praising His great name.

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